Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dead zone returnsto Oregon Coast

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. - For the sixth year in a row, a dead zone of oxygen-depleted water that kills crabs and drives out fish is forming off the Oregon Coast, raising the possibility it could become the new normal as the climate warms, scientists said Monday.

The formation appeared to be dissipating in early July, but a survey of the 25 miles of Continental Shelf between Newport and Cape Perpetua last Friday by the Oregon State University research vessel Elakha found conditions returning to those of last year.

"It does, indeed, appear to be the new normal," said Jane Lubchenco, professor of marine biology at OSU. "The appearance of the low-oxygen water again is consistent with predictions of climate change. The fact that we are seeing six in a row now tells us that something pretty fundamental has changed about conditions off of our coast."

Unlike the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, which is caused by fertilizer washing down the Mississippi River, the Oregon Coast dead zone is triggered by northerly winds, which create an ocean-mixing condition called upwelling.

This brings low-oxygen waters from deep in the ocean close to shore, and spreads nitrogen and other nutrients through the water column, kicking off a population boom of plankton. When huge amounts of plankton die, they fall to the bottom of the ocean, where they decompose, depleting the water of oxygen.

Coroner called to site of mine accident

TROY, Mont. - A coroner was called to the Troy Mine, where a miner was trapped after a rockfall Monday morning, the Lincoln County sheriff said.

"We just got the coroner call," Sheriff Daryl Anderson told the Missoulian Monday night. "I don't know where they found him or what's happened exactly, but they've called the coroner and that can only mean one thing."

Anderson said the man, whose name has not been released, was a longtime resident of the Troy area.

Phone messages left at the Troy Mine Monday night were not returned. A dispatcher in Lincoln County said the sheriff's office would release a statement Tuesday.

Two other miners were injured in the collapse, and were treated at St. John's Hospital in Libby, Anderson said.

Carson Rife, vice president of operations at Revett Minerals Inc., said the accident happened about 10:45 a.m. Monday in an active portion of the mine.

Idaho politicians say rules led to wildfires

BOISE, Idaho - Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and U.S. Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo on Monday took up the cause of ranchers on the Idaho-Nevada border who blame federal grazing restrictions for allowing grass to grow tall on public land, a development they say exacerbated the 1,030-square-mile Murphy Complex wildfires.

That puts Otter and Craig, both ranchers, and Crapo, a lawyer, at odds with environmental groups that have fought in the courts to reduce livestock grazing in the region to help species such as the sage grouse.

The Murphy fires were 98 percent contained Monday, said fire information officer Bill Watt in Castleford, Idaho. Managers began releasing some of the 1,100 firefighters who were assigned to the blaze, touched off by lightning July 16.

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