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AM News Brief: Abandoned Wells, Herd Immunity & Record Breaking Dry Spell

Photo of the Colorado River.
Flickr Creative Commons/herdiephoto
The Colorado River as it meanders south towards the Grand Canyon, taken near to Horseshoe Bend, AZ.

Thursday morning, May 14, 2020


Herd Immunity Still Far Off

Utah’s epidemiologist Angela Dunn announced two more COVID-19 related deaths Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 75. Both were Salt Lake County residents living in long term care facilities. Even though the state has had 6,620 confirmed cases of the virus, Dunn says Utah is still far away from having herd immunity and a second wave is expected in the fall if there is no vaccine. About half of the state’s cases have recovered, and nearly 157 thousand people here have been tested. — Ross Terrell


Utah Has Least Vulnerable Population In The Country 

Utah has the least vulnerable population in the U.S. to COVID-19, according to a new analysisfrom WalletHub, a personal finance website. The report factored in things like health, age and the homeless population with no shelter. Utah’s Epidemiologist Angela Dunn said despite the state’s ranking, they are not going to risk lives unnecessarily to get back to normal. Dunn also said the vulnerable population will not see a return to normal until there is a vaccine, which is still months away. — Jessica Lowell


Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Winter Sports Leader Howard Peterson Has Died

A key figure in Salt Lake's Olympic legacy and the larger nordic skiing world died Monday at the age of 69. Howard Peterson founded and helmed the Soldier Hollow Legacy Foundation to ensure a lasting impact at the 2002 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games venue for cross-country and biathlon. Peterson was also a founder of the National Ski Touring Association, now known as Cross Country Ski Areas Association. He was a leader at the U.S. Ski Association and facilitated the move of its headquarters from Colorado to Park City. Peterson was also an advocate of adaptive and freestyle skiing and snowboarding while at USSA. — Diane Maggipinto


Could Laid Off Energy Workers Take On Mitigation Role?

Orphaned or abandoned oil wells can contaminate groundwater and leak methane gas. And as depressed oil prices continue, they could grow in number. Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission is a consortium of 31 oil-producing states. It believes it has a solution. That group told Reuters it wants the Trump administration to pay for laid off energy workers to plug the abandoned wells. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Record Breaking Dry Period

Climate change is making the drought in the southwestern U.S. much worse, according to a recently released study. It found that increased warming has turned a typical drought into a lengthy dry period researchers call a “megadrought.” Researchers found that the past 20 years have been among the driest in the Colorado River basin since the year 800. Without changes to greenhouse gas emissions, they warn that the prevalence of mega-droughts is likely to get worse. — Luke Runyon, KUNC

Proposed Wyoming Solar Farm Takes Step Forward

Plans for a utility-scale solar farm in Wyoming are moving forward after a planning commission approved a permit to build. The project still requires approval by Natrona County leaders. The proposal comes from Dinosolar LLC, a subsidiary of Utah-based Enyo Renewable Energy. The company wants to construct a 240-megawatt, commercial solar photovoltaic system on 1.8 square miles of leased land near Casper. The solar energy farm would be the largest in Wyoming. The company said the project would generate enough energy to provide power to 51,700 Wyoming homes. — Associated Press
Challenges Of Wild Horse Populations

Federal land managers said it will take two decades and cost more than $1 billion over the first six years alone to slash wild horse populations to sustainable levels on U.S. rangeland. The Bureau of Land Management's latest plans envision capturing 200,000 mustangs over the next two decades and calls for new regulations that would allow sterilizing mares roaming federal lands for the first time. Horse defenders said painting such a dire picture of the challenges could bring about agency requests to slaughter some horses. The resale of surplus horses for slaughter is prohibited. — Associated Press

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