environment | KUOW News and Information

environment

As boat inspections in the Northwest ramp up for summer, an inspection at the Washington-Idaho border near Spokane last week turned up highly invasive zebra mussels.

UPDATE (1:40 p.m. PT) — Salem has issued yet another drinking water advisory Wednesday for the city’s vulnerable populations – just four days after lifting an initial advisory that prompted Gov. Kate Brown to issue an emergency and activate the National Guard.

The new advisory is based off of water samples taken on June 3-4. 

A parking spot for electric vehicles outside of the Ballard Market
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Washington state’s electric vehicle law is being widely ignored, according to a new report.

Friday is the deadline set by a decade-old law that requires vehicles in government fleets to run on electricity or biofuel. But just two percent of the state's motor pool is electric now, and many cities and counties have no electric vehicles at all.

It’s all because of one big catch in the law.

 


Gov. Kate Brown is declaring an emergency and mobilizing Oregon National Guard soldiers in response to an ongoing water quality situation in and around Salem.

The volcanic eruptions on Hawaii's Big Island are putting on quite a show, making for stunning and devastating images. Rivers of molten rock flow into the ocean, toxic gas spews into the air and plumes of ash push upward. Since May 3, Kilauea's eruptions have destroyed dozens of buildings and forced the evacuation of 2,000 people.

Coastal erosion is chewing away at one of the Northwest's most popular recreation areas. It's threatening the main campground and other amenities at Cape Disappointment State Park, which has the second most camper visits in the Washington State Park system.

If you’re looking to get outside on Memorial Day weekend, you might first check your phone. The U.S. Forest Service launched a mobile app this week that provides trail maps and updates on wildfires and road conditions for all of the Pacific Northwest’s national forests, a national grassland and one scenic area.

Ballistic blocks, earthquakes and ocean plumes: In the three weeks since Hawaii's Kilauea began erupting, it has produced some awe-inspiring — and dangerous — phenomena.

A new study has found that if the climate warms as projected, warmer streams could compound the effects of global warming by adding more heat-trapping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Scientists tested the carbon output of streams at seven locations across the globe, including watersheds in Oregon, Puerto Rico, Alaska and Australia.

Aptly nicknamed Washaway Beach, in Pacific County, Washington, has long suffered from the most extreme coastal erosion along the whole U.S. West Coast. Now a relatively low cost defense is raising hopes among property owners and nearby cranberry growers.

For the first time, scientists have videotaped sharks traveling a 500-mile-long "shark highway" in the Pacific, and they plan to turn it into a protected wildlife corridor in the ocean.

Lava from the Kilauea volcano is pouring into the Pacific Ocean off of Hawaii's Big Island, generating a plume of "laze" – which Hawaii County officials describe as hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles — into the air. Officials say it's one more reason to avoid the area.

"Health hazards of laze include lung damage, and eye and skin irritation," says the Hawaii County Civil Defense agency. "Be aware that the laze plume travels with the wind and can change direction without warning."

Seven different companies have notified Washington's Department of Licensing that they plan to test self-driving vehicles on roads in the state. Oregon transportation officials have gotten notifications from two other companies.

Fred Dillon, second from left, and his son, Codi Dillon, right, return the remains of a chinook salmon to the Puyallup River after a first salmon ceremony on Tuesday in Tacoma.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The Puyallup Tribe welcomed the first salmon of the year back to the Puyallup River in Tacoma on Tuesday.

Strangely, perhaps, that chinook's epic journey from mid-Pacific Ocean to a Puyallup fishing net begins with a sloshing tanker truck.


Another fissure has emerged on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, bringing the total to 21, as authorities handed out protective masks and local officials warned that toxic ash and sulfur dioxide gas are the biggest health concerns for people near the mountain.

The new fissure was discovered at Leilani Estates, the neighborhood in Puna where the first new fissures were seen this month when Kilauea suddenly became more active. Since then, more than two dozen homes have been inundated in slow-moving lava flows.

Someone appears to be producing a banned ozone-depleting chemical, interfering with the recovery of Earth's damaged ozone layer, according to a newly published study led by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The illicit emissions are believed to be coming from somewhere in eastern Asia, but nothing else is known about the offender. It's a scientific whodunit — or rather, a who's-doing-it.

Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET

Just after 4 a.m. local time Thursday an explosion within Kilauea's Halemaumau crater on the island of Hawaii produced a volcanic cloud reaching as high as 30,000 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey .

Recycling is shown on Sunday, July 30, 2017, at the Orcas Island Transfer Station on Orcas Island. KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

King County officials say China’s refusal to accept U.S. recycling could lead to increased costs and missed environmental goals. But maybe there's a way to clean up our act when it comes to recycling.

China has been the main customer for mixed paper collected in King County. But lately China has shut down that market, saying U.S. recycling isn’t pure enough — we send along too much material that can't be processed.

Washington drivers who are thinking about buying an electric car would be wise to get down to a dealership in the next two weeks. That's because a valuable tax break disappears at month's end.

Volunteers joined emergency crews this week to brace for the possibility of major flooding on a number of rivers in north central and eastern Washington state.

The combination of a near-record snowpack in southern British Columbia and temperatures soaring into the upper 80s has caused flood watches starting at the U.S.-Canada border running south along the Okanogan River.

Correspondent Emily Schwing is on the scene and sent back these photos.

  

In farm fields from the Willamette Valley to the Kittitas Valley and east to Idaho, energy developers want to plant a new crop: commercial solar arrays. But a surge in utility-scale solar farm applications is generating pushback.

The National Weather Service is concerned about this week’s warm weather rapidly melting snow upstream of Leavenworth, Washington, this week. There may also be storms on the way.

A number of rivers in north central and eastern Washington are in imminent danger of flooding. That’s because spring temperatures have soared into the upper 80s and Canada’s near record snowpack is melting fast.

Flooding hasn’t been this bad in the Okanogan Valley since 1972. This week, forecasters say, it could get close to breaking that record.

Okanogan County Fire District Commissioner Jack Denison said that’s a “worst case scenario.”

A nearly 100 year-old dam near Leavenworth, Washington, is under heavy pressure from melting snow this week and officials are warning downstream residents to be prepared to evacuate if the dam breaks.

Scents and sensibility. Noses illustration.
Flickr Photo/7-3_resto-2 (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/6DHoeH

Several weeks ago at KUOW, one of our colleagues placed anonymous notes in our work mailboxes. We used to have a scent-free policy, this person wrote. What would it take to bring that back?


Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium orca show, 2006.
Wikipedia Photo/Marc Averette (CC BY 3.0)/https://bit.ly/2Iv7sS3

At Penn Cove, on the north end of Whidbey Island, gulls and other birds fly overhead, and a muddy beach leads down to the water.

It’s quiet today, but, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was the place whale catchers came to capture orcas.


Kokanee spawning in Ebright Creek near Lake Sammamish
Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Roger Tabor

A little red fish that calls Lake Sammamish home is swimming desperately close to extinction. Officials are embarking on emergency measures to keep the fish known as kokanee from disappearing from the lake, and King County, forever.


In July, seven Oregon craft breweries will start selling beer in reusable glass bottles in the country’s first statewide refillable beer bottle program.

Oregon's Widmer Brothers, Buoy Beer, Double Mountain, GoodLife, Gigantic, Wild Ride and Rock Bottom breweries will be pioneering the program with some of their beers. Other breweries may join the program later.

The reusable bottles will be on store shelves just like all the other beer, but they'll look a little different.

MV Puyallup is one of the biggest ferries in the fleet
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Ferries have been running a few minutes behind, and listener Nick Wilson wanted to know what was up.

Turns out ferries can reduce CO2 emissions significantly by laying off the throttle just a bit. Like, equivalent to taking more than 1,200 cars off the road.


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