Northwest

Energy
5:30 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Columbia River Transmission Project In Limbo After Ancient Art Discovery

Robert Zornes' property near Wishram, Washington is where the Bonneville Power Administration proposes to cross a new transmission line across the Columbia River Gorge.
Credit Colin Fogarty / Northwest News Network

Northwest history is colliding with the need to upgrade the region’s electric transmission grid. It’s happening on a windblown patch of riverfront property at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge.

The Bonneville Power Administration is trying to build a new transmission line across that land. But conflicts over historical preservation have increased the cost of the project to $185 million and stalled progress for more than a year.

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Do It Yourself
5:05 am
Fri August 2, 2013

NW "Hackerspaces" Double As Private Incubators For Entrepreneurs

Michael Rohde demonstrates a pendulum-powered light that he's perfecting at the Olympia, Wash. maker space, OlyMEGA.
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

“Hackerspaces" are popping up all over the Northwest. These aren't dens of computer infiltrators but rather community workshops for tinkering, machine tooling, 3-D printing and any other hands-on creativity you can think of.

"Our original name had the word 'hack' in it,” explains Justin Burns. He co-founded a hackerspace now called OlyMEGA. That’s short for Olympia Makers, Engineers, Geeks and Artists. “Those of us in the know, knew what it meant, felt like it was a positive term, but it was not perceived that way on the outside."

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Wildfires
8:32 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Homes Destroyed As Northwest Fire Season Lives Up To Forecasts

A helicopter drops water on the 10,000 acre Lodgepole Fire near Challis, Idaho.
Credit USDS Forest Service

A fire that started Saturday morning near Wenatchee, Wash., has now burned more than 60 square miles in rugged terrain. The fire has burned five homes and the residents of another 60 have been told to evacuate. It's one of nearly two-dozen major fires now burning across the Northwest.

Forecasters predicted a higher-than-normal fire season this year in parts of the region.

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Northwest News Network
5:30 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Cleanup Options For Radioactive Waste Near The Columbia River Goes Public

This is the 300 Area, near the Columbia River, after the clean-up of about 50 acres.
Credit Washington Closure Hanford

This week federal officials roll out a series of public meetings around what to do about radioactive materials that are near the Columbia River. This area of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is known as the 300 Area.

It’s where workers milled uranium rods and tested ways to process plutonium during WWII and the Cold War. They poured about 2 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste a day into sandy ponds and trenches next to the Columbia River.

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Climate Change
4:59 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Carbon Dioxide Injected Under Columbia Basalts In Climate-Related Demonstration

Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Fri July 26, 2013 4:37 pm

A long delayed experiment to demonstrate how a global warming gas can be locked up forever deep underground has finally started. Technicians working with the Pacific Northwest National Lab are injecting carbon dioxide down a well south of Pasco, Washington.

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Drought
8:17 am
Fri July 19, 2013

88 Percent Of Idaho Is In A Moderate To Severe Drought

Credit U.S. Drought Monitor / USDA

Federal agencies have expanded how much of the Northwest they think is suffering from drought. Updated figures released Thursday shows 88 percent of Idaho's territory is now categorized in moderate to severe drought. Just over half of Oregon is similarly parched. Washington state is faring better with just a sliver - 2 percent -  classified in drought conditions.

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Agriculture
8:28 am
Thu July 18, 2013

Big Blueberry Crop Sinks Prices For Farmers

Leonard Flores, 27, a forklift operator checks out the just picked fruit at Middleton Farms near Eltopia, Wash.
Credit Anna King / Northwest News Network

North America’s blueberry crop is so substantial this year that farmers say prices are dropping. That’s after about a decade of rapid expansion of new plantings.  The Northwest is one of the top producers of blueberries in the nation and July is the peak of harvest.

Blueberries are some of the most profitable crops in Washington, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That explains why farms have been planting thousands of acres in the last decade. And the result this year?

“We’re having just record volumes of blueberries," Alan Schreiber says.

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Wildfires
8:02 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Goodbye Rain, Hello Northwest Fire Season

Credit Kari Greer / Boise National Forest

Say goodbye to the rain. The Northwest and parts of Canada are about to see an abrupt shift from unseasonably cool weather to record-breaking temperatures, in some areas. Triple digit highs are expected to settle over the region for the next week.

It's going to be a tough wildfire season in the West. That's according to federal forecasters. But here in the Northwest, it's been hard to see that prediction through all the rain.

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Energy
7:48 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Proposed Columbia River Crude Oil Shipping Terminal Would Be Largest In The Northwest

The proposed Tesoro/Savage crude oil terminal would be built on this rail loop at the Port of Vancouver, Washington on the Columbia River.
Credit Port of Vancouver USA

Oil refiner Tesoro and a terminal operating company named Savage detailed plans Thursday for the biggest crude oil shipping terminal to be proposed in the Northwest. It would be located on the Columbia River at the Port of Vancouver, Washington.

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Research
7:47 am
Thu June 27, 2013

300 Retiring Research Chimps Are In Need Of Homes

Credit Nilsrinaldi / Flickr Creative Commons

The National Institutes of Health Wednesday announced it will retire the great majority of chimpanzees used in federally-supported medical research. The institute director says the use of our closest animal relative for invasive studies can no longer be justified in most cases.

That means more than 300 chimps are headed into retirement. Neither of the two chimpanzee sanctuaries here in the Northwest say they're prepared to take new chimps.

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Agriculture
8:04 am
Tue June 25, 2013

Northwest Wine Is Poised To Do Well, Despite Climate Change

Credit Anna King / Northwest News Network

The Northwest is well positioned to make wine into the future despite global climate change. So says a scientist who presented his findings on climate change and wine at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. Monday.

Wine grape vines can be productive for decades. But how will climate change affect that? That’s the question Antonio Busalacchi, with the University of Maryland, sought to answer. He analyzed climate data for 24 prime wine growing regions throughout the world.

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Immunizations
11:53 am
Thu June 20, 2013

Oregon Votes To Make Immunization Opt-Out Tougher

CDC

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 4:51 pm

  Oregon parents could soon find it harder to skip having their children immunized.

The Oregon House Wednesday sent a measure to the governor that would add steps to the way parents can opt out of the requirement. A similar law went into effect in Washington state two years ago.

More than 6 percent of Oregon children enter kindergarten without the required number of vaccines. That rate is among the highest in the nation, and it has public health officials concerned.

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Mining
9:38 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Poll Finds NW Residents’ Support For Coal Eroding

Credit Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

A new survey finds support for coal export terminals has dropped over the past year among Northwest residents. It also finds support for a region-wide approach to measuring the environmental impact of exporting coal.

A public opinion poll for EarthFix asked Northwest residents how they felt about transporting coal from Montana and Wyoming through the Northwest. That coal would then be exported to Asia. There are now three proposed export terminals in the region.

DHM Research surveyed 483 residents in Washington, Oregon and Idaho from Friday through Monday.

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Electric Cars
8:07 am
Wed June 12, 2013

Low Cost Leases Electrify Plug-In Car Sales On West Coast

Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

A couple years ago, Democratic politicians at the state and national levels set heady goals for battery powered cars. For example, here's President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union speech.

"With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015," he said.

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Farming
8:44 am
Thu May 30, 2013

Discovery Of Genetically Modified Wheat Could Jeopardize Northwest Exports

Oregon State University and the USDA say they've confirmed wheat growing in eastern Oregon was genetically modified. That's lead to concerns that consumers in Asia and Europe won't want to buy wheat from the region
Credit flickr/jonny boy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Wednesday that an Oregon field is contaminated with a genetically modified strain of wheat. Northwest growers are concerned the finding could hurt this year’s export sales.

About ten years ago Monsanto field tested a wheat variety that was resident to the herbicide Roundup in 16 states. But it was never approved for commercial use.

Now the USDA is investigating why that genetically modified wheat appeared in Oregon this spring.

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Energy Efficient Homes
9:13 am
Thu May 23, 2013

Super-Energy Efficient Homes Built To Inspire More Stringent Codes

A NEEA "Next Step Home" pilot home in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood.
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The homes of the future will come with remarkably low heating bills. At least that's the hope of a Portland-based non-profit showcasing 13 super energy efficient homes in four Northwest states. The question is, can you afford to buy one of these houses?

The model homes are scattered among many of the big cities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The houses don't look unusual from the outside. But all have been designed to use at least 30 percent less energy.

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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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Cheatgrass
6:05 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Study: Cheatgrass Severity Affected By Grazing

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.

The invasive plant cheatgrass can increase the frequency and severity of rangeland fires.

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Oil Spill
11:43 am
Thu May 9, 2013

How To Clean Up A Crude Oil Spill From Trains

Pacific Northwest refineries have been getting their crude oil for years from tankers and pipelines. Last September, trains began shipping crude oil into the region by rail. 

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Hydropower
11:30 am
Thu May 9, 2013

Hydropower Bills Open Gates Of Bipartisanship In Congress

Snohomish County PUD

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 9:29 am

An effort to streamline the regulatory process for small hydropower dams is generating a rare moment of bipartisanship in Congress. Two bills sailed through a Senate committee Wednesday. They've already passed the House.

Whatever gridlock exists elsewhere, it didn't show up in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A voice vote was unanimous.

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