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AM News Brief: Ironman Championship, Grand County Public Land & Democratic Party Chair Resigns

Jeffrey Merchant Utah Democratic Party Chair Facebook Live.png
Utah Democratic Party Facebook Live
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Utah Democratic Party Chair Jeff Merchant has resigned citing health concerns. This story and more in Friday morning's news brief.

Friday Morning, Sept. 24, 2021

State

Utah Democratic Leader Resigns

Utah Democratic Party Chair Jeff Merchant is resigning for “personal health reasons.” The party announced his departure Thursday night, but didn’t offer any more details. Merchant said in a statement he believes the work that must be done to protect the most vulnerable communities will continue in Utah and across the country. He added serving as party chair has been one of the greatest joys of his life. Merchant’s resignation takes effect next Wednesday. Vice Chair Diane Lewis will then become the acting chair. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Improving Pedestrian Safety

A new crosswalk has been painted on the west side of Salt Lake City after a car collided with two children while they were walking across the street. Johnnae Nardone is with the group Sweet Streets. They’ve been advocating for lowering the speed limit to 20 miles per hour throughout Salt Lake’s neighborhoods. Nardone said posting that reduced speed “changes behavior and it really could save some people's lives.” Jon Larsen, Salt Lake City’s transportation director, said cars definitely need to slow down, but it’s up for debate whether changing the speed limit is “the most effective way.” Read the full story. — Emily Means

Southern Utah

Ironman Coming To Utah

For the first time in Ironman World Championship history, the race will not be held in Hawaii. Instead, it’ll take place next May in St. George. The city hosted the half Ironman world championship last weekend and will be hosting it again next fall. Race officials turned to southern Utah to host the event because COVID-19 travel restrictions are still in place in Hawaii. Since St. George started hosting Ironman races in 2010, Washington County tourism officials project the events have brought more than $118 million to the local economy. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Map of proposed conservation areas labeled Book Cliffs, Labyrinth, ANP expansion, Colorado/Dolores, Moab Canyons and La Sals.
Grand County
Grand County is seeking new federal status for five areas of public land.

Grand County Seeks More Funding For Area Public Lands

Grand County wants to get five federal lands near Moab designated as "National Conservation Areas." Community radio station KZMU reports county commissioners hope that will give the Bureau of Land Management more funding to take care of these areas. Commissioner Kevin Walker said the BLM doesn’t have enough resources to manage the hundreds of thousands of acres of land that get a lot of tourists. Grand County is currently soliciting public input on the proposal through its website. Next, commissioners have to finish and submit a bill to Congress to create the Conservation Areas. — Molly Marcello, KZMU

Region/Nation

More Drought Means More Algae

The runaway growth of algae can choke lakes with green slime and can poison the water, threatening people and pets. Experts say increasing drought is making these algal blooms more likely. It’s an issue in Nevada, Utah and Colorado, as well as other Western states. But cyanobacteria don’t always produce toxins, although scientists don’t know why yet. They also play a critical role in ecosystems, where algae form the base of the food chain. It's important though to be cautious around your local lake during an algal bloom. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau