Environment

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

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Two Air National Guard reconnaissance planes were called in Wednesday by the National Interagency Fire Center to help detect and map wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. The twin engine, turboprop RC-26 aircraft will be temporarily based at Spokane's Fairchild Air Force Base and at Eugene's airport. In the near future, their assignment may be carried out by unmanned aircraft. 

On Monday, the moon will completely eclipse the sun, and people all over the U.S. will watch.

For those who have been boning up on eclipse trivia for weeks, congratulations. For everyone else, here are the things you need to know about the phenomenon.

Where can I see the eclipse?

A partial solar eclipse will be visible everywhere in the contiguous United States, but to see the total solar eclipse, you'll need to be in a sash of land that cuts from Oregon to South Carolina.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry toured the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Hanford site outside of Richland, Washington, Tuesday.

A heat wave broke and the air quality improved in the Northwest as a cold front moved across Oregon and Washington, but fire officials are still on high alert. They reported 24 new wildfires over the weekend.



Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

One day nearly a decade ago, a Canadian-born colleague came knocking at cartographer Stefan Freelan’s door.

Bert Webber, a professor of Geography and Environmental Social Sciences at the time, was trying to spread the word about a newly-named body of water. He asked Freelan to help him by making a map of the Salish Sea.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The success of solar power could mean it becomes less attractive for home users in the future. Utilities are reaching the threshold where, under state law, they can be less generous to solar customers.





A state of emergency, excessive heat and an extended period of dry weather are unlikely to pair well with an influx of up to 1.5 million visitors in Oregon in two weeks.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

You may have heard that new technologies in the clean energy sector are creating new jobs. But what does that really mean?

Researchers at the University of Washington have a $3 million grant to support emerging careers where energy science is combined with big data.  

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Bert Webber is the man who coined the phrase "Salish Sea." He is a professor emeritus from Huxley College at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Webber says while it may be easy to see the Salish Sea as separate waterways, those waterways actually make up one ecosystem that goes beyond political borders.

Evan Hoover / File photo

Hot weather could pose problems over the next week across western Washington.

The National Weather Service says temperatures in the Puget Sound region will push into the upper 90s by Thursday, maybe crossing above 100 degrees. The record in Seattle is 103, set in 2009.

When a massive tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan in 2011, waves of water overtopped sea walls, swallowed buildings and surged higher than anticipated. One thing those images prompted was a reexamination of the tsunami risk in the Pacific Northwest.

If Northwest fish were stand-up comics, the salmon would be the headliner. And the fish that gets “no respect” would be the lamprey, an eel-like creature that has been plying the Northwest’s rivers for 400 million years. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Residents of Western Washington and British Columbia likely recognize bodies of water like Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia. However, many people don’t realize that what were once perceived as individual waterways are now widely considered one ecosystem. That body of water is called the Salish Sea.

Normally by late June, wasps are a common nuisance at summer barbecues. But this year, entomologists have noticed a drop-off in Washington state and wasp populations are lower than usual.

Elaine Thompson / AP

A major earthquake-preparedness drill takes place this Saturday in Seattle. It’s called “Hubs and Spokes” and this time, the emphasis is on emergency communications.

Spokane voters will decide in November whether to allow the shipment of coal and oil by rail through the city. The city council voted in favor of a special election in November.

Olympic National Park is inching ahead on a plan to reduce or eliminate its population of non-native mountain goats. A draft plan released Monday for public comment includes options to relocate or kill the animals.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The failure of the legislature to pass a capital budget leaves Washington’s state forests with an increasing risk of catastrophic wildfires. 

The state department of Natural Resources says a recent survey showed it has about 2.7 million acres of forests in Washington that are in poor health.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

King County’s largest wastewater treatment facility has been operating on the edge of disaster for years and it’s ill-equipped to deal with the growing population in the region.

That’s one of the conclusions from the independent review of February’s catastrophic failure at the West Point sewage treatment plant in Seattle’s Discovery Park.

Spokane could become the next in a growing list of Northwest cities including Seattle, Portland and Bend, Oregon, to commit to a climate change agreement President Trump opted out of this spring.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Despite a lot of pressure from activists, Seattle will not be divesting from fossil fuel investments in its $2.5 billion pension fund. 

The board that oversees the pension fund for city employees met Thursday morning and faced a room full of protestors holding signs urging the city to take its money out of energy investments that pollute the air.

In the wake of a tunnel collapse at the Hanford nuclear site in May, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to take public comments at a meeting in the Tri-Cities on July 20 on how it should proceed with the clean-up.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Edmonds is well-known as the first city in the state to ban disposable plastic bags. Now it’s taking concrete steps to more aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ted S. Warren, file / AP Photo

Washingtonians are parsing the state budget passed last week by a divided legislature. It adds $1.8 billion for basic education over the next two years.  A big chunk of that comes from the closure of a so-called “extractive fuel” loophole, which is one of several new policies that many environmentally progressive groups like.   

John Zilavy

Imagine walking for three days to make a statement about a cause you care for deeply. That’s what people joining the "Walk to Protect & Restore our Salish Sea" will do this weekend. 

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Among the many wonders at the Ballard Locks is a fish ladder. The ladder encourages threatened salmon to swim up or downstream, to keep them safe from boats passing through the canal.

Courtesy City Of Seattle

Seattle’s Emergency Management Office is partnering with the city’s Department of Neighborhoods to make all community garden P-Patches into official gathering places during an emergency.

WATCH: How The Hanford Tunnel Failed

Jun 29, 2017
MACGREGOR CAMPBELL

This spring, a tunnel at the Hanford nuclear site in southeast Washington caved in, threatening to expose radioactive waste. Declassified blueprints reveal how the failure happened.

For the first time in more than four decades, the Yellowstone grizzly bear is set to lose its federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Citing a rebound in the bear's population, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its intention Thursday to end these protections and return oversight of the animal's status to the state level.

The agency says the rule to remove the grizzly from the endangered species list will be published "in coming days" and "will take effect 30 days after publication."

One of the biggest threats to global agriculture these days is a tiny, bright red weevil.

These little crimson devils eviscerate coconut, date and oil palms, and are native to South Asia. But thanks to globalization, and the fact that these tenacious buggers can fly up to 30 miles a day — over the last three decades they've spread to more than 60 countries from the Caribbean to Southern Europe.

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