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AM News Brief: Flu Cases Down, Opening Online Schools & Virgin River Bridge Project

Photo of Virgin River in St. George, Utah
Judy Fahys / KUER
Construction crews will begin a years-long project Monday to replace a bridge on a stretch of the I-15. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, February 5, 2021

State

Bill Would Create Utah Colorado River Authority

Republican legislative leaders have proposed a bill to create the Utah Colorado River Authority. The six-member commission would negotiate the state’s rights to the dwindling river. House Speaker Brad Wilson is sponsoring the bill, and he said Utah is at a disadvantage because other Colorado River Basin states already have commissions like this. The bill would also allow the new authority to hold closed door meetings when discussing negotiations. Deeda Seed, with the Center for Biological Diversity, said she’s concerned about that, because divvying out the water’s flows requires collaboration. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Debate Continues Over Police Oversight Boards

Utah lawmakers decided Thursday to postpone voting on a bill that allows cities to create police oversight boards. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, strongly opposed the proposal which would have repealed a law he sponsored in 2019. He said he didn’t see anyone from last year’s protests against police brutality there to support the bill. “So that tells me that a lot of people were there just because they were paid to be there or just because they wanted a flag under which they could go out and destroy things and riot,” Ray said. But members of Black Lives Matter Utah and Utah Against Police Brutality both spoke in favor of it, saying it would help hold police accountable. Opposition worried an oversight board would be biased against police. — Emily Means

Northern Utah

Jordan District Opening Online Schools

The Jordan School District is opening three new online schools next year. They will cover the elementary, middle and high school levels and have their own separate administrations. Students who enroll will attend online, but will also be able to go to in-person classes at two schools in the district. So far, the Jordan School District has had 3,460 cases of COVID-19 — the third most in the state. — Jon Reed

Officials Seek Duck Poachers

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is looking for those responsible for illegally killing 22 ducks. The birds were left to waste on a wildlife management area in Utah County. DWR officers received a tip earlier this week about several ducks that were left near Santaquin. They said they suspect the birds were dumped in the area recently because they were untouched by scavengers. In 2020, DWR officers confirmed more than 1,000 illegally killed animals valued at more than $379,000 dollars. A reward is offered to anyone with information about the illegal killing of protected wildlife or any other wildlife-related crime in Utah. The confidential U-TiP Hotline is 800-662-3337. — Bob Nelson

Southern Utah

Virgin River Bridge Project

Construction crews will begin a years-long project Monday to replace a bridge on a stretch of the I-15. The Virgin River Bridge Number 1 passes through a cliff-lined river canyon, connecting Nevada and Utah on opposite sides of Arizona's northwestern corner. The Arizona Department of Transportation says the project will cost $56 million. The department said there will be traffic shifts later in the year, but one lane of traffic in each direction will remain open throughout the project. It's expected to be finished by fall of 2023. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Navajo President Cautions Against Super Bowl Parties

The Navajo Department of Health reported nine deaths and 110 new COVID-19 positive cases on the Navajo Nation Thursday. That includes totals from Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. On the Utah portion of the Nation, the Utah Navajo Health System reported a total of 1,043 cases since the start of the pandemic. The Navajo Nation President is asking residents to stay home as much as possible on Super Bowl Sunday. — Bob Nelson

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

More Masks, Less Flu

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the number of influenza cases across the region are at record lows. Most counties have recorded few if any cases of the seasonal flu this winter. Epidemiologists said it’s a positive side effect of wearing masks and social distancing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau