Environment | KNKX


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

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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.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The end of this year’s legislative session has been overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak. The session started with high hopes for new state policies to reduce climate warming greenhouse gas pollution, stoked by youth climate strikes as well as cities and the Puyallup Tribe declaring climate emergencies.

FILE -- This Aug. 3, 2009 photo shows clerk Allison Ure lifting groceries she's bagged in a plastic sack at the M Street Grocery in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington is poised to become the ninth state in the nation to ban the use of thin plastic bags in retail sales. After passing both chambers of the Legislature with strong bipartisan support, it was signed by the president of the state Senate on Wednesday.  

In this March 23, 2015 photo, Chris Owens pulls a geoduck clam out from deep in the sand while harvesting geoducks for Taylor Shellfish Farms near Harstine Island, Wash.
Ted S. Warren / AP Photo/ file

While lots of people are feeling frightened or inconvenienced by the novel coronavirus, at least one group is also financially devastated: geoduck divers. They normally sell the huge, iconic bivalves as a luxury export item, primarily for customers in China. Not right now. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Images

The Chehalis River has flooded 18 times in the past 20 years, sometimes submerging Interstate 5 near Olympia. The local Flood Control Zone District is proposing a new dam to prevent extreme high water. A draft environmental impact statement is now out for public comment.  

An orca is seen swimming free in the Salish Sea.
Photo by Katy Foster

UPDATE, Feb. 27, 2020: The Whale Sanctuary Project that was considering sites in Western Washington and British Columbia has announced it will not be setting up here anytime soon. It has chosen to start its work in Port Hilford, on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. That location will be primarily dedicated to rehabilitating beluga whales that are retiring form marine parks and aquariums.

Puddles, a dog used by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to sniff out invasive quagga and zebra mussels during boat inspections, waits for instructions during a demonstration of her skills for reporters.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

At a public boat launch on Black Lake, south of Olympia, Sgt. Pam Taylor holds dozens of small, dark black shells in the palm of her hand. At her side is an inquisitive white hound, barking enthusiastically.

“These are what I put in the little socks to train Puddles,” says Taylor, an inspector with the Aquatic Invasive Species program at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It's Invasive Species Awareness Week in Washington. Public officials, like Taylor, are warning that non-native invaders can proliferate quickly and wipe out native ecosystems. And they’re calling on the public to help find them and prevent their spread.

In this May 17, 1999 file photo, two Makah whalers stand atop a dead gray whale, moments after helping tow it to shore in the harbor at Neah Bay, Wash. Earlier in the day, Makah Indians took it in their first hunt since opting out 70 yrs. earlier.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

A little less than a month remains for public comment on a proposal to allow the Makah Indian Tribe to resume its hunt for gray whales.

A shopper places her goods into her car outside a supermarket in Christchurch, New ZNew Zealand, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. New Zealand plans to ban disposable plastic shopping bags by next July as the nation tries to live up to its clean-and-green image.
Mark Baker / AP Images

The proposal for a statewide ban on thin plastic bags in retail establishments is quickly moving forward.

A vote is scheduled for Tuesday in the state Environment and Energy Committee, where lawmakers heard public comments from a packed chamber this week.

Drinking water is seen on a cafeteria table in Los Angeles on Friday, Aug. 2, 2109. Among the proposals Washington legislators are still considering this session is a ban on new sales of water rights to bottling companies.
Richard Vogel / The Associated Press

Members of Washington's Environmental Priorities Coalition say they're making good progress on the legislative agenda they set for this session. The agenda comes out of annual cooperative agreements between more than 20 organizations statewide.

Ron Peltier and Betsey Wittick at Bainbridge Vinyards.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

It started over a few glasses of wine, with friends passing around a smartphone and sharing views of a sketch by late-night comedian Bill Maher.

The idea presented there, for a holiday on par with those honoring moms and dads, often provokes laughter. “I Didn’t Reproduce Day” would celebrate single people, aunts and uncles who help out — and not just by being allies to parents or mentors to young people. Maher makes the case that people who remain childless are saving resources and preventing thousands of tons of carbon pollution from warming the Earth’s climate.  

In this Aug. 28, 2017 photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state.
David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP

Four large environmental groups are suing the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

At issue is the agency's approval of Cooke Aquaculture's plans to switch to native steelhead farming in net pens in Puget Sound. The permit would apply to four existing net pens with valid leases and possibly three more later.

Kristin Haakenson / Jubilee Farm

Pacing behind his cow barn, David Haakenson looks out over the farm where his family has lived since 1989.

Today, it’s surrounded by water from the Snoqualmie River.

“It’s all frothy and logs are going down, and we’ve got water all around,” he said. “I’ve got all my tractors and trucks and vehicles, and all the animals, up here on this raised-dirt mound, and my house is a stone’s throw away, and I’ve got my row boat in the driveway.”

Nick Dubitzky (L) and farm manager Charlie Delius display the current crop of kelp at Hood Canal Mariculture during a growers workshop Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2020..
Washington Sea Grant

As seaweeds grow in the ocean, they naturally pull carbon dioxide from the water for photosynthesis, much as trees pull CO2 from the air. Many people in western Washington see an opportunity in that.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Leaders from five Coast Salish tribes joined a delegation from the United Tribes of Bristol Bay in Seattle this week to formally unveil a Bristol Bay Proclamation.

It demands that the U.S. government protect the tribes' way of life, as “people of the salmon,” by halting the permitting process for the so-called Pebble Mine in Southeast Alaska. And it’s a pledge of unity in a fight that has been an uphill battle.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to the media after a state Supreme Court ruling that reinstated a severely limited version of his plan to cap carbon pollution in the state, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in Olympia, Wash.
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

In a close ruling, the state Supreme Court has partially invalidated the Clean Air Rule drafted by the Department of Ecology.

The court says it cannot be used to regulate companies that sell or distribute petroleum or natural gas, because they don't make their own greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters of climate action remain optimistic.

The Capitol dome is seen across Capitol Lake in Olympia. Lawmakers have passed a bill banning defenses based on a victim's gender identity or sexual orientation.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

As the new session gets underway in Olympia today, environmental groups have released their legislative priorities.

Items topping their list this year are renewed attempts to pass a clean fuels standard to reduce carbon pollution from transportation, as well as a statewide ban on thin, single-use plastic bags. 

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has signed an executive order implementing a Green New Deal for the city to fight climate change.

As she signed the executive order, Durkan also announced $250,000 in environmental justice grants, going to seven projects that respond to the impacts of climate change. 

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

It's not only a new year but Jan. 1 also marks the start of new regulations on recycling for residents of King and Pierce counties.  

Seattle Public Utilities and King County Solid Waste are no longer accepting plastic bags or plastic wraps in curbside bins. (Pierce County already made this change). Instead, residents are asked to bundle these thin plastics up at home and take them to drop off sites at retail stores.

The main reason for the change is that thin plastics get caught in the gears of the sorting machines that separate different kinds of recycling. 

The half-built LNG facility at the Port of Tacoma.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The Puyallup Tribe and a coalition of environmental groups have filed two separate appeals against the permit for a controversial liquefied natural gas plant at the Port of Tacoma.

Island Spring Organics owner and founder Luke Lukoskie samples the processed soy that will become organic tofu.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Transportation remains the largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases in Washington. Tailpipe emissions amount to about 40 percent of the problem.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency wants to tackle that with a first-ever regional clean fuels standard, covering King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties.  

A young southern resident killer whale chases a Chinook salmon in the Salish Sea near San Juan Island, Washington, in September 2017. Image obtained under NMFS permit #19091.
John Durban/Southwest Fisheries Science Center / NOAA Fisheries

Chinook salmon – the Northwest’s largest and most iconic fish species – are shrinking.

Researchers have documented that adult kings returning from the North Pacific are on average 10 percent shorter and as much as 30 percent lighter than 40 years ago.

Larry Workman / Quinault Tribe

Rising sea levels caused by global warming hit coastal communities the hardest. In Washington, many of those communities are tribes that settled near the water long before climate change became an issue. A new bill moving through Congress aims to provide them with more relief.  

The liquefied natural gas facility under construction in Tacoma's tideflats recently received its final permit from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Environmental groups in Tacoma say they're planning a swift appeal against the decision from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency approving a permit for the liquefied natural gas facility that's being built in the city's tideflats.

Members of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians gather alongside students at Chief Leschi Schools for climate emergency vote.
Courtesy of Puyallup Tribe

The governing council of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians has approved a resolution declaring a climate emergency. The vote took place at a special meeting held during an assembly at Chief Leschi Schools, with all grades of the schools gathered around.

Makah Tribal Council member Patrick Depoe has been present since the hearing started last week. He says the response this time around is nothing like 20 years ago.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This story has been updated to include remarks from members of the Makah tribe. 

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.