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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Alaska Airlines launched a #fillbeforeyoufly campaign to encourage reduced plastic use. Passengers, boarding a flight to Los Angeles, were gifted stickers and stainless-steel bottles Sept. 12 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Of all the things people do every year, flying causes more greenhouse gas pollution than almost anything. Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is working to shrink that carbon footprint. Its latest move is a campaign to reduce plastic waste on flights.

Industry is ever-present around Commencement Bay in Tacoma. Citizens for a Healthy Bay is among the organizations that are invested in improving and maintaining the health of those waters.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

David Bean remembers when his family didn’t have enough room for all the salmon in their boat. 

“We caught so much fish that we had to call folks to bring their skiffs over,” said Bean, chairman of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. “I remember one, we overflowed that skiff so much to one side it flipped over and we lost one skiff-load of salmon. But we still had three.”

The waters in and around Tacoma have changed since then. Still, efforts made in recent years have spurred progress. 

Washington state ferry
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Washington’s ferry system runs on diesel fuel that causes more air pollution than anything else the state transportation department operates. That’s changing as the state Department of Transportation works to convert two of its Jumbo Mark 2 ferries to hybrid-electric propulsion. And now it has officially launched the first new construction of a hybrid ferry, amid much fanfare.  

A harbor seal named Oscar by locals keeps an eye on people fishing and crabbing hear the Des Moines Marina, Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

One of the biggest issues facing Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident killer whales is a lack of Chinook salmon, their preferred food. A Seattle chef and the PCC Community Markets chain have stopped selling local Chinook, in an effort to help provide more for the orcas.

But fisheries experts say people eating Chinook is not the problem.

Markers warning of the existing underground Trans Mountain Pipeline through the Vancouver, B.C., suburb of Burnaby on Sept. 4.
Craig McCulloch / KNKX

An appeal of the Canadian government’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline has been allowed to proceed. The legal procedure from opponents is being allowed, but on an accelerated schedule.  

In the written decision, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal allowed six of 12 appeals to proceed. 

This image is from a video by the state Department of Natural Resources, showing how a tsunami would affect the Washington coast after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake on the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources

OLYMPIA — New videos show how a large earthquake could set off tsunamis hitting Washington state's outer coast within 15 minutes, and the Tacoma waterfront within two-and-a-half hours. 

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

Editor's note: This series originally published May 22. Environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp was in Tacoma on Tuesday covering the latest developments, including an anti-LNG march and a public hearing related to permits for the proposed project. Listen to her coverage on All Things Considered today and Morning Edition tomorrow, and revisit previous coverage (updates at the bottom of this post).

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.

Raynell Morris, left, director of the Lummi Nation’s Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office, listens as Lawrence Solomon (second from left), secretary of the Lummi Nation’s Business Council, announces the new name for the Southern Resident orcas.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Earlier this summer, the Lummi Nation came to Seattle and launched a campaign to protect and revitalize the Salish Sea. The tribe is based near Bellingham, at the heart of that body of water, which extends from Puget Sound to Desolation Sound in Canada and out past Vancouver Island into the Pacific Ocean.

Flying goats near Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park in August 2019.
Courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

More than 200 mountain goats so far have been captured and transported from in and around Olympic National Park. Wildlife managers are working to relocate the entire population to native habitat in the North Cascades.

Two barges are moored at the earthen embankment at the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Wawawai, Wash., on April 22, 1999. The embankment will be removed if the dam is breached.
JACKIE JOHNSTON / The Associated Press

When salmon and steelhead don't get the cold water they need, it costs them more energy to survive.  Their reproductive success can be diminished and they become more vulnerable to disease.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Seattle is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050. Mayor Jenny Durkan has proposed a new tax on oil-powered residential heat to encourage a switch to cleaner electric sources. The city council takes up that proposal in committee Friday.

The greater sage grouse is a species that would benefit greatly from federal protection, Washington wildlife officials say, but it's not clear how much help they will get under the newly revised Endangered Species Act.
Courtesy of Washinton Department of Fish and Wildlife

Trump administration changes to the Endangered Species Act could significantly impair future efforts to protect vulnerable species and their habitats in the state. That’s according to wildlife officials who have been poring over hundreds of pages that came with publication of the revised law on Monday.

A beachside ceremony during the Paddle to Lummi at Stommish Grounds on Saturday, July 27, 2019, near Bellingham, WA.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Five days of inter-tribal festivities wrapped up over the weekend as the 2019 Paddle to Lummi came to an end. This year, nearly 100 canoes made their way to the shores of the Lummi Nation’s Stommish Grounds near Bellingham, for a celebration of unity and common causes.

In this file photo from 2006, a young girl watches through the glass as a killer whale passes by while swimming in a display tank at SeaWorld in San Diego. That park ended its controversial and long-running killer whale show in January 2017.
Chris Park / The Associated Press (file)

UPDATE: 10:45 p.m.: This story and its headline have been updated to clarify that the lawsuit will be filed by two individual members of the Lummi Nation, not the tribal goverment.

Native American tribes and first nations from around the region are celebrating their annual canoe journey this weekend. Along with songs, stories and dancing, their five-day gathering at the Lummi Nation, near Bellingham, will include the announcement of a lawsuit from two members of the Lummi Nation to ‘repatriate’ a captive orca.

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.

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.

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