Environment

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

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Eating too many fish from Washington state waters can make you sick. That’s the idea behind the updated fish consumption rule that has been formally proposed after two years of heated debate.

The new fish consumption rule will require dischargers to keep local waters clean enough that people can safely eat a serving of fish a day, rather than just one per month. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Small communities can be laboratories for societal change. That was one of the messages as a coalition of cities in King County celebrated commitments they’ve made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Leaders representing more than 60 percent of the county’s population have now signed on to goals outlined by the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration.

Tom Banse

 

Tow boat captains, wheat exporters and the directors of the farthest inland ports in the Northwest are breathing easier today.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart Monday rejected an environmental and tribal challenge to dredging of the lower Snake River.

Isobel Alexander / courtesy SKMMR.

Yellow tape is warning people away from the pocket beach near the Olympic Sculpture Park on Seattle’s waterfront. But it’s not a crime scene. The beach was closed to protect a young harbor seal that had hauled out. It’s not uncommon this time of year. 

Harbor seal pups are born in the summer and early fall in the Puget Sound region. And after they’re weaned, they’re on their own and particularly vulnerable for about six months. 

Courtesy Wash. Dept of Ecology

Washingtonians have lost some bragging rights.

We still recycle at a rate that’s much higher than the national average, but we’re no longer improving on the amount of recyclables we divert from landfills. The statewide rate went down in the most recent data set, to 49 percent in 2013. 

Thompson & Morgan

 

A western Oregon mail order company has begun selling what might become the top conversation starter of Northwest garden parties this summer.

It's a grafted vegetable plant that produces potatoes and tomatoes at the same time.

Courtesy of Eric Warner

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, our Swimming Upstream 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.

Note: KPLU will air the entire series at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 2, and again at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 3. You can also find the entire series on northwestsalmon.org >>>

Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

After the holiday gift-giving frenzy, many people look to get rid of old electronic devices. Most contain toxic heavy metals such as lead and mercury, so you shouldn’t throw them in the trash. Responsibly disposing of them is free in Washington. And you may even be able to turn an extra gadget into instant cash.

Courtesy of University of Puget Sound

The strings of bright lights that hang all around us during the holidays provide cheer for many people in the depths of winter.

But imagine a time when only the very wealthy could afford them and Christmas trees were lit up with candles. An exhibit at the University of Puget Sound explores the history and the future of electric power. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s time to make polluters pay for carbon emissions. He’s proposed a cap-and-trade system that he says will raise a billion dollars a year while helping the state drastically reduce its contribution to global warming. 

Tom Banse

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making a high-stakes bet that it will prevail in a pending lawsuit over Snake River dredging.

Two million taxpayer dollars could go to waste if environmental challengers succeed in blocking dredging of the West Coast's farthest inland ports.

Washington Department of Commerce photo

Imagine a future in which a third of our nation’s electricity came from wind power. Activists around the country say that’s possible in the next 15 years. Here in Washington, it would mean getting eight times more electricity from windmills.

That’s according to a new report from Environment Washington, the organization that has been spearheading policies to phase out disposable plastic shopping bags here and all over the country. The group, which is part of a nationwide network, released its report, titled More Wind, Less Warming, in about 20 states simultaneously this week.

Rick McGuire / Courtesy of Washington Wild

Washington stands to get a new national park and thousands of acres of wilderness and wild and scenic river areas if the U.S. Senate approves a massive defense package that has passed the House.

The package, which has a handful of public lands bills tacked on to it, appears headed for passage next week. And in a curious twist, the tragic landslide in Oso seems to have opened the door to a bipartisan solution.

Matt Cooper / University of Oregon

Any parent of a rambunctious youngster can tell you trouble might be afoot when things go quiet in the playroom. Two independent research initiatives indicate there is a comparable situation with the Cascadia earthquake fault zone.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

A long-awaited roadmap is in place for the cleanup of Seattle’s only river.

The Lower Duwamish Waterway was listed as a Superfund site in 2001. Now, after extensive public feedback, a final cleanup plan has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

  The Navy is holding two additional public meetings this week in response to concerns about a proposed expansion of its fleet of EA-18-G Growler planes based on Whidbey Island.

Seattle City Light is moving forward with plans to upgrade residential electrical meters with advanced technology, often called “smart metering.”

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.

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