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

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

(Updated at 11:49 a.m. with new photos)

This morning I’ll be up early, heading to Sandy Point Marina, near Bellingham, for a short field trip with the non-profit Northwest Straits.  They’re a non-partisan group that’s been removing derelict fishing gear from the waters of the region for the past decade. 

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

The forecast is for sunny skies this weekend and some of the warmest temps we've seen all year. 

But when it rains a lot – as it has been lately – the runoff from city streets and houses pours toxins straight into Puget Sound. 

How homeowners can address that kind of water pollution is the subject of a series of neighborhood tours put on throughout the region this summer.  The first one is this weekend in Seattle.


Courtesy The Tidy Street Project.

Starting this weekend, residents of two neighborhoods on Bainbridge Island will get an in-your-face reminder of how much energy they’re using. Bainbridge is one of three Northwest cities to receive a federal grant to do aggressive energy efficiency outreach.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Nearly 100 years of hydropower production comes to a close today (Wednesday) on the Elwha River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The turbines at the two dams on the river are going off line for good in preparation for the biggest dam removal in North American history.

Photo by Atomic Taco / Flickr

Shiny burgundy buses equipped with automated pay stations, three doors each, low-riding chassis and accelerated time tables started serving south King County last fall. They're called RapidRide and they're funded by the Transit Now ballot measure that voters approved in 2006. 

A second route is slated to start serving Bellevue and Redmond in October. The King County Council votes on exactly where they'll go on Tuesday afternoon

Washington State University photo

A new industry is emerging in the Pacific Northwest – for development, production and distribution of aviation biofuels.

A consortium called Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest has just spent ten months producing an exhaustive study.  They've identified the four-state region of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana as a serious contender in the race to produce environmentally friendly jet fuels.

Going on a whale watching tour is a popular activity in the border waters between Washington State and British Columbia. New rules that take effect  Monday require vessels to give a wider berth to the iconic resident killer whales. KPLU's Tom Banse reports from one of the home ports of the whale watching fleet, in Victoria.

Alex Williams / Picasa

The amount of wind power in the Northwest is likely to double – and perhaps triple– over the next 15 years. That's according to a new estimate delivered Tuesday.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Bill Gates was the keynote speaker for Seattle-based Climate Solutions‘ annual fund-raising breakfast today.

The gist of Gates’ message: The best way to fight climate change is to create forms of energy production that significantly reduce carbon emissions and are cheap enough to be of value to poor people worldwide.

Read more:

Steve Jurvetson / flickr.com

Got a rodent problem? Traps and poisons can endanger people and pets. Live on a farm, ranch or other rural location? Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) offers a natural pest control solution:  colonies of barn cats. Provide them with food, water and shelter...such as a barn...and they'll do the job.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire puts one long running environmental controversy to bed Friday. She’s traveling to Centralia to sign into law a phase out of coal-fired electricity generation in the state. But meanwhile, another coal controversy is heating up in another part of Washington. It has to with a big new export terminal planned for north of Bellingham.

Jim Kaiser

Wildlife experts think they may have finally outsmarted the osprey, at least when it comes to keeping them off of utility poles. The hawk-like birds have caused power outages and harm to themselves by nesting on high voltage power lines.

Ospreys are pretty resourceful birds. When the tall, bare trees they used to nest in disappeared from the water’s edge, they figured out utility poles were a close substitute. Whenever humans try to stop them from using the poles, ospreys find a workaround.

Miriam Duerr / Washington Dept. of Ecology

It's 14 years off in the future. But a compromise deal will shut down the Northwest's largest coal-fired power plant near Centralia. Legislation is headed to the governor's desk following a vote Thursday in the Washington senate.

AP photo

Insiders from many of Seattle's most recognizable big businesses are gathering today at the Washington State Convention Center downtown.

Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, REI, and The Mariners have all been invited to give interactive presentations meant to inspire others in the region to follow in their footsteps. The topic? Going Green.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The Washington State Climatologist is out with a report card on how the weather phenomenon La Niña treated the Northwest. If you thought it’s been wetter and colder than usual since November, you’re right. But overall, this La Niña was milder than predicted. KPLU's Tom Banse reports:

Puget Sound Energy / AP

When the wind is blowing and the rivers are running high, there's not enough capacity in power lines to handle all the electricity that's generated.

And that could mean that wind-farms have to shutdown for brief periods when there's too much power.


If you live in Seattle, and you think your water and sewer charges are high, you’re right.

That’s according to a new city-government audit of Seattle Public Utilities. The Seattle Times reports the audit cites an industry analysis that found Seattle paying the highest rates among 50 U.S. cities. 


Next time you go whale watching on Puget Sound, be sure to take your binoculars. Soon, you’ll have to stay twice as far from the endangered killer whales as before. 

San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

Lawmakers in Olympia are struggling to close a $5 billion budget gap, and, like many state programs, natural resource agencies are on the chopping block. A study by a Tacoma-based non-profit says cutting those services too deeply could cost a lot more money than it saves.


If you ride Community Transit buses, brace yourself for longer waits and fewer trips. For the second year in a row, bus service in Snohomish County is facing a 20 percent cut.


If you put thousands of cows or chickens or hogs in a confined area, it’s likely to produce a powerful aroma. But can it harm your health?

A coalition of community and environmental groups says "yes." And they're asking for regulations on high-intensity livestock operations they say violate air pollution standards.

Washington milk is safe

Apr 6, 2011
Flickr user purplemattfish/Matthew / flickr.com

Worried about radiation from Japan contaminating milk here at home? The Washington state departments of Agriculture and Health say the latest tests show no sign of any radioactivity in milk sampled in Tacoma and Spokane.

Last week, the EPA announced that trace amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 were detected in a sample from Spokane, but at levels 5,000 times below anything that would be remotely dangerous. Officials say drinking a pint of milk with radiation levels that low would amount to less than half of the exposure you would get in a five hour plane flight.


Today is the deadline for Washington and other states to apply for a share of more than $2 billion in federal high-speed rail money that Florida rejected. State officials hope to use some of that money to tackle landslides that have made rail travel this winter unreliable.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The small amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 found in milk in Spokane has been causing ripples of concern throughout the Northwest. Officials say the tiny amounts of radiation found in the milk were probably blown over from Japan’s stricken nuclear plants.

Just outside the Tri-Cities, Drex Gauntt’s alfalfa fields roll out like a plush emerald shag carpet. One of the ways that cows can pass Iodine-131 into their milk is by eating grass or hay that’s been contaminated with the radioactive isotope. Gauntt says he’s not too concerned.

The Snoqualmie River is cresting at the falls this morning. These two videos were shot by Carol Wells yesterday on an Android-platform smart phone. 

ChrisDaniels5 / Twitpic

Some major western Washington rivers are expected to flood today, including "major" flooding forecast along the Snohomish and Snoqualmie, according to the National Weather Service.

Heavy rains the past few days, with heavy concentrations in the Cascades and Cascade foothills, and warmer mountain temperatures, have produced rapid runoff.

Flood warnings are issued for these rivers in Snohomish and King counties:

  • Snohomish
  • Skykomish
  • Snoqualmie
  • Tolt
  • Stillaguamish (north and middle forks)
  • Green (middle reach upstream of Auburn)
David Granatstein / Washington State University

As sales of organic foods continue to climb across the country, organic farming in Washington has decreased. That surprised some researchers for a state that's one of the country’s top producers of organic produce.

While people in the agriculture industry expect certain crops to go through challenging cycles now and then, an annual study of the state’s organic farms shows "significant" declines in the past year, according to David Granatstein. He's sustainable agriculture specialist at Washington State University.  Granatstein co-authored a new study that found decreases in the number of organic producers, acreage and farm gate sales. 

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

What with theaters, concerts and clubs, Seattle has a pretty lively night life. But as a group of people gathers after dark at a marina on Elliot Bay, they’re looking for a completely different kind of thrill.


Opponents of the tunnel proposed to replace Seattle’s aging Alaskan Way Viaduct say they’ve gathered more than enough signatures to force a public vote. But a new poll suggests that won’t settle the contentious issue. 

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan are reverberating across the Pacific in a variety of ways. Now, a Vancouver B.C.-area bottled water company finds itself at the center of efforts to cope with the latest turn of events.