Environment

Storify: Severe Storms Move Across Treasure Valley

Jun 4, 2012
Debbie Kettles

Thousands of Idaho Power customers lost power as a major storm ushered in Tuesday's cold front. Wind gusts were, at times, as fast as a car on the highway. Below you'll find some of the tweets and photos as this storm moved across the Treasure Valley. 

[View the story "Severe Thunderstorm Moves Through Treasure Valley" on Storify]

The federal government is fining a north Idaho mining company $360,000 for unsafe practices that killed a miner last year. That’s about a third of the penalties that were expected. 

Last year federal inspectors said the Hecla Mining Company engaged in “aggravated conduct” when it allowed miners to extract silver ore from a mass of unstable rock. It happened about a mile underground at the Lucky Friday Mine near Mullan, Idaho. The practices led to a tunnel collapse that killed 53-year-old Larry Marek, according to a investigation.

Severe Thunderstorms Usher In Cold Weather

Jun 4, 2012
Sadie Babits / Boise State Public Radio

Sure it's been warm and balmy today throughout much of Idaho with highs in the 80s. But tomorrow, you'll be grabbing a jacket as you head out the door for work. 

Gold mining with small dredges is popular in the rural Northwest. Friday, the 9th circuit court ruled that the Forest Service has to strengthen its regulation of this kind of mining in salmon streams.

The Forest Service has been streamlining permitting for small scale dredge mining.  Even on rivers where endangered species like Coho salmon might be harmed.

Two Boise Firemen Die in Utah Air Tanker Crash

Jun 4, 2012
Washington DNR

Two Boise  men died Sunday while fighting a fire in Utah. The deaths come as the Western wildfire season is picking up steam.

Authorities in Iron County, Utah say the men died when the air tanker they were flying crashed. The victims have been identified as 48-year-old Todd Tompkins and 40-year-old Ronnie Chambless, both of Boise. The fire started after a lightning strike Friday night near the Utah-Nevada state line.

Scott Ki / Boise State Public Radio

The Pacific Northwest, including most of Idaho, should have a decent whitewater season this year.   Ample snowpacks in the mountains mean good river flows through the summer.  Kayakers and rafters in Idaho north of the Snake River should benefit.

Zoo Boise

What’s thought to be a wolf puppy, picked up by campers in Ketchum, is resting in Zoo Boise’s animal hospital.  The campers who found the pup took it to a local vet who contacted Idaho Fish and Game. 

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

An endangered sloth bear at Zoo Boise is getting a new home.  Last fall, the Zoo started to renovate Paji's exhibit.  Friday it opens back up to the public where they'll likely find Paji siting in the grass, relaxing in the sunshine.  

A California American Indian tribe Tuesday asked federal regulators to order the removal of four dams on the Klamath River. The tribe says a restoration plan for the river is stalled.

The Klamath River runs through the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s reservation. The tribe says the four dams upriver contribute to toxic algae blooms and salmon diseases. Power company PacifiCorp owns the dams and has signed a deal that would remove them by 2020.

The Peregrine Fund

The kestrels have hatched!  In a story we told you last month, the Peregrine Fund is asking citizen scientists to put up nest boxes and monitor American Kestrel populations across the U.S.  The American Kestrel Partnership has a box with a webcam posted at the

In Ashland, A Crime Lab For 34,000 Species

May 29, 2012
Amelia Templeton / Earthfix

The illegal trade of wildlife is big business- worth an estimated 5 billion dollars a year, and growing. But who do you call to investigate a crime when the victim is an elephant, or a butterfly?

Turns out, there’s only one forensics team in the world that can handle crimes involving thousands of rare and endangered species. The team works at the U.S Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland, Oregon. The lab isn’t open to the public. But reporter Amelia Templeton got a glimpse inside.

WSU Researchers Patent Longer Battery Life Technology

May 28, 2012
WSU

Researchers at Washington State University say they've found a way to keep lithium batteries charged three times longer. These are the batteries used in laptops, cell phones and electric vehicles.

The key ingredient in the new battery design is tin, as a replacement for carbon, which is more common.

Study: Summer Thunderclouds Warm the Atmosphere

May 28, 2012
cbamber85 / Flickr

Researchers in the Northwest have found some pollution is making thunderstorms stronger and the atmosphere warmer.

Those giant, anvil-shaped thunderclouds you see looming in the distance may actually be getting bigger and stronger this summer, all because of aerosol pollutants.

Bruce Bjornstad

A new book details how a dramatic series of Ice Age Floods transformed the landscape of the inland Northwest.

The new book called, “On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: The Northern Reaches,” details what happened when floods whooshed into the Northwest and created the channeled scablands.

Bruce Bjornstad spent five years researching and writing his geologic guidebook. One fact in the book: It might have been as many as 1,000 floods that shaped the region, not just two or three big events.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

An alleged “secret scheme” to allow more nuclear waste into Idaho is at the center of a squabble between current and past governors. 

Former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus (D) wrote in an op-ed Sunday he believes state and Idaho National Laboratory officials want to “revise” a 1995 agreement.  That agreement requires the federal government to remove all nuclear waste from INL by 2035.  Andrus said revisions would extend the deadline by fifteen years, and open Idaho’s borders to 3,000 metric tons of commercial spent nuclear fuel. 

Killer Of Grizzly Mother And Cub Sought

May 24, 2012
Kim Keating / U.S. Geological Survey

Idaho state and federal officials are searching for whoever killed a female Grizzly bear and her cub. Grizzly bears are a federally protected Endangered Species. The incident occurred north of the town of Bonners Ferry on Hall Mountain. The animals were discovered on Friday by a hiker.

Idaho Oil And Gas Rights Up For Auction

May 23, 2012
Aaron Kunz

The natural gas industry is interested in mineral rights in a Idaho wildlife area. This month, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission authorized the state to auction off the mineral rights for nearly 400 acres in the Payette River Wildlife Management Area. The auction could take place in late July.

Suzanne Budge is with the Idaho Petroleum Council. She explains why the company, Snake River Oil and Gas, is interested in the mineral rights.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Early Tuesday morning a Boise police officer shot and killed a mountain lion on the Boise State campus. Idaho Fish and Game Senior Conservation Officer Matt O’Connell says it’s likely the same cat that was first spotted in an east Boise foothills neighborhood Friday...and seen several times Monday morning near downtown. O’Connell says police responded to calls from Boise State staffers who saw the lion eating from a dumpster near the student union building. He says that’s unusual behavior for this species.

Mountain Lion Spotted in Downtown Boise, BSU Campus

May 21, 2012
California Department of Fish and Game

Boise Police and Idaho Fish and Game are on the lookout for a mountain lion spotted in several downtown locations this morning. Boise State University issued an automated phone alert after the animal was sighted on campus, near the Friendship Bridge at 5:57 AM.

Northwest Residents Observe 'Ring of Fire'

May 21, 2012
Amelia Templeton

Something called a Ring of Fire eclipse happened last night, but only a limited part of Earth’s population was in a position to see it. Millions of people in Asia enjoyed the rare light show in which the moon blocked all of the sun’s light except a flaming ring. Then the phenomenon moved on to the western U.S., where a handful of cities were directly below the moon’s shadow. Earthfix caught up with the eclipse near the border of Oregon and California. 

Energy Northwest / Northwest News Network

The Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant appears to have won permission to operate for another 20 years. That’s the word Friday from Energy Northwest, which operates the Columbia Generating Station in southeast Washington.

David Baxter / Northwest News Network

Another piece of confirmed tsunami debris – part of a restaurant sign – has washed ashore in Alaska. But marine scientists can’t say how much other Japanese disaster debris is trailing behind. This problem surfaced at a U.S. Senate hearing Thursday. Researchers are now getting some access to spy satellite imagery.

Report: Save Water, Save Energy

May 18, 2012

A Northwest environmental group is offering a new reason to conserve water: it’s a way to save energy and shrink your carbon footprint.
 

Conservation group Idaho Rivers United monitored 15 water providers in western Idaho to see how much energy they used. It’s the first research of its kind in the country -- and it’s attracting attention.

Liz Paul of Idaho Rivers United says the group hopes the information gives the public a new way of thinking about the water they use.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Boise is revamping its commercial recycling program in an effort to get more businesses to sign up.  Right now, there are 4,000 commercial trash customers, but only 1,000 of them participate in the recycling program.  That means a lot more trash goes into the landfill.  Catherine Chertudi is the solid waste programs manager for Boise Public Works.   “Businesses do dispose of seven time more trash then a residence," she explains. "So there’s a huge opportunity to divert those materials to recycling.” 

A Water Plan For Fish, Families And Farmers

May 17, 2012
Courtney Flatt

Boise gets a visit tonight from a man who’s helped negotiate an ambitious plan to restore the Yakima River Basin in central Washington.  Michael Garrity will speak at an event that starts at 5:45 at Bardenay.  Courtney Flatt reports on the plan that’s finding a way to restore the basin, while making sure fish, farmers and communities have enough water.  

Turn on your faucet, and you’re pretty much guaranteed water will pour out. But managing the water that’s running down our mountainsides and into our streams is not that simple, especially in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

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