How Fish Screens Help Farmers And Save Fish

Jun 3, 2013
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.”

Portable Wind Turbines Bring Renewable Energy To Cities

May 16, 2013

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.

Study: Grazing Helps Invasive Cheatgrass To Flourish

May 13, 2013
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.

USGS Losing Some Critical Stream Gauges

May 3, 2013
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.

Northwest Tribes Maximize Steelhead Populations

Mar 28, 2013
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.

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.  

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.


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.


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.  

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.

Audit Pushed To Rekindle Mining Act Reforms

Dec 13, 2012
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.

Idaho Task Force Considers Nuclear Waste

Dec 3, 2012
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.


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.

Idaho LINE Commission Delays Recommendation

Nov 16, 2012

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Northwest Cities And Towns Still Struggle To Control Sewage Plant Pollution

Oct 2, 2012
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.

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.”

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

A recreational gold miner in Idaho now has the exclusive right to mine for gold on a stretch of the Salmon River. But the lease process approved by the Idaho Land Board this week raised some questions about the process he will use to get the gold.

There are hundreds of miles on the Salmon River where the only noise you’ll hear is rushing water and wildlife. But in certain places during the summer you might hear engines.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Idaho’s Fish and Game Department told stakeholders this weekend they are losing funding for valuable wildlife conservation programs. This weekend’s public summit was held to get some help from the people they serve.

Hundreds turned out for the first ever Idaho Wildlife Summit. Herb Meyr from Mountain Home attended all three days of the summit and agrees that Idaho Fish and Game needs more funding.

“I do believe that our resident hunters need to pay more for our hunting and fishing licenses to make sure that our fish and game department doesn’t go bankrupt,” Meyr says. 


When he was a kid, Mark Schmidt would fish for steelhead and salmon on the Molalla river. He’s stay with a friend in a little cabin on the banks.

“If we could so much as hear the raindrops on the shingles in the night, we were aware that we would not be fishing in the morning.”

The Molalla flows from the west slope of the Oregon Cascades. About half watershed is private forest land. Schmidt says in the 60s, the area was being heavily logged. When it rained the logging operations sent sediment pouring down the river.

“It kind of looked like orange wet cement.”

First Sockeye Reach Idaho's Stanley Basin

Jul 27, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

The first sockeye arrived in Idaho’s Salmon River this week. That’s later than usual.

Most of Idaho’s sockeye come from the Salmon River. It’s also where they return to spawn. Tom Stuart is a salmon advocate. He says the endangered salmon species is more than two weeks behind schedule. That has him worried.

“It tells salmon advocates that the red fish of Redfish Lake are still at risk,” he says.

Poll Finds Northwesterners Support Coal Export Proposals

Jul 27, 2012
Kimon Berlin / Creative Commons

A new poll finds that most residents in the Northwest are supportive of transporting coal through the region for export to Asia. DHM Research conducted the poll for Earthfix.

"Obama, rein in your regs."
That was on a sign that Wyatt Fitch held up when the President visited Portland this week.

Fitch was showing his support for proposed coal export terminals in Oregon.