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Environmental Watch

August 30, 2016

Ikea will install solar on Renton store

RENTON — Ikea said the solar panels it will install this fall on its new store under construction in Renton will be the largest rooftop solar array in the state.

The 244,504-square-foot solar array will consist of a 1.18-MW system with 3,420 panels, and produce approximately 1,319,000 kWh of electricity annually for the store. Ikea said this is the equivalent of reducing 927 tons of carbon dioxide — which is equal to the emissions of 196 cars or providing electricity for 137 homes yearly.

REC Solar, which Ikea said has built more than 530 systems built in the U.S., will install the system. Deacon Corp. is managing construction of the store.

This installation is Ikea's 44th solar project in the United States. Ikea owns and operates the solar PV energy systems on its buildings and said it has allocated $2.5 billion for renewable energy through 2020. It has installed more than 700,000 solar panels on buildings worldwide and owns approximately 300 wind turbines.

The new store is set to open next spring.

Bike sharing popular in Portland

PORTLAND (AP) — Portland residents have ridden 136,000 miles on bike-share program bikes since the program launched in July.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that since July 19 Biketown users have taken nearly 59,000 trips, making progress toward the city's goal of having 400,000 rides in the program's first year.

Biketown General Manager Dorothy Mitchell says the shared bicycles are getting so much more use than expected that mechanics had to be called for tuneups earlier than expected.

Portland purchased the equipment for the program with a $2 million grant and Nike inked a $10 million, 5-year sponsorship deal that grew the fleet from 600 to 1,000 bicycles.

The cost to ride is $2.50 for 30 minutes. When frequent trips are necessary, a $12 pass allows for three hours of ride time throughout the day.

Idaho drafts pollinator protection plan

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho officials are devising a statewide plan to protect the health of pollinating insects.

The Capital Press reports that the Idaho State Department of Agriculture is asking agricultural organizations and other interested groups to speak up at a public meeting scheduled for September. The Idaho Potato Commission, the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Seed Association, Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club and the Idaho Honey Industry Association have already been invited.

The department has created a draft policy that draws heavily from North Dakota's state pollinator plan. Division of Agricultural Resources Administrator George Robinson says the draft is a guidance document meant to spur discussion.

Dudley Hoskins, public policy counsel for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, says 45 states have adopted or are drafting pollinator protection plans.

Joal Swanton joins Forest2Market

KENNEWICK — Joel Swanton has joined Forest2Market as sales manager for the Western region, acting as a supply chain expert and advisor to customers, and advising the forest products industry.

Swanton will be based in Kennewick, serving customers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Northern California and British Columbia.

He has more than 30 years of experience in the wood fiber supply chain, and most recently worked at Expera's mill in Old Town, Maine. He has also worked at International Paper and Champion International.

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Forest2Market provides market pricing data, cost and performance benchmarks and analytics, as well as supply chain expertise to customers in the forest, wood products, pulp and paper industries.

Yellowstone River ‘emergency' declared

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) — The indefinite closure of Montana's Yellowstone River due to a major fish kill is raising worries about lasting impacts to the region's lucrative outdoors industry.

A 183-mile stretch of the river has been closed since Aug. 19, after tens of thousands of mountain whitefish died downstream from Yellowstone National Park.

Gov. Steve Bullock on Monday declared an “invasive species emergency” because of a parasite blamed for the fish kill. The move allows the state to spend money on grants for impacted businesses and related programs.

Fly fishing guide Chase Chapman of Livingston says he's losing tens of thousands of dollars because of cancelled trips. He says the impacts will be severe if the river remains closed long, but he's not interested in retraining for another occupation.

Bear statues pop up in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Alaska's largest city is home to more than 300 grizzly and black bears and now more than a dozen multicolored ones.

Life-size bear statues painted by city artists, part of “Bears on Parade,” are popping up as they're completed. They're part of a continuing effort to raise awareness that if you live in Anchorage, you live near bears.

“The whole point of this was to engage in conversation about bears and their habitat — the food that they eat, where they live,” said Brenda Carlson, who helped organize the program.

August 23, 2016

Oso plan wins PSRC Vision 2040 award

SEATTLE — The Economic Alliance of Snohomish County won a 2016 Vision 2040 Award from Puget Sound Regional Council for the North Stillaguamish River valley 2015 redevelopment plan that followed the Oso landslide.

“The Economic Recovery Plan for the communities affected by the Oso landslide is an excellent example of how our region can come together to respond effectively to all stages of disaster relief,” said Josh Brown, PSRC's executive director. “This plan is helping people rebuild their lives after a natural disaster that took its toll on the local economy as well.”

The plan focused on six goals: infrastructure, industry and employment, community and workforce development, resilience and sustainability, placemaking, and rural innovation. It was created by Arlington and Darrington, Snohomish County, Washington State University, Community Attributes and Workforce Snohomish.

The awards recognize innovative sustainable projects and programs.

City Light gets grant for microgrid test

SEATTLE — A microgrid project by Seattle City Light is one of five that will share $12.6 million in clean energy grants from the state that were announced by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Microgrids could provide backup power during outages or after a disaster, and make it easier to integrate renewable energy. City Light said in a press release that it is planning to develop a microgrid at an emergency shelter to test its effectiveness. The $3.5 million microgrid will include a utility-scale battery system, solar panels and emergency generators. The location has yet to be determined.

Solar panels will charge the batteries and provide some power to operate the building during normal times. After a storm or other emergency, the system can provide power even if the distribution grid is damaged.

Other recipients are Snohomish Public Utilities District, Avista Utilities, Northwest Energy, and Orcas Power and Light.

Snohomish PUD is getting $3.5 million for engineering and construction work to demonstrate new technologies for energy storage, a microgrid system, small-scale renewable energy and an electric “vehicle-to-grid” system. Design and construction is scheduled for 2017-2019.

Exploration OK near Alaska eagle preserve

ANCHORAGE (AP) — A federal agency has approved expanded exploration for a copper, zinc and gold deposit upstream of the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve outside Haines.

The Bureau of Land Management approved additional exploration work for Vancouver, British Columbia-based Constantine Metal Resources Ltd.

The company is exploring a prospect about 35 miles northwest of Haines.

The approval means Constantine will have access to as many as 40 new exploration drill sites.

The preserve is home to the world's largest congregation of bald eagles. Up to 4,000 bald eagles fly in to feed on salmon that spawn, die and collect along the Chilkat River after other waterways have frozen.

Mine critics say it's unreasonable to allow a mine, and the threat of contaminated wastewater spill or other consequence, so close to the river.

Portland school: Don't eat the veggies

PORTLAND (AP) — Lead concerns at Portland Public Schools have officials warning against eating produce from campus gardens.

KGW-TV reports an email sent Friday to families and staff said the district met with the Oregon Health Authority and received a recommendation against consuming the food.

Health officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Water tests show elevated lead levels at 99 percent of Portland public schools.

District spokeswoman Courtney Westling said the produce may have been grown with water containing elevated lead levels and is potentially unsafe.

Almost 2,000 screenings of students and staff at Portland schools found 15 cases of lead above the action level set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Clallam PUD's solar project falls short

CARLSBORG — Clallam County PUD said its community solar project did not receive enough participation to move forward with construction. Customer participation is at 59 percent and must be 100 percent to build the proposed project: a 75kW system in Sequim divided into 1350 units that customers can purchase.

Each unit would cost $250, with an estimated payback period of about 15 years.

Washington state's solar incentive is set to expire in June of 2020. The PUD offers Watts Green for customers who want to support renewable energy: http://www.clallampud.net/watts-green-power/

Wells Fargo gives grant to urban farm

SEATTLE — Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands is under siege from bindweed. Volunteers and a $30,000 grant from Wells Fargo will help Seattle Tilth restore three acres of wetlands as a natural filtration system along Lake Washington.

This is a piece of a larger effort to create a community center for environmental education and organic agriculture. The farm began in 2011, and 2,000 people have helped with farming, restoring wetlands, and producing food for community meals and low-income families.

A new classroom, kitchen and greenhouses are being built, set for completion next spring.

A fix for Walla Walla pedestrian bridge

WALLA WALLA — Copper River Energy of Boise has a $29,355 contract to replace infrastructure on a 1942 pedestrian bridge on Mill Creek near Walla Walla Community College.

Crews are replacing the concrete corbel that supports both ends of the bridge with steel structures.

The Corps said in a press release that there is currently low risk of bridge failure due to the aging corbels, but the bridge inspection team identified the corbels for replacement because the concrete is starting to show wear and could pose a safety risk. The bridge was part of the original construction in 1942.

Juneau village site deemed historic

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The traditional and cultural significance of Juneau's Indian Point has landed it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Juneau Empire reports that the roughly 78-acre parcel of land in Auke Bay is one of the original village sites of the Aakw Kwaan. The recent federal listing has given the site protection under the National Historic Preservation Act, an effort that's been pushed by the Sealaska Heritage Institute since 2004.

The institute's director of history and culture, Chuck Smyth, says members of the Alaska Native community have successfully challenged development efforts in the area for decades.

The institute will work with city and federal officials on a management plan.

August 16, 2016

Port Angeles mill, co-gen plant for sale

PORT ANGELES (AP) — A Port Angeles paper mill and a newly built biomass facility that provides the mill with electricity are for sale.

The Peninsula Daily News reports the Nippon Paper Industries USA plant and the biomass cogeneration plant are being marketed for sale by PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Finance. The company is looking for parties to acquire and continue operating the paper mill and/or co-gen facility.

City Manager Dan McKeen tells there's no sign the mill would be closed.

The Port of Port Angeles was asked to consider buying the mill but Port Executive Director Karen Goschen says the port isn't in the business of operating such facilities.

The mill was built in 1920 and carried the name Crown Zellerbach for many decades. Daishowa Paper of Japan purchased it in 1988 and later merged to become Nippon Paper Industries USA. Nippon is the only maker of telephone book paper in the United States.

Agricontrol 2016: Farming with robots, drones

SEATTLE — An international conference about the ways technology is changing agriculture runs through Wednesday at DoubleTree Hotel at SeaTac, organized by Washington State University. Topics range from apple-picking robots to drones that look for pests in cherry orchards.

Agricontrol 2016 speakers, agenda and information are at http://ifac.cahnrs.wsu.edu/.

More than 130 agricultural engineers, computer scientists, growers and students are here from 25 countries.

Manoj Karkee, associate professor in the WSU, said, “Automated agriculture wasn't possible due to limited computational power. Machines weren't fast enough. Now, a lot of the component technologies have come together,” and will help solve challenges in labor, worker safety, efficiency and productivity.

He said WSU's apple-picking robot could become widespread in less than a decade.

Waterline would go under Malheur River

VALE, Ore. — The Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking comments until Sept. 15 on a draft finding of no significant impact and environmental assessment for a waterline project that could alter the Malheur River levee system in Vale, Oregon.

The city wants to replace an 8-inch water transmission line that crosses the Malheur River with a 14-inch line as part of other improvements.

The 1,300-foot-long line would involve horizontal drilling under the river and levees constructed by the Corps.

Links to the FONSI and EA are at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/EnvironmentalCompliance.aspx.

Feds seek bids for wind turbines off N.C.

KITTY HAWK, N.C. (AP) — The Obama Administration is inviting companies to bid for the right to build wind energy turbines off North Carolina's Outer Banks.

The Interior Department announced a proposed lease sale last week for 122,000 acres beginning about 28 miles off Kitty Hawk that includes part of the Outer Continental Shelf. The government has previously announced lease availability for two offshore areas near Wilmington and four areas offshore of South Carolina.

Once leases are awarded, there would be environmental studies of the specific areas and reviews of specific construction plans.

The first wind farm in U.S. offshore waters may begin generating power off Rhode Island this year.

State to fight ruling on smelter's toxic air

SPOKANE (AP) — Washington state and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation say they intend to challenge a federal appeals court ruling last month that said a Canadian Company can't be held liable for toxic air pollution that drifted into the state.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the decision from a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals partially dismissed Superfund claims against Teck Resources, which owns a smelter in Trail, British Columbia. For more than a century, pollution from the smelter's smokestacks funneled down the Columbia River valley and settled over Northport, Washington.

Testing has found high levels of lead and arsenic downwind of the smelter, and a federal judge in Spokane found the company liable.

But the appeals court said that emitting pollutants into the air did not meet the definition of actions for which the company could be held responsible. The state and tribes say they will seek a rehearing in the 9th Circuit.

‘Crazy snake worm' threat to Ore. forests

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A new invasive species known as the “crazy snake worm” has been found in Oregon.

The Capital Press reports that the Oregon Department of Agriculture has confirmed the worm has been found in Clackamas and Josephine counties in 2016.

The worm, Amynthas agresitis, is otherwise known as the “Asian jumping worm” because it is distinctively energetic.

Agriculture officials say the worm may have an adverse effect on Oregon forests, as it consumes detritus on the forest floor, removing the protective layer that plant seeds need to sprout.

The worm reproduces asexually, meaning it doesn't take many individuals to establish a population.

Tribes now can gather national park plants

PHOENIX (AP) — Tribes can begin entering into agreements with the National Park Service to allow their members to pick plants on protected land under a new federal rule.

The rule announced in June by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell went into effect last week.

Under the rule, tribes must have a culturally significant tie to the land that makes up a national park in order for its members to harvest foliage that grows there. Native Americans or Alaskan Natives must use the plants for traditional reasons.

There are 58 national parks in the U.S.

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