Covering Your Climate: The Emerald Corridor — Impacts, fixes and rethinking everything

As the Pacific Northwest faces serious impacts from climate change, and moves to respond, the Society of Environmental Journalists provides a special in-depth report on how journalists can tell the unfolding story. The “Covering Your Climate: The Emerald Corridor” project, which launches this week with an extensive issue backgrounder, to be followed soon by tipsheets and a toolbox listing sources, documents and other material helpful to journalists of all beats covering climate issues.

Senator: To help orcas and salmon, seawalls should be a last resort

Newly proposed legislation in the Washington Legislature would require waterfront homeowners along Puget Sound’s 2,500-mile shoreline to consider fish-friendly fixes when replacing concrete seawalls. Proponents believe it’s the best opportunity to soften the Sound’s shores and jumpstart populations of forage fish that feed juvenile Chinook salmon, the preferred food of endangered orcas. The building lobby and others aren’t convinced.

Legislature, Inslee struggle to fix roads that block salmon, help starve orcas

Puget Sound’s beloved orcas are at risk of extinction and scientists say one key step to rescuing them is boosting oceangoing runs of chinook salmon, the biggest, fattest and most nutritious kind of salmon and the killer whales’ main food source. But legislators seeking to open up more than 1,000 miles of prime inland spawning areas that are currently blocked to the fish by culverts are struggling to find a funding source. What is blocking all those fish? Culverts. These are the pipes and tunnels that pass under roads throughout the state, allowing water to flow downstream. It turns out that many old highway projects in the state were poorly engineered where they intersect with salmon-bearing streams and as a result can block the fish in a variety of ways.

Trump is not the only one cutting Puget Sound funding

President Trump’s proposed $28 million cut of Puget Sound restoration funding has provoked an outcry. But loss of federal funding is not the only cause for concern. State funding, which pays for a much larger share of those restoration costs, also is facing cuts, leaving the fate of Puget Sound restoration funding up in the air.

Fish habitat protection program stirs controversy

The Washington Legislature is considering a bill on whether and how to strengthen one of the state’s oldest natural resource permits and the only one dedicated to protecting fish habitat. But the threat of lawsuits, potential budget cuts, and a decades old jurisdiction debate may prevent it from passing.

Can environment break through Olympia’s school-funding logjam?

Should fighting climate change translate into spending more on education? That’s what Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is advocating. Wrangling over this and related proposals to shore up longstanding education-funding shortages will likely overshadow most environmental issues in the 105-day legislative session that got under way this week. But builders, environmentalists, legislators and others in the environmental arena say that even with the education-funding debate taking center stage, they will try to move forward on a slew of fronts. Subjects likely to come up include growth management, water rights, Puget Sound restoration and cleanup of toxic waste sites.