Environment

Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.

Bellamy Pailthorp photo / KPLU News

A local watershed is the first in the Northwest to participate in a federal program that aims to connect people with their waterways. 

As of today, the Green River-Duwamish watershed is a part of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which focuses on revitalizing urban waterways. Formed in 2011, the federal group aims to unify and direct the efforts of 13 federal agencies working to improve water quality.

Columbia River Tribes Oppose Plan for Coal Trains

Sep 4, 2013

With coal use in decline in the U.S., mining companies have found a steady revenue stream in overseas markets.

But to get it there requires a long journey by train and barge to export terminals along the Columbia River and in Puget Sound. That’s a problem, according to environmentalists and tribes who are calling for more impact studies.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is postponing a controversial decision on whether to list the Mazama pocket gopher as a threatened species in the South Puget Sound area.

Washington State manager Ken Berg says his agency wants six additional months to consider input from upset landowners and affected counties. Berg says farmers and ranchers in Thurston County claim there are more pocket gophers than the government realizes and that they can co-exist with human activity.

Courtesy of Cascadia Advective Conductive Heat Expedition (CACHE)

It's been a busy summer on the high seas for researchers trying to figure out the inner workings of an ominous earthquake fault.

The Cascadia subduction zone runs offshore from Vancouver Island to Northern California. When it rips, we could have a magnitude-9.0 catastrophe. 

A special guest will tour sites in the Skagit River Valley today. Nancy Sutley, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality will be in Mount Vernon to discuss the impacts of climate change on communities in Washington state.

AP Photo/Boise State University, Janice Engle

The U.S. fish and Wildlife Service has proposed naming the Oregon spotted frog a threatened species.

The frog is famous for the help it has received from friends in prison.

GD Taber / Flickr

Remember the sequester? The dust is finally settling and the consequences becoming real for a program in the U.S. Forest Service that sends money to timber counties.

Seattle City Light says new advanced electrical meters will let you monitor your power usage in real time. That way, if you see you’re using too much electricity at any given moment, you can run around and turn off a bunch of lights.

But Seattle is hearing from customers who say they’re worried the meters will collect too much data and also pose health risks.

Seattle City Light

Seattle City Light has finalized a new 42-year license on its most productive hydroelectric dam. The agreement wraps up a process seven years in the making.

Boundary Dam sits on the Pend Oreille River in northeastern Washington. It rises to 340 feet tall, spanning a narrow canyon. 

"Oh it's awesome," said City Light's Barbara Greene. "Every time I go there, after 10 years, it's just awesome."

Roger Tabor / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Survival rates for salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound have plunged since the 1970s, and a big new international study is aiming to figure out why.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Puget Sound lost a champion when Congressman Norm Dicks retired last year. Two freshman U.S. Representatives have formed a special caucus to fill the void. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

Natural gas from organic waste is gaining momentum as a renewable energy source, and a local transit agency is already on board. 

Update: The original version of this story incorrectly summarized this study as showing populations to be displaced by 2100 if current trends continue. Author Ben Strauss sent the following correction: "by 2100, we would most likely be *locked in* to such an outcome in a more distant future, time unspecified, but essentially inevitable." We have updated the story accordingly. 

The warming climate is causing sea levels to rise as oceans expand, and, combined with more frequent storms, the effects could be devastating.

A new map shows more than 1,400 towns in the U.S., 30 in Washington state, where half the population will be displaced  if current trends continue through the end of this century.

Courtesy Pacific Science Center

It looks a bit like something you might find in a book by Dr. Seuss: five huge sculpted sunflowers with striped green and orange stems.

The new installation outside Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is meant to draw in and educate the public about solar power. 

Courtesy City of Seattle

Seattle started its first city-sponsored P-Patch program 40 years ago. To help mark the anniversary, the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) is holding its national conference here. Gardeners from more than 30 states and six foreign countries are attending.

An attempt to get rid of tiny pests has proven costly for the Port of Tacoma.

The Port and two contractors have agreed to pay a half-million dollar fine and spend more than $4 million to restore and enhance wetlands under a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The wetlands at Hylebos Marsh were damaged during attempts by the Port to eradicate an invasive snail. The dime-sized vineyard snail comes from the Mediterranean and can destroy grain crops.

chasedekker photo / Flickr

  The charismatic black and white killer whales that spend their summers in Puget Sound will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has rejected a call to de-list resident orcas. 

Cecilia Bitz photo

Arctic sea ice is melting at record rates, and the loss of that ice could drive significant degradation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, according to a researcher at the University of Washington. The researcher, Cecilia Bitz, is part of an international team of scientists whose findings are published this week in the journal, Science

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Environmentalists are applauding the state Department of Ecology, which announced it will conduct an extensive review of the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point near Bellingham. 

woodleywonderworks photo / Flickr

The official estimate of how much fish people eat dictates the levels of pollution that are allowed, and a statewide coalition of clean water advocates says an accurate standard is long overdue.

Waterkeepers Washington is threatening to sue the federal government over lack of enforcement.

Jo Hoffman

The plight of honeybees is well-known. Their numbers are dropping, and entomologists are trying to figure out the cause. But did you know that bumblebees—the larger, slower, and furrier relatives of the honeybee—are also in trouble?

It’s always pretty special to see an eagle soaring near the water. But summer revelers in Seattle were recently shocked when they saw two of the large birds fighting in mid-air, dive-bombing each other at Seward Park. 

mage courtesy of Sheraton Seattle Hotel Facebook page.

Already known as a leader in sustainable architecture, Seattle is teaming up with Microsoft to take green building to the next level with the help of big-data computing.

Bellamy Pailthorp Photo / KPLU News

They’re the tools of modern-day warfare: unmanned aircraft systems better known as drones.

They’re also being tested to help carry out important scientific missions, including surveys of wildlife and marine debris in the National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula.

jpellgen / Flickr

Washington state House Democrats removed funds for a fish-consumption study from the final budget. That went against the wishes of one of the state's biggest business interests, Boeing.

The state Department of Ecology currently assumes that people in Washington eat about one meal of fish a month. But the state acknowledges the standard is out of date; many people eat a lot more fish than that.

Tribes and environmental groups have been urging the state to update its standard and require stricter regulation of water pollution. But that has been met with resistance from businesses, including Boeing.

courtesy Carolyn Bowie

Western Washington University is poised to become the largest public university in the country to ban sales of bottled water. The school joins Evergreen State College and Seattle University in making the move.

For many young environmentalists, saying no to bottled water and yes to public taps is an easy choice and a cause they can get passionate about.

Puget Sound Energy

“It’s the change we have been waiting for.” That’s the response from the Sierra Club to President Obama’s speech on climate change. A major part of his action plan is new limits on carbon emissions from power plants.

The local chapter of the club says even though no new policies will take effect for several years, utilities need to start adjusting now.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Urban farming sounds like a great idea to many people. You can grow your own vegetables and put in a chicken coop, or keep some ducks to make it all come full circle.

But a Seattle woman behind an operation called Ducks and Clucks says many folks are biting off more than they can chew when it comes to the birds. It is she who often comes to their rescue.

Craig Damlo / Flickr

Experts on urban cycling are convening at the University of Washington this week to talking about how to get more people out of cars and onto bikes. And the experts say Seattle is poised to get to the next level.

Seattle is about half way through its ten-year Bicycle Master Plan. An update is under way and expected to be approved by the Seattle City Council this fall.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

At a time when Washington state has been making headlines for the largest dam removal project ever on the Elwha River, Snohomish County is proposing a new one.

The Snohomish County Public Utility District says the proposed dam’s modern low-impact design would help the county diversify its energy portfolio and meet the future power demands of a growing population.

But the location of the proposed dam—on a wild and scenic stretch of the Skykomish River near the small town of Index—has many locals banding together against the project. 

'No dam way'

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