Katie Campbell

This fall marks the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act – a piece of legislation that changed the way water  in this country is regulated and protected.

Pollution was supposed to be curtailed so that fish from all the waters in America would be safe for people to eat. 40 years later, though, many waterways still bear fish too tainted to consume safely.

Lonesome Larry Hits 20-Year Anniversary

Jul 19, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

This year marks the twenty year anniversary of Lonesome Larry, a lone sockeye salmon that made the 800 mile trip from the ocean to Redfish Lake in central Idaho. It helped jump start a multi-billion dollar effort to save Snake River salmon from certain extinction.

Lonesome Larry wasn’t a large salmon - in fact he was barely a foot long. Sockeye aren’t the largest species of salmon. An average Chinook is typically twice that size or larger. But Lonesome Larry didn’t care, he swam - upriver past eight gigantic federal dams, up raging waterfalls and past countless natural predators.

Feds Confirm Mysterious Idaho Bug Is New Pest In U.S.

Jul 19, 2012
Idaho Department of Agriculture

Federal agriculture officials say the Northwest has the first appearance in the country of an invasive insect known as the “elm seed bug.” The pest was discovered in southern Idaho in Ada and Canyon counties.

It doesn’t pose a threat to crops or livestock. But  it could prove to be a major nuisance for homeowners.

A few weeks ago, Ken Pollard started noticing small, brown, winged insects invading his home in Nampa, Idaho. “We were wondering if we had done something weird with our house that we were being picked on by nature,” he says.

Northwest Lawmakers Upset With NOAA

Jul 18, 2012
NOAA/ Coastal Response Research Center

Lawmakers from the Northwest say a new federal grant to help clean up tsunami debris is just not enough to get the job done. They’re lobbying for millions of dollars to get rid of items washing ashore from last year’s tsunami in Japan.

Lawmakers are calling the debris a slow moving environmental disaster and its already starting to wash up on the region’s shores. The cleanup is expected to take years. Members of Congress are asking the federal government for more than forty million dollars to assist local officials in an unprecedented cleanup effort.

Public Got Heated At Dynamis Hearing Tuesday

Jul 18, 2012
Jessica Murri

Dynamis’ Vice President Pete Johnson started Tuesday night’s public hearing on the new waste-to-energy plant by asking everyone to stay calm and refrain from booing.

But the atmosphere quickly turned contentious at the first chance the public got to voice their opinions on the new plant.

When Richard Llewellyn, a concerned biochemist and Boise resident, started his question with a series of comments on his concerns for the environment, Johnson cut him off, asking if he did indeed have a question.

The room of 70 people quickly filled with arguing and outrage.

Poll Finds Water Quality A Top Concern In Northwest

Jul 18, 2012
Katie Campbell

A new public opinion poll finds that water quality ranks as Northwesterners’ top environmental concern.

DHM Research asked 1,200 residents in Washington, Idaho and Oregon about their environmental concerns. Sixty percent said they worried about drinking water, and 54 percent said they were concerned about local lakes, rivers and streams. That result tracks with previous polls.

People said they were happy, overall, with the water that comes out of their tap.

Clean Water: The Next Act - Seattle's Duwamish River

Jul 18, 2012
Katie Campbell

This fall marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and over the next few month's EarthFix and Investigate West will be reporting on the Northwest's water. This ongoing special report begins with Seattle’s Duwamish River. 

It's been the industrial heart of the city for a century. It’s been straightened, filled and diked. During World War II thousands of airplanes were built there. Today cargo from around the world arrives in massive container ships, lining the mouth of the river. Industrial facilities dot its banks.

Oregon Governor Declares Emergency Due To Wildfires

Jul 18, 2012
George Orr / Inciweb

Oregon's Governor John Kitzhaber declared a state of emergency Tuesday in response to wildfires that have burned more than 1,100 square miles in southeastern Oregon. Crews have gained the upper hand on the largest blazes in Harney and Malheur counties, but thunderstorms could start new fires this week.

The Governor's executive order directs state agencies to assist affected landowners and seek federal disaster assistance.

More Of Idaho's Land Goes Wild

Jul 17, 2012
Deb Love / Trust for Public Lands

The Forest Service purchased 80 acres of private land last month along the Salmon River, in an effort to protect wilderness.

The Trust for Public Lands, a national nonprofit organization, helped the Forest Service acquire that land last month.

Northern Rockies Director for the Trust Deb Love says it’s important to buy up private land and protect it as wilderness.  She says doing so helps the Forest Service manage the land without worrying about pockets of private property.

Andrus Center for Public Policy

The wildfires burning here in the West recently led the New York Times to ask this question: Does the government cause or prevent wildfires?

The Times invited eight people to weigh-in on fire policy. One of them was Marc Johnson of Boise. He's president of the Andrus Center for Public Policy.

Johnson says the government’s plan needs to be more focused.  Click 'Listen' to hear his comments.

Read Johnson's opinion piece here.


Aaron Kunz

A sea of volunteers clad in yellow vests swarmed through the area that burned near Pocatello Saturday to help clean up the area.  Some 2,000 volunteers helped. The Charlotte Fire burned more than 1,000 acres and destroyed 66 homes, damaging many others. 

Volunteers came from around Eastern Idaho to cut down burned trees and help get construction crews access to damaged houses. Seventy property owners registered for help on Saturday.

Pocatello Fire Ruled An Accident

Jul 16, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

The fire that burned 66 homes in Pocatello in June was human caused. Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen says whoever started the Charlotte Fire doesn’t even know.

The sheriff believes there was no criminal intent. Nielsen says a spark from a dragging chain on the road could have started it. He says this fire could have been prevented by being aware and taking precautions with such dry conditions.

Long Draw Fire Slows, Search For Cattle Begins

Jul 16, 2012
Amelia Templeton / Northwest News Network

Officials say the massive Long Draw fire in South East Oregon stopped actively burning over the weekend. The fire consumed more than 900 square miles of rangeland. Amelia Templeton reports, ranchers are searching for their cows.

The night the fire started, Jeanette Yturriondobeitia saddled a horse and rode out to meet the flames. She and her husband tried to drive their cattle to safety.

One hundred thirty two of the cows died. Now Yturriondobeitia is bringing water and painkillers to the surviving cattle.

National Interagency Fire Center

Firefighters made progress containing several fires in southern Idaho yesterday.  The Bureau of Land Management’s Mallory Eils says crews have now contained the Benwalk, South Indian, MM 66 I-84, MM43 Hwy 78, and Coyote fires.  A small fire in the Boise foothills was also contained Wednesday.  Officials from the BLM’s Twin Falls district reported success there as well. 

Adonofrio / Flickr Creative Commons

Warning signs line the beach of Robie Creek off Lucky Peak Reservoir after recent testing showed E. Coli in the water earlier this month. Lauri Monnot, Watershed Coordinator for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, says no one has a confirmed case of the illness.

Robie Creek has a history of E. Coli.  Monnot says the water was contaminated in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and now 2012.  The DEQ performed a source assessment last year, but all leads dead-ended. 

UPDATE 4:10 PM: The Boise County Sheriff issued a voluntary evacuation notice for people living in the Clear Creek subdivision.  That’s because the  Avalene fire is burning about a mile away from homes.  The subdivision is off Highway 21 about halfway between Boise and Idaho City.

David Olson, a spokesman for Boise National Forest, says the fire has burned 250 acres so far and is not contained.

10:00 AM:  A small fire is burning in the Boise foothills this morning.  Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Mallory Eils says the fire is located between 8thStreet and Rocky Canyon Road.  The fire is less than four acres in size and is not threatening any homes.  Eils says a hand crew, dozers and at least four engines have been sent to fight the fire.  The BLM is overseeing the firefighting effort.

The fire has closed some trails in the area.  Here's a post from Boise Parks and Rec's Facebook page:

New Fires Sparked, Some Threaten Homes

Jul 10, 2012
Ashley Smith / Times-News

Update 10:30 PM:  More fires popped up Tuesday afternoon across several regions of Idaho.  At the same time, firefighters continued to make progress on the state’s largest fires.  Lightning strikes and human activity are both being blamed for the latest batch of fires. 

Several tiny fires burning parts of the Boise National Forest in Boise County are threatening homes.  Residents of the Clear Creek subdivision have been encouraged to evacuate.  Authorities say the fires have been as close as ¼ to ½ mile from houses.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr

There’s been a haze over southwest Idaho since Monday evening from several fires in the region. The air quality in the Treasure Valley Tuesday falls in the moderate range. Dave Luft with Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality says that’s considered safe for most people.

Update 7:40 a.m.:  The Benwalk Fire burning near Mountain Home shut down I-84 for several hours Monday night but this morning the freeway is back open.  The blaze grew over night to an estimated 15,000 acres. 

Update 10:30 p.m.: Thunderstorms that moved through southern Idaho Monday sparked several new fires around the state. The Benwalk fire near Mountain Home is now around 12,000 acres. At this hour  I-84 remains closed and evacuations have been issued.