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

Carol Munro / Flickr

RICHLAND, Wash. – As salmon wind their way through dams on the Columbia River, a small percentage ultimately end up passing through turbines. A project that helps fish move more safely through turbines recently received a grant to expand its scope.

U.S. Army / Flickr

RICHLAND, Wash. – As the Pacific Northwest begins to integrate more renewable energy, grid operators sometimes have trouble predicting the variability that comes with it. Researchers have found a way to use electric vehicles to help balance wind power’s inconsistency.

BOISE, Idaho – Two wolf advocacy organizations officially made their case last week in federal court to get wolves listed as endangered species. They want the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule that taking wolves off the Endangered Species list earlier this year was unconstitutional.


An environmental clean-up settlement could also be a mini-stimulus for the Inland Northwest economy. A federal judge has approved the Hecla Mining company's $263 million settlement in one of the largest superfund clean-up projects in the country.

Courtesy Washington State Department of Natural Resources

The state is adding 15,000 acres of protected land around the Nisqually Reach Wildlife Refuge, exempting it from commercial development of any kind.

All the land is under water. It’s the seventh and southern-most area in Puget Sound to be designated as an Aquatic Reserve. Signing of a new management plan takes place today at 1:30 p.m.

bikehikedive / Flickr

Responsible fishing and fish consumption were among the agenda items at the annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society in Seattle. The conference (in its 141st year) has brought thousands of scientists, wildlife managers and other experts together for five days of wide-ranging discussions.

One of the more intriguing messages: Eating more sardines may be one of the best things you can do to help keep the planet healthy.

Lynette Schimming / Flickr

RICHLAND, Wash. – It's been 30 years since the last outbreak, but now white butterflies are flitting between pine trees across areas of eastern Oregon and Washington.

The same forces of nature that create natural hot springs and volcanoes may soon become a source of electricity in Snohomish County. The county’s Public Utility District has broken ground on a deep geothermic well, just north of the town of Skykomish.

The exploratory well is the first of its kind in Washington. 

RICHLAND, Wash. – New projects in the Pacific Northwest may soon improve the efficiency and reduce costs of hydropower generation, thanks to a new round of federal spending announced today.

Two projects in Washington received grants to help improve hydropower generation.

Ballard Raingardengue blog

Just a year ago, Seattle was promoting its roadside rain garden project in Ballard. Now, the city is spending half a million dollars to dismantle huge sections of it.

Some neighborhood residents say, despite good intentions, the whole thing has been a fiasco.

Photo courtesy Children's Hospital

It’s been eight months since Nissan made its first delivery of its all-electric Leaf car to a customer in the pacific Northwest.

Now, driving an all-electric vehicle is well on its way to becoming mainstream reality. A pilot program is installing thousands of electric car charging stations in the Puget Sound region and making them more available to regular folks.

The Eugene-based Oregon Toxics Alliance has published a report that looks at pesticide use on 5 state highways in Lane County. The organization wants the state to reduce its use of chemicals along roadways.

Tim / Flickr

EAST SAND ISLAND, Wash. — An attempt by government wildlife experts to control seabirds at the mouth of the Columbia River has led to some unintended consequences, all of which have been detrimental to salmon.

Northwest News Network

BOISE, Idaho – As Idaho opened it’s 2011 wolf hunt today, critics started voicing their concern across the country.

One group asked people at Central Park in New York City to call Idaho Governor Butch Otter and ask him to stop the hunt.

The New York based group Friends of Animals says this is a last minute effort in response to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week to turn down a request to stop the wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.

Chris Pike / Flickr

Sockeye salmon returning to Canada this year will be tested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for radiation contamination that might be picked up in the North Pacific from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

However, Washington state officials have no plans to test salmon specifically for radiation related to the Japanese disaster because earlier environmental testing showed so few signs of radiation that current levels in fish, if any, would be "undetectable," a spokesperson for the Department of Health said.

Melissa Randazzo / Courtesy of the Northwest Raptor and Wildlife Center

SEQUIM, Wash. — Nine orphaned barn owl owlets that were raised with the help of a couple of surrogate mother barn owls have flown the nest at the Northwest Raptor and Wildlife Center in Sequim.

More details are coming out about the north Idaho man accused of killing a grizzly bear on his property. That's spurring Idaho politicians to take aim at the federal government and the environmental regulations the man is accused of violating.

Wildlife experts say bear attacks are rising – but then, so is the number of people in bear country. Yellowstone National Park officials confirmed that a grizzly bear killed a hiker from Michigan. That's the second grizzly-caused death in the park this summer.

According to the Montana-based Center for Wildlife Information, run-ins with grizzly and black bears have increased in the last 20 years in North America. To some degree, that's expected. Bear populations have dramatically increased, and more people live and recreate in bear habitat now.

Seth Bynum / Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Now a little over two months after their birth, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium's two clouded leopard cubs, named Taji and Sumalee, are more active than ever, if the new photos released are anything to go by. (More photos inside.)

Courtesy of the Department of Energy.

RICHLAND, Wash. — U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings says he is pursuing legislation to recognize the world's first full-scale nuclear reactor as a national historic park.

Idaho politicians are questioning the federal government's decision to press charges against a man for killing a grizzly bear near his house. Governor Butch Otter sent a letter to the Department of the Interior asking Secretary Ken Salazar to look into the north Idaho case. Senator Mike Crapo is also pushing for answers from the Interior Department.

Thirty-three-year-old Jeremy Hill faces up to a year in prison and a $50,000 fine for killing a grizzly bear. The grizzly is a threatened species.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Researchers recently received a grant to develop a better process to capture carbon dioxide that could save more than half of what coal-fired power plants now spend on the technology.

An oil-loving clay used to sop up creosote in the Portland Harbor has been so successful that it will be applied to a much larger project this fall on the Grand Calumet River in Gary, Indiana.

University of Texas Professor Danny Reible worked on the Willamette River cleanup site. Thousands of tons of a specially-formulated clay were used to cap the sediment.

Sam Beebe / Flickr

The U.S. Army says its contractors have quickened the pace of weapons incineration at the Umatilla Chemical Depot. Fewer than 400 ton-sized containers of deadly liquid mustard agent remain at the northeast Oregon site.

WSDOT photo

Get ready to pay if you drive on the floating bridge across Lake Washington. The state Department of Transportation has announced the much-delayed tolls on the 520 bridge will start in December.

Tolling on the bridge was originally set to begin this spring, then that was bumped to this summer. Now, the state says the all-electronic system will be up and running four months from now. 

Kerry Lannert / KPLU

The sweet smell from your dryer vent could contain toxic pollution.

A new study from the University of Washington found hazardous chemicals in the air after clothes were laundered with scented detergents and dryer sheets. At least two of the chemicals are considered carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Imagine you’ve spent the day hiking trails in the woods and roasting s’mores. Now imagine you’ve left your tent at home, only to take shelter in a cargo shipping container. That’s the challenge King County Parks hoped would inspire designers to blend the outdoor experience with eco-friendly containers. 

RICHLAND, Wash. – A key contractor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation said Monday it will have nuclear experts review its safety culture. Bechtel has been under fire at the southeast Washington nuclear site since a high-level manager was taken out of his position after raising safety concerns.

Bechtel is building a $12 billion factory to treat 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. But recently the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board came to the conclusion that the project’s safety culture is "flawed."

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

PORT ANGELES, Wash. – Seattle's Kingdome collapsed with a bang. Explosive demolition experts also brought down the cooling tower at the former Trojan nuclear plant. But if you're hoping for the same excitement from the upcoming destruction of two big hydropower dams on Washington's Elwha River, you'll be disappointed.

The history-making dam removal that begins in September will happen slowly and methodically.

With more people taking up crabbing in Puget Sound, the people who police the harvest are seeing an uptick in illegal activity. Officials say the illegal activity is a major threat to future crab populations.