Environment

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

NOAA Fisheries West Coast

Tiny forage fish don’t have the iconic status of Northwest species such as salmon or orcas, but the marine creatures at the bottom of the food chain play a critical role. So scientists are excited to see signs they’re spawning in new habitat created by the Elwha dam removals. 

Paul Chiasson / AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Local and federal responders plan to rehearse how they’d handle the fiery crash of an oil train in Seattle – a hypothetical disaster that will play out around a table in King County.  

King County’s Emergency Management Department is coordinating with about a dozen different agencies in what they call a “tabletop exercise.” Staff will present the scenario, and responders around the table or on the phone then go through the motions of what happens next.

“Let’s say [it's] just a day like today, a nice wonderful day in Seattle. Oil train derails, oil spills, ignites, there's a large fireball in the sky,” said department director Walt Hubbard. “Who would you coordinate with? How would you communicate?”

Courtesy Cliff Mass

The Pacific Northwest stands out as just about the only part of the country that will be largely spared from the ill effects associated with global warming, according to KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, who mapped out all the calamities expected to result from climate change over the next century.

Rick McGuire / Courtesy Washington Wild

A bill that would expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area east of Seattle is one step closer to becoming law. For the first time in nearly four years, the proposal has moved forward in the U.S. House.  

Courtesy of King County Wastewater Division.

Gov. Jay Inslee took a walk through King County’s wastewater facility in Discovery Park on Tuesday as part of his tour of sites affected by climate change. 

Horemu / Wikimedia Commons

Research geologists have just finished a field trial to test a less invasive way to complete seismic hazard surveys.

The federal scientists attempted to map an earthquake fault under Seattle simply by listening for underground echoes from all the noise we humans create at the surface.

Deep-Sea Research Journal

It's been more than three years since the Fukushima nuclear plant accident resulted in a spill of millions of gallons of radioactive cooling water into the Pacific. Oceanographers projected that it could take until this year for highly diluted traces of that spill in Japan to reach the West Coast of North America.

Radiation experts don't believe there is cause for alarm on our shores, but some coastal residents are stepping forward to pay for seawater testing just to be sure.

courtesy Dana Robinson Slote / Seattle City Council

Three tanker cars derailed at a Seattle rail yard early Thursday while carrying oil from North Dakota to a refinery in Anacortes.

No one was hurt and none of the oil spilled, according to Burlington Northern Santa Fe. But the incident spurred renewed calls from the city for a ban on oil train traffic near neighborhoods.  

An expansion of the Northwest’s largest oil terminal will be the subject of a public hearing before the Army Corps of Engineers Thursday evening in Seattle. Environmentalists are calling for limits on oil tanker traffic at BP’s docks at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham. 

Environmental impact statements are usually heard before a project is built. But in an unusual twist, this hearing concerns a facility that’s been up and running for 13 years.

Washington is slowly moving ahead with a long-delayed plan to update its water quality rules. Tuesday's will be the first public meeting on Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal to dramatically increase the fish consumption rate, which determines how clean discharged water must be. But some say the proposal doesn’t go far enough.

Riex / Flickr via Compfight

A delegation from Germany recently paid Washington’s clean tech lobby a visit. At a meeting in Seattle, the delegation, whose country's emphasis on renewable energy has made it a global leader in the sector, presented some of the lessons local companies are learning from the German example.

AP Photo

Lawmakers are expressing concerns over an updated report outlining the combined impacts of coal and oil trains that would roll through the Northwest if plans for export terminals move forward.

Bureau of Land Management

The federal Bureau of Land Management plans to capture and remove fewer wild horses from Western rangelands this summer. An agency statement blames budget constraints and already-full holding pens.

Kurt Clark / Flickr

As temperatures hike into the high 80s this week, many will be flocking to beaches to cool down. But some swimming areas in Bellevue will be temporarily shutting down this week, specifically Bellevue’s Newcastle, Meydenbauer and Clyde beach parks.

The culprit for the closures is milfoil, an invasive weed that the state Department of Ecology views as the most problematic plant in Washington. The city of Bellevue and homeowners will be applying herbicide to shoreline areas adjacent to the three beach parks to control invasive milfoil blooms.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed dramatically increasing the fish consumption rate that drives clean water standards in the state.

Inslee said Wednesday he plans to set the fish consumption rate at 175 grams a day, which would protect people who eat about a serving a day of fish. Current water quality standards assume only one serving of fish per month, or 6.5 grams a day.

Courtesy of Kiley Riffell

As much as one-third of our food supply depends on pollinators like insects and birds that fertilize plants when they fly between blossoms.

Chris Lehman

Farmers across the country are riled up over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to revise the 1972 Clean Water Act.

Depending on who you talk to, these revisions are either a “land grab” under the “brute force” of the federal government or a simple clarification of rules that ensure all Americans have clean water to drink.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Ever hear an orca speak? Ken Balcomb, who many regard as the godfather of whale conservation, captured their chatter using a hydrophone on San Juan Island: 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Scientists studying southern resident killer whales for the past decade now know they are among the most contaminated marine mammals and prefer to eat Chinook salmon.

Snohomish County Flickr

Three months after a deadly landslide hit the town of Oso, Washington, Snohomish County is again looking at options to tighten land-use policy in slide-prone areas. 

Bellamy Pailthorp

A cornerstone of Gov. Jay Inslee’s election campaign was the promise of new jobs in clean technology.

But how healthy is the sector in Washington and what’s still holding it back? Hard data on those questions is yet to come, but a visit to the state's inaugural Clean Technology Showcase provided some answers.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

A group of Northwest scientists are sprinkling the landscape around Mount St. Helens with high-tech sensors as part of a new effort to map the volcano’s deep plumbing.

Scientists have a pretty good understanding of what’s happening right under the mountain, where a big chamber periodically fills up with magma before an eruption. Now they’re looking deeper — down dozens of miles — to the tubes and tunnels that feed that chamber.

Photo provided by Weyerhaeuser.

Timber giant Weyerhaeuser is joining the pay-to-play and pay-to-hunt trend. This week, the largest private forestland owner in Washington and Oregon will begin selling seasonal access permits to hunters, horse riders, hikers and other recreators.

The Washington state-based company is not the first to charge access fees. But the breadth and high prices it will charge are generating more push back than before.

AP Photo/Redwood National and State Parks, Laura Denn

Redwood burl poaching has long been an issue in the Redwood National Park in California. But now a conservation group says it has spotted evidence of this type of tree damage in a national forest in Oregon.

Burls are the knobby growths sometimes found at the base of the towering trees. They're highly valued for their intricate designs; cross-sections are used to make furniture or artwork.

Matthew Brown / AP Photo

With rail traffic continuing to increase in the Northwest, Gov. Jay Inslee directed Washington state on Thursday to begin developing an oil train spill response plan.

Inslee announced the directive in a meeting with The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver.

Dan Hershman / Flickr

For the first time in 20 years, the Wenatchee River in eastern Washington has opened for spring Chinook salmon fishing.

Wildlife officials say it’s a sign of successful management of the hatcheries program. 

Matthew Brown / AP Photo

The rapid increase of trains carrying crude oil across the region has raised alarm bells in the wake of a series of serious accidents. Communities and first responders say they can’t adequately prepare for possible disasters because railroads are not required to give any information on the shipments.

That’s about to change, at least to some extent, with a new regulation that takes effect Friday.

Washington Incident Management Team #2/InciWeb

With conditions at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation tinder dry, workers were told Wednesday to practice fire safety at work and at home.

The news is about four weeks ahead of schedule for these types of fire weather alerts — a sign of a long, hot summer ahead.

AP Photo/ Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

This time of year, young Northwest cougars are getting kicked out of the nest by their mother cats. That means many of these young adults are looking for their own home range.

But these rookie hunters are in a cat-crowded field, and that sometimes ends in trouble.

Pages