Environment

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

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee has challenged two Republican senators to "do more than just criticize and mischaracterize actions" being considered to reduce carbon pollution.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Western Washington has all the conditions that make it prime territory for landslides: lots of loose material that our glaciers left behind as they carved steep slopes into a landscape that gets lots of heavy rainfall.

Still, predicting exactly when landslides will happen is extremely complex.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Seattle’s South Park neighborhood got a visit Monday from Gov. Jay Inslee. 

The governor was highlighting the disproportionate health impacts of air pollution there as part of his statewide climate tour. It’s one more argument in favor of his plan to cap carbon emissions.

Elizabeth Cherny-Chipman / AP Photo/Oregon State University

Scientists have isolated a virus they are pretty sure is causing the mysterious disease that has killed millions of sea stars on the Pacific Coast by melting them into slime and piles of tiny bones.

The study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says a variety of densovirus is the likely cause of sea star wasting syndrome.

Wikimedia

A new study out of Canada reveals a surprising side-effect that hunting may have on wolves.

Researchers wanted to compare the hormone levels in wolves that often deal with hunters’ fire, versus wolves that are hunted very little. They were able to measure levels of progesterone, testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol by looking at samples of wolf hair from different parts of northern Canada.

Courtesy Puget Sound Energy / Flickr

Gusty winds are posing some unusual challenges for Puget Sound Energy, toppling trees and taking out power lines as the cold air races in from the east.

The utility has called in outside crews to help with repairs, especially in the hardest-hit areas of South King County. Less than half of the 70,000 Puget Sound Energy customers who lost power overnight were still in the dark Tuesday afternoon.

You’ve probably noticed the arctic air mass from the North Pole, nuzzling in close here for an icy hug. What you might not have thought of are the cold apples in the Northwest and the people struggling to harvest the last of them.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

How to prevent unsafe logging on steep slopes that could cause future landslides will be at the center of discussions in Olympia Wednesday. In the wake of the Oso tragedy, the state’s Forest Practices Board is in the process of updating permitting guidelines. 

Tom Banse

An oceanography institute announced Monday that trace amounts of radioactivity from Japan have been detected off the West Coast.

Radiation experts say the low levels of radioactivity measured do not pose a health threat here.

Courtesy of SDOT

Seattle is joining other big cities with a new tool to make it easier to use public transportation. The city’s first TransitScreen is up and running at the Seattle Municipal Tower. The big screen display gives commuters in the building real-time information about their best travel options. And more TransitScreens are on the way. 

Jessica Robinson

The Environmental Protection Agency is testing out a new technique for keeping heavily-used river banks from eroding into the water.

The EPA wants to see if these living retainer walls can contain lead pollution at a Superfund site in north Idaho.

To make these “soil burritos,” a construction crew pours a layer of dirt into what looks like a car-sized piece of burlap. Then they put down willow branches. If all goes according to plan, those willows will start taking root in the dirt next spring.

Undaunted and optimistic – that’s the attitude Gov. Jay Inslee says he has about working with the legislature after Tuesday’s elections.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

More than 100 Washington businesses are calling for action on climate change and urging others to join them.

Companies including Microsoft, Foss Maritime, REI and Virginia Mason Medical Center have signed an open declaration, saying climate change is real and happening and that more action is needed to address it.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Editor's Note: Fifteen years ago, Puget Sound salmon were listed under the Endangered Species Act. Despite the billions of dollars spent on recovery since, the results remain mixed. Some runs are seeing record returns while others are facing one of their worst years ever.

To learn more about the challenges of salmon recovery, this series follows one Chinook run from the open ocean to Puget Sound, through the Ballard Locks, past Renton and finally home to native spawning grounds on the Cedar River.

For more than a hundred years, the aqueduct at Landsburg Park near Maple Valley was the end of the line for salmon in the Cedar River watershed. Built between 1899 and 1901 through a voter initiative to provide water for the city of Seattle after the great Seattle fire, Seattle’s water system is the envy of municipalities all over the country.

Read the full story on our companion site, northwestsalmon.org >>>

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the U.S. Navy to reroute a creek and clean up a decades-old dump in Kitsap County.

The EPA says contamination from the Gorst Creek Landfill is posing risks to public health and salmon habitat.

myriverguide.com / Flickr

Construction begins this week on a state project in the Methow Valley to give fish a boost of cold, clean water in rivers near Twisp, Washington. The state and a trout conservation group are pouring about $10 million into a whole new irrigation system there.

Government regulators have approved a new generation of genetically engineered corn and soybeans. They're the latest weapon in an arms race between farmers and weeds, and the government's green light is provoking angry opposition from environmentalists.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Editor's Note: Fifteen years ago, Puget Sound salmon were listed under the Endangered Species Act. Despite the billions of dollars spent on recovery since, the results remain mixed. Some runs are seeing record returns while others are facing one of their worst years ever.

To learn more about the challenges of salmon recovery, this series follows one Chinook run from the open ocean to Puget Sound, through the Ballard Locks, past Renton and finally home to native spawning grounds on the Cedar River.

About five miles from the clogged freeways, shopping malls and airplane hangars at the south end of Lake Washington, the Cedar River starts winding its way through Maple Valley.

It’s here, along some 30 miles of streambeds, some just a few paces off the highway, where life begins and ends each fall for hundreds of Lake Washington chinook.

Read the full story on our companion site, northwestsalmon.org >>>

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Gleaning is an ancient word for a practice that dates back to Biblical times. Farmers allowed peasants to take leftover crops after the harvest was over. The practice has been making a comeback in recent years as a way to fight hunger locally and cut back on food waste. 

At Clean Greens Farm in Duvall, Washington, a field of kale is overflowing. It's been picked before, but it just keeps on coming, says farm manager Tommie Willis, as he leads a group of volunteers to one patch and shows them how to glean. 

(Michael Holden/Flickr)

Editor's Note: Fifteen years ago, Puget Sound salmon were listed under the Endangered Species Act. Despite the billions of dollars spent on recovery since, the results remain mixed. Some runs are seeing record returns while others are facing one of their worst years ever.

To learn more about the challenges of salmon recovery, this series follows one Chinook run from the open ocean to Puget Sound, through the Ballard Locks, past Renton and finally home to native spawning grounds on the Cedar River.

One of the most intriguing questions about Lake Washington chinook is the mystery of how they survived after we replumbed the region with the construction of the Ship Canal, which was completed in 1916. It dropped the level of the lake by nearly 10 feet and cut it off from what used to be its southern outlet, the Green River.

Read the full story on our companion site, northwestsalmon.org >>>

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The state of Washington is going back to federal court over cleanup at Hanford, the nation’s largest nuclear waste site. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the latest court action Friday in an exclusive public radio interview.

The decision to return to court follows months of negotiations that failed to produce a new Hanford cleanup agreement. Inslee says the time has come once again to get the courts involved.

Tom Banse

It may be difficult to eat our way out of the invasive species problem, but it can be satisfying to try.

Chefs and adventurous diners converged at Zenith Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley near Salem Sunday as more than 200 people paid handsomely to nibble on course after course of invasive species like nutria, dandelion and carp.

The point of this affair was to highlight the range of edible invasive weeds, birds, fish and mammals around us. These invaders are costly to control. They crowd out native plants and animals and can change entire landscapes.

One slogan heard here: "If you can't beat 'em, eat ‘em."

Courtesy of Snohomish County PUD

Snohomish County Public Utility District has pulled the plug on its high-profile research project to develop technology that harnesses the tides to generate electrical power. The utility says the U.S. Department of Energy was not willing to share in escalating costs for the project.

It was to be located in Admiralty Inlet, west of Whidbey Island.

The federal agency committed in 2006 to cover a fixed dollar amount that, at the time, covered half of the total bill for the tidal energy project. But it was not clear how to cover increased costs for materials and new mandates for studies, and the DOE said Friday it would provide no additional funding for the effort.

Courtesy of Eric Warner

Editor's Note: Fifteen years ago, Puget Sound salmon were listed under the Endangered Species Act. Despite the billions of dollars spent on recovery since, the results remain mixed. Some runs are seeing record returns while others are facing one of their worst years ever.

To learn more about the challenges of salmon recovery, this series follows one Chinook run from the open ocean to Puget Sound, through the Ballard Locks, past Renton and finally home to native spawning grounds on the Cedar River.

At the heart of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is one of the most unique parks in the region. The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks attracts tourists and locals alike. People line up to watch boats move up and down between Puget Sound and Lake Washington in a narrow concrete and metal channel that is, in effect, a kind of marine elevator. It was built with the Ship Canal that replumbed the region at the turn of the last century. The Locks opened in 1917. Along the south side is a fish ladder that has windows where you can see salmon as they migrate through.

Read the full story on our companion site, northwestalmon.org >>>

The coast has generally been considered the area of the Northwest most at risk for a catastrophic oil spill. But the rise in oil moving through the region by rail has raised the stakes for some inland areas. Three counties in the northern tip of Idaho are now creating their own strategy for containing an oil spill.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Editor's Note: Fifteen years ago, Puget Sound salmon were listed under the Endangered Species Act. Despite the billions of dollars spent on recovery since, the results remain mixed. Some runs are seeing record returns while others are facing one of their worst years ever.

To learn more about the challenges of salmon recovery, this series follows one Chinook run from the open ocean to Puget Sound, through the Ballard Locks, past Renton and finally home to native spawning grounds on the Cedar River.

Puget Sound is one of the most enchanting bodies of water in the Pacific Northwest. Framed by mountains to the east and west, its physical beauty is part of what attracts new people to the region every year.

A total of 115 towns and cities surround this deep inland fjord. But the Sound’s geography is also part of what makes it toxic for fish that migrate through it.

Read and hear the full story on our companion site, northwestsalmon.org >>>

Washington State University

If you’re lucky enough to spot a lacy monarch butterfly as it heads south for winter, look closely. You might see something unusual on its wing.

In a town in northern California, a young girl noticed a white sticker with an email address on a butterfly’s wing when it landed on her garage door.

“She took note and emailed me, so it proved the system worked,” said Dr. David James, an entomologist at Washington State University.

Anna King

Fisheries experts say the return of chinook salmon to the Columbia River may not quite break records this fall as expected.

Last year’s run of nearly 1.3 million salmon was a record, but future years may not bring those kinds of numbers.

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