Environment

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

Imagine you’ve spent the day hiking trails in the woods and roasting s’mores. Now imagine you’ve left your tent at home, only to take shelter in a cargo shipping container. That’s the challenge King County Parks hoped would inspire designers to blend the outdoor experience with eco-friendly containers. 

RICHLAND, Wash. – A key contractor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation said Monday it will have nuclear experts review its safety culture. Bechtel has been under fire at the southeast Washington nuclear site since a high-level manager was taken out of his position after raising safety concerns.

Bechtel is building a $12 billion factory to treat 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. But recently the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board came to the conclusion that the project’s safety culture is "flawed."

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

PORT ANGELES, Wash. – Seattle's Kingdome collapsed with a bang. Explosive demolition experts also brought down the cooling tower at the former Trojan nuclear plant. But if you're hoping for the same excitement from the upcoming destruction of two big hydropower dams on Washington's Elwha River, you'll be disappointed.

The history-making dam removal that begins in September will happen slowly and methodically.

With more people taking up crabbing in Puget Sound, the people who police the harvest are seeing an uptick in illegal activity. Officials say the illegal activity is a major threat to future crab populations.

Joost Nelissen / Flickr

Nearly 40 years ago, the U.S. government began setting federal standards to clean up water pollution with the passage of the landmark Clean Water Act. Now, many environmental groups say that law is under attack and they’re worried about consequences.

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Scientists say an orange-colored goo that streaked the shore of a remote Alaska village turned out to be fungal spores, not millions of microscopic eggs as indicated by preliminary analysis.

Mayor McGinn's photostream / flickr.com

When it comes to fuel efficiency, Northwest drivers are apparently motivated more by their wallets rather than a desire to be green.

A poll commissioned by Seattle based PEMCO Insurance finds 83 percent of drivers here save fuel mainly because they want to save money. Only 14 percent said they saved fuel primarily to cut down on pollution and carbon emissions.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

NEWPORT, Ore. – A fleet of federal research ships is moving from Seattle to the Oregon coast. This weekend, state and local leaders in Newport are celebrating the transition with festivities. The state of Oregon kicked in nearly $20 million to help Newport lure the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific operation center from its long-time home.

From the Yaquina Bay Bridge, a huge bridge over the harbor, you can get a good view of the new NOAA pier. It can hold up to a half-dozen ocean-going ships.

Courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

This year's prolonged wet weather is having the side effect of re-invigorating a noxious weed. The Northwest is seeing a comeback of tansy ragwort, a toxic species of sunflower that farmers thought they had vanquished years ago.

NEWPORT, Ore. – Advocates of banning plastic grocery bags are taking their cause to smaller cities. An effort to ban the bags statewide failed in both the Oregon and Washington legislatures this year.

Now, supporters are making their case to city councils across the Northwest.

Aleph1 / Flickr

WARRENTON, Ore. – Perhaps you've had salmon, tuna or swordfish for dinner recently. Or maybe it's on the menu tonight. Every big fish that lands on your plate got that big by eating lots and lots of little fish.

If you don't have abundant small fish in the ocean, you won't have the big fish. That's why some scientists, fishery managers and advocacy groups are paying more attention to the small prey in the sea.

Some environmental group now also want tighter regulation, and that's making fishermen nervous.

WSDOT / flickr.com

It's become an autumn tradition: the annual survey of bicyclists and pedestrians in Washington. For the fourth year in a row, volunteers are needed to help the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Cascade Bicycle Club take a statistical snapshot of the number of people who get around by walking and biking.

courtesy of Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife

RICHLAND, Wash. –Wild life officials and park managers are refining a better strategy to keep aggressive mountain goats at bay, but steering clear of goats is a good first step.

A hiker was gored to death by a big mountain goat in the Olympic National Park last fall. And just recently, Wenatchee National Forest rangers fielded multiple complaints about an aggressive goat in the hills near Ellensburg.

Northwest News Network

Scientists are experimenting with 1,800-year-old glass to better understand how nuclear waste storage will hold up for millennia to come.

Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife

The recent ups and downs of wolf de-listing have split environmentalists over strategy. This week, a handful of conservation groups filed an appeal in San Francisco to return wolves to the endangered species list. But other groups feel the battle won't be won in the courts.

ABERDEEN, Wash. – A biodiesel plant at Aberdeen is operating 24 hours a day, producing fuel using canola oil from Canada.

The Daily World of Aberdeen reports the 4-year-old Imperium Renewables has recovered from struggles the past couple of years thanks to markets in Oregon and Canada driven by environmental standards.

Northwest business, fishing and food industry leaders are asking for a new approach to salmon policy. From Richland, Courtney Flatt has more.

A group of one thousand businesses is using a ruling recently issued by federal judge James Redden to call for a new look at salmon policy.

In a news conference, business owners and fishermen say they hope to bring key regional stakeholders to the table to restore all salmon runs to the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Spokane outdoor retailer Paul Fish says a healthy environment goes hand-in-hand with a healthy economy.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A north Idaho man could face fines and prison time for shooting a grizzly bear on his property. The animal is considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act and federal law allows people to kill grizzlies only in certain situations.

A short-line railroad is taking a hard look at opening a coal shipping terminal at the Port of Grays Harbor. This is the third location proposed by different developers in western Washington. It would export Rocky Mountain coal to Asia.

The corporate parent of the Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad proposes to redevelop a public port terminal in Hoquiam. The railroad anticipates coal exports would be its main business.

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Scientists have identified an orange-colored gunk that appeared along the shore of a remote Alaska village as millions of microscopic eggs.

By Stephanie Bower / Courtesy Seattle City Light

As interest in solar power gains momentum, Seattle City Light is marketing a new program to make it more widely available. 

Community Solar gives people who can’t install solar panels on their own homes the chance to reap the rewards of a cash investment in solar power.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

From carousels to picnic shelters and libraries, solar power is becoming more commonplace in Seattle.

City Light says it has seen big growth in customer demand for alternative energy over the past decade – and small solar is one of the biggest draws. 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Ethanol may soon have more uses than just as a fuel additive. Researchers have accidentally discovered an easier, more environmentally friendly biofuel catalyst.

Researchers hope a new catalyst called isobutene will lead to more ways to use ethanol –- from making rubber to solvents to aviation fuel.

Idaho Fish and Game

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington ranchers would get full compensation for confirmed wolf kills of their livestock under a new state wolf management plan. That proposal got its first public airing in Olympia Thursday.

Just as in neighboring Oregon, ranchers are uneasy about how the payments will work in reality.

Federal Judge James Redden this afternoon struck down the federal government’s plan for managing salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Scientists have confirmed what many suspected about this year’s weather. It was the coldest spring on record for Washington and one of the cloudiest. 

In the last ten years, the federal government and rural landowners have spent increasing sums of money thinning spindly trees and removing underbrush. The aim is to reduce risk from wildfire.

A new study by the Forest Service finds that tree stands need to be "intensively" thinned for that strategy to be effective.

Study co-author David Peterson of the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Seattle says a dense tinderbox forest before thinning could have more than a 1,000 trees per acre.

Courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo’s 17-year-old grizzly bear brothers Keema and Denali can be watched live online 24/7 through the zoo’s partnership with Ustream, an internet live streaming service.

(You can also watch the video inside)

Adrian Wolf

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Wildlife biologists are employing a little trickery to stop the downward spiral of a rare grassland bird in Western Washington. On Friday, biologists took eggs from healthier larks in Oregon and swapping them into western Washington nests, hoping the lark mothers don't notice.

Photo courtesy Dept. of Energy

The nation needs a new agency to site a federal nuclear waste dump. That's the recommendation issued Friday by a presidential commission.

The congressionally-chartered agency would decide where to store radioactive waste that's now sitting in aging underground tanks in southeast Washington.

Pages