Environment

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

Bejan / Flickr

A new study from Oregon State University says that producing biofuels from forests in the Northwest could increase the region’s carbon emissions.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / flickr

Alarm over a potentially deadly salmon virus has reached the halls of Congress. The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment that calls for a rapid federal response. Last week, scientists in British Columbia announced they've found the fish-killing virus in wild Pacific Salmon for the first time.

It's the second virus suspected in salmon deaths to be discovered this year.

Maria M / Flickr

A national initiative to improve access to the outdoors will focus on expanding two trails in Washington state.

President Barack Obama's Great Outdoors Initiative includes efforts to extend the Pacific Northwest Trail on the Olympic Peninsula and create a water trail along the entire length of the Columbia River through Washington.

Flickr

Federal fisheries scientists plan to survey Pacific Northwest and Alaskan waters to determine if a harmful European fish virus has spread here.

And now, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and two senators from Alaska are calling for an investigation into the spread of the virus striking Canadian salmon.

Thirteen of Clubs photo / Flickr

It’s the single largest source of pollution entering Puget Sound – rain that hits pavement and carries grease, metals and other toxins into the water.

The Department of Ecology has just issued new rules that aim to keep stormwater runoff in check. However, several environmental groups complain the new rules are full of loopholes.

National Park Conservation Assn.

DILINGHAM, Alaska – Environmentalist groups are celebrating a victory in a remote corner of southeast Alaska. Residents near Bristol Bay have voted to try to block one of North America's largest open pit mining operations.

It's proposed for a spot next to one of the world's most productive salmon fisheries.

Courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game

BOISE - Environmental groups filed a motion Monday to halt wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.

Idaho based Friends of the Clearwater and two other groups filed an injunction in the 9th circuit court to immediately stop wolf hunts. The groups fear many wolves will be killed while they appeal a decision that upholds hunting.

National Park Conservation Assn.

It’s thousands of miles away, but supporters of a campaign to stop a controversial mine proposal in Alaska say it would harm more than just the pristine ecosystem where it’s located.

They’re launching a “Save Bristol Bay Road Show” in Seattle tonight, claiming the city’s fishing industry could lose thousands of jobs if the mine is built. 

The Skagit River Valley is home to farmland that brings us everything from tulips to potatoes and berries. But the river that makes such rich soil possible is also home to all five native species of Pacific salmon – including threatened Chinook.

Efforts to restore fish habitat have sparked bitter battles in the past. Now, hopes are high as work wraps up on a project in the Skagit River Delta that has support from advocates for fish and farmers alike.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are trying to flush and clean contaminated groundwater that runs deep under southeast Washington.

The massive plumes of radioactive and toxic chemicals are leftovers from plutonium production during World War II and the Cold War. Decontaminating all that groundwater is a monumental task. And as correspondent Anna King found out, it will only get harder over time.

Some of the groundwater pumped up from Hanford near the Columbia River is so contaminated it looks like flat Mountain Dew.

Chris Lehman / KPLU

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Land Board gave the go-ahead Tuesday to a plan that will dramatically ramp up logging in a state forest in the Oregon Coast Range. The action came amid protests.

Environmental groups bused in protesters from Portland and Eugene. Long-time activist Tre Arrow led the group in a sing-along outside the Land Board headquarters.

Tre Arrow: "The time is now for the people to rise up."

City of Seattle

It's a dirty topic with a refined name: Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). When heavy rains exceed the capacity of Seattle's century-old drainage system, raw sewage gets dumped into our rivers, lakes and Puget Sound.

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is developing a Long-Term Control Plan for limiting CSOs to no more than one outfall per year.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

There’s a major milestone this week in the cleanup of Seattle’s Duwamish River. Excavators are removing toxic sludge from one of the most polluted spots in the city’s industrial core. Completion of this work will allow cleanup on the rest of the river. 

But critics say there are already signs it won’t go far enough.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s one of the most polluted waterways in all of the Pacific Northwest. The lower five miles of Seattle’s Duwamish River were listed as a Superfund site a decade ago. This week, cleanup work has begun on one of its most toxic sections. 

DeWaine Tollefsrud / Flikr

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Three killer whales have made an unusual trek up the Nushagak River in southwest Alaska.

NOAA Fisheries-Alaska region spokeswoman Julie Speegle says residents have seen killer whales at the mouth of the river, but never this far upriver.

Nigel Beaumont / Flickr

Producing biofuels as an environmentally-friendly alternative to petroleum-based fossil fuels is a puzzle that has been bedeviling researchers for years.

Now, with $80 million pouring into research at the University of Washington and Washington State University, stakeholders hope to find the key for turning biomass from wood products into fuel for cars and jets.

Plans to upgrade a dilapidated old race track near Kent are sparking an environmental debate. The owners of Pacific Raceways say that to stay afloat, they badly need an expansion that would bring thousands of new jobs to the area. 

Neighbors are worried about impacts on surrounding wetlands and fish habitat, especially because they say special legislation King County is considering to facilitate the expansion may set a bad precedent.

SALEM, Ore. - A car wreck that involves an electric vehicle or a hybrid can pose grave risks to emergency personnel. A group of first responders in Oregon got a training session Thursday on how to handle a high wattage accident.

It's no surprise that an electric car might have more electricity pulsating through it than a regular car. So, how much power does it take?

Matt Paiss of the National Fire Protection Association says an electric car can pack quite the punch.

Northwest News Network

Medford, Ore. — The U.S. Secretary of Interior released this week a draft report on impact of tearing down four dams on the Klamath River. It concludes that getting rid of the dams would increase salmon populations and create thousands of jobs.

But Congress could still scuttle the deal.

Secretary Salazar has until March of next year to decide if removing four dams and implementing a restoration and water sharing plan in the Klamath Basin is in the public interest.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Waste Treatment Plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is getting more scrutiny after complaints over its safety culture. The U.S. Government Accountability Office – the investigative arm of Congress – is launching a review.

Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Diana DeGett of Colorado asked for the study. Both are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

The effort to remove four dams along the Klamath River has come one step closer to reality.

The U.S. Department of the Interior released a series of long-awaited environmental impact studies today which conclude that removing the dams would boost salmon runs and improve water quality.

Associated Press

The Woodland Park Zoo is getting ready to release about 1,400 Oregon spotted frogs into Washington wetlands in a move to try to save the imperiled species.

Anna King / KPLU

RICHLAND, Wash. – U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says turning a historic piece of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation into a National Park would be good for the Northwest economy. He made the comment during a tour of Eastern Washington this weekend.

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the historic B Reactor at the Hanford nuclear reservation should be part of a national park to tell how the nuclear era was born out of World War II.

Salazar visited the reactor Sunday with Sen. Maria Cantwell, Rep. Doc Hastings and Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The Tri-City Herald reports the B Reactor would be a key attraction in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park along with properties at Los Alamos, N.M., and Oak Ridge. Tenn.

SEATTLE — Wild-fish advocates say they plan to sue federal and Washington state agencies over a fish hatchery built as part of the Elwha River restoration project.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

BOISE, Idaho – This year might not be a record year for Idaho’s endangered sockeye salmon. But biologists with Idaho Fish and Game say the returning adult salmon count is already above expectations for the year. They get an idea of those numbers during the annual “Sockeye Roundup.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress is set to renew the Endangered Species Act this fall. One of the hot button debates emerging in the nation’s capital revolves around the killing of a north Idaho grizzly bear.

Idaho’s congressional delegation has introduced a bill on the issue that critics call redundant.

Medford, Ore -- The Environmental Protection Agency placed a housing development in Southern Oregon on the superfund list Thursday.

Eighty people, about half of them children, used to live at North Ridge Estates in Klamath Falls. The EPA began cleaning up asbestos there in 2003. The agency removed almost 150 tons of contaminated soil and debris, the remains of army barracks that had once been on the site. But each spring, more asbestos worked its way to the surface.

National Park Service

Six webcams will snap pictures throughout the day during the three-year removal process the Elwha River dams.

Carol Munro / Flickr

RICHLAND, Wash. – As salmon wind their way through dams on the Columbia River, a small percentage ultimately end up passing through turbines. A project that helps fish move more safely through turbines recently received a grant to expand its scope.

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