Environment

Water Will Flow To Southern Oregon Farms April 1st

Mar 30, 2012
Earthfix

Idaho farmers this time of year are thinking a lot about water and wondering if there will be enough for their crops and livestock. A wet spring has boosted snow packs and hopes throughout the region. But in Southern Oregon’s Klamath Basin, farmers are a bit worried.  That's because local officials have declared a drought in Klamath County.   

Rob Unruh’s farmhouse is just about a mile from the border with California. This winter, he planted wheat in the field in front of his house, to hold the soil in place. Skinny green stalks, almost invisible, poke up out of the ground.

Tom Banse

The region’s main electricity wholesaler, the Bonneville Power Administration, has major shortcomings with regards to its cyber security and computer systems. That’s according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Energy’s investigative arm. The BPA is taking issue with the seriousness of the findings.

The federal auditor is concerned BPA is not well-enough equipped to handle a cyber attack. And the years-long review also dinged BPA for security gaps. That could jeopardize the regional electricity grid and in the worst case black out customers.

Warm Winter Means Buggy Spring In Southern Idaho

Mar 29, 2012

Here come the bugs. It was a warm winter in the southern half of Idaho. That means insects are emerging earlier and will have longer breeding seasons.

Jonathan Ross is with Gemtek Pest Control in Boise. He says calls for service are up 40 percent this month over a year ago.

 “And if we look at the last 5 or 6 years it’s really higher than it’s been any of those years.” 

Ross says he’s already getting calls for ants in people’s homes. But he’s especially worried about a possible banner year for flying, stinging insects.

Coal Train Traffic Increase Could Be Bad News For Health

Mar 29, 2012
Courtney Flatt

There are now six new export terminals proposed to be built along the Northwest coast. The goal? To bring American coal to Asia, via train and ship.

If these terminals are approved that could mean more than 100 million tons of coal traveling by rail across Idaho, Washington and Oregon every year.

The potential for more train traffic has public health experts concerned. 

A pipe failure on Monday in British Columbia has released an estimated 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage into the Columbia River. Emergency crews from the British Columbia Ministry of Environment stopped the flow yesterday afternoon.

But Washington Department of Ecology spokeswoman Jani Gilbert says once the sewage is in the river, there’s nothing they can do to clear it out.

Mike and Chantell Sackett imagine a rustic, three-bedroom A-frame, with views of Priest Lake and the rugged landscape that surrounds it. But the EPA told them in 2007 that because their plot is designated as a wetland, they could face steep fines for building.

The coupled hired engineers who dispute that finding. But they never had a chance to argue that point. In an interview last fall, Chantell Sackett said the case comes down to this exchange with a EPA manager.

"I said, 'So, why would I stop building my house? She said, 'Because we told you to.'"

At the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington, the race is on to clean up radioactive sludge buried in aging underground tanks. Some of that waste has already leaked into the soil not far from the Columbia River.

Attempts to use high-tech robotics to hose out waste tanks haven't gone as planned. And an important federal cleanup deadline is fast approaching. Anna King has visited one of the Hanford tank farms several times to see what’s causing the delays. She shares this first person account.

North Idaho Couple Celebrates Property Rights Victory

Mar 21, 2012
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

A north Idaho couple is celebrating a major legal victory at the nation's highest court. Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Mike and Chantell Sackett have the right to challenge a decision by federal regulators that their property is a protected wetland. 

Ashley Ahearn/EarthFix

SSA Marine has submitted a permit application to build a bulk export terminal in Bellingham.

If approved, the terminal will be large enough to handle up to 54 million metric tons per year.

That could include wheat and grains but the majority will be coal. It will be delivered by train from mines in Wyoming and Montana – and then shipped out of Washington to Asian markets.

About 100 people gathered outside of Bellingham high school on Tuesday night to protest the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal.

Interstate-5: It’s Electric

Mar 19, 2012

It’s getting easier to take an electric car on a Northwest road-trip. I-5 is going electric.

There’s a Chevron station just off of I-5 in Central Point, Oregon. You can buy gas there. Its more than $4 a gallon. Or you can plug in an electric car for free, and charge it in about 20 minutes. The Oregon Department of Transportation has just opened 8 stations like this one in Southern Oregon. Neil Appleton lives in Grants Grants pass. He brought his electric Nissan Leaf.

“I’ve had it close to a year. Seven thousand miles and not one drop of gasoline."

What's Next For Wolves After Court Decision

Mar 15, 2012

BOISE, Idaho -- The wolf hunt in Idaho will continue through June in part of the state. That’s because Wednesday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Congress’s decision to strip federal protection for wolves in Idaho and Montana. Aaron Kunz has reaction to the decision.

BOISE, ID – Idaho lawmakers signed off Wednesday on a plan that limits local control of oil and natural gas development.  But even supporters  say this legislation isn’t perfect.

Idaho Senators debated for nearly an hour on the powers of the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  Under this bill, the agency has final say on where to drill for wells and how to develop the industry.  Democratic Senator Diane Bilyeu from Pocatello hoped to allow local governments to call public hearings on future developments.

Natural Gas Promoted As Cheaper Fuel For Trucks In NW

Jan 20, 2012
Tom Banse/N3

SALEM, Ore. – Natural gas prices are falling and likely to stay low for the coming years. That’s because of the dramatic increase in domestic gas supply from new drilling technologies. Oil prices on the other hand are rising again.

People in this region’s trucking industry are now taking a hard look at switching to natural gas as a motor fuel. But some significant hurdles remain before you’ll see a lot of natural gas-fueled trucks on the road.

BOISE, ID – A just-released study from the Environmental Protection Agency shows Idaho far ahead of Oregon and Washington in toxic chemical releases.

Idaho reported a total of 67 million pounds of toxic chemical releases in 2010.  That’s nearly double Washington and Oregon’s combined total of 38 million.   Graham Kirn with the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle says the mining industry is a major source.

Graham Kirn:  “The metal mining releases in Idaho alone are greater than the total releases in the entire state of Washington or the entire state of Oregon.”

Ashley Ahearn/EarthFix

If you want to make it in the animal kingdom you’ve got to adapt. Take our canine companions. At one point they were wolves. But over the course of thousands of years they realized that by hanging around people, life got a lot easier.

A new study out today suggests hatchery fish may be taking a lesson from lap dogs when it comes to adapting to life in captivity.

Mark Christie, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and an author, explains:

Pages