Environment

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

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

More than 100 Washington businesses are calling for action on climate change and urging others to join them.

Companies including Microsoft, Foss Maritime, REI and Virginia Mason Medical Center have signed an open declaration, saying climate change is real and happening and that more action is needed to address it.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Editor's Note: 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, this series 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.

For more than a hundred years, the aqueduct at Landsburg Park near Maple Valley was the end of the line for salmon in the Cedar River watershed. Built between 1899 and 1901 through a voter initiative to provide water for the city of Seattle after the great Seattle fire, Seattle’s water system is the envy of municipalities all over the country.

Read the full story on our companion site, northwestsalmon.org >>>

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the U.S. Navy to reroute a creek and clean up a decades-old dump in Kitsap County.

The EPA says contamination from the Gorst Creek Landfill is posing risks to public health and salmon habitat.

myriverguide.com / Flickr

Construction begins this week on a state project in the Methow Valley to give fish a boost of cold, clean water in rivers near Twisp, Washington. The state and a trout conservation group are pouring about $10 million into a whole new irrigation system there.

Government regulators have approved a new generation of genetically engineered corn and soybeans. They're the latest weapon in an arms race between farmers and weeds, and the government's green light is provoking angry opposition from environmentalists.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Editor's Note: 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, this series 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.

About five miles from the clogged freeways, shopping malls and airplane hangars at the south end of Lake Washington, the Cedar River starts winding its way through Maple Valley.

It’s here, along some 30 miles of streambeds, some just a few paces off the highway, where life begins and ends each fall for hundreds of Lake Washington chinook.

Read the full story on our companion site, northwestsalmon.org >>>

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Gleaning is an ancient word for a practice that dates back to Biblical times. Farmers allowed peasants to take leftover crops after the harvest was over. The practice has been making a comeback in recent years as a way to fight hunger locally and cut back on food waste. 

At Clean Greens Farm in Duvall, Washington, a field of kale is overflowing. It's been picked before, but it just keeps on coming, says farm manager Tommie Willis, as he leads a group of volunteers to one patch and shows them how to glean. 

(Michael Holden/Flickr)

Editor's Note: 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, this series 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.

One of the most intriguing questions about Lake Washington chinook is the mystery of how they survived after we replumbed the region with the construction of the Ship Canal, which was completed in 1916. It dropped the level of the lake by nearly 10 feet and cut it off from what used to be its southern outlet, the Green River.

Read the full story on our companion site, northwestsalmon.org >>>

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The state of Washington is going back to federal court over cleanup at Hanford, the nation’s largest nuclear waste site. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the latest court action Friday in an exclusive public radio interview.

The decision to return to court follows months of negotiations that failed to produce a new Hanford cleanup agreement. Inslee says the time has come once again to get the courts involved.

Tom Banse

It may be difficult to eat our way out of the invasive species problem, but it can be satisfying to try.

Chefs and adventurous diners converged at Zenith Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley near Salem Sunday as more than 200 people paid handsomely to nibble on course after course of invasive species like nutria, dandelion and carp.

The point of this affair was to highlight the range of edible invasive weeds, birds, fish and mammals around us. These invaders are costly to control. They crowd out native plants and animals and can change entire landscapes.

One slogan heard here: "If you can't beat 'em, eat ‘em."

Courtesy of Snohomish County PUD

Snohomish County Public Utility District has pulled the plug on its high-profile research project to develop technology that harnesses the tides to generate electrical power. The utility says the U.S. Department of Energy was not willing to share in escalating costs for the project.

It was to be located in Admiralty Inlet, west of Whidbey Island.

The federal agency committed in 2006 to cover a fixed dollar amount that, at the time, covered half of the total bill for the tidal energy project. But it was not clear how to cover increased costs for materials and new mandates for studies, and the DOE said Friday it would provide no additional funding for the effort.

Courtesy of Eric Warner

Editor's Note: 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, this series 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.

At the heart of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is one of the most unique parks in the region. The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks attracts tourists and locals alike. People line up to watch boats move up and down between Puget Sound and Lake Washington in a narrow concrete and metal channel that is, in effect, a kind of marine elevator. It was built with the Ship Canal that replumbed the region at the turn of the last century. The Locks opened in 1917. Along the south side is a fish ladder that has windows where you can see salmon as they migrate through.

Read the full story on our companion site, northwestalmon.org >>>

The coast has generally been considered the area of the Northwest most at risk for a catastrophic oil spill. But the rise in oil moving through the region by rail has raised the stakes for some inland areas. Three counties in the northern tip of Idaho are now creating their own strategy for containing an oil spill.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Editor's Note: 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, this series 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.

Puget Sound is one of the most enchanting bodies of water in the Pacific Northwest. Framed by mountains to the east and west, its physical beauty is part of what attracts new people to the region every year.

A total of 115 towns and cities surround this deep inland fjord. But the Sound’s geography is also part of what makes it toxic for fish that migrate through it.

Read and hear the full story on our companion site, northwestsalmon.org >>>

Washington State University

If you’re lucky enough to spot a lacy monarch butterfly as it heads south for winter, look closely. You might see something unusual on its wing.

In a town in northern California, a young girl noticed a white sticker with an email address on a butterfly’s wing when it landed on her garage door.

“She took note and emailed me, so it proved the system worked,” said Dr. David James, an entomologist at Washington State University.

Anna King

Fisheries experts say the return of chinook salmon to the Columbia River may not quite break records this fall as expected.

Last year’s run of nearly 1.3 million salmon was a record, but future years may not bring those kinds of numbers.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Editor's Note: 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, this series 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.

Bjørn Giesenbauer photo / Flickr

Many of the region’s top researchers have gathered this week for the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference at the University of Washington.

Gov. Jay Inslee gave the keynote address and called on scientists to get more engaged in public policy.

Gilpatrick/Lynn/NOAA

California blue whales have rebounded after decades of commercial whaling.

New research from the University of Washington suggests their numbers are back to where they were before humans started hunting the species. 

AP Photo/Olympic National Park Service

Olympic National Park says a house-mover is putting all the animals and equipment in place to pull a historic lodge away from the eroding edge of a river in the Enchanted Valley.

AP Photo

Oregon regulators’ rejection of a proposed coal export terminal on the Columbia River is just the latest hurdle for the energy company behind it, according to anti-coal activists.

The activists are asking Washington officials to consider Ambre Energy’s finances before allowing a terminal it’s involved in at Longview, Washington. 

Laura Rauch / AP Photo

Despite widespread concern about global warming, rising air temperatures have actually slowed down dramatically over the past 15 years. This so-called “hiatus” has posed a big puzzle for climate scientists.

Researchers at the University of Washington looked deep into the oceans for answers, and found that despite the surficial evidence, climate change has not stopped. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has given the state of Idaho notice that a corner of the Idaho panhandle isn't meeting stricter new air quality standards. The agency intends to change that by forcing the state to reduce what are called “fine particulates” in the air.

One likely target will be pollution from wood burning. Wood stoves and outdoor burning are major contributors to air pollution throughout the Northwest, including Idaho's Silver Valley.

beataT1i / Flickr

As the city of Seattle prepares to put in place its new voter-approved park district, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says citizens can expect both better facilities and more accountability. 

Oregon state regulators have rejected a proposal for a coal terminal on the Columbia River that would be a conduit for exporting millions of tons of American coal a year to Asia.

The decision is a victory for tribal groups that said the terminal threatened their fishing. It's also a win for Washington state, said Kimberly Larsen with the group Climate Solutions.

National Park Service

With crews working to remove the last of the second dam on the Elwha River, Olympia National Park officials are inviting the public to take a guided tour of land that sat underwater just two years ago.

Lake Aldwell disappeared after the removal of the Elwha Dam, revealing “a fascinating, up-close look at shifting sediments, both old and new vegetation, giant stumps logged a century ago, and the river re-establishing itself,” according to the National Park Service.

Andrea Berglin

Three young ospreys and a parent are flying free along the Columbia River today after surviving close calls with litter.

One of these ospreys was rescued by BPA linemen last week as it dangled from its nest in a tangle of plastic baling twine near Kennewick, Washington. The other two were pushed out of a different nest near Burbank, Washington, when their mother thrashed about in a wad of derelict fishing net.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

She’s been called President Obama’s “green quarterback.” Gina McCarthy is the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and she's known for tackling sources of climate change. And now she’s shining a light on efforts to clean up Puget Sound.

McCarthy met with government officials and community groups in Tacoma on Wednesday and toured Commencement Bay by boat to learn more about what still needs to be done. 

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