environment | KUOW News and Information

environment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is gearing up for its biggest-ever planned spill of water over dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

It’s a controversial move that was ordered by a federal court to help endangered fish avoid extinction. To make sure it’s done right, dam managers tested their options first, using miniature models of Northwest dams way down in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Brian Cladoosby and his fellow fishermen stood on the dock of a channel that empties into Puget Sound. They talked about getting their boats ready in time for summer salmon runs.

Cladoosby is the chairman of the Swinomish Tribe. He said those summer salmon runs aren’t what they used to be.

"A lot of the fishermen — Indian and non-Indian — are stuck on the banks now,” he said.

File photo: Mount Baker
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Washington's volcanoes could one day join solar and wind as producers of renewable energy. The state Department of Natural Resources plans to tap into the idea this summer.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke came to Washington's North Cascades Friday to make one thing clear: He wants his agency to get back to work deciding by year's end whether to reintroduce grizzlies to the North Cascades.

"I’m in support of the Great Bear,” Zinke told a small audience at the North Cascades National Park Headquarters in Sedro-Woolley, Washington.

Will private rockets destroy the ozone layer?

Mar 23, 2018
Space-X's Falcon 9 rocket with 10 satellites launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017.
AP Photo/Matt Hartman

Private space companies like Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's Space-X are sending rockets into the upper atmosphere.

Does more activity in space mean more pollution for Earth? That's a concern of listener Laurie McQuaig of Seattle.

She asked us to investigate the issue, so reporter Katherine Banwell took the question to local science and tech expert. Alan Boyle. He says there's no need for concern at the moment — yet.

Cranes at the Port of Seattle
KUOW photo/Gil Aegerter

The ships, trains and trucks that haul cargo around Puget Sound are pumping out less of the soot, sulfur dioxide and other things you don’t want to breathe.

Air pollution from the ports of Seattle and Tacoma has dropped over the past decade, according to long-term monitoring released by the ports Thursday.

Between California and Hawaii, there's a teeming patch of garbage that's stretched over an area more than double the size of Texas.

We already knew it was huge. There's a reason it's called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." But new research has found that there is many times more garbage in this patch than previously thought – 4 to 16 times more than past estimates, according to a paper published today in Nature Scientific Reports.

A wild Pacific salmon, left, next to an escaped farm-raised Atlantic salmon, right, on Aug. 22 at Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Atlantic salmon farming has been banned from Washington state waters. 

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the ban on non-native fish farms into law Thursday morning in Olympia. 

Gray whale sightings are up on the Oregon and Washington coast in recent weeks.

Counts at Oregon’s Whale Watching Center at Depoe Bay have been between five and 10 per day, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, although many more pass the along the coast undetected.

Park ranger Luke Parsons says the actual number of whales passing by on their way from Baja to feeding grounds in the Arctic is relatively typical for this time of year.

Federal officials hit a milestone Tuesday for a new program designed to stabilize and grow the populations of two endangered species of sucker fish in the Klamath Basin.

At a calm cove on Upper Klamath Lake, Alan Mikkelsen, senior advisor to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, ceremonially released the first small group of suckers from a new rearing program.

"We got a lake full of food, little guy," he told them.

Mikkelsen upturned a net with three fish and watched the 8-inch juveniles disappear into the murky water.

Canadian oil has found a new route to Asia: It’s moving by rail through Washington to a shipping terminal in Portland.

In the long run, Canada wants to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline to move oil from the Alberta tar sands west to British Columbia — and from there onto ships that would travel through the Salish Sea and then onto Asia.

But that expansion has yet to begin. And oil producers have instead begun shipping that oil by rail to Portland and loading it onto vessels for export.

If all goes according to plan, there could soon be salmon above the Grand Coulee Dam again. That’s according to Cody Desautel, director of Natural Resources for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville. 

Ocean conditions off the Pacific Northwest seem to be returning to normal after a three-year spike in water temperature.

It’s promising long-term news for fishermen who are looking ahead in the short term to yet another year of low salmon returns.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington addresses a gathering of park supporters and the news media at the South Interior Building in downtown Washington, D.C., on November 10, 2015.
Flickr Photo/National Park Service (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/AVXYRv

The Trump administration said Tuesday it would not push for oil and gas drilling off the Northwest coast.

Local protesters and politicians have been speaking out against the proposed drilling.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told a Washington lawmaker that his proposal for offshore oil and gas drilling will reflect the "interests of Washington."

"You should know off the coast of Oregon, Washington, most of California, there are no known resources of any weight," Zinke told Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday.

KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

When it comes to climate change, a small number of us have disproportionate impact. That’s especially true when it comes to air travel, since most humans have never set foot on a plane. 


Amazon employee Andrea Neri stacks boxes in the back of a delivery truck on the ship dock at an Amazon fulfillment center on Friday, November 3, 2017, in Kent.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle's impact on the climate in recent years could be a lot worse than the city acknowledges.

A new report from C40, a global coalition of large cities including Seattle, says the cities' greenhouse gas emissions are 60 percent higher than previously reported.

Is there anything more Floridian than a flamingo?

Flamingo iconography is everywhere in the state: decorating front lawns, swizzling cocktails, lighting up motel signs.

The long-legged pink birds were once common in Florida. But their striking feathers were prized decorations for ladies' hats, and they were hunted out of existence for the plume trade in the 1800s.

At least, scientists thought the flamingos had been wiped out.

Traffic in downtown Seattle is shown on Monday, July 17, 2017, from Rizal Park.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Apples over mangoes. Veggies over steak. Shorter showers and less driving alone. Those are some of the ways Seattle residents say they’re changing their habits as they compete to reduce their carbon footprints as part of the Taming Bigfoot competition.

Every year, wildlife officials keep track of how many salmon return to their spawning grounds. This year, they expect low returns of salmon in Washington state—and that could change the fishing outlook.



Jars filled with the garbage that Deb Seymour has accumulated over each month of 2017 are shown at her home on Wednesday, December 20, 2017, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Deb Seymour remembers the moment she realized we’re in big trouble.

It was 1970-something, and she was around six years old. Twice a week she would climb behind the couch in her San Francisco home and watch the garbage trucks pull up to collect everything her family had thrown in the trash.

UPDATE (Feb. 22, 2:31 p.m.

Over the next century, sea level rise is expected to wreak havoc on the U.S. coastlines – and a new analysis shows that the Northwest is not immune. Nearly all coastal wetlands in Oregon, Washington and California will be swamped at the highest predicted sea level change.

Sea level rise is a byproduct of climate change. It happens as the world’s oceans warm and physically expand.  Melting glaciers and ice sheets are also contributing.

New research from the U.S. Geological Survey gives the first ever insight to how specific bays, marshes and harbors will fare.

Courtesy of 350 Seattle/Alexandra Blakely

Thirteen kids are suing the state of Washington and its governor to protect their generation from climate change.

The plaintiffs range in age from 7 to 17.


Oral arguments in a federal lawsuit filed against 30 private companies and government entities for cleanup costs associated with pollution at the Portland Harbor Superfund site are expected to start in April.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2017, asks for a reimbursement of $283,471 in cleanup response costs incurred by the Washington-based tribe as of Sept. 30, 2016. Defendants include Calbag Metals Co., ExxonMobil Corp., Union Pacific Railroad Co., the Port of Portland and the city of Portland.

EPA investigators bought samples of banned pesticides listed for sale on Amazon.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

In one of their first attempts to regulate the online marketplace, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle said they’ve reached a settlement with Amazon over distribution of illegal pesticides.

According to EPA officials, it was interns at the agency who first spotted banned and mislabeled pesticides being offered for sale on Amazon. 

KUOW PHOTO/MEGAN FARMER

The Washington House of Representatives has voted to phase out farming of non-native fish in state waters, drawing the end of Atlantic salmon farming in Puget Sound one step closer.

John Kerry Visits Olympia To Support Inslee's Carbon Tax Proposal

Feb 13, 2018

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been pushing hard to pass a carbon tax proposal. Though it’s been unpopular with some businesses and Republicans, on Tuesday he brought out an important ally.

East of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon, it’s been about five to 10 degrees warmer than normal for most of the winter. Those unusually warm conditions have buds on fruit trees and grapevines starting to “push,” or emerge early.

And that has farmers worried.

Early this year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said no to a massive oil-by-rail terminal proposed in Vancouver, Washington.

The $210 million Vancouver Energy project, a joint venture from Tesoro and Savage, would have brought up to 360,000 gallons of crude oil a day on trains traveling along the Columbia River. The proposal would have been the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country.

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