Environment

transportation
6:04 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

WSDOT admits big mistakes on 520 pontoons

Additional work on the 520 bridge pontoons could cost tens of millions of dollars extra and push back the new bridge's opening by six months, after an expert review panel found design flaws that must be fixed.
Bellamy Pailthorp photo KPLU News

Big mistakes were made by the State Department of Transportation in its construction of the pontoons that will hold up the new 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

The agency says it is making repairs and design modifications to ensure the bridge will last the full 75 year lifespan promised.

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Environment
5:57 pm
Fri February 22, 2013

Inslee Says At Least Seven Tanks At Hanford Leaking

Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington Governor Jay Inslee says at least seven tanks of radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are leaking, not two. He says the Department of Energy and its contractors have apparently miscalculated data that would have found the leaks earlier.

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Environment
5:53 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Sen. Wyden: Hanford Will Be Priority For Next Energy Secretary

US Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – Problems at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation will be a key issue in the confirmation hearings for the next Secretary of Energy. That’s what Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said after he toured the southeast Washington site Tuesday.

Wyden chairs the Senate committee that will consider President Obama’s pick to replace Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The Oregon Democrat toured Hanford’s tank farms, where millions of gallons of radioactive waste is stored. Two of those tanks have possible leaks.

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transportation planning
5:01 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Less guesswork: Seattle getting second electronic bicycle counter

Figuring out where to put more bike lanes in Seattle will get easier as the city gathers more data with electronic counters. A second one will be installed in South Seattle this spring.
clappstar Flickr

Five years ago, Seattle adopted a Bicycle Master Plan. It aims to triple the amount of bicycling in Seattle by the year 2017. But until just a few months ago, there was no way to accurately count cyclists. That’s changing.

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Environment
4:32 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Structural engineers developing tsunami design code for coastal buildings

Ecola Architects, PC

SEATTLE - Building codes cover fire prevention, energy efficiency, and seismic safety among other things. Now a group of civil engineers from around the West is developing additions to the code to cover the threat of a tsunami.

Kent Yu of Degenkolb Engineers in Portland is one of the members of an American Society of Civil Engineers subcommittee drafting standards for "tsunami loads and effects."

"I think it is going to help make our communities more resilient."

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Environment
10:18 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Climate change pushing water system upgrades

Snowpack in the crest of the Cascade Mountains provides storage for Seattle's Cedar River watershed. Lowering snow levels are expected because of global warming, putting the supply at risk.
Credit Courtsey Seattle Public Utilities

Global climate change is a reality that few people now deny. 2012 was the warmest year on record. So what about Seattle’s water supply? 

Managers say they need to speed up about $30-million of investment in a backup plan.

About two thirds of Seattle’s water comes from one of the most pristine sources in the nation. The Cedar River Watershed lies in more than 90,000 acres of protected land southeast of the city, near North Bend.

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Environment
5:07 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Bipartisan Group Plans Overhaul For Radioactive Waste Disposal

Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. - A bipartisan group of senior senators is drafting a bill to overhaul the U.S. nuclear-waste program. The group, which includes Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, is aiming to find a permanent home for the nation’s radioactive waste.

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Wildlife
3:23 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Animal Magnetism: How Salmon Find Their Way Back Home

Bright red sockeye salmon swim up the Fraser River to the stream where they were hatched.
Current Biology, Putman et al.

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 11:50 am

Before they end up filleted and sautéed on your dinner plate, salmon lead some pretty extraordinary, globe-trotting lives.

After hatching in a freshwater stream, young salmon make a break for the ocean, where they hang out for years, covering thousands of miles before deciding its time to settle down and lay eggs in their natal stream.

So how do these fish find their way back to their home river?

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Environment
12:08 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

For Interior nominee Sally Jewell, NW landscapes are in her blood

Sally Jewell came full circle when she became CEO of the compnay that sold her dad his frist tent.
REI

President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior is an unusual choice. Sally Jewell is not a politician – she’s CEO of the outdoor gear company, REI. But those who know her say she has savvy, social conscience, and a deep respect for the open spaces she’ll be managing if the Senate confirms her.

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Environment
5:14 pm
Wed February 6, 2013

WA Toxics Coalition again seeking ban on flame retardant Tris

Five years ago, Washington became the first state in the nation to ban a class of toxic flame retardants known as PBDEs.

Now, evidence is mounting that a widely-used alternative is just as toxic.

A new bill before lawmakers in Olympia would ban the flame retardant called Tris from children’s products and household furniture.

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Tsunami Debris
8:55 am
Wed February 6, 2013

Tsunami debris on Alaska's shores like "standing in landfill"

Trash, much of it believed to be debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, litters the beach on Montague Island, Alaska, on Jan. 26.
Annie Feidt for NPR

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 7:51 am

Refrigerators, foam buoys and even ketchup bottles are piling up on Alaska's beaches. Almost two years after the devastating Japanese tsunami, its debris and rubbish are fouling the coastlines of many states — especially in Alaska.

At the state's Montague Island beach, the nearly 80 miles of rugged wilderness looks pristine from a helicopter a few thousand feet up. But when you descend, globs of foam come into view.

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Environment
9:21 am
Tue February 5, 2013

Seattle makes list of best U.S. cities for urban forests

Seattle's integration and management of trees in its cityscape puts it in the top ten cities for urban forests
Courtesy American Forests

Seattle is among the nation’s top ten cities for urban forests. This might sound like a no-brainer, but many cities that take pride in their trees did not make the cut. 

The Washington, DC non-profit American Forests based the list on surveys of urban forestry programs in the nation’s fifty most populous cities.

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Environment
5:17 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Study: big game is getting smaller

Library of Congress

If Teddy Roosevelt were to go big game hunting today, he might bring home slightly less-impressive trophies. That's because, according to a new analysis, the horns and antlers of North American wildlife have shrunk over the last century.

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Environment
4:55 am
Fri February 1, 2013

Should Giant Pacific Octopus get special protections?

The giant Pacific octopus is native to western Washington. It can grow to 100 lbs in its 3-4-year lifespan and is a highlight for coldwater divers here.
Janna Nichols photo

The giant Pacific octopus is a relatively healthy and abundant creature among the native wildlife living in Puget Sound.

But it’s such an iconic species that the recent killing of one by a young diver near Seattle’s Alki point has others in the community calling for new protections.

The state is accepting nominations for an advisory group that will consider a range of conservation strategies.

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Environment
5:39 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Gonzaga University pledges zero emissions as 'moral imperative'

Jessica Robinson Northwest News Network

SPOKANE, Wash. - Leaders at Gonzaga University are asking What Would Jesus Do about climate change? The Jesuit school in Spokane, Wash., has adopted a plan for zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.

Over the next four decades, Gonzaga University plans to make a dramatic switch to green energy, some of it generated at new facilities on campus. Meeting the goal will also require major cuts in energy use. Car travel to campus by students and faculty, and Zags basketball trips to away games are all part of the final emissions tally.

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