Ashley Ahearn

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Environment
7:16 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Court Case Is The Latest Battle In Water Wars Of The Skagit River

Richard Fox and his wife, Marnie, want to build a house and garage on their property near the Skagit River. The state says they can't have access to the water necessary to approve their building permit.
Credit Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

It may be pretty wet this time of year in the Northwest, but that hasn’t stopped an ongoing battle over water in Washington’s Skagit river valley.

Richard and Marnie Fox want to build a new house on their land, but they can’t get a building permit. The state says there’s not enough water in the area to support any more new residences without endangering salmon - especially during the drier parts of the year.

The Foxes are taking legal action. Their case will go before a judge on Tuesday.

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Duwamish River
7:16 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Macklemore Joins Enviros In Advance Of Duwamish River Superfund Announcement

Ken Workman, great, great, great, great grandson of Chief Seattle, surveys the Duwamish
Credit Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

Seattle’s dirty river is gearing up for a major overhaul. The Environmental Protection Agency is about to release its final decision on the Duwamish River Superfund cleanup. The river has been polluted by industry for decades. The question now is how much cleanup will be required, and at what cost?

You might say Ken Workman is an old school Duwamish River celebrity.

His people have lived along the banks of this waterway and others in the region for thousands of years. He’s the great great great great grandson of Chief Seattle.

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Environment
1:22 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Shrinking Glaciers Could Squeeze Washington's Water Supply

Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 3:36 pm

Washington state is home to more glaciers than any other state in the lower 48, and they're receding faster than ever before. That's a problem for the Pacific Northwest, where glaciers are crucial for drinking water, hydropower generation and salmon survival.

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Glaciers
7:39 am
Fri November 14, 2014

What Climate Change Means For A Land Of Glaciers

Erin Lowery is a fisheries biologist for Seattle City Light. His job is to figure out where salmon are spawning on the Skagit River and then make sure his employers dams release the right amount of water to allow the eggs to incubate safely.
Credit Ryan Hasert / Earthfix

Washington has more glaciers than any other state in the lower 48.
Besides Alaska, it's the number one glacial stronghold in the U.S. Glaciers are a key part of our water supply in the Northwest. But they’re melting away.

Guess how many glaciers feed into the Skagit River? Just take a guess.

Answer: 376.

No joke.

Jon Riedel is hiking up to one of them, on the slope of Mount Baker in Washington’s North Cascades.

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November 2014 Election
6:33 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Enviros Spending Big on Northwest Races

State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, takes a morning walk with his father, Len, at the Bellis Fair mall in Bellingham. More than $200,000 of the campaign money being spent to unseat Ericksen can be traced to climate activist and billionaire Tom Steyers.
Credit Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

When people vote, the environment is not always at the top of their minds.
But behind the scenes, the environment is a big part of this year’s election.
Environmental groups have emerged as some of the top spenders in elections in the Northwest - thanks to the help of California Billionaire, Tom Steyer.

 It’s about 8AM. I’m in Bellingham about to go mall walking.

Doug Ericksen: "Hey are you Ashley? Alright let’s roll. We’re on the clock."

Senator Doug Ericksen gently coaxes his aging father, Len, on his morning walk around the Bellis Fair Mall.

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Oil Trains
7:51 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Workers Question Safety Culture Of Railroad Hauling Volatile Crude Oil

BNSF Railway, the second-largest freight network in the U.S., is at the center of the boom in crude by rail. The railroad touts its commitment to safety. Current and former workers question the safety culture on the ground.
Credit Michael Werner

Crude oil shipments by rail increased by more than 80 percent, nationally, last year.
Most of it is coming from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That crude is more flammable than other types of oil, and has been shown to catch fire and explode when trains derail. More than 15 trains of Bakken oil move through some parts of the Northwest each week, en route to refineries and terminals in Washington and Oregon. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway transports the majority of that oil.

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Sea Stars
8:30 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Scientists Close In On What’s Killing Sea Stars

An ochre star's arm dangles by a thread, one of the signs of sea star wasting syndrome.
Credit Katie Campbell / Earthfix

On the west coast sea stars, or starfish, are dying by the millions. Scientists have called the disease Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, and it’s decimated populations from Mexico to Alaska. But scientists aren’t exactly sure what’s causing the die-off. This spring, the epidemic has spread into Oregon, and now, Hood Canal and the San Juan Islands in Washington.

The village of Eastsound on Orcas Island draws thousands of tourists in the summer months. They come to see whales, bald eagles… and for avid beach combers -- sea stars.

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Education & Health
10:16 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Inside The Box: Part 2 Of The Portable Classrooms Investigation

A "greener" portable classroom at Perkins Elementary School in Washington state.
Credit The Seed Collaborative

Students around the Northwest go to school every day in portable classrooms. These classrooms are an affordable solution to budget-strapped districts that need more space.

But they can be bad for student health and performance. That’s why some districts are moving away from portable classrooms. One district in Spokane has found a solution.

Courtney Flatt brings us part 2 of our special series "Inside the Box".

Walking into the new Jefferson Elementary School is like walking into a model home. Everything looks tidy.

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Education & Health
3:49 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

School Districts Explore Solutions For Excessive Portable Classroom Use

Portable classrooms are meant to be temporary, but many school districts are using them long-term, raising health concerns and even making some students feel like second-class citizens.
Credit Wikipedia

Thousands of students in Washington and Oregon go to school in what are known as “portable classrooms”.

These temporary structures were a quick solution to the problem of growing population and lack of funding for school facilities in parts of the Northwest.

But many of these “temporary” structures are still around. They’re not environmentally friendly or healthy places for students to learn.
 

From the outside, Billie Lane’s classroom looks like a trailer home, standing in the parking lot behind the Kalles Jr. High school in Puyallup.

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Landslides
6:46 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Living in the Shadow of Landslide Risk

Ben Van Dusen has lived in a landslide and flood-prone area near Mt. Index in Washington's Cascade Mountains for 20 years. He says he loves the beauty of the place but feels "stuck".
Credit Ashley Ahearn

The landslide in Oso, Washington served as a devastating reminder of one fact of life in the Northwest: landslides happen.

In some places, it’s a risk people have learned to live with.

Landslides have wiped out the only access road to one rural community along the Skykomish River three times since December. A dozen homes in the Mt. Index River Sites community were destroyed by the slides. Fortunately no one was hurt.

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