EarthFix

News Fixed on the Environment.

EarthFix is a public media partnership of KLCC, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Idaho Public Television, KCTS9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Jefferson Public Radio, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Oregon wildlife managers are trapping sea lions at Willamette Falls and trucking them out to the coast in an effort to protect a very fragile run of steelhead.

Biologists estimate the sea lions at Willamette Falls are eating at least a quarter of the winter steelhead run. At that rate, they say, there’s about a 90 percent chance at least one population of the fish will go extinct.

New Timeline Proposed For Oregon’s Cap And Trade Bill

Feb 20, 2018

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek is proposing an amendment to a controversial cap and trade bill that would allow the Legislature to delay voting on key details until next year.

The amendment, developed in coordination with co-sponsors of the bill, would allow the lawmakers to vote on the “cap” for greenhouse gas emissions this session while delaying a vote on the “trade” portion of the bill until next year.

Tracking Down Fishers — But Not For Their Furs

Feb 20, 2018

The Pacific Northwest once held a magnetic pull on fur trappers. It started with the beaver-hat craze and continued with all sorts of  animals that could be exploited for their pelts.

Of course, the fur-trapping trade has all but vanished from Washington and Oregon. But even today, there are still people out in the woods, trying to track down a sleek, furry creature called a fisher.

UPDATE (Sunday, Feb. 19, 2018 at 6:30 a.m. PST) — Just when you thought winter was heading for an early retirement this year, Mother Nature is reminding Oregon it's still February. 

A cold front moved southward through the Willamette Valley Sunday, dropping 9 inches in Boring and as much as 3 inches in Portland's Southwest Hills.

The snow may be over, but the cold is still here.

Oral arguments in a federal lawsuit filed against 30 private companies and government entities for cleanup costs associated with pollution at the Portland Harbor Superfund site are expected to start in April.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2017, asks for a reimbursement of $283,471 in cleanup response costs incurred by the Washington-based tribe as of Sept. 30, 2016. Defendants include Calbag Metals Co., ExxonMobil Corp., Union Pacific Railroad Co., the Port of Portland and the city of Portland.

Rep. Joan McBride worries about what she's helping her children put in their bodies whenever she takes them to get a hamburger and fries.

And it's not the fatty meat or processed carbs that has her so concerned.

"Potentially those little pieces of paper wrapping up the hamburger had chemicals that potentially migrate into our bodies," said McBride, a lawmaker whose Washington House district includes the city of Kirkland.

The Washington House has voted to phase out farming of non-native fish in state waters, drawing the end of Atlantic salmon farming in Puget Sound one step closer.

The move comes one week after a similar vote by the state Senate.

Both bills let existing salmon farms keep operating only until their current leases run out, in the next four to seven years.

The House vote also comes six months after a poorly maintained fish farm collapsed near Anacortes, letting an estimated 250,000 Atlantic salmon escape into Puget Sound.

Scientists in the Northwest have detected a species of shrimp much farther north than it’s ever been found before.  Researchers at Oregon State University haven’t actually seen the snapping shrimp, instead, they heard them off the Oregon Coast.

Oregon State University scientist Joe Haxel recorded hours of underwater sound, tracking whales and boat noise.

Early this year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said no to a massive oil-by-rail terminal proposed in Vancouver, Washington.

The $210 million Vancouver Energy project, a joint venture from Tesoro and Savage, would have brought up to 360,000 gallons of crude oil a day on trains traveling along the Columbia River. The proposal would have been the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country.

Polluted Stormwater Damages Fish's Ability to Survive

Feb 13, 2018

Each time it rained during an eight-week period in the winter of 2015, someone from Jenifer McIntyre’s team drove up to Seattle and collected stormwater near the Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

It was a rainy stretch, so that meant 25 trips.

After each trip, McIntyre says, "we would bring the dirty runoff to the fish" — the larval fish the team was rearing in Indianola on the eastern side of Puget Sound  — "and expose them to that for 24 or 48 hours."

The Interior Department plans to expand energy development on public lands and offshore to pay for the National Park Service's maintenance backlog.

In the Pacific Northwest, the needs range from washed-out roads and trails at Mount Rainier National Park to repairing bridges and parking lots at the Olympic National Park.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says the parks’ maintenance backlog is $11.7 billion. The entire Interior Department’s backlog is $16 billion.

After a deadlocked 3-3 vote, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-2 Friday to elevate the marbled murrelet from a "threatened" species to "endangered."

The marbled murrelet is a seabird that nests in older coastal forests, and its population has been in a long-term decline in large part because of the loss of old growth trees to logging.

The Forest Service has given its consent for exploratory mining on public land near Mount St. Helens.  

The Canadian mining company Ascot USA wants to take 63 rock-core samples in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which involves creating 2-3 inch boreholes down into the earth. The company is testing for valuable mineral deposits – including copper and gold.

The earth is squishy. The wind is mosquito-y. And there’s a flower the color of fire on the Southern Oregon coast.

It’s called the Western Lily.

“If the habitat’s right and the water is right and the sunlight’s right, they're going to thrive,” said Sherri Laier, a natural resource specialist for Oregon State Parks.

Western lilies grow in peat bogs. They need open areas without much tree cover. And they need a high water table that stays wet even during the hottest, driest summers.

'OPB Politics Now': Addressing Climate Change In The Northwest

Feb 9, 2018

We keep hearing about how the federal government is rolling back climate policies. To counteract that, more and more Democratic governors are pushing proposals at the state level to address climate change.

This week on "OPB Politics Now," we’ll discuss the policies both Oregon and Washington are considering to tackle climate change at the state level.

  Last year’s intense fire season led to calls for more “treatment” of federal forests to remove excess fuel that can make for bigger, hotter wildfires.

In November, House Republicans — including Oregon’s Greg Walden – passed a bill to grease the skids for more work in the woods. The bill now awaits action in the Republican-controlled Senate.

But while there’s broad bipartisan agreement that more needs to be done to promote forest health,  the opposing sides can have very different pictures of what that looks like on the ground.

It’s 8 o'clock on a rainy, windy Saturday morning, and John Hoac and Brandon Teeny just got to school —  Cleveland High in south Seattle. They’re here to measure air and noise pollution on campus.

Oregon Lawmakers Hear Opposing Views On Cap And Trade Bill

Feb 5, 2018

Oregon lawmakers held a joint committee hearing Monday on a bill that would create a cap and trade program to reduce the state’s carbon emissions.

Senate Bill 1507 would set a cap on carbon emissions and require about a hundred companies to buy permits. It would create a market where businesses could buy and sell carbon permits and offsets.

The Trump administration has reversed a key policy for protecting migrating birds. Officials say a century-old federal law is outdated and poses a burden for utilities and energy companies.

Editor's note: An unedited Web version of this story that had been inadvertently published has been removed.

Portland City Council closed a major loophole in regulations protecting children from exposure to lead in paint.

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the council voted to require crews to limit the spread of lead dust and asbestos when they demolish homes built before 1978.

Lead-based paint in homes is the leading cause of lead poising in the nation.

Remodeling an old home can trigger federal requirements to prevent exposure to lead paint. 

The whales off the West Coast depend on sound to communicate, navigate and find food. So, what happens to their health when we fill their habitat with noisy ship traffic?

Brian Allen is up to his elbows in cold, black water. He’s hanging over the side of a small boat, trying to pull in a tangle of ropes.

They’re heavy and being dragged sideways by the current. He strains against them.

Allen is a researcher with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund. He’s working within a 2.5 acre plot of open water near the mouth of Hood Canal, west of Seattle.  The area is roped off on two ends, and inside dozens of buoys bob in the low chop.

Oregon State University researchers have a quandary. They have a nearly-80-foot-long blue whale carcass they want to turn into an educational display…but no funds. 

The blue whale is the largest animal in existence. And the carcass that washed up near Gold Beach in 2015, may be the first one that’s been found in Oregon since the Lewis and Clark era.  OSU has kept the bones in Yaquina Bay so critters can pick its bones clean.

Far more farmed salmon escaped from a collapsed net pen in Puget Sound than was first reported, according to a just-finished state investigation that lays much of the blame on the fish farm's operator.

On Tuesday, three Washington state agencies released their investigation into what happened when the Cooke Aquaculture salmon farm collapsed last August on Cypress Island north of Anacortes. The departments of Ecology, Natural Resources, and Fish and Wildlife conducted the investigation.

The twin-prop airplane banks left and crests a crooked ridgeline of the Cascade mountain range. Inside, Jeff Lewis cups his headphones firmly to his ears.

He’s listening for the sound of a rare animal — one that hasn’t been seen in these mountains for more than 70 years.

"We’re getting a boomer now," he says, as a faint beeping sound pulses steadily over a wall of radio static. "It’s pretty special when you find one of these animals and it’s alive."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has rejected a permit to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver. 

Inslee sided with the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which unanimously voted late last year to reject the project, citing significant and unavoidable risks.  

“I found that the review by the Council was extremely thorough and comprehensive and was confident this was the right decision,” Inslee told OPB.  

Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced plans to reopen the West Coast to offshore oil and gas leasing.

It’s a dramatic reversal of Obama-era policies that blocked offshore drilling, and it’s drawn fierce opposition from all three West Coast governors.

Audit: Oregon Must Do More To Prepare For Catastrophic Disaster

Jan 25, 2018

Oregon is not prepared for a catastrophic disaster, according to an audit from the Secretary of State’s office released Thursday. 

The audit, which looked at state and local emergency management efforts, found the state failed to meet national baseline standards for emergency management, and that planning efforts lack on all levels of the state’s emergency management system. 

That’s due in part to “inadequate” staffing statewide, including understaffing at the Office of Emergency Management.

Yet another building with 400 offices, first-floor retail space, and underground parking is going up in Seattle’s South Lake Union.

One of the primary ingredients for the building is concrete. As each concrete truck empties its contents into the site, a new one pulls up: that’s a truckload of concrete every five minutes.

As the Pacific Northwest booms, it’s using a lot of concrete to build buildings, roads and other infrastructure — and making all that concrete is a big part of our carbon footprint.

Hillsboro-based SolarWorld is hiring back workers and planning to ramp up its production now that President Donald Trump has approved a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels.

"My administration is committed to defending American companies," President Trump said before signing a proclamation of import duties on Tuesday, "and they’ve been very badly hurt from harmful import surges that threaten the livelihood of their workers."

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