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PM News Brief: Utah National Guard helicopters crash, the cost of medical cannabis visits & federal money for tribal water infrastructure

A photo of the Colorado River.
Evangelio Gonzalez
/
Flickr
The Biden administration is using money from the federal infrastructure bill to fund 16 tribal water rights settlements. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022

Northern Utah

Utah National Guard helicopters crash

Two Black Hawk helicopters crashed on U.S. forest service land near Snowbird ski resort Tuesday morning during a Utah National Guard training exercise. According to Guard aviation spokesman Jared Jones, the aircraft kicked up snow as it tried to land — which likely meant the pilots lost sight of the ground. Both helicopters were damaged, but no one was seriously hurt. In a press conference, Jones praised the crew for “quick, deliberate thinking” to get the helicopters down safely and shut them down. Shortly after the crash near Mineral Basin, the resort tweeted that the area on the back side of the mountain was closed to skiers. A lift and a tram also closed, but have since reopened. An investigation is ongoing. — Caroline Ballard/Associated Press

Air Canada to return to Salt Lake City

Air Canada announced Tuesday that it will be flying in and out of the Salt Lake City International Airport for the first time since 2017. Starting June 2, Air Canada will offer nonstop flights between Salt Lake and Toronto. The airline said it’s part of a larger expansion of its routes across North America as COVID restrictions ease. — Caroline Ballard

Southern Utah

Counties could have more flexibility with tourism tax dollars

Tourism boomed in southwest Utah last year, and with that so did revenue from transient room tax, which is money from visitor lodging. A bill in the state Legislature will give some counties that are home to national parks more flexibility on how they use that money. Washington County collected almost $9 million in transient room taxes the year before the pandemic. By 2021, the tax brought in more than $15 million — a record high. Kevin Lewis, the director of tourism in Washington County, said now counties can only save half the total from the previous year. The proposal would temporarily change that. Also counties will be able to spend up to 10% of the revenue on destination development. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

State

Revealing the cost of medical cannabis visits

Utah has added medical-cannabis related healthcare visits to its transparency website Utah Health Cost Compare. According to the website, an initial visit to get a medical cannabis card without health insurance averages around $200 statewide, with some providers charging more than twice that. Democratic state Sen. Luz Escamilla praised the move saying it would “increase the effectiveness of the state’s medical cannabis program.” — Elaine Clark

Region/Nation

Federal money for tribal water infrastructure

The Biden administration is using money from the federal infrastructure bill to fund 16 tribal water rights settlements. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland made the announcement Tuesday during a visit to Arizona. The $1.7 billion dollars will ensure that tribes get access to water they’ve been promised but have been unable to use because of a lack of funding for infrastructure to store and move it. Access to reliable, clean water and basic sanitation facilities on tribal lands remains a challenge for hundreds of thousands of people. — Associated Press

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