Environment

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

Ways to Connect

Buy a ticket in the Nenana Ice Classic and you could win nearly $300,000. All you have to do is guess when the ice covering Tanana River at the city of Nenana, Alaska will break up.

Phil Lyman cared so much about what he sees as his right to drive all-terrain vehicles into Recapture Canyon, he went to jail for it.

"Going into this, you know, I've said a number of times, I'm a foot soldier," the San Juan County, Utah, commissioner says. "I'm not a captain. I'm not a general. I'm willing to die on a battlefield for a good cause."

Bellamy Pailthorp / knkx

Two recently designated national monuments in Washington state are among those vulnerable under an executive order from President Donald Trump. Locals in the San Juan Islands say they would be shocked to see the federal protection undone.  

Allen Pleus / Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Invasive green crabs are prolific all over the world. Officially called European green crabs, they are known for outcompeting native shellfish. On the East Coast of the U.S., they have been blamed for damaging shellfish harvests and decimating sea grass beds, which are critical habitat for juvenile salmon.

In the cool mountains of the Upper Yangtze region, Chinese villagers clamber up dogwood and maple trees to gather what Dr. Oz has called a "miracle anti-aging pill." The small, red schisandra berry has a peculiar taste — five tastes, in fact, because it's considered to be at once sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The King County Council has formally launched an investigation into what caused the catastrophic failure of its largest wastewater treatment facility in early February.

 

During the failure, about 30 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into Puget Sound. At 2 a.m. on February 9, catastrophic flooding shut down the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood.

 

Image courtesy of Miles Greb

Seattle’s March for Science is expected to be the second largest one in the country, second only to Washington D.C. That’s according to the activists behind it.  

The event is coinciding with the annual Earth Day celebration, when people who care about the environment traditionally get out there to show their colors.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency over the state's rapidly eroding coastline.

It's an effort to bring nationwide attention to the issue and speed up the federal permitting process for coastal restoration projects.

"Decades of saltwater intrusion, subsidence and rising sea levels have made the Louisiana coast the nation's most rapidly deteriorating shoreline," WWNO's Travis Lux tells our Newscast unit. "It loses the equivalent of one football field of land every hour."

People love seeing black bears when they visit Yosemite National Park in California. But encounters don't always go well. The park has come up with a new way to keep humans and bears safe.

Fresno State University student Quiang Chang was walking recently with his friends along the rushing Merced River. It was his fifth time visiting Yosemite National Park, and he hadn't seen a bear.

But if they appear, Chang said, "I probably would just quietly ... just observe them and take a picture."

courtesy of city of Seattle

The city of Seattle has reached a settlement in one of two civil suits against homeowners in West Seattle, who allegedly hired people to illegally cut down about 150 trees on public land.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo/file

The Puyallup Tribe says it will not go along with plans to put a liquified natural gas facility on a site at the Port of Tacoma. The site is located on land that lies sandwiched between parcels on its reservation.  

The tribe says its biggest concern is that its reservation lies in an urban area. And the heart of that is the Port of Tacoma.

There's an unplanned experiment going on in the northern Rocky Mountains. What's happening is that spring is arriving earlier, and it's generally warmer and drier than usual. And that's messing with some of the fish that live there.

The fish is the iconic cutthroat trout. It's a native North American fish that thrives in cold, small streams. Explorer Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame was among the first European-Americans to catch this spangly, spotted fish. He used deer spleen as bait.

On Friday, employees of BP Exploration Alaska discovered an uncontrolled gas leak in an oil and gas well on Alaska's North Slope, near the community of Deadhorse. Soon after, they determined that the well was also spraying a mist of crude oil.

BP reported the leak and formed a "unified command," which included responders from Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the North Slope Borough.

Kevin Butt's job is to find cleaner ways to power Toyota. One of the hardest places to do that is at the automaker's sprawling plant in central Kentucky, a state where nearly 90 percent of electricity still comes from coal.

Butt points out a new engine assembly line, where a conveyor belt moves in a slow circle. He says it was specially designed with a more efficient motor. There are also enormous fans overhead and LED lights, all changes that save millions.

April is the traditional start of the whitewater rafting season. The hefty snowpack in the mountains this year is good news for commercial rafting companies and recreational enthusiasts across the West.

NOAA Fisheries

Passions run high on the issue of how to best protect resident killer whales in the waters off the San Juan Islands.

A public comment period on a proposal that could help them ends Thursday.

Orca whales communicate underwater with complex calls that researchers say are a language all their own. And they use echolocation to find their way around.

AP

This week, some coastal communities in Washington will have the opportunity to better prepare for tsunamis, among other natural disasters. Workshops with Washington State Emergency Management officials are planned for coastal towns that could be at risk if a tsunami strikes.

Pesticides based on fungi are just one example of biopesticides, a group that also includes bacteria and biochemicals derived from plants.

Biopesticides are a tiny segment of the market for now – but their use is projected to grow at a faster rate than traditional synthetic pesticides over the next few years.

The growth of the organic produce industry is one factor giving biopesticides a boost. So, too, are regulatory hurdles, says Sara Olson, a senior analyst at Lux Research.

About a month after an anti-predator device spit sodium cyanide in the face of an unsuspecting boy and killed his dog, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it is ending its use of the M-44 mechanisms in Idaho indefinitely.

Bellamy Pailthorp / knkx

Climate change is one of those issues that tends to turn people off. It’s not much fun to think about the consequences of the carbon pollution and the subsequent warming of the atmosphere. But Seattle Times Writer Lynda V. Mapes spent the better part of two years studying how it affected one tree while she was on a science fellowship in upstate New York.

Her book about that experience is called "Witness Tree: Seasons Of Change With A Century-Old Oak."

Lincoln Bormann / San Juan County Land Bank

When funds are tight, it might be tempting for government to try to raise taxes or fees. But what if you could just inspire people to opt in and pay extra to support something they love? That’s the idea behind a new campaign for a specialty license plate that would generate funds to support conservation lands in the San Juan Islands.

It doesn't take more than a few episodes of the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch to get the idea that commercial fishing can be a career path rife with risk, making it one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.

Driving up the coast toward Bay Center, Wash., it's obvious when you start to approach Willapa Bay. Fifteen-foot high piles of empty shells begin to appear on the side of the road. This is an oyster town.

But it's also home to a sinking piece of history.

Update 7:06 P.M. Eastern: The EPA says it's reversing course and keeping chlorpyrifos on the market.

That's despite the agency's earlier conclusion, reached during the Obama administration, that this pesticide could pose risks to consumers. It's a signal that toxic chemicals will face less restrictive regulation by the Trump administration.

President Trump issued a sweeping executive order on Tuesday that will begin to undo a slew of government efforts to fight global warming.

Among those worrying and watching to see how the executive order plays out are scientists who actually are in favor of exploring bold interventions to artificially cool the climate.

Over the weekend a large diesel spill developed on the Columbia River near downtown Wenatchee, Washington. So far state officials haven’t been able to locate the source of the spill.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Temporary fans and sump-pump hoses are whirring along inside the West Point Treatment plant. It’s still dark inside the tunnels where on February 9, a flood of sewage busted doors off and submerged everything up to 12-feet high.

Where we’re standing, we would have been underwater.  Plant manager Robert Waddle switches on a flashlight to show me around.

In some parts of the country, cold weather is threatening crops. Meanwhile, California has been so unseasonably wet that its deserts are experiencing what's called a "super bloom." After years of drought, the normally arid desert is lush.

"It just looks like a sea of flowers," says Janet Gordon, a geologist from Los Angeles.

"You got purple, red, yellows and blues," adds Joe Sheidness, visiting from San Diego.

In 2016, a mass bleaching event caused unprecedented destruction to the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs around the world.

Now, a new study in Nature has concluded that securing a future for coral reefs "ultimately requires urgent and rapid action to reduce global warming."

It finds that local measures, such as protecting reefs and water quality, ultimately yield little protection against bleaching caused by higher water temperatures.

Ned Ahrens / King County Wastewater Treatment Division

The breakdown last month of Seattle’s wastewater treatment plant has poured hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated stormwater and raw sewage into Puget Sound. Repairs alone will cost an estimated $25 million. And it’s expected to take till the end of April to get the West Point Treatment Plant back to normal. Until then, the broken wastewater facility will be violating its permit and polluting Puget Sound.

Pages