EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Byrne Miyamoto is finished with juniper. At least he wants to be. 

For the past three years, the Oregon State University graduate research assistant has been hauling juniper from Eastern Oregon and cutting it up to avoid knots.

"Getting a small clear sample out of a tree that is twisted and has knots everywhere is very difficult," he said with a chuckle.

Miyamoto would then run the knot-less boards through a series of tests at the university’s wood testing lab.

A new study has found that if the climate warms as projected, warmer streams could compound the effects of global warming by adding more heat-trapping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Scientists tested the carbon output of streams at seven locations across the globe, including watersheds in Oregon, Puerto Rico, Alaska and Australia.

The Puyallup Tribe welcomed the first salmon of the year back to the Puyallup River in Tacoma on Tuesday.

Strangely, perhaps, that chinook's epic journey from mid-Pacific Ocean to a Puyallup fishing net begins with a sloshing tanker truck.

Tribes from Alaska to California have held annual "first salmon" ceremonies for centuries to thank the wide-ranging fishes for coming home after years at sea.

But some years, the Puyallup River barely has enough chinook salmon to support a ceremony, let alone a tribe whose diet used to be mostly salmon.

The judge in the Eagle Creek Fire case has ordered the teen boy who admitted starting the blaze to pay $36.6 million in restitution.

Oregon's juvenile delinquency statute requires youth to fully pay any economic damages they cause to victims of the Columbia River Gorge fire. 

A University of Oregon student died Saturday morning at California's Shasta Lake while attending an annual camping event.

University officials identified the student as 21-year-old fraternity member Dylan Pietrs. According to the Oregonian/OregonLive, Pietrs was drinking the day before fellow students found his body, but it is not clear yet whether that contributed to his death.

Police do not suspect foul play in the incident.

A new stretch of land has reopened since the Eagle Creek Fire last September, allowing the public back onto several trails and lakes in the Columbia River Gorge.

The area includes Starvation Creek State Park, which acts as an access point for the strenuous Starvation Ridge trail, Mount Defiance trail and Warren Lake. Several more lakes and their access trails are also open for fishing and hiking, and Forest Road 1310 is now open to vehicles.

But as with any outdoor recreation, there are risks, and those risks are greater in damaged areas.

When I opened my front door to Enhabit Home Energy Score Adviser Peter Kernan, I was actually feeling fairly confident about my home's energy efficiency.

I bought the 1938 Tudor in the dead of winter five years ago and my first electric bill was $250. To heat the home, I had to turn on the original electric wall heaters with their glowing, red-hot coils. The leaky, old single-pane windows failed to keep the snow out of my bedroom.

How Dangerous Are The Northwest’s Volcanoes?

May 17, 2018

  

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, chances are good you can see a volcano from where you stand.

In Oregon, Washington and Idaho, magma has erupted out of the ground in at least 25 places in the last 10,000 years, a mere instant in the lifetime of volcanoes that can be hundreds of thousands of years old.

The 15-year-old boy who pleaded guilty to igniting the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge last September could be required to pay more than $36 million in restitution to 11 parties related to fire damage.

Judge John Olson did not reach a decision on how much to award in court and said he would issue a written order on the amount of restitution as early as Friday. 

The unnamed Vancouver, Washington, teen did not attend the restitution hearing in Hood River County Thursday morning. He was represented by his attorney Jack Morris.

An environmental group sued the Southern Oregon city of Medford Wednesday over wastewater discharge in the Rogue River. The suit alleges outflow from the sewage treatment plant violates the Clean Water Act.

Northwest Environmental Advocates says the city’s wastewater treatment plant releasing nutrients into the river. They says Medford has known about the issue for years and has not moved to correct the situation.

A group of senators from western states want to expand a national effort to boost timber production and restore natural conditions on overstocked forests using thinning and other restoration work.

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, would extend the Forest Service’s expiring Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program for the next 10 years and double its annual budget to $80 million.

Oregon To Replace 450 Old Diesel School Buses

May 14, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

The state of Oregon will pay to replace 450 old diesel school buses using some of the $72.9 million dollars it expects to receive through the Volkswagen emissions cheating court settlement.

About 2,800 of Oregon's diesel school buses were built before 2007, which means they release far more pollution than newer buses. The older buses could be replaced with newer diesel buses, or with alternative vehicles powered by natural gas or electricity.

At Penn Cove, on the north end of Whidbey Island, gulls and other birds fly overhead, and a muddy beach leads down to the water.

It’s quiet today, but, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was the place whale catchers came to capture orcas. They threw noisemakers into the water to drive pods of orcas into the narrow cove, then blocked the way out and pulled the baby whales out of the water.

Nearly 50 orcas from the Salish Sea's population were captured this way. Today, only one of those whales is still alive.

In July, seven Oregon craft breweries will start selling beer in reusable glass bottles in the country’s first statewide refillable beer bottle program.

Oregon's Widmer Brothers, Buoy Beer, Double Mountain, GoodLife, Gigantic, Wild Ride and Rock Bottom breweries will be pioneering the program with some of their beers. Other breweries may join the program later.

The reusable bottles will be on store shelves just like all the other beer, but they'll look a little different.

How Do You Want Your Smoke?

May 7, 2018

There’s broad agreement that fire plays a vital role in forest ecology in the West. Many of our problems with severe wildfires can be traced, at least in part, to a century of putting fires out, rather than letting them clean up excess forest fuels.

Now, there’s a need to deliberately set controlled fires to help re-establish a more natural fire pattern. But after a summer in which residents and tourists alike choked on foul air and many events were canceled due to heavy smoke, are people ready to put up with more smoke from prescribed burns?

It arrived at 3 a.m on July 26, 2013. Dennis Sifford remembers details like this. They marked the beginning of his final shift as an incident commander on a wildfire.

“The lightning storm came in — dry lightning storm,” Sifford said, describing that morning. “It was unexpected.”

The storm touched down in mountainous terrain just north of the town of Glendale, Oregon. More than 80 fires started.

Twelve hours later Sifford got the call. He would lead the 3,000 people needed to fight what would be known as the Douglas Complex.

Earlier this week, several deer were found illegally shot with arrows in the Shady Cove area of southwest Oregon.

The animals were spotted walking around with arrows stuck in their bodies, including one with an arrow through its head.

Officials are pleased to report that the deer have since been found as of Wednesday afternoon. The arrows were removed, the wounds treated and both deer – an adult and yearling doe – have been released in good health.

An extreme and rapid drop in water on the Klamath River this past weekend caused a fish kill in the upper reaches. The water was drawn down as part of an agreement to supply irrigation water to the Basin’s farmers in this drought year.

Fly fishing guide Stuart Warren was fishing a stretch of the Klamath River Monday near the town of Keno, Oregon, when he noticed something along the rocky banks.

The U.S. Forest Service says it will have more money to fight wildfires and more tools to prevent them thanks to the new wildfire funding bill Congress recently approved.

The extra resources may very well be needed in Oregon and California this year, where officials say they are already seeing an elevated risk of wildfire because of low snow pack and dry spring weather. The fire outlook is less concerning for Washington.

A federal judge has denied a request by Klamath Basin farmers to get their irrigation season underway. The farmers had asked for a reversal of an earlier court decision requiring water be held back for salmon until mid-June.

District Court ruled in 2017 that federal managers must keep a block of water in Upper Klamath Lake in case disease rates in Klamath River salmon got too high. The thinking was that a well-timed release downstream could flush out or dilute the responsible parasite enough to spare the struggling fish.

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