Environment | KNKX


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

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A helicopter flies over fires burning on a ridge in Sumner, Wash., Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

Another potentially devastating effect of wildfires: increased landslide risk. The state Department of Natural Resources has a team doing rapid response analysis in areas that have recently burned.

AstroTurf seen in the Puyallup River during work done in late July by Electron Hydro.
Courtesy of the Puyallup Tribe

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier says he wants to see the obsolete Electron Dam removed from the Puyallup River. This comes after an employee revealed that the private owner of the dam was illegally using discarded AstroTurf in the river during work on upgrades this summer.

The new bridge span that carries traffic over the Puyallup River between Tacoma and Fife is now called the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge and in Twulshootseed, yabuk’wali, meaning “place of a fight.”
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A deep red modern span stretches over Pacific Highway on the bridge that links Tacoma to Fife, carrying a steady stream of cars and trucks over the Puyallup River. The bridge and an older portion of it nearby were recently renamed by the City of Tacoma in collaboration with the Puyallup Tribe. It’s now called the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge and in Twulshootseed, yabuk’wali, meaning “place of a fight.”

Fifty years ago today, members of the Puyallup Tribe faced off here with local law enforcement.

Tahmina Martelly, Of World Relief Seattle, gives a tour of the Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden in Kent. Martelly says among the coverted crops grown here by immigrants are these hairy gourd vines.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

A community garden in Kent is in the spotlight as an example of climate action that empowers people who are disproportionally impacted by climate change.

The Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden fills more than an acre on a hillside that used to be an underused parking lot. The church next door donated the land.  

Students work to assemble a young female gray whale as part of a class at Seattle Pacific University.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Inside Seattle Pacific University’s Eaton Hall, a small group of students huddle around the huge skull of a gray whale, whose bones they’ve all been studying intently for two weeks. Then, they take turns drilling into it.

King County Executive Down Constantine unveils the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan at the Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden in Kent on Thursday.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

King County Executive Dow Constantine has unveiled his proposal for the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan. It’s a five-year roadmap that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade. Among the details is a pledge to plant 3 million trees and make buildings and transit greener.

A record population of razor clams has just been counted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

It looks like it could be a wonderful year for razor clam digging. The state’s annual summer survey is done and Coastal Shellfish Manager Dan Ayers says their count of clams at Long Beach came in at 24 million.

AstroTurf in the Puyallup River, near the site of Electron Hydro's dam improvement project.
Courtesy of the Puyallup Tribe

UPDATE, Sept. 14:  Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier says he wants to see the obsolete Electron Dam removed from the Puyallup River. He issued a letter to the head of Electron Hydro, extending the county’s stop-work order because of the AstroTurf and requiring a list of 14 steps to be carried out immediately.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Puget Sound at low tide is a joy well known to many in the region. It’s a formative experience for many children here, overturning rocks to see all the tiny crabs and sea stars that live amidst colorful seaweed, kelp and barnacles.

But few people are as versed in the lesser-known critters that live in the tidal zone as Seattle naturalist Kelly Brenner. She specializes in anything without a backbone. Brenner is the co-founder of an online event called #Invertefest, which challenges anyone who wants to take part to find and help document the lesser-known or less-celebrated creatures in our midst. She also wrote a recent field guide to Seattle, which includes chapters on marine life.  

We waded into the saltwater together during a recent low tide at Constellation Beach, near Alki, so she could show me around — and introduce me to some of her favorite invertebrates.

Soon the Pilchuck River will be redirected to its original channel, after the removal of two dam structures that have held it back for more than 100 years.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This week, the Pilchuck River will be redirected to its original channel, after the removal of two dam structures that have held it back for more than 100 years. It’s a relatively small project, compared to the monumental dam removals on the Elwha River in 2014 or even this summer’s explosive demolition work on the Nooksack.

But taking down this 10-by-60-foot barrier promises to dramatically improve critical habitat for salmon and steelhead. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Victoria, British Columbia, is about ready to finally stop dumping raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A new $580 million treatment plant will be up and running by the end of this year.

The almost completed sewage facility is controversial. U.S. politicians and environmentalists have wanted it for a long time. Others assert the natural currents of the Strait of Juan de Fuca naturally break down the effluent.

FILE - In this July 13, 2007 file photo, a worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska.
Al Grillo / The Associated Press (file)

Opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska say the fight to stop it is far from over. Leaders from the United Tribes of Bristol Bay are preparing a challenge after the Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Friday.

Daniel Sorenson walks through the new 5-acre park in unincorporated North Highline, east of White Center in King County.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Audio Pending...

King County is getting a new, 5-acre park. It will serve an urban area where residents currently have to travel at least 2 miles to get to open space. It’s coming together in record time, at a site in unincorporated North Highline, east of White Center.

An increase in private use of fireworks this year — like these sold at Wild Willy's Fireworks tent in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 29, — likely added up to at least as much air pollution as normally registered from large communal displays.
Nati Harnik / The Associated Press

If you felt like there were more fireworks going off in your neighborhood this year around the Fourth of July, you’re probably right. Air quality data is in. And local agencies say even though all the major public displays were canceled, the small particle pollution registered was equivalent to previous years. 

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, left, speaks as Gov. Jay Inslee looks on during a news conference, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in Seattle, where Ferguson announced a lawsuit against agrochemical giant Monsanto over pollution from PCBs.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press (file)

SEATTLE (AP) — The agrochemical giant Monsanto has agreed to pay Washington state $95 million to settle a lawsuit that blamed it for pervasive pollution from PCBs — toxic industrial chemicals that have accumulated in plants, fish and people around the globe for decades.

A new study finds that plastic pollution is not just a problem for the world’s oceans. It’s everywhere – including in the air, where tiny fragments known as microplastics can be carried by wind and rain to places as remote as national parks and wilderness areas.

In a Sept. 28, 2011 file photo, a native fisherman displays a salmon he pulled from his net on the Duwamish River, in Seattle
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press (file)

A coalition of environmental groups, commercial fishermen and the Makah Tribe are suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to roll back water quality regulations in Washington state. At issue are human health standards that the EPA itself forced the state to adopt just a few years ago.

Wesley Hull / Courtesy of Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association

A federal judge has thrown out a general permit for the shellfish industry in Washington that has reduced the regulatory burden on them for decades. Now, growers will have to apply individually to continue existing operations. And an industry group is planning to appeal.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

She will be home in 2020.

That was the word from members of the Lummi Nation who have not given up on their efforts to free the captive Southern Resident orca some call "Lolita" from her cement tank at the Miami Seaquarium. A nonprofit law group has now joined the fight, bringing new legal tactics to the battle.

Joey Manson, center director of the Seward Park Audubon Center, birdwatching Sunday with his colleague Armand Lucas at Be’er Sheva Park, in Seattle's Rainier Valley.
Glenn Nelson

Audio Pending...

If you’re Black in America, something as innocent as bird-watching can cause suspicion. A social media campaign is celebrating African Americans taking back that space. It’s called Black Birders Week.

A racoon spotted by one of the cameras in the Grit City Carnivore Project in Tacoma on May 5th, 2020.
Courtesy of the Grit City Carnivore Project, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and UW Tacoma.

The slowdown of daily life under stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus has many of us feeling more connected to nature. We hear more birdsong in the mornings. The air seems cleaner. Perhaps we’re seeing more wildlife in the parks as we take walks in our neighborhoods. But the change of pace hasn’t necessarily benefitted urban wildlife.

courtesy Northshore Utility District

Local utility districts have been warning for some time of issues with so-called "flushable" wet wipes. Despite what the labels on many packages say, they are much too durable to be flushed. If sent down the loo, they damage pipes, pumps and entire sewer systems.

In this May 15, 2019 photo, the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Colfax, Washington. The dams are blamed for reducing salmon numbers on the Snake and Columbia river systems.
Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Salmon need cold water to survive. Dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers are making the water too hot, in some places by as much as 5 degrees.

Now, after a drawn-out lawsuit and direction from the state of Washington, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has released plan to change that.  

Paula Frier / The Associated Press

Most state public lands will reopen Tuesday as Gov. Jay Inslee’s order to ease restrictions on outdoor recreation takes effect. But not Washington’s coastal beaches.

Seattle City Light is going through a detailed federal process over the next five years, to meet regulations to keep operating the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Seattle City Light has started the process of relicensing three large dams in the North Cascades that supply the utility with about a third of its power.  

The utility will go through a detailed federal process over the next five years, to meet regulations to keep operating the 100-year-old Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. The current license was enacted in 1995 and expires on April 30, 2025.

Jeanne Clark / Courtesy of SDOT

At the same time that the City of Seattle has been keeping some parks closed because of concerns about COVID-19, it has opened up certain neighborhood streets for pedestrians, cyclists and skaters to get out more and move.

People wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walk past a mural of the world in Philadelphia, Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Matt Rourke / The Associated Press

Washington’s broadest coalition of climate activists is using the 50th anniversary of Earth Day to call for a just recovery from COVID-19.

Tacoma's controversial liquefied natural gas facility is among the projects that could be affected by the drop in prices for fossil fuels.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The impact of the new coronavirus on the global economy has caused prices for fossil fuels to plummet. As everything has slowed down, demand has shrunk to just a fraction of what it was before governments told people to stay home to slow the spread of disease.

Visitors view a widened passage for salmon to swim up the Middle Fork of the Newaukum River under Middle Fork Road near Chehalis, Wash., Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 — an example of restoration work the Quinault say would be undermined by the proposed dam.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

“Extinction is not an option.”

That’s the headline on a statement released Thursday by the Quinault Indian Nation, as the tribe formally announced its opposition to a proposed dam on the upper Chehalis River. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The state Department of Natural Resources is closing all DNR-managed lands to public recreation. The closure goes into effect Thursday and will last through at least April 8. It’s an additional step in government efforts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.