Environment

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

courtesy PNNL

When you turn on your tap or shower in the morning or run your washing machine at night, you probably aren’t thinking much about how many other people in the area are doing the same thing.

But when it’s cold outside, use of electric heaters for hot water often pushes peak loads to the brink for local utilities.

That’s where so-called smart-grid technology could come in and save the day. The idea, which increases energy efficiency and saves everyone money, is being put to the test on Fox Island, near Tacoma.

David Goldman / AP Photo

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved an unusual way for prospective immigrants to earn a U.S. green card and permanent residency. They can loan money to independent Northwest truckers who want to upgrade to less-polluting rigs.

The idea was the brainchild of Bellingham immigration attorney David Andersson and a cross-border association of state Legislatures and parliaments called the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A dry start to winter has left the snowpack in Washington far short of normal.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's snow survey office in Mount Vernon says as of Jan. 1, snowpack readings were 45 percent of normal for that time of year.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington state health officials say its own arsenic testing has confirmed that geoducks harvested from a Puget Sound bay are safe to eat and don't pose a health concern.

Officials say they're hoping the test results will help persuade China to lift a ban it imposed last month on the import of clams, oysters, mussels and scallops harvested from Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Researchers want you to grab the camera, head to the beach and capture this weekend's king tide.

The highest tides of the year are taking place, and the state is asking citizens to help document potential impacts of rising sea levels. 

Scientists who have been studying a swarm of small earthquakes that shook Spokane in 2001 say they may have evidence of a new fault in the area. 

On Friday, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey announced an airborne survey of the Spokane area revealed clues that look to be connected to a so-called swarm of small earthquakes that struck in 2001.

The swarm was actually several small quakes, the largest of which registered a 4.0-magnitude quake on Nov. 11 of that year.

Tom Banse

Some causes just seem hopeless some days. Like world peace. Or ending poverty. Or in a different vein, getting rid of non-native plants.

But you've no doubt met people who insist on tackling intractable problems here locally and around the world. One particularly dedicated fellow wages a solo fight each weekday morning against English ivy.

Earl Steele / Flickr

It’s prime time for wild steelhead, but you likely won’t see it on a plate, not even at the Steelhead Diner in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

“I don’t kill wild steelhead. I don’t eat them and I don’t serve them at my restaurant, and I never have,” said Kevin Davis, the restaurant’s chef who likes the Washington state fish so much that he named his first restaurant after it.

Many share Davis’ passion for the steelhead, which is a type of rainbow trout. Some restaurants and most vendors in Pike Place Market have informally banned selling or serving wild steelhead.

Devan Schwartz

The Northwest wine industry has grown tremendously over the last few decades. That’s had a big economic impact, but that growth has also changed the region’s landscape.

In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, you don’t see a lot of oak trees anymore. Spacious oak savannas have been replaced by farms and vineyards. But one family is holding onto an old oak tradition despite the odds.

Pierce County Television

Devastating floods in the Puyallup River valley near Orting are soon to become a thing of the past.

The city is breaking ground on a new $16 million levy. The project will restore the landscape around the river at the foot of Mount Rainer to something more natural, with room for floodwaters to soak into the landscape.

Allen Pleus / Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife

A cold snap might be an effective tool for fish and wildlife managers trying to stop the spread of a tiny invasive species. Capitol Lake in Olympia is serving as a testing ground for freezing out New Zealand mud snails. 

Tom Banse

Just like consumers who postponed new car buying during the recent recession, so did government agencies put off vehicle replacements. But now procurement officers are getting busy again. In this buying cycle, every Western state is under a directive to buy alternative fuel vehicles and to reduce fossil fuel use.

The legislation or executive order always comes with a caveat: do so, except when it's not economically or logistically possible. A western Washington driver is showing what is possible when you push an electric car to its limit.

courtesy Wild River Press

 

Sean M. Gallagher grew up fishing steelhead. He's one of hundreds of sport fishermen who spend hours on riverbanks, seeking out the sparkling skin of rainbow trout known as steelhead.

Like some salmon, they come back from the ocean in winter to spawn upriver. But while salmon turn red and die when they return to their origins, steelhead live for several years in fresh water and get bigger — as big as 40 pounds while they are traversing regional rivers.

Gallagher, a first time-author, shares “the lures and lore of a Pacific Northwest icon” in his new two-volume book titled “Wild Steelhead.” We asked him for a primer on the fish he loves so much.

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

Some residents in the Olympia area are concerned about dredged materials being disposed of in the Puget Sound. They say the Department of Natural Resources is failing to protect underwater ecology at the same time that state and federal governments are spending millions on cleanup.                

Tim Durkan

The spectacular sunsets we've been enjoying recently have a downside: they’re indicators of increasing air pollution.

Pollution has risen to unhealthy levels around Puget Sound this week. State health officials say pollution often goes up in the winter.

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