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PM News Brief: Women’s Shelter Reopens in Blanding, Unemployment Holds Steady & State Asks Public For Otter Sightings

A photo of a Northern river otter.
USFWS Mountain-Prairie
The Utah Division of Wildlife resources is asking people to report when they see otters. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, July 16, 2021


Utah’s June Unemployment Figures

Utah’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in June from the previous two months. It stood at 2.7%, the second lowest rate in the country after Nebraska. State officials said just over 44,000 Utahns were unemployed last month. Utah’s two-year job growth figures showed a full percentage point increase from May to June. Mark Knold, Chief Economist at the Department of Workforce Services, said that shows how well Utah’s economy is rebounding despite “rumblings of labor shortages.” The financial sector saw the biggest increase in jobs in the state in the last two years, adding almost 18,000 positions. Over that same time period, the leisure and hospitality service sector shed almost 7,000 positions. — Pamela McCall

Mike Lee’s Campaign Chest Triple That Of Challenger

Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee has more than three times the amount of money in the bank than his challenger Becky Edwards has reported. Lee’s campaign has $1.6 million on hand. In the past three months he raised $726,000. Right now, Edwards has $466,000 in the bank. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Herriman Officers Ruled Justified In Fatal Shooting

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill ruled Friday that officers were justified in shooting and killing a man in Herriman in October 2020. Gill said a woman called 911 to report her ex-boyfriend Isaac Lemoine Christensen was outside her house, and she believed he had a gun. The woman had a protective order against him. Neighbors called 911 to say that Christensen had pointed a gun at them. Body cam footage shows Christensen lying on the ground under a van. Gill said Herriman Officers Dustin Olzack and Brady Askerlund had heard gunshots and saw a gun near Christensen. They can be heard telling him to show them his hands. Gill said they saw him reach for the gun, which is when they shot him. — Emily Means

Southern Utah

Freight Train Derailed Due To Flood

A train derailed in rural Iron County Thursday night because of flooding in the area. It happened less than 40 miles northwest of Cedar City. All three people on the freight train were injured, according to the county sheriff’s office. There were at least 95 cargo cars involved, and one is reported to have explosive materials. Rising floodwaters kept the people from evacuating the train until emergency personnel were able to reach them over two hours later. The derailment comes as the region has been hit hard by thunderstorms and flash flooding. The state is also in the midst of a historic drought. Experts say the near record-low soil moisture exacerbates the impacts of flooding. Read the full story.Lexi Peery, St. George

Women’s Shelter Reopens To Serve Utah Diné in Blanding

A women and children’s shelter serving Utah Navajo residents re-opened in Blanding Thursday. The Navajo Nation purchased the Gentle Ironhawk Shelter in 2018, and it will now operate under what the tribal government said is a historic partnership between the Utah Navajo Health System and the Nation’s Division of Social Services. In a news release, Navajo Nation Vice-president Myron Lizer said though they’re pleased with the reopening of the facility, there’s a need “to continue to focus our attention to the root problems that create the need for such shelters.” President Jonathan Nez signed an agreement in June to lease the facility to the UNHS to administer operations. — Pamela McCall


Activists Call For Moratorium On Colorado River Water Projects

A massive new infrastructure bill is slowly moving its way through Congress this summer. But a coalition of elected officials, farmers, conservationists and tribal leaders want to make sure it doesn’t include new big pipelines or dams along the parched Colorado River. That river supplies water for 40 million people throughout the region and its two major reservoirs are at historic lows because of the drought. Kyle Roerink, executive director of the nonprofit Great Basin Water Network, called for a moratorium on projects like the Lake Powell pipeline. That pipeline would pump water from the namesake reservoir and into Utah’s fastest growing city — St. George. Roerick said his coalition isn’t opposed to smaller federal projects that would help tribal nations get drinking water though. Read the full story. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

And Finally … Otters!

The Utah Division of Wildlife resources is asking people to report when they see otters. Community radio station KZMU in Moab reports the state uses the aquatic mammal to gauge the health of water environments. But spotting them isn’t easy according to Kim Hersey with the DWR. “Otters are amazing and fun species,” she said, “and they're oftentimes really hard to see and keep track of. Hersey said documenting otters is the first step in making a new management plan for the animal. The division is asking people to send sightings of river otters to

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