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AM Brief: Downwinders act extension, renewable energy projects in West & human avian influenza

Power lines stretch off into the distance against a blue sky.
Jon Reed
Power lines stretch off into the distance against a blue sky.

Friday, April 29, 2022


Utahns continue using secondary water, despite drought emergency

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has declared a statewide drought emergency calling for more water conservation. It’s why some communities are continuing to use untreated, secondary water for agriculture and outdoor landscaping. At St. George city parks you’ll find signs that say the green lawns and vegetation are “irrigated with secondary or reclaimed water from the Virgin River Basin.” Scott Taylor, the water services manager, said it would take a lot of time and effort to make the region’s secondary water sources drinkable. Kelly Kopp, a turfgrass specialist at Utah State University, said untreated water can be seen as not as important to conserve. But "water is water." Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Major Utah and Nevada renewable energy project advances

The Biden-Harris administration is advancing three transmission projects, including one in Utah. If approved, the projects would connect more clean energy to the grid across the West. It’s part of the administration’s plan to reach 100% clean energy by 2035 and to make the power grid more resilient to catastrophic disasters caused by climate change. The Cross-Tie Transmission project would transport energy more than 200 miles between central Utah to Nevada, and it would increase the pool of renewable energy in the region. It would go into service in late 2026. The Bureau of Land Management will work with other agencies to review potential environmental impacts. — Leah Treidler

Senate extends act to compensate downwinders

The Senate has unanimously passed Sen. Mike Lee’s, R-Utah, two-year extension of a law to compensate Americans harmed by the nation’s early nuclear program, which includes many Utahns. The act originally became law in 1990 to provide a one-time cash benefit to people who were impacted by above-ground atomic weapons testing between 1951 and 1992. It’s awarded over $2.4 billion to about 38,000 people in Utah and elsewhere. The act was set to sunset this year, but the bill pushes the expiration back to 2024. Lee is also working to pass the more comprehensive Downwinders Act, which would extend eligibility for compensation to new areas, among other expansions. — Leah Treidler

Northern Utah

Highway closures this weekend

The Utah Department of Transportation will close parts of I-15 and Bangerter Highway this weekend. Northbound I-15 will be reduced to one lane Friday through Sunday from Centerville to Farmington. All lanes will open by Monday at noon. Bangerter Highway will close in both directions at SR-201 Friday through Monday. — Leah Treidler


Housing prices surge in the Mountain West

The latest numbers from the Federal Housing Finance Agency showed a historic increase in housing prices from February of last year to this year. In the Mountain West, home prices rose more than 24% — the highest nationwide. Experts said the makeup of our region could shift dramatically in the coming years because home prices are making it harder for young people and people of color to buy homes and plant roots. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Colorado resident infected by human avian influenza

A person in Colorado has tested positive for human avian influenza. The Department of Health and Human Services said the individual had contact with infected poultry and was involved in culling those presumed to have avian flu. The patient reported fatigue for a few days as their only symptom and has since recovered, though they are still being isolated. The case does not change the human risk assessment for the general public, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers to be low. Two cases of avian influenza have been detected in Utah, though there's been no transmission to humans in this state. — Pamela McCall

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