Environment

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.

Aaron Kunz

A study released Monday by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences indicates that some mammals might be unable to keep up with environmental changes.

The study looked at nearly 500 species in North and South America. It determined that close to 10 percent will not be able change habitat in order to keep pace with climate change.

Governor John Kitzhaber

Gov. John Kitzhaber said Thursday that power customers could play a bigger role in the state's clean energy future. He spoke at the Northwest Smart Grid Summit in Portland.

The governor says a smarter power grid can help Oregon reach his 10-year goals for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Spring Weather Makes For Tricky River Management

May 9, 2012
Sadie Babits / Boise State Public Radio

Warmer temperatures this week have kept river levels high in Idaho as mountain snow melts. It’s been a challenging year for those who manage the state’s river systems. That’s because the spring runoff happened a month earlier than last year. It's brought flooding along the Boise River and raises questions about water availability next year. Just ask Ron Abramovich. He's a hydrologist and water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Boise. 

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Just in time for another anniversary of the catastrophic Mount St. Helens eruption, the U.S. Forest Service is reopening an architecturally-striking visitor center. The Coldwater Ridge facility has been closed for the last four seasons.  The center reopens next week with a new mission and purpose.

Northwest Universities Get Nuclear Grants

May 9, 2012
Courtesy of Donald Wall

The nuclear industry faces a generation gap. A lot of the people who run nuclear power plants are nearing retirement. Now the Obama Administration has awarded $6.3 million to Northwest universities to help train the next generation of nuclear leaders.

Donald Wall directs Washington State University’s Nuclear Radiation Center in Pullman. The reactor is surrounded by the university’s golf course.

“I like to joke that WSU features probably the only golf course in the world that has a nuclear hazard.”

Rhodes International

The owners of a Caldwell frozen bread and cinnamon roll plant will pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency more than $84,000 for hazardous chemical violations.  

The EPA announced Monday that Rhodes International stored large amounts of anhydrous ammonia at its Caldwell facility without proper reporting to public safety officials.  The chemical is a toxic gas that can cause serious injury or death. 

The average Idaho Power customer will pay at least $5.50 more a month starting this summer.   The state public utilities commission will likely go along with the company’s requests.    

Tim Merrick / US Geological Survey

 

The Boise River is under a flood warning for the next several days.   Dave Groenert  is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boise. He says that warning will remain at least for the next seven days as temperatures rise. “They (temperatures ) look to peak at the middle of next week Wednesday,” explains Groenert. “And then after that cool back to normal.”

New wind generation station in Eastern Washington

May 2, 2012
Dan_H / Flickr

You may be familiar with the sight of wind turbine generators in the Columbia Gorge, but soon, dozens of the tall structures will be built some 40 miles south of Spokane.

Washington DNR

National experts predict parts of the West, including southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon, are at a higher than normal risk for wildfires this season.

A map of the Western U.S. shows three tendrils of red. One looks like a statue from Easter Island whose foot and tail cover Southern California.  Its thin body extends across Nevada while its misshapen head reaches into the southern border of Oregon and Idaho. 

Washington DNR

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise has released its annual prediction for the summer wildfire season.  Parts of ten Western states – including Idaho - are at higher than usual risk of wildfires.  

Anna King / Northwest News Network

In the remote valleys of southeast Oregon both birds and cattle flourish. This is where mountain streams feed an oasis of lakes and marshes in the high desert. Cattle ranchers and wildlife advocates have been fighting over that valuable grassland for decades. Now, they’ve struck a delicate truce that keeps both birds and burgers in mind.

Washington DNR

Some hard-to-read global weather patterns are making this year’s fire season difficult to forecast. That’s according to experts at federal agencies that track wildfires. But as best they can tell, the Northwest is in for a milder season than other fire-prone parts of the country.

The leaders of the nation’s forest, land and emergency management agencies told reporters on a conference call Thursday they’ve started positioning engines, air tankers and helicopters at strategic locations.

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