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AM Brief: Unruly vaccine passport hearing, Sen. Lee blasts State of the Union address & another Mountain West climate threat

Muddy waters flood a high mountain creek.
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USGS
Land burned by wildfire is at risk for another serious environmental impact: flooding. In 1997, a flash flood surged across a burn scar along Spring Creek, Co.

Wednesday, Mar. 2, 2022

State

Raucous hearing for a bill to ban vaccine passports

Tuesday night, crowds packed into a Utah Senate committee hearing for HB 60, a bill to ban vaccination passports. Near the start, supporters yelled as state troopers expelled one man from the room in handcuffs after he refused to remove a pro-HB 60 sticker. Commenters presented a slew of arguments, including a comparison to Nazi Germany. Many called it a human rights bill or said it protected people’s privacy. The Bayou restaurant in Salt Lake City was one of the first businesses to enact a vaccine requirement. Owner Mark Alston testified against the bill. “You're about to create a protected class of people based on nine months of self-perceived oppression. This is a bad, bad idea,” he said. The committee approved the bill, and it now heads to the full Senate. — Leah Treidler

Sen. Mike Lee criticizes State of the Union address

In a video released after the State of the Union address Wednesday night, Sen. Mike Lee chided President Joe Biden for doubling down on what he called “failed policies.” In Biden’s speech, he vowed to curb Russian aggression, suppress surging inflation and fight the ongoing pandemic. But Lee said these issues are the result of Biden’s own policies. “Instead of giving Americans a reason to hope for the future, Biden can’t seem to get past the crises of his own making,” he said. Lee added that Biden's federal spending spurred soaring inflation, and, in his opinion, Biden’s policies have led to forced confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. — Leah Treidler

Northern Utah

Masks no longer required in Salt Lake City buildings

As COVID cases decline in Salt Lake City, Mayor Erin Mendenhall revoked her previous executive order requiring masks in city buildings and vehicles. Mendenhall said the choice was based on advice from the Salt Lake County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health department reported 101 new cases Monday — roughly 7% of daily cases one month ago. — Leah Treidler

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Using Indigenous knowledge to save the Great Salt Lake

To save the Great Salt Lake, Darren Parry, former chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, said Indigenous voices and knowledge need to be included. When science and Indigenous wisdom collaborate, Parry said environmental healing can happen. He gave a public lecture this week on protecting the Great Salt Lake and its watershed. He said Indigenous people value the spiritual nature of land, water and people, and he’s grateful there’s more bipartisan support to protect the lake. But Utah leaders seem unwilling to talk about the “monster in the room” — climate change. Parry is also advocating for policies that would protect instream flows and encourage more sustainable agricultural practices. Read the full story.Lexi Peery

Crashed helicopters will be removed from Snowbird

Efforts to recover two Black Hawk helicopters that crashed near Snowbird ski resort begin Wednesday. The Black Hawks went down last week near the base of Mineral Basin chairlift on U.S. Forest Service land in full view of skiers. The Utah Army National Guard said it happened during a training exercise. A Chinook helicopter from the Nevada Army National Guard will sling-load the aircraft from Mineral Basin. They’ll be transported by air to Heber Valley airport and moved on lowboy trailers to the Utah Army Aviation Support Facility in West Jordan. People in the Heber Valley area are warned they may hear noise from the operation Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. — Pamela McCall

Region/Nation

Mountain West may face another climate disaster

Last year was one of the worst for wildfires in the Mountain West, with more than 2,500 square miles burned across the region according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning residents of an increased chance of another disaster — flooding. FEMA administrator Jeff Jackson said, “An inch of water can cause up to $25,000 worth of damage. So it can add up quickly with just a couple of inches of water.” Jackson said most homeowners and renters policies don't cover flooding and suggested people check with their insurance providers about a flood policy. — Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau

A graphic shows how fire creates water repellent soil leading to a great risk of floods.
Weather.gov
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