Environment

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

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.

U.S. Army / Flickr

RICHLAND, Wash. – As the Pacific Northwest begins to integrate more renewable energy, grid operators sometimes have trouble predicting the variability that comes with it. Researchers have found a way to use electric vehicles to help balance wind power’s inconsistency.

BOISE, Idaho – Two wolf advocacy organizations officially made their case last week in federal court to get wolves listed as endangered species. They want the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule that taking wolves off the Endangered Species list earlier this year was unconstitutional.

EPA

An environmental clean-up settlement could also be a mini-stimulus for the Inland Northwest economy. A federal judge has approved the Hecla Mining company's $263 million settlement in one of the largest superfund clean-up projects in the country.

Courtesy Washington State Department of Natural Resources

The state is adding 15,000 acres of protected land around the Nisqually Reach Wildlife Refuge, exempting it from commercial development of any kind.

All the land is under water. It’s the seventh and southern-most area in Puget Sound to be designated as an Aquatic Reserve. Signing of a new management plan takes place today at 1:30 p.m.

bikehikedive / Flickr

Responsible fishing and fish consumption were among the agenda items at the annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society in Seattle. The conference (in its 141st year) has brought thousands of scientists, wildlife managers and other experts together for five days of wide-ranging discussions.

One of the more intriguing messages: Eating more sardines may be one of the best things you can do to help keep the planet healthy.

Lynette Schimming / Flickr

RICHLAND, Wash. – It's been 30 years since the last outbreak, but now white butterflies are flitting between pine trees across areas of eastern Oregon and Washington.

The same forces of nature that create natural hot springs and volcanoes may soon become a source of electricity in Snohomish County. The county’s Public Utility District has broken ground on a deep geothermic well, just north of the town of Skykomish.

The exploratory well is the first of its kind in Washington. 

RICHLAND, Wash. – New projects in the Pacific Northwest may soon improve the efficiency and reduce costs of hydropower generation, thanks to a new round of federal spending announced today.

Two projects in Washington received grants to help improve hydropower generation.

Ballard Raingardengue blog

Just a year ago, Seattle was promoting its roadside rain garden project in Ballard. Now, the city is spending half a million dollars to dismantle huge sections of it.

Some neighborhood residents say, despite good intentions, the whole thing has been a fiasco.

Photo courtesy Children's Hospital

It’s been eight months since Nissan made its first delivery of its all-electric Leaf car to a customer in the pacific Northwest.

Now, driving an all-electric vehicle is well on its way to becoming mainstream reality. A pilot program is installing thousands of electric car charging stations in the Puget Sound region and making them more available to regular folks.

The Eugene-based Oregon Toxics Alliance has published a report that looks at pesticide use on 5 state highways in Lane County. The organization wants the state to reduce its use of chemicals along roadways.

Tim / Flickr

EAST SAND ISLAND, Wash. — An attempt by government wildlife experts to control seabirds at the mouth of the Columbia River has led to some unintended consequences, all of which have been detrimental to salmon.

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