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AM News Brief: Genealogy Library Reopened, Pack Creek Fire Contained & Insurance Subsidies Available

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Judy Fahys / KUER
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A view west from the edge of the wetlands at The Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake is reaching its lowest level ever. That’s affecting the environment and having impacts on some important industries in Utah’s economy. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Wednesday morning, July 7, 2021

Northern Utah

Great Salt Lake Level Hits Industries

The Great Salt Lake is reaching its lowest level ever. That’s affecting the environment and having impacts on some important industries in Utah’s economy. Businesses, such as brine shrimp egg harvesters that rely on the Great Salt Lake, bring around $1.3 billion to the state. Lower water levels are forcing them to dig out of the bottom of the lake to get their boats where they need them. That makes it more expensive to do business and compete in the global economy. The total cost of further water loss is estimated to be around $2 billion a year and more than 6,500 jobs. That doesn’t include additional expenses for better water management, protecting migratory bird species and mitigating invasive plant species. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Family History Library Reopens

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library reopened Tuesday. The genealogical research facility had been closed since March of 2020 due to the pandemic. It’s part of the Church’s phased public reopening of Temple Square, though the temple itself is still undergoing renovations. The library was also updated during the closure. It now has fewer computers than it did before, but more than half are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant. There are also new A-D-A compliant bathrooms on the first floor. — Caroline Ballard

Southern Utah

Pack Creek Fire Contained

The U.S. Forest Service said the Pack Creek Fire near Moab is now 100% contained. In a news release, the service warns that even though it’s contained, the fire is still burning in the interior. Officials said firefighters are monitoring it and working most intensely in Geyser Pass and north of Haystack Mountain. People are asked not to stop in the Pack Creek Community as residents continue to recover from the impacts of the fire. — Pamela McCall

Region/Nation

Navajo Nation To Ease COVID-19 Restrictions

The Navajo Nation will lift several COVID-19 restrictions to allow parks and roads to partially re-open. President Jonathan Nez, along with several other officials and business owners, signed the resolution Tuesday. The parks will open at 50% capacity as early as Thursday with safety protocols in place. Masks are still mandatory for the entire Navajo Nation, including for visitors and tourists. In a news release, President Nez said, “We remain cautiously optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but we have to continue to keep our guard up and get more of our people fully vaccinated.” Officials also announced that schools on the Navajo Nation will be allowed to eventually reopen for in-person student instruction under a required safety plan. Tuesday, the Navajo Nation reported seven new COVID-19 cases and no recent deaths. — Pamela McCall

Energy Use Will Increase As Post-Pandemic Travel Booms

The Energy Information Administration said Americans used 9% less fossil fuel last year — the largest annual drop ever recorded. Daniel Kaffine, an economics professor at CU Boulder, said we’ll likely see an increase in fossil fuel use this year as cooped up families hit the road and many workers head back to the office. However, he said the larger trend to watch is electric vehicles and that a larger share of electric cars could mean less gas consumption. Federal data also shows that coal use in the U.S. dropped 19% in 2020 — its lowest point since the federal government started tracking that information in 1949. That’s expected to rebound this year too, but then drop off as it continues to be replaced by natural gas and cheaper renewables. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Insurance Subsidies Available Following Unemployment Benefits

People who received a week or more of unemployment benefits at any point in 2021 are now eligible for a free or deeply subsidized insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. The subsidies are part of the latest federal coronavirus relief package, and they’re meant to help those who lost their jobs and insurance tied to their jobs during the pandemic. Those who are eligible have until Aug. 15 to sign up or update their application at healthcare.gov, and the discounted plans will last through the end of the year. The new benefit comes as most Mountain West states including Utah are opting out of $300 weekly federal checks for unemployed residents. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

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