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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A pocket beach near Hilton Harbor boat storage provides still-rare public access to Bellingham Bay.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

It’s been more than a dozen years since the Georgia Pacific pulp mill on Bellingham’s waterfront shut down and the local port district took ownership of 137 heavily polluted acres. Residents recently got a chance to tour the central waterfront parcel and learn about a new cleanup plan that they hope will ultimately lead to revitalization.

The growler image issued with the U.S. Navy's record of decision on March 14, 2019.
U.S. Navy/ NAS Whidbey Island

A citizens’ fight against jet noise from the U.S. Navy’s expanding fleet of Growler jets on Whidbey Island is getting help from the state’s top lawyer. Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed suit against the Navy, calling its environmental impact statement and review process inadequate.  

Karl Hagel & Pat McChesney, University of Washington Pacific Northwest Seismic Network Field Engineers, working to install earthquake monitoring equipment on the slopes of Mt. St. Helens, with Mt. Hood in the distance.
Marc Biundo, PNSN University of Washington Field Engineer / Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

Seismologists in the Pacific Northwest have been getting a lot of calls in recent days after a major earthquake rattled remote Southern California over the Fourth of July weekend. No one was killed, but the event raised many questions. 

Whale watchers at Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island sighting members of the J and K pods of southern resident orcas on Friday July 5th after an absence of nearly 8 weeks.
Jeanne Hyde / Whale of a Purpose Blog

Whale scientists have spotted several Southern Resident orcas off the west side of San Juan Island, in Haro Strait. The sighting comes after an unprecedented absence that had many worried.  

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

A proposed exploratory mine near the U.S.-Canadian border is raising concerns in both countries. The development involves a major salmon producing river for Puget Sound.

A storm surge on Lummi Island in Washington state.
P. GRANGER / Washington Sea Grant

A new study from a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group takes a look at the near-term costs of projected sea level rise due to climate change. Washington faces the highest cost on the West Coast for impacts to shorelines.  

In this May 3, 2018 photo, a couple walk their dog on the shore near the Kinder Morgan Inc. Westridge oil tanker terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
Jeremy Hainsworth / The Associated Press

VANCOUVER, B.C.— As expected, the Canadian government has approved — again —  the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. If built, it could see a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic through the Salish Sea.

 Screenshot of the King County Connect app, available in the Google Play or Apple app store
Courtesy King County

King County has a new mobile app that aims to make it easier for residents to reach local government services. As officials unveil the app this week, they’re highlighting its use in the fight against noxious weeds, for which it has so far been most fully developed.

King County has 17 specialists who work to stop the spread of new invasive species and poisonous plants that spread quickly, such as giant hogweed, tansy ragwort or poison hemlock. King County's program tracks dozens of weeds in five categories.

King County

Carbon credits that protect forests have been around for more than 20 years. Companies that want or need to reduce their carbon footprint can purchase offsets, and that money is invested to preserve or plant trees. Trees inhale carbon dioxide, so they help offset climate-warming pollution produced when we burn fossil fuels. 

But the forests that have generally benefited from carbon credits are in rural areas and in faraway countries that offer the largest stands of trees.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Unusually hot weather is expected in western Washington this week, and officials are urging the public to take precautions.

The 8 million-gallon containment tank is seen from a distance on Tacoma's tideflats at the site of a liquefied natural gas plant currently under construction.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Puget Sound Energy CEO Kimberly Harris wasn’t surprised to receive a call from Gov. Jay Inslee the afternoon of May 8. But she was surprised to hear what he had to say.

A drift net fishing boat in Bristol Bay.
Courtesy Mark Titus, Eva's Wild

Bristol Bay, Alaska, provides more than half of the world’s sockeye salmon. And every summer, hundreds of commercial fishermen from the Puget Sound region join Alaskan locals to reap the benefits of its pristine salmon habitat.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, center, pulls off his "100%" cap, standing for a goal of 100% clean energy, after posing for a photo with supporters after signing climate protection legislation Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Washington state now has the strongest clean electricity law in the nation. That's how many environmentalists describe new regulations that force utilities to get off coal by 2025 and to be 100 percent free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

Transient whales swim through the Salish Sea near Friday Harbor in March. While sightings of transients are growing, the endangered Southern Resident population is bordering on extinction.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

“For as the orca go, so go we.”

Those were words from Gov. Jay Inslee as he signed five bills that aim to help keep endangered Southern Resident killer whales from going extinct. All are based on recommendations from the orca recovery task force he convened last year.

Growler jets
John Froschauer / The Associated Press

A national parks organization filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy last week, related to jet training at Air Station Whidbey Island.

The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association sued the Navy to get more information about the exercises, which are planned for one of the quietest places in the lower 48.

A drone view of flooding in Hamiton in 2017.
Courtesy of Joan Cromley

A town on the Skagit River that’s plagued with chronic flooding is one step closer to moving out of the flood plain. That’s thanks to a $1 million investment from the conservation group, Forterra.

Recycling is changing dramatically. So, a Seattle Public Utilities staffer put on some gloves, rolled up her sleeves and sorted through the recycling at a local coffee shop with KNKX Public Radio. Here are the top 10 tips she shared.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Recycling the right way is a point of pride around here. “Obsessive Compulsive Recycler, you’re one of us,” local insurance company Pemco says in one of its cheeky Northwest Profiles.

But getting it right has become more difficult, after China stopped accepting most of our recyclable waste. With so much piling up, some worry if their careful efforts are ultimately keeping the items out of landfills.

AL GRILLO / AP Photo

More than 200 businesses — including many in Washington state — are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend permitting for the controversial Pebble Mine project. The proposed mine would be located in the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, in Bristol Bay Alaska.  

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

UPDATE, April 25: A previous version of this story inaccurately conflated two separate environmental reviews.  

The U.S. Navy is in the middle of an environmental review process for a proposal to conduct training and testing activities in offshore areas along the West Coast, including Washington, and associated airspace. Now, the public is getting more time to weigh in on the impacts.

Mount Rainier in Washington state is surrounded in a haze of wildfire smoke, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

Warmer weather and wildfire smoke are causing more air pollution in Washington. Three metropolitan areas in the state have the worst air pollution in the nation. They made the top-15 list for particle pollution in this year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association, which looks at both particle pollution and ozone.

A drone photo of the Arlington Microgrid Community Solar Project, which officially launches on Monday, April 22, 2019 in honor of Earth Day.
Courtesy Snohomish County PUD

Solar power can feel out of reach. Upfront costs are usually considerable and you need a sunny roof or open space where you can put the panels.

Community solar projects make it more accessible, by allowing ratepayers to buy shares in an installation that’s financed and operated by a group of investors. Utilities around the state, including Seattle City Light and Avista, offer them. Now, Snohomish County PUD is getting in on the game — in a big way.

courtesy of state Department of Health

A bill that would address environmental justice is still alive in the state Legislature.

The so-called Healthy Environment for All, or HEAL, Act passed the House in the nick of time, getting a last-minute bipartisan vote of 88-10 just after 5 p.m. Wednesday, to clear the cutoff deadline.

Rick Bowmer / AP Photo / file

Low numbers of Chinook salmon expected to return to the Columbia River this summer have led state and tribal officials to close that fishery until Aug. 1. They’ve also announced new restrictions on Puget Sound Chinook.  

A whale watching boat, from a distance, watches one of several transient killer whales during a whale watching trip last month.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Experts and enthusiasts agree, whether on water or on land: it’s difficult to describe the feeling people get in the presence of orcas.

“I wish you could bottle what happens when people see whales,” said Donna Sandstrom, while passing out binoculars to passersby in West Seattle. “The sheer joy and the awe is always moving.”

The male wolf in the newly named Diobsud Creek pack. This radio-collared male appears to have a mate. They live in Skagit County near Marblemount, north of Highway 20.
Courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Endangered gray wolves are back in Western Washington. That’s according to the latest census of the endangered population from state wildlife officials. It’s the first time the count has included a pack living west of the Cascades.       

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Members of Gov. Jay Inslee’s orca recovery task force and environmental groups supporting its work say they have four critical bills that are still in play this legislative session. They’re calling on state lawmakers to keep moving the bills forward.

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Based on legislative budgets released so far, a major increase in state funding for wildfire fighting and prevention looks likely. Washington's Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz, has requested an unprecedented $55 million dollars to fight and prevent wildfires. She argues this will save taxpayer money in the long run.

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

One of the biggest priorities among environmental groups working in Olympia this year is passage of a law to transition the electrical grid to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. It’s also a cornerstone of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest policies to address climate change. The proposal faces a key vote in the state House finance committee on Friday morning.

courtesy Ronn Griffin

Thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest — commercial fishermen, their crews, sport fishermen, seafood processors, even many boat builders — depend on wild salmon caught every summer in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The Trump administration has re-started permitting for a controversial mining project there — and locals are gearing up to fight it.

greenway vista
Margaret Ullman-Hess

A sweeping public lands package was signed into law Tuesday by President Donald Trump, containing numerous benefits for Washington state. It includes a National Heritage Area designation for the Mountains to Sound Greenway, which covers 1.5 million acres stretching from Ellensburg to Seattle along the Interstate 90 corridor. 

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