KNKX Public Radio

Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KNKX's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.

Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KNKX's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.


Tacoma, WA


Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KNKX's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.






12180 Park Ave S. Tacoma, WA 98447 253-535-7758


USGS pressing for expansion of lahar detection sites around Mount Rainier

Officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior and United States Geological Survey have been touring sites in Mount Rainier National Park this week. They’re looking at five new locations where upgraded monitoring stations will soon enhance detection of lahars. There’s also a proposal to add another 12 lahar monitoring stations in the park, to complete an expansion they say will put detection at Rainier on par with other high-threat volcanoes in the region, such as Mount St. Helens.


Salish Sea Shared Waters forum wraps up third and final year of work to reduce risks of oil spills

Washington has been stepping up systems to prevent and reduce the risk of oil spills, due in part to the looming expansion of Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline. It could result in as much as a sevenfold increase in the number of oil tankers traveling from Vancouver, B.C., through Puget Sound. In 2018, the state Legislature passed the Strengthening Oil Transportation Safety Act. Among its requirements, along with a barrel tax on crude oil and updates to contingency plans for oil spills, was...


'Incredibly insensitive': How a proposal to honor the childless tanked on Bainbridge Island

This story originally aired on February 14, 2020. It started over a few glasses of wine, with friends passing around a smartphone and sharing views of a sketch by late-night comedian Bill Maher. The idea presented there, for a holiday on par with those honoring moms and dads, often provokes laughter. “I Didn’t Reproduce Day” would celebrate single people, aunts and uncles who help out — and not just by being allies to parents or mentors to young people. Maher makes the case that people who...


New whale watch licensing system will reduce noise, disturbance of endangered orcas

Despite the happy news that Puget Sound’s Southern Resident killer whales welcomed two new babies to the J-pod last month, their population remains at risk, with just 74 left in the wild. A new licensing requirement for commercial whale watch boats is expected to start next year . It aims to reduce noise and other stress that could be impacting them, by regulating the numbers of boats allowed in proximity of the Southern Residents as well as when and how long the whales can be watched.


Puyallup Tribe plans to sue Pierce County dam owner over AstroTurf, impacts on fish

The Puyallup Tribe intends to sue Electron Hydro and its backers over violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. The tribe’s 60-day notice, filed in federal court, comes after a whistleblower working at the Pierce County dam site this summer revealed that the company was using artificial turf in the Puyallup River.


Washington officials deploy new tools in race to eradicate invasive Asian giant hornet

It’s been a busy week for Washington state agriculture officials tracking the potential spread of the Asian giant hornet. Scientists say they found evidence of six new hornets near Blaine, indicating the likelihood that a nest is in the area. The invasive species, sometimes called murder hornets, can decimate honeybees and other pollinators, threatening ecosystems and agriculture. Fifteen of them have now been found in Washington since they were first seen here last year.


Public scoring ends tonight in Port of Seattle’s renaming campaign for 6 Duwamish River parks

The Port of Seattle owns and operates six public parks along the Duwamish River that many people don’t even know exist. That’s changing as the port engages community in a renaming process meant to help residents reclaim the properties and their heritage.


Another air quality event could hit Western WA this week, but smoke forecast is murky

Forecasters here are monitoring smoke from California that has the potential to reach Western Washington this week. Easterly winds have revved up and the smoke is accumulating offshore. Some of it is expected to flow north, but how much, exactly when and how it impacts air quality once it arrives are all open questions at this point.


Lummi tribe continues pressing for return of Puget Sound orca held captive for 50 years

Fifty years ago this week, the killer whale some call Lolita arrived at Miami Seaquarium. She was captured at Penn Cove, in the waters off Whidbey Island, in early August 1970, along with dozens of other young orcas. Sold for about $20,000, she arrived in Miami on Sept. 23, where she received her stage name and has lived ever since, in an 80-by-35-foot tank. Originally named Tokitae by her trainers, she is the last surviving Southern Resident orca in captivity.


Pierce County executive pushes for dam removal after owner’s use of harmful AstroTurf

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier says he wants to see the obsolete Electron Dam removed from the Puyallup River . This comes after an employee revealed that the private owner of the dam was illegally using discarded AstroTurf in the river during work on upgrades this summer.


The standoff at this Pierce County bridge 50 years ago codified tribal treaty fishing rights

A deep red modern span stretches over Pacific Highway on the bridge that links Tacoma to Fife, carrying a steady stream of cars and trucks over the Puyallup River. The bridge and an older portion of it nearby were recently renamed by the City of Tacoma in collaboration with the Puyallup Tribe. It’s now called the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge and in Twulshootseed, yabuk’wali , meaning “place of a fight.” Fifty years ago today, members of the Puyallup Tribe faced off here with local law...


In Kent, a garden empowers those most impacted by climate change

A community garden in Kent is in the spotlight as an example of climate action that empowers people who are disproportionally impacted by climate change. The Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden fills more than an acre on a hillside that used to be an underused parking lot. The church next door donated the land.


How to know a whale: Students articulate skeleton at Seattle Pacific University

Inside Seattle Pacific University’s Eaton Hall, a small group of students huddle around the huge skull of a gray whale, whose bones they’ve all been studying intently for two weeks. Then, they take turns drilling into it.


King County's proposed Climate Action Plan highlights equity for frontline communities

King County Executive Dow Constantine has unveiled his proposal for the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan. It’s a five-year roadmap that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade. Among the details is a pledge to plant 3 million trees and make buildings and transit greener.


Razor clam count shows surging population, but digging season could be derailed by COVID-19

It looks like it could be a wonderful year for razor clam digging. The state’s annual summer survey is done and Coastal Shellfish Manager Dan Ayers says their count of clams at Long Beach came in at 24 million.


'Close this dinosaur down.' Owner of Pierce County dam under fire for use of AstroTurf

UPDATE, Sept. 14: Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier says he wants to see the obsolete Electron Dam removed from the Puyallup River. He issued a letter to the head of Electron Hydro , extending the county’s stop-work order because of the AstroTurf and requiring a list of 14 steps to be carried out immediately.


A world of wonder: Celebrating invertebrates at low tide

Puget Sound at low tide is a joy well known to many in the region. It’s a formative experience for many children here, overturning rocks to see all the tiny crabs and sea stars that live amidst colorful seaweed, kelp and barnacles. But few people are as versed in the lesser-known critters that live in the tidal zone as Seattle naturalist Kelly Brenner . She specializes in anything without a backbone. Brenner is the co-founder of an online event called #Invertefest , which challenges anyone...


Pilchuck Dam removal nearing completion, with 37 miles of good fish habitat upstream

This week, the Pilchuck River will be redirected to its original channel, after the removal of two dam structures that have held it back for more than 100 years. It’s a relatively small project , compared to the monumental dam removals on the Elwha River in 2014 or even this summer’s explosive demolition work on the Nooksack. But taking down this 10-by-60-foot barrier promises to dramatically improve critical habitat for salmon and steelhead.


Controversial sewage facility in Victoria, B.C. nears completion

Victoria, British Columbia, is about ready to finally stop dumping raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A new $580 million treatment plant will be up and running by the end of this year. The almost completed sewage facility is controversial. U.S. politicians and environmentalists have wanted it for a long time. Others assert the natural currents of the Strait of Juan de Fuca naturally break down the effluent.


Fight over Pebble Mine isn't over yet

Opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska say the fight to stop it is far from over. Leaders from the United Tribes of Bristol Bay are preparing a challenge after the Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Friday.