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AM News Brief: Water For Cows, Utah's Coronavirus Precautions & Olympia Hills Development

A cow stands in dry grass next to a lake. The mountains in the background ground are covered with colorful fall trees.
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Water can get scarce in our region. And a recent Northern Arizona University analysis found that the biggest chunk of that water goes to crops that feed cows. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, Mar. 5, 2020

State

Inland Port Impact Study

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, is pushing legislation to study environmental impacts of the controversial Inland Port on neighboring cities. But environmental activists at the meeting called on the state to abandon the entire project. Escamilla says while it does not address all the problems of the port, this bill will help communities voice their concerns. A senate committee unanimously passed the bill and now, it’s on to the full Senate. — Jessica Lowell

Coronavirus Precautions

As uneasiness around coronavirus continues to grow across Utah, so do ideas on how to prevent its spread. At the State Capitol building, “handshake-free zones” have been created. Gov. Gary Herbert suggested bringing back the elbow-bump rather than a handshake. Elsewhere, a major conference scheduled by the management company Qualtrics for mid-March in Salt Lake City has been canceled. And two Utah Valley University games have been called off by a school in Chicago amid concerns of the virus. — Grace Osusky

Preventing Distracted Driving

After a spirited debate Wednesday, the Utah Senate voted to approve a bill that cracks down on distracted driving. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Problems Getting Medical Marijuana Cards

Utah patients could use letters from physicians to make purchases from marijuana pharmacies through the end of the year under an anticipated legislative proposal. The Salt Lake Tribune reports the measure would be used to alleviate problems with the state's new online portal to help patients acquire medical marijuana cards. Physician recommendation letters have granted temporary legal protection to cannabis patients while the state has been building its program. Cannabis advocate Connor Boyack says the cards could be used at marijuana pharmacies for the rest of 2020 until patients can apply for permanent cannabis cards. — Associated Press

Democrat Enters Gubernatorial Race

Another candidate has announced entry into Utah’s crowded race for governor. Democrat Chris Peterson threw his name into the hat Wednesday, vowing to fight for working people. He’s a University of Utah law professor and worked for the department of defense during the Obama administration. His entrance makes three Democrats and eight Republicans vying for Gov. Gary Herbert’s seat. The Utah primaries are June 30. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Olympia Hills Development

Opponents of the Olympia Hills development approved by the Salt Lake County Council on Tuesday have announced a referendum to gather signatures to turn back the council decision. Lorin Palmer of Utah for Responsible Growth spoke before hundreds of Herriman-area residents Wednesday night. He said their goal is to “see responsible growth preceded by proper regional planning.” In a statement, County Mayor Jenny Wilson wrote that her approval comes after months of negotiation over several iterations of the proposed development, and that the alternative is continued sprawl, loss of open space, and impacts on quality of life. — Diane Maggipinto

Region

Water For Cows

Water can get scarce in our region. And a recent Northern Arizona University analysis found that the biggest chunk of that water goes to crops that feed cows. That study also suggested a solution though: pay more farmers to leave fields temporarily dormant. That’s assuming governments would be willing to subsidize more of those programs. But researchers say funding water conservation efforts now could keep rural western communities from drying up in the future. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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