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PM News Brief: Colorado River Cuts, Maintaining Dark Skies & Utah’s Congressmen On Afghanistan

Colorado River in Utah aerial view
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Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will face Colorado River water cuts for the first time ever. This story and more in Monday evening's news brief.

Monday evening, Aug. 16, 2021

State

Three Day Total Of More Than 2,400 COVID-19 Cases

Utah health officials reported more than 2,400 COVID-19 cases Monday. That’s the three-day total dating back to Friday. The state’s positivity rate has dropped compared to a week ago, but the seven day average of new cases has gone up. Health officials also announced 12 more people have died from the disease. That is also a three-day total. All of them were at least 45 years old. So far 47.5% of all Utahns have been vaccinated. — Ross Terrell

Utah’s Congressional Delegation Reacts To Afghanistan Situation  

Members of Utah’s Congressional delegation are reacting to the volatile situation in Afghanistan as America withdraws its troops. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, tweeted a statement criticizing the withdrawal calling it hasty and ill-prepared. Last November, Romney also spoke against the plan to pull troops out too early saying then it shouldn’t be based on a political calendar. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT, said pulling soldiers out was the right policy but he said an organized withdrawal could have been achieved with “competent leadership.” The move to pull troops out has led to the Taliban regaining control over the country. Many politicians fear it also puts Afghan partners at risk who were crucial to U.S. operations. — Ross Terrell

Utah Escapes Cuts To Colorado River Usage 

Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will face Colorado River water cuts for the first time ever. This comes as Lake Powell and Lake Mead are at historic lows. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation made the grim announcement Monday. Utah won’t be facing any cuts at this time but the Utah Rivers Council and other environmental organizations in the region are urging the Bureau to do more. They say no new water projects should be approved, including the controversial Lake Powell Pipeline which would take water from the lake to fast-growing Washington County. They say basin states and the federal government should also create a more robust climate change plan for the river as the region experiences ongoing drought. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Southern Utah

Lottery System Proposed To Hike Angels Landing At Zion National Park

Angels Landing is a popular hiking destination in Zion National Park, and it could soon require a reservation to use. The plan is to make people pay to enter a lottery, which will open quarterly. Though, some slots will be available the day before. Lana Hiss, an assistant guide at Zion Adventures in Springdale, said she tries to hike Angels Landing in the off season to avoid crowds. So, she hopes this system will help people in having a less congested and more enjoyable experience. However, some people say reservations will be too hard to get a hold of. The proposed system is open for public comment on the park’s website. Read the full story. Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Wildfire Smoke Impacting Regions’ Dark Skies

People often love the night sky in the Mountain West. There’s less light pollution and they can see more stars. That is, until wildfire season. The smoke from those fires filters starlight and sometimes blots it out completely. That could mean fewer stargazing tourists venture into the region to take in a nighttime view of the galaxy. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau