Environment

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

AP Photo/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via The Bulletin

A new study suggests steelhead trout can have trouble using the Earth's magnetic field to navigate if they were raised in a hatchery, where the field may be distorted by iron pipes.

Chris Kittredge Photo

In recent years, the Samish River Basin in Skagit County has suffered severe pollution from fecal coliform bacteria. Water polluted with untreated sewage and manure leads to frequent closures of shellfish beds and beaches. County authorities are testing a new method to find the sources: poop-sniffing dogs

Tim Hill / Washington Department of Ecology

Jawless and eel-like with concentric rings of teeth, the Pacific lamprey's unsavory looks may be one reason why populations have declined. Now, some people are taking charge of restoring the fish.

There's Now An App To Report Sightings Of Invasive Species

May 29, 2014
Martin Jambon / Flickr

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Utility crews are about to take a busy northeast Seattle thoroughfare out of commission for six months.

But in exchange for shutting down five blocks of 35th Avenue Northeast, utilities officials say the neighborhood will get relief from chronic flooding and a very new look for the city's longest creek.

The north and south branches of Thornton Creek converge just east of 35th Avenue. Floodwaters often submerge sections of the street after big storms and can inundate homes, Meadowbrook Community Center and nearby Nathan Hale High School.

Kim Keating / USGS

Bighorn sheep in the Northwest have their lambs in early spring. About now, those babies start playing together in the mountains — a sort of lamb daycare.

But that sweet, social behavior is spreading a deadly disease in several herds throughout the region.

EPA

With the weather warming up, work has resuming at one of the largest Superfund sites in the nation. The EPA is trying to clear decades of mine pollution from Idaho's Coeur d'Alene River Basin and the upper reaches of the Spokane River. And this summer, managers are using an environmental remedy you might not expect: pavement.

Sushan Han and Kristin Mansfield / Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to find out the cause of a fast-spreading hoof disease plaguing elk in southwest Washington.

The disease causes hoof claws to swell, grow long, twist around each other and sometimes slough off completely, leaving some animals limping around on nubs.

Kristen Steele / Flickr

Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington will likely adopt a California-style pollution limit on gasoline and other transportation fuels.

Inslee recently ordered a feasibility and cost study of a low-carbon fuel standard.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A small herd of mountain caribou found in the Northwest will retain federal protection, officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, but it will be as a threatened species rather than endangered.

These caribou are the last in the Lower 48 states. It's believed there are 20 to 30 of them left.

Photo by andreyphoto.com Flickr

Global climate change is having tangible effects all over the country, including in Washington and the greater northwest.

That’s according to the latest National Climate Assessment released Tuesday by the Obama administration.

In the wake of the deadly disaster in Oso, many people may be worrying about the potential for mudslides in their neighborhoods.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

Scientists monitoring Mount St. Helens confirmed Wednesday that magma is on the rise and "re-pressurizing" the volcano in southwest Washington.

However, they also stress there are no signs of an imminent eruption.

Potjie photo / Flickr via Compfight

In 2011, biofuels in the Northwest got a huge boost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $80 million in grants to researchers at the University of Washington and Washington State University. It’s meant to help turn woody biomass into environmentally-friendly fuels for cars and jets.

Now they’re at about the half-way point in their research, and several hundred are attending a conference on wood-based biofuels in Seattle.  

Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

Hydropower dams built without fish ladders have blocked migratory fish from the upper reaches of the Columbia and Snake Rivers for decades. Tribal leaders from across the region gathered this week in Portland to strategize how to return salmon to their full historic range.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A federal agency is weighing whether to protect endangered orcas in the waters off the West Coast.

NOAA Fisheries said Thursday it would consider a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity seeking to expand the critical habitat for southern resident killer whales.

King County Metro Transit's Facebook Page

King County's Proposition 1, which would have raised sales taxes and car tab fees to preserve Metro bus service, is failing. Initial counts show 55 percent of voters rejected the measure, leaving low odds of passage.

Still, Seattle transit advocates are down, but not out of ideas.

AP Photo

Washington state environmental regulators are expecting a lively crowd in the coastal city of Hoquiam on Thursday when the public will get a chance to weigh in about increased crude oil train traffic. But one powerful state senator says the controversial oil trains are needed.

Developers are proposing side-by-side marine terminal expansions on Grays Harbor along the Washington coast. They would receive crude oil by rail from the Northern Plains and send it out by barge and tanker to West Coast refineries.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Forty four years ago, the modern environmental movement was born with the celebration of the first Earth Day. At massive teach-ins around the country, people called on industries to stop polluting.

Now the messages have become more personal, says former Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is speaking at Pacific Lutheran University Tuesday night.

Grant County PUD

The cost fixing the cracked Wanapum Dam will total $61 million, according to Grant County PUD officials.

About one-third of the cost is the result of the investigation into the crack, the guarding of the river and the loss of power production. The rest will cover the fix itself.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

 

State wildlife officers trapped and killed six salmon-chomping sea lions at Bonneville Dam earlier this week.

It's part of a renewed campaign against nuisance predators who follow the spring salmon run.

Courtesy Andrea Matzke

Plans to put a dam on one of Washington’s most scenic rivers have been called off.

The Snohomish County Public Utilities District says it has a better plan for the area on the Skykomish River near Index. But opponents of the project say it’s still too early to declare a victory. 

Snohomish County PUD was planning an inflatable weir for the bend in the river near Sunset Falls, not far from Index. The utility said it had a design that would rise and fall with the river, making it safe for endangered fish runs and minimally disruptive to the scenic value of the area.

Anna King

Hundreds of Chinook salmon are being rounded up and loaded into tanker trucks that will drive them around the cracked Wanapum Dam in southweast Washington.

The Columbia River will remain drawn down at least until June, which means fish can’t reach their traditional ladders. Engineers are working on extensions and water slides of sorts to get fish ladders working again. But work to install this new equipment has been difficult, with cranes, man baskets and the whipping wind.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

As the search for victims of the Oso mudslide continues, scientists are monitoring its effects on endangered fish runs.

The cloudiness of the Stillaguamish River due to sediment washing down after the slide is a big concern. But it looks like initial fears of devastation are giving way to optimism. 

NWRFC

Irrigators, hydropower dam operators and tugboat captains are sitting pretty across most of the Northwest, according to the latest regional water supply forecast presented Thursday.

AP Photo

Less than four years ago, there were virtually no shipments of crude oil by rail car through Washington state. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see the dark-gray tanks at crossings all over the state.  

U.S.  Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., held a hearing with top transportation and safety officials to discuss potential safety measures to protect communities in the face of more growth.  

Andrew Russell / Flickr

A federal fisheries management panel approved what some charter captains are calling the best ocean fishing season in 20 years.

Meeting at a hotel in Vancouver, Washington, the Pacific Fishery Management Council on Wednesday adopted the 2014 season quotas unanimously after days of lengthy negotiations between commercial troll and recreational fishing representatives, treaty tribes and government regulators.

The quotas are a big turnaround from the recent past when ocean salmon fishing was sharply curtailed or not allowed at all.

Erin Falcone / Cascadia Research under NOAA permit 16111

Think about how long you can hold your breath, then consider this.

Northwest-based whale researchers have documented a new breath-hold record among mammals. They timed a dive by a beaked whale that lasted 2 hours and 17 minutes.

A paper published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One by scientists with the Cascadia Research Collective of Olympia revealed two new records. The researchers tagged Cuvier's beaked whales, a rarely-seen species which forages in deep ocean waters worldwide, including off the U.S. West Coast.

Jeff Roberson / AP Photo

Seattle may join several other cities in a campaign calling for a federal ban on the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms. A resolution on the issue has passed out of committee, and will be considered by the full council on Monday. 

The resolution calls for an end to routine feeding of antibiotics to animals, which critics say is leading to drug-resistant superbugs that harm human health. 

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Local leaders in Darrington bowed their heads and observed a moment of silence at 10:37 a.m. Saturday, exactly one week after the deadly mudslide wreaked havoc in nearby Oso.

Search and rescue workers, firefighters and other first responders marked the moment in front of Darrington's fire station, standing in steady rain that continues to hamper rescue efforts at the site of the slide 12 miles down the road.

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