Environment | KNKX

Environment

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

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Channi Anand / AP Photo

It may sound like science fiction, but researchers are getting closer to making it possible to geoengineer the climate.

A symposium at the University of Washington Thursday and Friday is exploring the ethics of this possible future.  One team is developing a way to cool the atmosphere by brightening clouds.  

There could be big changes on the horizon for the way the state of Washington manages its wolf population to minimize the conflicts between wolves and livestock.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The state agency charged with leading the restoration of Puget Sound says it cannot meet its inaugural goal of recovering the ecosystem by 2020.

That’s one of the takeaways from the Puget Sound Partnership’s 2017 “State of the Sound” report, which comes out Wednesday. The reports are issued every two years.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A proposal to spray a neurotoxic pesticide on oyster beds in Southwest Washington is back on the table. Growers in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor are looking for ways to address an infestation of burrowing shrimp.

The state is taking comments on the controversial plan through Wednesday.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The Salish Sea is a complex web of waterways that includes Puget Sound and the straits of Juan de Fuca and Georgia. It also has inflows from 64 rivers and 99 wastewater treatment plants in the U.S. and Canada.

When commercial fishermen spool out long lines in pursuit of sablefish— better known to consumers as black cod—seabirds looking for an easy meal dive to steal the bait off the series of hooks.

Some unlucky birds get hooked and drown as the line sinks to the deep. 
And when the drowned bird is an endangered species such as the short-tailed albatross, it triggers scrutiny.

Cristina Mittermeier / Sea Legacy

The Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Island, the Great Wall of China: These are all geographic treasures, internationally recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. Washington State has one: the Olympic National Park. A nonprofit in Canada is now petitioning its federal government to add the Salish Sea to that list.                       

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Beneath the surface of the Salish Sea, there are hundreds of species of seaweeds growing. They provide habitat and nutrition for many forms of marine life. In Sooke, just west of Victoria in British Columbia, one entrepreneur has developed a line of skin-care products made from foraged kelp.  

Ted S. Warren, File. / AP Photo

New research shows that stormwater runoff, which flows into waterways when it rains, can kill Coho salmon in as much as 40 percent of their local habitat.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

For many people in the Northwest, the undamming of the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula marked a dramatic turning point. The largest dam removal in the world at the time, it unleashed the lifeblood of a watershed that fronts on the Salish Sea.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

A colorful totem pole has hit the road from Bellingham on a 5,000-mile journey, meant to shine a spotlight on threats to the health of the Salish Sea. The Lummi Totem Pole Journey will make stops in Seattle and Tacoma this weekend. 

Overcast: What's Going On With Salmon In Washington?

Oct 13, 2017
Robert F. Bukaty / AP Photo

Washington's local ecosystems have been through a lot recently.

First, there was the release of more than 100,000 non-native Atlantic Salmon this summer into the Salish Sea. Now, scientists are also reporting alarmingly low numbers of young salmon from the Columbia River system out in the Pacific Ocean.

Shina Wysocki holds an oyster raised at Chelsea Farms in Olympia, Wash.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The ocean is becoming more acidic and fossil fuel emissions are making it worse. That can be lethal for oyster larvae because it inhibits their ability to form shells.

But there is one variety of oyster that seems to be more able to adapt to that change. A small, family-run growing operation in Olympia has made growing it a priority.

Courtesy of Washington State Committee on Geographic Names

As any expectant parent knows, names aren’t something to be taken lightly. That’s definitely the case in the naming of Washington State’s geographic features, like creeks and hills. 

Craig McCulloch / KNKX

A hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, could determine the future of a controversial pipeline expansion.

Kinder Morgan is tripling the capacity of its Trans Mountain Pipeline, which brings Alberta crude to the west coast.  Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal begins hearing consolidated challenges to approval of the expansion on Monday.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

When you think of the Salish Sea, the image that first comes to mind probably doesn’t include grassy plains and meadows. But, in fact, the concept of this shared ecosystem that unites the U.S. and Canada extends to the entire basin of the watershed.

Competition for your garbage is increasingly fierce. It's become an important, if mostly hidden, industry in the Columbia River Gorge.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

The prospect of a major oil spill is something that has many people concerned about the future of the Salish Sea, especially now that the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion has been approved by Canada.

Geologists for the state of Oregon are warning of the risk of major landslides in parts of the Columbia River Gorge that were hit by wildfires this year.

A new report released Thursday focuses on areas of the Gorge that are highly susceptible to landslides—which also happen to overlap with some of the areas hit by this year’s wildfires.

Supporters of a so-called “cap and invest” proposal are laying the groundwork for the Oregon Legislature to take on the issue next year.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

One of the biggest concerns about the future of the Salish Sea is the likely expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. It carries tar sands oil from Canada’s eastern provinces to a terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia, just north of Vancouver.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

If you’ve ever driven on I-5 north of Olympia, you’ve likely been struck by the unique landscape of the Nisqually River Delta.

With Mount Rainier looming in the distance, a huge expanse of marshlands extends on either side of the highway where the fresh water of the river meets the salt water of southern Puget Sound. This is the southern end of the Salish Sea.

Inciweb via AP

Wildfire smoke has darkened skies and even scattered ashes in neighborhoods throughout the Puget Sound region. The orange-tinged light has an eerie glow that has many people wondering what on earth is going on? How bad is this year’s fire season and how is it different than previous years?

Courtesy Recreational Shellfish Program, Washington State Department of Health

Mild summer weather is nice for enjoying a day at the beach. But the sunny days also create favorable conditions for poisonous bacteria that can cause illness and closures for shellfish harvesting.

Numerous beaches in the central Puget Sound area are closed to recreational shellfish harvesting. The presence of Paralytic Shellfish Poison, known as PSP, resulted in a new closure extending from Seattle’s Alki Beach south to the Pierce County line, including Vashon Island. It spread there from Kitsap County.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Squid eggs and harlequin ducks are the latest signs of renewed life on the beach at the mouth of the Elwha River. They have only recently returned, some three years after the completion of the largest dam removal in the world, here on the shores of the Salish Sea.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

A big issue in the Salish Sea right now is concern about increasing oil tanker traffic. Plans by Kinder Morgan to expand its Trans-Mountain pipeline could more than triple the amount of crude oil arriving at the pipeline’s terminus in Vancouver, B.C.

There’s no way to know for sure how many fishers lived in the Cascades historically, because the small brown mammal was almost entirely eradicated by trappers by 1930.

But this week, there’s evidence that they are reproducing.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP Photo

This story was updated at 3:09 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25.  See correction below.

Along with cooling the air and dimming skies in the region, this week’s solar eclipse caused high tides. The resulting currents damaged a net pen and released unknown numbers of farmed Atlantic salmon into open waters south of the San Juan Islands.

The eclipse is here.

Up to 1 millions visitors have flocked to Oregon to watch the first total solar eclipse viewable from the contiguous United States in 38 years. 

Courtesy of Romeo Durscher/NASA

It is indeed dark during the day as a total solar eclipse makes its way from Oregon to South Carolina. Eleven states are in the path of total darkness. Follow the astronomical phenomenon's journey across America along with NPR journalists and others experiencing the eclipse.

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