EarthFix

Environment
8:20 am
Mon June 3, 2013

How Fish Screens Help Farmers And Save Fish

Children examine a fish screen.
Credit Courtney Flatt / EarthFix

If proper equipment isn’t installed on irrigation pipes and pumps, fish can get sucked into farmers’ fields and drainage ditches. That clogs pipes and kills fish. A new fish screen was just installed on a Central Washington River to prevent this from happening. It's the first of its kind in the state.

When migrating fish and debris get sucked into farmers’ pipes and ditches, it’s bad news for farmers and for fish.

“If a fish goes into a ditch, it’s unlikely it will turn around and get out. It typically will die there.”

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Green Energy
8:24 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Portable Wind Turbines Bring Renewable Energy To Cities

Credit Powersails

Tall, noisy wind turbines may not go over well in some urban areas. A northwest company has developed residential-sized turbines to push renewable energy to cities. The portable turbines could also generate power during disasters.

During southern California’s hot summers, people ramp up air conditioners and use more power than normal. That forces utilities to conserve energy and shut off power at specific times and places.

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EarthFix
8:53 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Study: Grazing Helps Invasive Cheatgrass To Flourish

The invasive plant Cheatgrass can increase the frequency and severity of range and fires. A new study out of Oregon State University suggests that overgrazing could be helping an invasive grass to flourish.
Credit PNNL - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study out of Oregon State University suggests that overgrazing could be helping an invasive grass to flourish. That differs from previous studies that have found grazing can better manage that plant — cheatgrass — which threatens rangeland habitat.

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Water Quality
1:03 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

USGS Losing Some Critical Stream Gauges

While this stream gauge is still operating, three more like this one were shut down because of budget cuts.
Credit Aaron Kunz / Earthfix

A federal agency is planning to shut down down as many as 150 stream gauges nationwide. The first round of closures started this week. Those gauges provide life-saving flood warnings and even how bad a drought is.

Stream gauges are tools that help monitor how much water is in our rivers and streams. These are small outbuildings standing beside waterways. Each one shelters data-gathering equipment.

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Salmon
8:12 am
Thu March 28, 2013

Northwest Tribes Maximize Steelhead Populations

Credit Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Steelhead in the Columbia River Basin are threatened. Current populations have dwindled to a fraction of the historic numbers a century ago. That has led two Northwest Indian Tribes to try something new to help this struggling fish survive.  Both tribes are learning from each other along the way.

The snow is almost gone in north Idaho. But it’s still cold, almost freezing on this early morning at the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery near Orofino.

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EarthFix
7:49 am
Thu February 7, 2013

Idaho Nuclear Task Force Issues Final Recommendations

The Idaho nuclear task force presented its final report to lawmakers Wednesday afternoon. It’s raising concerns from environmentalists who say it leaves the door open to transporting radioactive material into the state.  

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EarthFix
7:34 am
Tue February 5, 2013

How Long Will Nuclear Research Power Idaho's Desert Communities?

Employees at the Idaho National Lab work on a nuclear reactor.
Credit Idaho National Lab

The Idaho National Lab (INL) is the nation’s lead nuclear research laboratory. It’s also an economic engine for eastern Idaho. There are fears that with big federal spending cuts - the INL could lose it’s ‘national lab’ designation or be closed altogether.

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Endangered Species
2:03 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Officials Recommend Wolverine For Protection Under Endangered Species Act

Scientists say the wolverine population is between 250 and 500 in the U.S., including those in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. They are under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act because of climate change.
Credit Flickr/NH53

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says wolverines need to be protected under the Endangered Species Act because warming temperatures are shrinking their habitat.

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EarthFix
7:17 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Environmental Groups Seek Ban of Common Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

An apple orchard east of the Washington Cascades. The EPA banned home use of chlorpyrifos in 2001 because it can harm the nervous system. But it’s still commonly used on crops like wheat, alfalfa and apples in the Northwest.
Credit Flickr/agit-prop

Three environmental groups will make the case in court Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to act on their petition to the agency to ban a common pesticide, chlorpyrifos.  

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Energy
7:57 am
Fri December 14, 2012

At Public Meeting Seattle Shows Strong Opposition To Gateway Pacific Terminal

Opponents of plans to build coal export terminals in the Northwest waved their signs in support of comments made at the coal export hearing in Seattle.
Credit Michael Werner / EarthFix

More than 2,000 people showed up Thursday to tell regulators what they think should be considered in the environmental review of a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Wash. If built, it could be the largest such facility on the West Coast.

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Mining
9:47 am
Thu December 13, 2012

Audit Pushed To Rekindle Mining Act Reforms

Credit Hecla Mining

A report released Wednesday indicates the United States government has no idea exactly how much gold, silver and copper is being dug up from public lands. Lawmakers say it’s one more reason to overhaul a mining law from the 1800s.

When companies drill for oil, natural gas or coal, they must report how much they obtain. And they pay royalties for the minerals they extract. That puts $10 billion into the U.S. Treasury every year, according to the Government Accountability Office.

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Nuclear Waste
5:00 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Idaho Task Force Considers Nuclear Waste

Idaho LINE Commission meeting on August 16, 2012
Credit Aaron Kunz / Earthfix

A task force in Idaho issued a first draft Monday of recommendations that could include the shipment of spent nuclear waste into the state.

Idaho’s Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission offered 60 preliminary recommendations. The goal is to strengthen the role of nuclear energy in Idaho and establish a future for one of the state’s largest employers, the Idaho National Lab.

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EarthFix
9:43 am
Wed November 21, 2012

How Creating a Market For Juniper Could Help Oregon’s High Desert

Credit USDA

You can stroll into any lumber yard in the Northwest and walk out with a load of pine, fir, cedar, or maple wood.  Ask for juniper, though, and you’ll probably get a blank look. But that may change. Juniper trees have overpopulated eastern Oregon, and scientists say they're sucking the high desert dry.

A group of environmental entrepreneurs thinks the best way to restore the desert is by creating a commercial market for juniper.

When you walk into Kendall Derby’s mill, the first thing you notice is the smell. It’s sharp and evergreen. Like the high desert after it rains.

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Nuclear Energy
5:57 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

Idaho LINE Commission Delays Recommendation

An Idaho task force will delay its release of a draft proposal on ways to strengthen the state’s nuclear energy industry. 

The Idaho Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission was expected to release its draft recommendations on Monday so the public could weigh in. From there, it planned to deliver a final version on January First to Governor Otter.

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Energy
9:17 am
Thu November 15, 2012

NW Power Utilities Turn Focus to Energy Efficiency

Credit Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Northwest power utilities have been pushing for energy conservation. It’s a way they can keep up with their customers' future demand for electricity. There are plenty of incentives if you buy an energy efficient appliance. But these days, utilities are finding more inventive ways to promote awareness.

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Election 2012
12:28 am
Wed November 7, 2012

Voters Sign Off On Amendment To Protect Right To Hunt, Fish And Trap

Credit Creative Commons Courtesy: @thekevinchang

A constitutional amendment to protect the right to hunt, fish and trap has been approved by a wide margin by Idaho voters.

With nearly 50 percent of precincts reporting, HJR2 earned support from 74.4 percent of voters early Wednesday morning.

Idaho now joins 13 other states that have added similar language into their state constitutions.

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Mining
4:54 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Idaho Miner Says He's Not Interested in Salmon River

This section of the Salmon River was where Mike Conklin of Grangeville had intended to dredge for gold.
Aaron Kunz EarthFix

A gold miner who got the go-ahead to dredge a half mile section of the Salmon River in Idaho may be calling it quits.

Mike Conklin of Grangeville, Idaho told the Idaho Department of Lands he won’t be signing the lease he worked for this past summer. The lease approved by the State Land Board would have given him the exclusive right to mine on a half mile of the Salmon River three hours north of Boise.

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EarthFix
11:17 am
Mon October 15, 2012

Northwest Utilities Target Football Fans With New Efficiency Campaign

Aaron Kunz EarthFix

An alliance of Northwest power utilities kicked off a campaign this month to curb energy use by college football fans.

The energy efficiency campaign is called “Are You Fan Enough.” It gives people the chance to win a furnished tailgate party and a new energy efficient TV.

Ty Stober is the initiative lead for the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. He explains that nearly half of the TV’s in the U.S. are older tube based models.

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Clean Water Act
9:57 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Northwest Cities And Towns Still Struggle To Control Sewage Plant Pollution

Paul Gilliland is the mayor of an Eastern Washington town of Harrington. He's pictured collecting a sample of water that will flow into a lagoon. The mayor is getting certified to be one of its operators.
Courtney Flatt EarthFix

A major goal of the 1972 Clean Water Act was to stop cities and towns from discharging raw sewage. The federal government gave communities billion of dollars to build wastewater treatment plants. But those early grants are gone and those plants have aged.

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Energy
4:04 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Federal Energy Commission Makes Statement on Wind Energy

Aaron Kunz EarthFix

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Idaho Power must honor its obligation to purchase energy from wind farms. But it stopped short of taking enforceable action while the Idaho Public Utilities Commission decides how to rule on the case.

Gene Fadness is a spokesman with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. “This order comes even before we’ve made a decision," explains Fadness. "The wind developers wanted something before a commission order hoping that that would perhaps sway the commission in their deliberations.”

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