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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In this May 17, 1999 file photo, two Makah Indian whalers stand atop the carcass of a dead gray whale moments after helping tow it close to shore in the harbor at Neah Bay, Wash.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

The Makah whale hunt is back in court. The tribe wants to resume a limited hunt of gray whales off the Washington coast.  An administrative judge in Seattle will hear arguments for and against over several days, starting Thursday at 1 p.m.

Thor Hanson / Courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Wildlife officials are appealing to landowners on San Juan and Lopez islands. They’re asking them to set aside patches of habitat for the rare island marble butterfly, before it gets official protection under federal law.  

Courtesy King County Solid Waste Division

King County is grappling with how to handle its trash as the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill reaches capacity. The Maple Valley facility, which first accepted waste in the mid-1960s, is expected to fill up in less than 20 years. Expansion efforts have stalled as neighbors complain about the effects of squeezing more refuse into the little space remaining.

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg attracted thousands of fellow climate activists, many fellow teenagers and their parents, to Vancouver, B.C., on Friday.
Craig McCulloch / KNKX

Less than a week after the Canadian general election, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg arrived in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday to speak.

The 16-year-old attracted thousands of fellow climate activists, many fellow teenagers and their parents, to the downtown core.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Oyster growers in Southwest Washington have given up on their push to use a controversial neurotoxin to control burrowing shrimp. The shrimp can turn oyster beds into quicksand that suffocates the shellfish.  The growers have dropped an appeal before the state Pollution Control Hearings Board, in favor of a settlement agreement with the state department of ecology.  

A worker at Goose Point oyster growers in Grays Harbor County.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A U.S. judge has thrown out a federal permit for the Washington state shellfish industry that failed to comply with environmental regulations.

Courtesy Washington Department of Natural Resources

It’s been more than two years since Cooke Aquaculture’s net pens collapsed at Cypress Island near Anacortes. The fallout led the state Legislature to ban net-pen farming of non-native fish in Washington waters.

Now, Cooke is back with plans to farm two native species in its pens in Port Angeles Harbor.

The dark-eyed junco is a "backyard" bird in Washington — and could become much less common, depending on how much warming occurs.
Laure W. Neish/VIREO / Courtesy Audubon Society

More than half of the birds in our state are at risk of extinction because of climate change. That's according to a new national report from the Audubon Society, which gives detailed analysis of climate impacts on about 600 species of North American birds — and a state-by-state breakdown of their fates. 

The final meeting of Governor Jay Inslee's Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force took place at the Intellectural House on the campus of the University of Washington on October 7, 2019.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Their goal is clear: to prevent Puget Sound’s iconic Southern Resident killer whales from going extinct. Solving that problem is anything but simple.

The task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee to save the orcas added 13 new recommendations this week, at its final meeting. The additions to the group’s so-called “Year 2 Report” cover more than 100 pages, adding climate change and population growth to the list of issues complicating orca recovery.

Erich Hoyt (in the front of the boat, with a camera) during the early days of orca research with the whale known as  Top Notch (A5) in the foreground,  in Johnstone Strait, north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Peter Thomas / Courtesy of Erich Hoyt

Two pods of the scarcely seen Southern Resident orca population showed up in the waters off Seattle within just a few hours of author Erich Hoyt’s return to the Pacific Northwest for his book tour.

This May 3, 2018 photo shows the Kirkeholmen oil tanker anchored outside the Kinder Morgan Inc. Westridge oil terminal in Vancouver, Canada, at the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline that begins in northern Alberta.
Jeremy Hainsworth / The Associated Press

British Columbia’s top court has issued a ruling that affects the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. While it may not stop the project, it could cause a further delay.

Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Srevice

For more than 20 years, mysteries surrounding an endangered seabird have suspended logging activities on about 170,000 acres of state trust lands in Washington.

Now, the state Department of Natural Resources says it’s learned enough about the marbled murrelet to protect its habitat and free up some of the lands that were previously tied up.

In this Aug. 7, 2018, photo, Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, swim off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C. J50 has since been declared dead, one of several deaths in recent years.
Brian Gisborne / Fisheries and Oceans Canada via Associated Press

The federal agency in charge of endangered orca recovery is proposing to add more than 10 million acres of Pacific coastal waters to the area it considers "critical habitat." The government does not expect the expanded habitat designation to affect coastal economies.

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. 

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