Environment

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A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA finds that Atlantic Cod cod stocks have reached the lowest level ever.

Russ Brown, with the NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, says after researchers observed declining cod stocks in 2011, counts during the last fishing season showed cod populations continue to slide. 

"All three of the bottom trawl surveys have all reached record low levels, and our estimate of spawning stock biomass coming out of the stock assessment has also reached record low levels," says Brown.

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Data released Friday shows that a crucial piece of the ecosystem of the Great Bay estuary continued a seventeen-year downward trend.

Eel-grass is a big deal to the Great Bay. According to Rachel Rouillard, the executive director of the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP), “eelgrass is like our canary in the coal-mine, it’s a fundamental underpinning of the health and vitality of the whole system.”

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Compost has long been the domain of farmers and gardeners, not city-folk, but with both Vermont and Massachusetts pushing ahead with bans on throwing away food waste, curb-side pickup of compost is set to become more commonplace.

Banning food-scraps from land-fills hasn’t come been high on the legislative agenda in New Hampshire, but with a few tweaks, towns could begin to turn to compost for another reason: to save money.

via Griffins Guide

DNA analysis of the endangered New England cottontail shows that power line rights of way, railroad edges and roadsides may help support their diminishing habitat.

The small, brown rabbit has been declining in the region for decades. Development and natural forest growth have cut into the dense patches of shrubs and brush that it prefers.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

As sustainable as Star Island's systems are, the folks at Star Island Corporation are working to make them even more efficient, making improvements that mean bringing less onto the island, sending less off, and making more use of what's there.

The graphic below outlines what comes onto the island - either naturally or shipped by boat - what gets sent off, and where everything goes in between.

Notes:

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Star Island – a 43 acre spit of land in the isles of shoals, more than 6 miles off the New Hampshire coast – is installing enough solar panels to power roughly 30 homes and a battery array to back them up.

The island is home to a hotel and conference center run by a non-profit with close ties to the Unitarian Universalist Church. Its efforts to go solar are actually culmination of years of work that some think are a model for how the future of energy could look on the mainland.

NH OEP

New Hampshire officials are working on a new state energy strategy, which is supposed to be a roadmap to a new energy future, but politics may ultimately decide whether the strategy becomes reality.

Courtesy: Tim Olson

Architect Tim Olson, from Bensonwood homes in Walpole, has a problem.

He and a friend have screwed together the first few pieces of a design project, called the Coopered Column, backwards.

“We’re looking at the plan upside down and assembling it, so we swapped the pieces,” he says laughing.

It’s understandable: there are 118 pieces – each one a big, meaty timber – and 250 screws to hold it all together.

NHPR Staff

With warming weather comes stormy weather - but why is that? If it's been a while since elementary school science class, catch up on the phenomena of summer thunderstorms and hail with this primer.

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An Environmental Group says regional energy policy makers and the natural gas industry have too cozy a relationship. To prove their case the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) released a series of documents obtained by right to know requests. Those indicated therein say the claim is overblown.

The release highlights a growing unease in the environmental community toward bringing new natural gas pipeline into New England.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

This is the second of two stories about arsenic in well-water.

Almost twenty years ago, Joe Ayotte got a well drilled at his house in Concord.

“As you can see it’s a bit of a mud-pit, and it’s very red,” says Ayotte surveying the site of his artesian well, which has since been retired from service, but continues to leach iron-stained water onto his lawn.

Ayotte had some bad luck. The well must have hit what he calls “rotten rock” and brought up massive amounts of minerals in the water, including so much iron that it destroyed his fixtures.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Have you ever wondered how toxic elements like arsenic get into your well water? Do you know how many of New Hampshire's bedrock wells contain more arsenic than the EPA recommends for safe, potable water? If your well was one of them, would you know how to treat it?

Read through the graphic below to learn more about arsenic and well water.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

At a house in Stoddard, a Cushing and Sons truck mounted rig pounds a drill bit into bedrock 90 feet below.

“What we’re hearing now is a pneumatic hammer,” says Bart Cushing, who together with his brother runs this family owned well-drilling business, “That’s a flat-based bit with carbide buttons. And it’s literally pounding the rock.”

These artesian groundwater wells are the norm these days: something on the order of 95 percent of new wells are drilled into the bedrock.

And there’s a reason for that.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

One of the state’s biggest environmental organizations is finishing the fundraising for a 1,300 acre conservation deal in North Conway. Once it’s finished, the land will be added to the 4,000 existing acres of the Nature Conservancy’s Green Hills Preserve, where it will provide recreation for people, and habitat for plants and animals.

But before the conservancy closes the deal it wants to know what it’s getting, and to figure that out it assembled plant and wildlife experts from all over the state for a sort of naturalist marathon.

Data: RGGI.org / NHPR

In the latest quarterly auction of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, the cost for the right to emit a ton of carbon has again reached a new high. Speculation that more states could join RGGI could be driving interest in carbon allowances.

The announcement of the new EPA rules jazzed the latest RGGI auction. When the prices came out Friday morning, they were at $5.02 per ton of CO2, up from $4.00 in the last auction.

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Under a proposed rule out of the EPA Monday, New Hampshire will have to come up with its own plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, many of the building blocks for that plan are already in place.

The new EPA rule says that New Hampshire should emit 486 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour of electricity generated, and that, as of 2012, New Hampshire’s rate was 905 pounds per megawatt hour.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Paul Schaberg marshals a small team of scientists, surveying a stand of red spruce in Colebrook for frost damage from last winter.

“So what are you guys seeing, are you seeing any injury yet?” he calls out.  

“We’re just seeing green needles,” hollers back one of his helpers.

“Happy, happy trees,” responds another.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Spanish Wind Developer Iberdrola has pulled the plug on Wild Meadows, a controversial wind farm that was proposed for the towns of Alexandria and Danbury, the troubled project submitted an application for construction in December but put it on hold to deal with problems at another wind farm the next town over.

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The Fish and Game Department wants the public’s help to find one or more loon poachers.

Two loons were shot this week, in different parts of the state. The first bird was shot in Dover, and was found near the Cocheco river. That loon survived and is expected to be released back into the wild. The second was shot in Gilford, near Varney point, and died.

The attacks were both reported on Tuesday.

State officials have shut-down one of three drinking water wells that serve the Pease Tradeport. The well was contaminated with an unregulated chemical found in foams used by firefighters.

Perflourooctane Sulfonic Acid, or PFOS, was found in the well which serves the 250 businesses and 8,300 employees of the Pease Tradeport. It was detected in levels that exceed a “provisional health advisory” level set by the EPA.

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New Hampshire is hosting a conference on climate change preparedness in the Northeast.

The conference is being held Monday through Wednesday in Manchester. Antioch University New England is hosting it along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The conference is bringing together planners and decision-makers from the northern Chesapeake Bay to Maine to learn how to build healthy and resilient community plans, and how to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

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A $2 dollar increase in the boat registration fee – which would bring the total to $9.50 – is headed to the governor for her signature. The extra fee would be used to give lake towns a boost in their efforts to fight invasive weeds. A proposed $2 increase in boat registration fees would go primarily toward controlling milfoil in the 70 lakes and rivers already infested with the plant.

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There was movement on energy policy in both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature today. While reforming the approval process for power plants sailed through the House, rules encouraging burial of power lines got hung up in the Senate.

After making a few changes to a Senate version, on a voice vote the New Hampshire house passed changes to how proposed power plants get a permit. That means if the Senate agrees to the House version beginning in July, new projects will need to increase the amount of public outreach they do before submitting applications to be built.

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When President Obama announced that he wanted the EPA to fast-track regulations on carbon emissions at existing power plants, the outcry was immediate.

“How are we all to blame?” asked Joe Manchin, Democratic senator from West Virginia, on Fox and Friends, “and why are we taking the hit that we’re going to be taking? Why is this economy going to be taking this hit? Why are jobs going to be lost? …and they will be lost!”

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Health and environmental officials say New Hampshire is entering the highest risk time of year for exposure to Lyme disease, and the ticks could be especially bad this year.

“If you have to, move to Aruba,” says Alan Eaton, Biologist with the UNH Cooperative Extension, “Get out of here for the next month of six weeks or so.”

A bi-partisan bill that is a major policy priority for Senator Jeanne Shaheen has easily cleared a procedural vote in the US senate. 79 Senators voted in favor of starting debate on the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, which would ramp up incentives for federal and private spending on energy efficiency measures.

Shaheen is co-sponsoring the bill with Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin says he stands ready to help New Hampshire find an alternative route for the controversial Northern Pass project. The governor was speaking at an event hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

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New Hampshire politicians from both sides of the aisle are praising a decision from the US Supreme Court upholding the right of EPA to regulate air pollution that crosses state borders.

The so-called “good neighbor” provision could mean Appalachian and Rust-Belt states will have to clean up their coal plants. The Northeast has already scrubbed the emissions from its power plants, but still endures low air-quality days in part because of emissions blowing in on the Jetstream from western states.

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Thanks to a $250,000 dollar federal grant a new group is working to promote the burning of wood for heating in high-efficiency boilers in the Granite state

The New Hampshire Wood Energy Council consists of nearly fifty biomass supporters from state agencies, non-profit organizations, and industry representatives. Those representatives will serve as ambassadors for using wood-pellet and wood-chip boilers.

Aubrey Nelson / NHPR

New Hampshire wildlife officials are wrestling with a proposal that would put them in charge of wolf-hybrids; those are wolves that have been bred with domesticated dogs. These sometimes dangerous animals are often abandoned because they can be unmanageable as pets.

And a population of abandoned wolf-dogs prompted New Hampshire officials to take another look at this animal that falls squarely in the grey area between wild and tame.

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