Environment

Idaho National Laboratory

Some cleanup efforts at a nuclear waste landfill in eastern Idaho are on hold while workers try to figure out what caused a collapse in a dig area that sent an excavator into a pit.

The excavator was digging up transuranic waste — which is waste contaminated with highly radioactive elements.

No radiation was released during the incident last Thursday, and no one was injured, said Erik Simpson with Fluor Idaho, the contractor hired to clean up the site at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife / Associated Press

Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Department is holding a second hearing on a wolf plan Friday in Portland. The plan is unpopular with ranchers and wolf supporters alike.

Oregon didn’t have documented wolves before 2005. Since then, thanks to the animals crossing over the border from Idaho, Oregon now has 11 packs, totaling at least 112 wolves. Twelve years ago, the state adopted a plan to manage the wolves but wants to revise it now that the population is growing.

Linn Kinter / Idaho Fish and Game

As we've reported, the Japanese yew is a commonly planted ornamental evergreen in Idaho -- with lethal ramifications for wildlife. Once an elk eats just a couple handfuls of the plant, the animal goes into cardiac arrest and dies within hours. Idaho Fish and Game estimates about 75 elk and pronghorn around the state died this winter from eating yew.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Toward the end of Table Rock Road in Boise, Bob DiGrazia points to a ridge a few hundred yards away.

“It was on January 5th I walked up here," he says. "And I could see birds and coyotes over here. Like coyotes on one carcass,  six to eight [of them].”

DiGrazia is a hunter and he often comes to this spot to just watch elk on the ridge grazing in the winter. That January day, he could see dead elk on the ground in distance. At first he thought poachers were to blame.

He called Idaho Fish and Game and a conservation officer came up right away.

Roger Phillips / Idaho Department of Fish and Game

It’s that time of year, when the quiet Nampa Fish Hatchery starts delivering thousands of mostly rainbow trout around the state for anglers to catch. But high water means some of that prime fishing will have to wait.

Each year, Idaho Fish and Game stocks more than 22 million fish from 12 different hatcheries into lakes, reservoirs and ponds. Most of the 18 species of fish are rainbow trout and kokanee salmon.

Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

Wood River Valley residents continued to battle floodwaters over the weekend. Officials distributed sandbags as worried residents moved to fortify their homes throughout Blaine County. 

The Big Wood River continued to rush along at flood-level stages. The river hit a peak level on Friday night, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began reinforcing the Broadford levee in Bellevue. On Saturday, Governor Butch Otter arrived in Hailey to meet with local officials.

Each day, librarian Randy Kemp has seen Warm Springs Creek rise and rise by his Ketchum home.

Boise River, Flooding
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Boise River levels will be on the rise again next week. Officials  with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation hope that by increasing it from 8,900 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 9,500 now, they can reduce the risk of more severe flooding later this spring.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

For the first time since 2011, the Pacific Northwest isn't showing any signs of drought.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows that Oregon, Washington and Idaho are free from drought worries.

Kathie Dello, deputy director of Oregon's climate office, says the Northwest saw lots of precipitation during the water year that began in October.

She says snow and rain came earlier and stayed later. Typically drier months such as October, February, March and April were wetter than usual across the region.

The Peregrine Fund/Bosch WebCam

The Peregrine Fund announced this week that four American Kestrel eggs have hatched in the well-watched nest in Boise. It is the sixth year the birds have raised a family live on a webcam.

The female laid the first egg on March 27 and four other eggs slowly followed. Usually eggs are laid every other day but the Peregrine Fund says a storm slowed the process down this year. After some fits and starts, four of the five eggs hatched over the weekend.

Idaho Fish and Game

After an emergency declaration was issued for Blaine County Monday by Lt. Gov. Brad Little, the Army Corps of Engineers say they're sending a small group to the region to help with flooding.

The Corps is sending a three person crew to assess flood risks to public infrastructure and help Blaine County emergency management staff. Members of the Army Corps team are experts in both hydraulic and civil engineering. Another task the group will assist with is coming up with contingency plans should a worst case scenario unfold.

Cathleen Allison / AP Photo

A new study of sage grouse in Eastern Washington found a surprisingly large benefit from a federal program that subsidizes farmers to plant year-round grasses and native shrubs instead of crops.

The study concluded that is probably the reason that sage grouse still live in portions of Washington's Columbia River Basin.

"Without these lands, our models predict that we would lose about two thirds of the species' habitat, and that the sage grouse would go extinct in two of three sub-populations," said Andrew Shirk of the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group.

U.S. Department of Energy via AP

A portion of an underground tunnel containing rail cars full of radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday at a sprawling storage facility in a remote area of Washington state, forcing an evacuation of some workers at the site that made plutonium for nuclear weapons for decades after World War II.

Officials detected no release of radiation at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology.

Dave Thomas / Flickr

The warm temperatures late last week are being blamed for rising flood waters in parts of Blaine and Elmore Counties.

NIFC

The National Interagency Fire Center issued its Fire Potential Outlook this week. With the harsh winter depositing plenty of snow in the mountains, the risk of fire for the next few months in the upper elevations should be reduced.

Across Idaho, NIFC is predicting a slow start to the fire season – especially in the mountains, according to Bryan Henry. The manager at NIFC’s Predictive Serives says reserves of mountain snow from the winter are melting slowly.

Miguel Vieira / Flickr Creative Commons

Around 6,000 acres of dead trees in the Sawtooth Valley and Stanley Basin will be thinned to prevent wildfires. The move is part of a plan introduced last week at a meeting of the Sawtooth Valley Wildland Fire Collaborative.

The Collaborative was founded five years ago in the wake of the devastating Halstead Fire that scorched 179,000 acres. One of the key partners is the nonprofit Sawtooth Society, whose mission is to protect more than half a million acres of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

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