Liam Moriarty

Environment Reporter

Liam Moriarty started with KPLU in 1996 as our freelance correspondent in the San Juan Islands. He’s been our full-time Environment Reporter since November, 2006. In between, Liam was News Director at Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon for three years and reported for a variety of radio, print and web news sources in the Northwest. He's covered a wide range of environment issues, from timber, salmon and orcas to oil spills, land use and global warming. Liam is an avid sea kayaker, cyclist and martial artist.

Liam's most memorable KPLU radio moment: "Recording a musician swapping songs with killer whales from a boat in the middle of Johnstone Strait in British Columbia."

Ways to Connect

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan are reverberating across the Pacific in a variety of ways. Now, a Vancouver B.C.-area bottled water company finds itself at the center of efforts to cope with the latest turn of events.

An effort in Olympia to broaden Washington’s renewable energy law is running into opposition.

Green energy groups say the proposed change would weaken the voter-approved Initiative 937.

MaplessinSeattle / Flickr

Seattle’s on-again-off-again festival celebrating all things cannabis seems to be on again.

Officials with Seattle Hempfest say they’ve resolved their dispute with the city and the event will be held as scheduled in mid-August at Myrtle Edwards Park. 

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

Major league sports teams in the Northwest have been recycling, composting food waste, cutting their power use and more.

Consider the Mariners. From 2006-2009, the team:

  • reduced natural gas use by 60 percent
  • reduced electricity use by 30 percent
  • reduced water use by 15 percent

Now, the Mariners and other teams from Seattle, Portland and Vancouver B.C. are forming a non-profit with the goal of spreading the green gospel to stadiums nationwide.

The earthquake, tsunami and radiation leaks in Japan are having a ripple effect on the trans-Pacific seafood trade.

In Seattle, Sushi Kappo Tamura chef and owner Taichi Kitamura is worried now that a big chunk of the Japanese fishing industry damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Along with sushi, Kitamura's menu also features some traditional recipes that use Japanese fish.

"Consistency in availability is very important because you have a menu and you have to keep certain items on the menu," Kitamura says.

Kitamura is also worried about the safety of the seafood he imports. South Korea, Singapore and other Asian countries are already testing Japanese food imports for radiation. Japanese authorities say the levels of radiation released from the crippled nuclear reactors don't pose a public health risk. But Kitamura says skittish customers might decide to stay away.

Read More


Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says he thinks the city’s waterfront viaduct poses an earthquake risk and should be taken down next year.

That's a good four years before the viaduct's planned replacement -- a deep-bore tunnel under downtown -- would be ready.

For most drivers in Washington’s most-populated areas, getting your car’s emissions system tested is an every-other-year ritual. Now, state environment officials are proposing to make changes they say will streamline the process without compromising the region’s air quality.

Mark Malleson / Courtesy of

The oldest and perhaps most-recognizable of the local killer whales is missing and researchers fear he may have died over the winter.

The orca known to researchers as J-1 was last seen on November 21st near Victoria, B.C. Also known as “Ruffles,” for the wavy edge to his distinctive six-foot-tall dorsal fin, J-1 was believed to be about 60 years old. He was one of the first individual orcas to be identified by researchers in the early 19-70s.

Photo: Brett VandenHeuvel /

A major partner in a controversial Northwest coal port proposal has been fined $4 million for violating clean water laws in its Appalachian mining operations.


King County is in good shape and getting better.

That’s the message from County Executive Dow Constantine during his “State of the County” speech Monday. Speaking from the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Constantine touted progress in taming the county’s budget problems and making county government more efficient. 

King5 TV

If you’re waiting for the final chapter in the saga of Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, don’t hold your breath. The latest action by the city council has triggered an effort to put the question to the voters again.

In an often-raucous council chamber packed with both supporters and opponents of the planned deep-bore tunnel project, the City Council decisively overturned Mayor Mike McGinn’s veto of a set of agreements between the city and the state that would facilitate the tunnel.

Steven Kramer / University of Washington

Ten years ago today, the Puget Sound region was rocked by a powerful earthquake. The magnitude 6.8 quake brought down brick facades, damaged Seattle’s waterfront viaduct and split the Capitol dome in Olympia. The ground shook for about 45 seconds and tremors were felt as far away as Salt Lake City.

Erin Hennessey / KPLU News

With frigid temperatures and up to six inches of snow bearing down on the Puget Sound region, transit agencies are getting ready.

The latest forecast says the snow is likely to arrive a little later than previously thought. That means evening commuters may escape the brunt of the blast.

Tom Pearce -- with Snohomish Community Transit -- says its buses are operating on regular routes, for now …

Kay Schultz / DOE Flickr feed

Shorelines around Washington are experiencing extreme high tides through the end of the month. Known as “king tides,” they’re a natural wintertime phenomenon in the Northwest. But they may also provide a glimpse into our future.

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

The northern tip of the Salish Sea is the place where the Campbell River on Vancouver Island empties into Georgia Strait. 

In the final segment in our series “Reflections on the Water,” KPLU environment reporter Liam Moriarty talks with Darren Blaney, a wood carver and former chief of the Homalco First Nation, which is based in Campbell River.

Read more ...

Paula Wissel / KPLU News

Sage smoke, prayers and the beat of Native drums filled the air at Seattle City Hall Wednesday afternoon as several hundred people gathered to demand justice for woodcarver John T. Williams. Williams, a member of the Nuu-Chah-Nuulth First Nation in British Columbia, was shot to death last Aug. 30th by a Seattle police officer.

The demonstrators moved on to Westlake Park.  Later, several dozen marched to the crosswalk at Boren St. and Howell St. where Williams was killed by Officer Ian Birk.

Tom Banse / N3

Previously undisclosed documents are raising questions about whether the Australian company trying to build a new coal export facility in Longview has tried to snooker local officials.

According to an article in the New York Times, documents show officials at Millennium Bulk Terminals “tried to limit what state officials knew about its long-term goals during the early permitting process last year.”

Lawmakers in Olympia are proposing to slash or even eliminate dozens of important programs and services, as they struggle to eliminate a nearly $5 billion budget gap.

Environmental groups are hoping to stave off what they say would be crippling budget cuts to natural resource agencies in charge of protecting water, air and forests. But with education and health care for the poor on the chopping block, they face a tough battle.

LA Times

We’ve known for a long time that killer whales eat salmon. But new findings suggest that local orcas rely on salmon – specifically, adult Chinook salmon – more than previously thought. So now fisheries managers are having to ask themselves: What happens when endangered whales depend on endangered fish?

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

Several thousand mourners, many of them uniformed law  enforcement officers, gathered in Everett Tuesday to pay tribute to Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl.

Biendl was killed January 29th while on duty at the state prison in Monroe. She was the first corrections officer killed in a Washington prison in over 30 years.

Liam Moriarty / KPLU

Human activity has taken a heavy toll on the Salish Sea. And efforts are underway across the region to restore depleted stocks of everything from salmon to eelgrass.

This week, as part of our series “Reflections on the Water,” KPLU environment reporter Liam Moriarty visits a project in the little town of Bowser, British Columbia. He sits on a beach with Ken Kirkby, who heads an innovative community nonprofit that’s been restoring a crucial type of habitat : underwater forests of bull kelp. 


electronavalanche / Flickr

Washington’s neighbors to the north (British Columbia) and to the south (California) are gearing up to launch a regional carbon cap-and-trade system next year. It’s the centerpiece of the Western Climate Initiative, a regional effort to tackle global warming.

In Olympia, however, environment officials are rolling out more modest climate measures.

For example: a pair of agreements signed Wednesday (with much fanfare) between the state and B.C.  

Jeff Maurone / Flickr

Wanna use state parks and other recreational lands this summer? Under a new proposal, you’ll have to cough up a $30 annual fee.

Democratic Senator Kevin Ranker of Friday Harbor is sponsor of Senate Bill 5622. The measure would raise money for state parks, as well as the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, at a time when the state’s budget crisis is forcing lawmakers to close a massive budget gap.

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

Sure, like most Northwesterners, you recycle like a demon. Cans, glass, plastic, yard waste. You even compost your kitchen scraps. You’re a regular environmental hero.

Or maybe not ...

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

So, you live near a marina -- or a river or lake -- and you notice that an old, possibly-abandoned boat is sinking.

Who you gonna call?

Your first thought might be to notify the local police or fire department. Bryan Flint says that might work, or it might not.

In President Obama’s State of the Union speech, he got the biggest laugh of the night when – to illustrate the need to simplify government – he made a crack about salmon management.

"The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater ... I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

See it here, along with a shot of Commerce Secretary (and former Washington Governor) Gary Locke trying to be a good sport.

World Resources Institute

Growing populations and increasing pollution are contributing to more and more “dead zones” in bays and oceans around the world.

Now there’s an interactive online map pinpointing more than 760 spots across the globe—including 22 in Washington – that either are dead zones or are in danger of becoming one.

What’s a “dead zone?”

It happens when excess nutrients in the water help trigger an algae bloom. Mindy Selman explains that when all the algae die, they sink to the bottom.

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

We’re still dealing with landslides and flooding from the heavy rains brought by last week’s Pineapple Express storms. But the downpour also washed a flood of gunk and junk off of the region’s streets, sidewalks and parking lots, into more than 4,500 storm drains and right into Puget Sound.

Storm drains usually empty underwater, so nobody sees the flood of crud that pours into rivers and bays across the region.

Well, almost no one ...

Courtesy DNR

State enforcement officers from the Department of Natural Resources have arrested two men for illegally cutting down large alder trees on state property.

The DNR blog Ear to the Ground reports that:


Some lawmakers in Olympia say “no.” They’re proposing a bill that would make the oil industry pay for a variety of precautions designed to protect Washington’s shorelines from an Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon disaster.

(I wrote about the state of Washington's oil spill prevention and response while the Gulf spill was ongoing last spring ...)