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PM Brief: Western wildfire fighting, BLM Utah solar energy & St. George’s roundabout dragon

St. George roundabout dragon, April 20, 2022
Lexi Peery
/
KUER
The dragon is named "Dad" and sits in a roundabout in the historic downtown of St. George at 200 North and Main.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Southern Utah

Public land parcels for solar

Utah’s Bureau of Land Management will lease three parcels of public land for solar energy following the first competitive bid for solar leasing in Utah. Minersville Solar Energy paid more than $164,000 dollars to lease the land in Beaver County. The parcels make up more than 4,800 acres, and if they’re fully developed, the solar facilities could power 170,000 homes. BLM Utah said it’s “committed to using public lands to generate renewable energy.” — Caroline Ballard

Another unlikely roundabout denizen

Salt Lake City’s 9th and 9th whale sculpture isn’t the only piece of public art that’s making waves. St. George now has a 12-foot-tall dragon keeping watch over a downtown roundabout. Utah artist Deveren Farley created the piece — called “Dad” — out of scrap metal and Utah license plates confiscated by the Salt Lake City evidence department. Deveren suggests visiting at night when car headlights make the piece glow. Unlike the Salt Lake City whale, the St. George News reports the dragon is for sale for $34,000. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City calls for voluntary water savings

Salt Lake City is in extreme drought, but right now the city doesn’t expect to impose water restrictions on residents. In a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Erin Mendenhall said people saved two billion gallons of water voluntarily in 2021. City officials called on people to do the same this year with measures like cutting back on lawn watering, taking shorter showers and checking for leaks in plumbing. The director of the Department of Public Utilities said they would be monitoring water supplies and demand closely, while the city itself is restricting water use on government and institutional properties. — Elaine Clark

Audio from this news conference was provided by KSL.com as part of the Great Salt Lake Collaborative.

State

Report calls for improvements in debt collection cases

Debt collection cases are flooding Utah’s state courts, according to a new report from the Utah Bar Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts. It found that in most cases, the defendants owe small amounts of money and don’t have legal representation while typically pitted against companies such as high-interest lenders and credit agencies. Debtors were also often required to pay much more than they originally owed, due to both legal fees and, in eviction cases, Utah’s landlord-friendly laws. The report had several recommendations for improvements, including increasing opportunities for settling a case before it goes to court and giving courts more oversight of the process after a decision is made. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Region/Nation

A firefighting plan

As Mountain West states enter their heavier wildfire season, officials are reassuring communities they have the firefighting personnel and equipment for what lies ahead. Jennifer Myslivy, public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management at the National Interagency Fire Center, said when fires increase, they can lean on other partnerships for help. That includes international teams. She said normally the real issue isn’t a lack of personnel to address the fires — it’s juggling the teams’ schedules to avoid burnout. For the moment, snow up in the Northern Rockies has opened up teams to fight fires in the Southwest. — Emma Gibson, Mountain West News Bureau

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