Courtney Flatt

Multimedia Journalist - Based in Richland, WA

Courtney Flatt began her journalism career at The Dallas Morning News as a neighbors editor. There, she also wrote articles for the Metro section, where she reported on community issues ranging from water security to the arts. Courtney earned her master’s in convergence journalism at the University of Missouri and developed a love for radio and documentary film. As a producer at KBIA-FM she hosted a weekly business show, reported and produced talk shows on community and international issues. Her work took her from the unemployment lines, to a Methamphetamine bust, to the tornado damage aftermath in Joplin, Mo.

What I cover
Energy, climate change and the Columbia Basin

Soon to be favorite outdoor activity
Having never lived so close to mountains before, I am determined to learn to snowboard this winter.

A funny thing happened one day in the field...
It was an icy winter morning, and I was trying to get some ambient sound of the Missouri River, which seemed easy enough. I had to make it over a pile of cement rocks to reach this one sandbar. (And if you know me, you know I’m a walking example of Murphy’s Law.)

Realizing this, I securely attached every piece of equipment to my body. Everything except my extra mic. I had climbed halfway across the cement pile when, woosh! My mic fell through a small hole covered by leaves. The mound was probably 10 feet tall.

As I peered down, a fisherman wandered by. He helped me lift a few of the blocks – they probably weighed 50 pounds each. But the mic wasn’t anywhere near the top. Every time I saw the pile after that day, I wondered where my mic wound up.

Farmers markets, traveling, tea and painting (though I’m pretty bad at it)

There’s not much… Maybe traffic?

If I weren't a journalist, I would be...
Working on an organic farm in Spain. I actually joined the WOOF program right before graduation. Then I got a job.

Ways to Connect


A grain handling facility in Eastern Washington has been leaking chemicals into the only source of drinking water for a local school district. The Environmental Protection Agency now wants to add it to the Superfund list of hazardous waste cleanup projects.

Jes Burns / EarthFix

In the world of nuclear power, one technology is generating debate: factory-produced reactors that are no bigger than a house.

Yellowstone National Park

Would you like to see more grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades? That’s what the federal government is asking during informational meetings across the state. A plan is in the works to consider adding more grizzlies to Washington’s dwindling population.

Okanogan is a small town nestled in the foothills of Washington’s North Cascade mountains. It’s surrounded by rangeland, apple orchards, and hiking trails. Ranches and homesteads butt up to the Okanogan National Forest and other public lands.

Washington Department of Ecology

Emergency crews responded to a 1,500 gallon oil spill in Central Washington’s Yakima River.

The used motor oil has threatened wildlife since it escaped Sunday from an above-ground storage tank at the site of a former feedlot. The heavy oil flowed across a paved area and into an irrigation ditch.

An environmental clean up company is using vacuum trucks to remove the oil.

Joye Redfield-Wilder is a spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Ecology. She said the amount of oil spilled is concerning.

Wikimedia Commons

Keeping cool may soon take a lot less energy. Northwest researchers have developed a new air cooling system that could be used in cars, buildings, and the navy’s front lines.

A new air chilling system designed by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, could soon be helping to keep troops and cargo cool while they’re at sea.


Bluebird skies, warming temperatures, and snow-free terrain might have you itching to hike your favorite trail.

Tony Schick / EarthFix

This week’s fiery oil train derailment in West Virginia has lawmakers thinking about oil-by-rail safety through the Northwest. There has been a dramatic increase in oil trains traveling through the region to reach West coast refineries.

Kasey Myers / Flickr

Wolves in the eastern third of Oregon have reached a key milestone in the state’s recovery program. Officials have confirmed seven breeding pairs. It’s the third year in a row a healthy number of pups have survived. Those two indicators of a recovering wolf population trigger phase two in the state's wolf reintroduction plan.

Oregon’s wolf program coordinator Russ Morgan spoke Wednesday on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s talk show, Think Out Loud.  Morgan said one of the big takeaways is that ranchers can now kill wolves that are chasing livestock on their properties.

Leszek Leszczynski / Flickr

A new distillery in the Tri-Cities is hoping to solar power your alcohol.

The founders of Solar Spirits are planning to distill vodka, gin and eventually whiskey – they would become one of the first distilleries in the Northwest to use solar power. The group calls their process “craft tech.”

Leveretdreaming / Flickr

2014 was the hottest year on record. That was according to data released Friday by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In the Northwest, temperatures also rose above normal.

After a warm summer and winter, last year was the second hottest on record for Oregon and the fifth hottest on record for Washington.

The hottest year for both states is still 1934, when the Dust Bowl plagued the West.

Karin Bumbaco is the assistant state climatologist in Washington.


A judge today ruled that dairies are contaminating drinking water in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by two environmental groups after an EPA study linked the dairies to high nitrate levels in residential drinking wells.

Tractorboy60 / Wikicommons

After a more than a year of testing, dairies in Washington’s Lower Yakima Valley are trying to reduce pollution from manure. A report from the Environmental Protection Agency had found the dairies were likely sources of nitrate pollution to nearby residential wells.

When nitrates contaminate drinking water, they can cause birth defects and miscarriages and harm the health of some adults.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest News Network

This summer, the Carlton Complex wildfire swept through central Washington’s Methow Valley. The fire consumed more acres than any other fire in the state’s history. Now, ecologists are trying to make forests more sustainable to help prevent these large-scale fires.

Fire ecologist Susan Prichard was driving from Seattle to her home in Winthrop just as the Carlton Complex fire picked up. “I saw the plume of smoke, and I felt the wind. At that moment, I hadn’t even possibly considered that the fire could race all the way down to the Columbia River,” Prichard said.

Energy Northwest / Northwest News Network

Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit Friday claiming the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant is harming endangered fish. The groups are suing a Washington state permitting agency because they said it issued a permit that violates the Clean Water Act.

The environmentalists said the Columbia Generating Station in Richland discharges too much toxic material into the water. They said that material can accumulate in fish that people eat.

The Nature Conservancy

A conservation group has made the largest private land acquisition in Washington’s history, purchasing forest land in the Cascade Mountains from a timber company.

The Nature Conservancy bought nearly 48,000 acres of land in the Cascade Mountains, between Snoqualmie Pass and Cle Elum.

The lands are home to spotted owls, elk, salmon, and ponderosa pine. The purchase also encompasses the headwaters of the Yakima River.

D. Kvamme PacifiCorp

More dams are being removed from rivers as they get older and no longer produce hydropower. Researchers have found after these dams come down, rivers return to their natural state surprisingly fast.

Over the years lots of sediment backs up behind dams. Ecologists have worried the release of that sediment would harm habitat and cause flooding.

But a study from Oregon State University found that didn’t happen. Researchers studied two rivers in Oregon before and after dams were removed.

Bmaas / flickr

  More of Washington’s bighorn sheep have been infected with bacteria that cause pneumonia. The disease can sometimes wipe out entire herds. Wildlife managers are planning to remove several animals from one herd so that they don’t infect other sheep.

Lee Carson

An unprecedented number of bats are being killed by wind turbine blades. A new report has found bats may be mistaking wind turbines for trees.

Bats are often looking for a place to roost when the moon is bright and winds are low. That’s when the conditions can be the deadliest for bats flying near wind turbines.

U.S. Geological Survey researchers used infrared video to track movements at a wind farm. They saw more bats approaching the turbines when the blades were moving slower than when they were moving faster.

Ashley Ahearn / EarthFix

A long-awaited tidal energy project in Puget Sound has come to halt. The project was set to generate tidal energy and connect it to the grid – the first project of its kind in the world. But it just got too expensive.

Courtney Flatt / EarthFix

Salmon may soon have a faster way to make it around dams. There’s a new technology that’s helping to transport hatchery fish in Washington. It’s called the salmon cannon — yes, you read that right.

Danny Didricksen / Earthfix

Flash floods this August swept mud, debris, and ash through north central Washington. All that gunk has created an unusual problem for farmers and migratory fish.

Farmers usually install screens on the end of irrigation pipes to prevent clogs. Those screens also keep fish from being sucked out of the water and into farmers’ fields. But fish screens do little good when they get inundated with debris and mud.

Danny Didricksen is with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said crews have been working non-stop to help unclog fish screens.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

High tech weather sensors are now installed throughout the area scorched by the Carlton Complex wildfire. The hope is that they will warn residents of potential flash floods. The funding for the technology is coming from an unusual source.

In August, flash flooding swept through north central Washington. The area had earlier been burned by the Carlton Complex fire. The flooding took residents by surprise.

Now, new rain gauges that communicate via satellite will warn of future flash flooding in the area.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

The helicopter shooting of a wolf in northeastern Washington didn’t go as planned. A sharp shooter took out the livestock-killing pack’s alpha female. Officials worry that could lower the pack’s chances of survival.

Katie Campbell / EarthFix

More oil trains traveling along the Columbia River and Puget Sound mean an increased risk for oil spills. Conservation groups worry methods to clean up those spills could harm sensitive wildlife.

Teal Waterstrat (USFWS) / Flickr

The Oregon spotted frog will now receive protection under the Endangered Species Act. The small frog was once abundant in the Northwest. It’s now mostly found in a few scattered wetlands.

Scott Ableman / Flickr

There’s been a lot of hype around geothermal power. This type of power uses heat from below the earth’s surface to provide a steady, renewable source of energy. But the field’s been slow to take off. With help from federal grants, several Northwest researchers are hoping to push the technology forward. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

Alan Vernon / Flickr

Wildfires have ravaged more than 1 million acres across the Northwest. In central Washington, the burned landscape will make it difficult for one of the state’s largest deer herds to find food. Farmers worry the deer would then wander onto their fields. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt reports.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest News Network

Drones could soon be the newest gadgets in forest conservation. A group of Washington college students recently built and tested a drone that will survey the health of the forest. The hope is that drones will speed up restoration efforts and save some money. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest News Network

Update: You can give to the Red Cross or volunteer to help fire victims by visiting or calling 509-663-3907

The Okanogan County Sheriff’s Department ordered more homeowners to evacuate this afternoon Monday. These newest evacuations come after firefighters saw a brief relief from high winds and hot weather Sunday. Correspondent Courtney Flatt visited donation centers in the region where people are turning for help.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest News Network

The most destructive wildfire currently burning in the Northwest has left thousands of people without air conditioning and refrigeration. It’s closed most gas stations and shut down ATMs in north-central Washington. Okanogan County currently estimates 150 to 200 homes burned to the ground. The County Utility District says its electrical system is almost a complete loss. Meanwhile, in Brewster last night, incident commanders of the region’s biggest and most destructive wildfire briefed residents Sunday night. Correspondent Courtney Flatt spoke with residents who are coping without power, and reports from that tense Brewster meeting.