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AM Brief: Great Salt Lake to hit record low & Kimball Junction development push back

Cars approach a stoplight at a highway interchange.
An Errant Knight
/
Wikimedia
Summit County said it might not abide by a new state law requiring development at Kimball Junction despite possible penalties.

Editor’s Note: The KUER Newsroom will soon discontinue both the AM and PM written news briefs. The audio will continue to be available in NPR One and in podcast form. The audio feed will soon be added to the KUER app as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Northern Utah

Great Salt Lake could hit another record low

The state is projecting the Great Salt Lake will hit a record low again this year — two feet below the most recent low in October. The lake is fed by tributaries , and the National Weather Service is now forecasting this year’s spring runoff levels to be 60% of normal. KSL reported the shrinking lake has dire economic and environmental consequences. The cost of the lake drying up another 10 feet could be as much as $2.17 billion, and it could harm the 10 million migratory birds that rely on the lake. Officials said there’s no single solution, but water conservation is a good start. — Carter Williams, KSL

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake.

Summit County may refuse to develop at Kimball Junction

Summit County said it might not abide by a new state law requiring development at Kimball Junction. KPCW reported the Legislature passed a bill last month that mandates dense development at the junction, but Summit County manager Tom Fischer said the amount of work involved in making that happen would force them to push aside other priorities. Fischer added that it's possible the county won't comply with the new mandate and he's aware that could lead to penalties. The County Council will discuss the law at its meeting Wednesday. — Alexander Cramer, KPCW

Southern Utah

Washington County eyes underground water rights

The Washington County Water Conservancy District is looking for more water for its growing population. They’re hoping to secure nearly 13,000 acre-feet of what they said is unallocated water. Two geological studies commissioned by the district suggest there could be water deep underground, but General Manager Zach Renstrom said more research needs to be done. That’s why they submitted an application for the rights to drill a series of wells — to see if the water is really there. Many residents in towns near the proposed wells oppose the move. They’re concerned that it may impact their existing water rights. Doneva Hecker, the town clerk of New Harmony, said they’re “firm believers that if you don't have the water you don't develop the land.” Read the full story.Lexi Peery, St. George

New campground and rule at Klondike Bluffs area

The Bureau of Land Management has opened a campground and mandated new rules in the Klondike Bluffs area about 20 miles north of Moab. Now, visitors must camp in designated areas, use portable or established toilets and cannot collect or cut wood. The changes are meant to protect the area which has been harmed by high use. On busy weekends, hundreds camp on the side of the road, but now people must stay in the 25 individual and two group campsites. — Leah Treidler

Region/Nation

New blimps could detect methane leaks from oil and gas wells

Monitoring oil and gas wells for methane leaks from a blimp could be a new reality. The New Mexico company Sceye is building High-Altitude Platform Stations or HAPS, which are almost 300-feet-long silver blimps in the stratosphere that measure methane. CEO Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen said the HAPS can stay above the same oil and gas wells, whereas drones or satellites move. He said they’ll dramatically improve how we see methane particles. The venture is being tested by the Environmental Protection Agency, but there are hopes to take it throughout the Mountain West and world. — Emma Gibson

Environmentals push to protect endangered pinyon jay

Environmentalists announced Tuesday that they're petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the pinyon jay under the Endangered Species Act. The species’ population has declined over the last half century, and environmentalists hope to save the species and trees that depend on it. The bird is inextricably linked to the piñon and juniper forests that span the Western United States. It’s known for stashing away piñon seeds — a habit that helps propagate the next generation of trees. Piñon and juniper forests across the West have already been affected by climate change, hotter and drier conditions, and more severe wildfires. — Associated Press

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