Environment

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

The Florida Everglades is a swampy wilderness the size of Delaware. In some places along the road in southern Florida, it looks like tall saw grass to the horizon, a prairie punctuated with a few twisted cypress trees. The sky is the palest blue.

But beneath the surface a different story is unfolding. Because of climate change and sea level rise, the ocean is starting to seep into the swampland. If the invasion grows worse, it could drastically change the Everglades, and a way of life for millions of residents in South Florida.

Courtesy City of Seattle

Seattle and state officials have announced plans to move people out of the notorious homeless encampment along Interstate 5 known as “the Jungle.” The area is beneath I-5, roughly between Dearborn and Spokane Streets, as well as in the Duwamish Greenbelt east of the freeway. The plan comes several months after a shooting at the camp left two people dead and three wounded.

AP Images

Hundreds of activists are gathering in Anacortes this weekend for protests aimed at keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

The Pacific Northwest “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” event is part of two weeks of actions that have been taking place in dozens of cities all over the globe. Other U.S. cities on the list include Denver, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Chicago. 

Local authorities are warning residents to prepare for congestion.

A fire crackles along the banks of the Yamuna River: a cremation of a young mother, struck by a car while she was fetching water.

The stench of the river engulfs the sad assembly.

Before the hissing funeral pyre, floating down the river, white blocks of what looks like detergent appear like icebergs. It is 95 degrees in Delhi this night. This is chemical waste from factories that have sprung up across the city, manufacturing leather goods, dyes and other goods.

Downstream, the living reside along garbage-strewn banks.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

The Army Corps of Engineers has denied the permit for a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham. The controversial facility at Cherry Point would have been the nation’s largest.

The Tacoma Public School District has been scrambling to make sure its water is safe to drink after some schools showed high levels of lead, but water isn’t the only potential source of lead exposure – contaminated soil is also a risk. 

A new environmental nonprofit is scouting the Pacific Northwest coast for a suitable cove or bay to establish a refuge for retired captive orca and beluga whales.

The board and staff of the new outfit, called The Whale Sanctuary Project, includes a number of people who helped return Keiko, the star of the Free Willy movie, to Icelandic waters from Newport, Oregon.

Deep in the ocean, a mission is underway to explore the "unknown and poorly known areas" around the Mariana Trench.

When the weather turns balmy and the sun goes down, there’s nothing like the coziness of a backyard fire. At least that’s how some people see it. But if your neighbors don’t agree, the law is on their side. 

courtesy Arboretum Foundation

After multiple full-weekend closures for final work rerouting and restriping, the new 520 bridge across Lake Washington should improve traffic flows.

Another side effect of the new construction will be better access to parts of one of Seattle’s most loved parks. The Washington Park Arboretum that borders on the Seattle side of the bridge is losing nearly five acres of land to the wider bridge and staging work as it has been built. But it's also getting millions of dollars in mitigation funding. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s Earth Day. And one of the most pressing issues for the green movement these days is the idea that environmental justice needs to reach all kinds of people, not just a privileged, white few. The city of Seattle marked the day with the unveiling of its new Equity & Environment Agenda. 

U.S. Postal Service

Mount Rainier will appear on a U.S. postage stamp, as part of a series commemorating the centennial of the National Park Service. The photo used on the "forever" stamp was snapped by an amateur photographer who was working for a short stint as an interpretive ranger last year.

Yellowstone National Park, a wilderness recreation area stretching for nearly 3,500 square miles atop a volcanic hot spot in Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho, may be in trouble.

Each year, Yellowstone attracts millions of visitors and provides a home to countless animal species, including the once-threatened grizzly bear and bison. But finding the right balance between tourism and preservation can be tricky.

Courtesy Tesoro Anacortes / PublicMeeting.info

Petrochemicals used in the production of plastics are causing concern among Northwest environmentalists. First there was the methanol plant proposed for construction in Tacoma’s tide flats. That’s now on hold.

But the comment period for a new proposal in Anacortes just wrapped up over the weekend.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council has adopted limited summer salmon fishing seasons off the Washington and northern Oregon coasts. At a meeting on Thursday in Vancouver, the council avoided a complete closure of the season, a possibility that had been discussed in March.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Salmon returns in the Northwest are on many people’s minds this week as fisheries managers meet in Vancouver. They’re considering what might be the first full closure of ocean salmon fishing in nearly 22 years.

But you might not notice much change in what’s for sale in local markets. Step up to a seafood counter looking for salmon and you’ll likely find a lot to choose from.

Coastal cities across the globe are looking for ways to protect themselves from sea level rise and extreme weather. In the U.S., there is no set funding stream to help — leaving each city to figure out solutions for itself.

New Orleans and Philadelphia are two cities that face very similar challenges of flooding from rising tides. But they've chosen to pay for the solutions in very different ways.

New Orleans: Post-Disaster Payments And Grants Pave Future

Parker Miles Blohm / KPLU

For the first time, a river that connects Seattle and Tacoma has been included on a list of the 10 most endangered waterways in the country.  American Rivers is highlighting the Green-Duwamish watershed this year. The national conservation group says the issue it wants addressed is outdated dams that lack passage for endangered fish.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The next few months will be crucial in determining whether the West Coast serves as a gateway to the Pacific Rim for U.S. exports of fossil fuels. Anti-coal- and oil-train activists say their work, combined with global economic realities, is pointing increasingly toward a future free from energy exports that move through Northwest ports.

Sardines, herring and other small fish species are the foundation of the marine food web — they're essential food for birds, marine mammals and other fish. But globally, demand for these so-called forage species has exploded, with many going to feed the livestock and fish farming industries.

Gary Davis / KPLU

 

Seattle’s Green Lake is known for having water resembling pea soup. But by the end of this week, the color of the lake will we be transformed to a color that’s almost tropical.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Many of the West Coast’s top transportation innovators and policy experts are convening in Tacoma this week for the Green Transportation Summit and Expo. They’re looking at ways to cut back on emissions that harm public health and cause climate change. They're also showing off some of the newest equipment and alternative fuel technologies.

Americans throw away about a third of our available food.

But what some see as trash, others are seeing as a business opportunity. A new facility known as the Heartland Biogas Project is taking wasted food from Colorado's most populous areas and turning it into electricity. Through a technology known as anaerobic digestion, spoiled milk, old pet food and vats of grease combine with helpful bacteria in massive tanks to generate gas.

Harvey Barrison / Flickr via Creative Commons

Washington continues to pave the way for regulation of toxic chemicals with a new state law. It bans five flame retardants used in furniture and children’s products and pushes manufacturers to change their practices.

The Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act knocks out five of the worst flame retardants and sets up a process for the Departments of Health and Ecology to make recommendations on six others. Flame retardants are used in everything from baby bouncers to sofa cushions.

Renewable energy like solar and wind is booming across the country as the costs of production have come down. But the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't blow when we need it to.

This challenge has sparked a technology race to store energy — one that goes beyond your typical battery.

Heat Storage: Molten Salt And A Giant Solar Farm

Batteries are often used to store solar power, but it can be a costly endeavor.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Runners, walkers and revelers will be among the first the cross the new SR-520 Bridge spanning Lake Washington.

The state Department of Transportation is opening the structure to pedestrians for a fun run tomorrow morning, followed by an all-day party for folks on foot.  Cyclists will have their shot at riding across on Sunday morning.

April 1 is, on average, generally considered the date of the peak snowpack in the Northwest. And around now, is when many irrigation districts begin filling their canals to get ready for watering season.

There are grounds for optimism as well as caution.

Nancy Heaslip / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

White-nose syndrome has killed more than 6 million bats in 28 states and five Canadian provinces since it was first documented nearly a decade ago in New York. Now, Washington state has become the most recent addition to that list, after hikers found a bat with the disease on a trail in North Bend, about 30 miles east of Seattle.

The U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center verified the disease in a little brown bat found on March 11.  It died two days later.

Bellamy Pailthorp

What are your plans for getting outdoors this spring? Do they involve a beach?  If so, a growing group of coastal-cleanup volunteers wants your help. The Washington Coastsavers want you to volunteer just a bit during your vacation — or maybe just as part of your weekend.

In fact, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has declared April 23 the “Washington Coast Cleanup Day.”

The emergence of nine cases of a fungal infection known as Valley Fever in southeast Washington over the last five years has state and federal health officials concerned. This week, the state and the CDC are launching a $50,000 study.

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