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.

Poor Start To Whale Watching Season

Dec 28, 2015

Winter storms and rain have reduced visibility at the coast this season — meaning the whale watching hasn’t been so good.

But Oregon State Park Ranger, Luke Parsons, expects that to change this week as clear skies and calmer weather are in the forecast.

He says up to 20,000 whales will swim by during the migration.

“They weigh anywhere between 20 and 40 tons each and so when you see a whole group of these go by, it’s pretty awe inspiring just to see that type of sea life, this close to us in Oregon," said Parsons.

It’s been a difficult couple weeks for the small Southern Oregon community of Glendale.

“The weather hands us unexpected things from time to time, and you just manage it and deal with it in as quick and best a fashion you can,” says Mayor Adam Jones.

After days of heavy rains in mid-December, the amount of wastewater coming through the city’s treatment plant exceeded capacity. Raw sewage overflowed into Cow Creek, a tributary of the Umpqua River.

Oregon Suction Mining Moratorium To Take Effect Jan. 1

Dec 22, 2015

On Jan. 1, 2016, Oregon will join California in at least temporarily banning the use of a controversial gold-mining technique in which miners essentially vacuum up river beds to recover the mineral. Environmental groups say a ban is long overdue. But independent miners say the state is illegally interfering with their federally-granted rights.

Oregon and Washington fisheries managers announced Monday that commercial crab season will open Jan. 4.

That’s about a month later than it was scheduled to start. High levels of domoic acid in the Pacific Ocean had delayed the season.

Scientists suspect a lingering patch of warm water led to high levels of the toxin.

Kelly Corbett of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the state has been testing sites along the coast on a weekly basis.

“All areas that were tested for a third time in a row have all trended downward,” Corbett said.

Outdoorsmen emerge from their tents and truck beds in the early morning light. After a big breakfast they ready dry suits, diving masks, air hoses and a contraption that looks like a small pontoon boat.

This group is carrying on the age-old tradition of small-scale gold mining. Their method of choice is known as suction dredging.

“People have been prospecting for gold since prehistoric times,” miner Ron Larson says. “Gold has always lured mankind and man has always chased it. We feel a connection to those early miners.”

On a rainy fall day, a group of bundled up hikers explored Leslie Gulch. Kirk Richardson, with Keen Footwear in Portland, pointed to a bulbous rock formation jutting from the canyon wall.

"I like this one that’s kind of a split molar root," Richardson said. "Looks like something you’d see in a dentist X-ray."

Congress has adjourned for the year without authorizing the Klamath water agreements. And now the locally-negotiated compromises will expire at the end of the year unless signees decide to extend.

The three agreements would have provided a degree of peace in the Klamath basin water wars. But they needed congressional approval to move forward.

Supporting groups will meet Monday, Dec. 28, to decide whether to wait around yet another year for Congress to act. But some parties are already indicating they want out.

Upcoming King Tide Offers A Preview Of Sea Level Rise

Dec 21, 2015

What will coastal communities look like as the sea level rises with climate change? This week's king tide could offer a preview.

Several groups will be photographing the effects of the extremely high tides expected Wednesday through Friday. They hope it will help communities visualize and prepare for a warming world.

This week Congress passed a bill that increased funding to suppress wildfires. That's after agencies spent more than $1.7 billion on wildfires in 2015. That's the costliest season on record.

Oregon Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley praised the funding increase. But they also said Congress needs to do more to ensure that firefighting doesn't consume other agency programs.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn't see a need to require labeling for genetically engineered salmon. But Congress does.

In the federal spending package approved Friday, lawmakers directed the FDA to make sure the controversial new fish is labeled for consumers.

The Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty has engineered a fish that grows to market size faster than Atlantic farmed salmon.

A budget deal that’s heading for final action Friday includes a provision that could create international demand for American oil — and help make the case for building rail-to-ship export terminals on the West Coast.

It’s not in your head. Seattle's Lake Washington is getting warmer and more comfortable to swim in every year. And it’s not the only lake experiencing a rapid rise in temperature.

For the first time, scientists have brought together a comprehensive data set from 235 lakes around the world, containing more than half of the world’s fresh water. The study, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that globally, lake temperatures are rising more rapidly than ocean or air temperatures – at an average uptick of .61 degrees Fahrenheit each decade.

Nearly 200 nations came together in Paris to agree to reduce carbon emissions. The global effort will depend on the policies and regulations set by cities and states.

But a recent report by Lewis & Clark College's Green Energy Institute says Oregon is falling short of its own goals to reduce its emissions.

GUEST:

A report by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council finds the region can meet nearly all of its energy needs for the next 20 years without building new power plants.

The exceptions may come from the need to replace the power from coal plants that are being retired.

Oregon Signs On To Sell Only Emission-Free Vehicles By 2050

Dec 14, 2015

Oregon — along with a group of five countries and seven states — used the Paris climate change conference to set lofty new emission goals.

The International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance announced the goal of having all new cars sold within its jurisdiction be emission-free by 2050.

That jurisdiction includes Oregon and seven other states, as well as Quebec, Canada; Germany; the Netherlands; Norway and the United Kingdom.

Dave Nordberg, with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, called it an aspirational goal, but not outside the realm of possibility.

The city of Longview began drilling a series of test wells Monday along the Cowlitz River to search for a new drinking water source.

The city is considering whether to pursue a new well system that would allow it to once again get its water from the Cowlitz River.

“It’s really driven by our customers,” said Amy Blain, a project engineer with the city of Longview. “They’re unhappy with our current water source.”

In January 2013, Longview began to get its water from ground wells.

Officials with the Oregon Department of Forestry knew Applebee Aviation had lost its pesticide license before they let the company spray weed killer over 800 acres of state and private land.

This failure to stop a pesticide sprayer after suspending its license is the latest example of Oregon’s inability to prevent problematic forest pesticide applications. The state agencies that regulate the practice have been under increased scrutiny from media, environmentalists and lawmakers over the past two years after a string of complaints about exposure from aerial pesticide spraying.

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