Energy & Environment

Salt Lake County Updating Canyon Plans

Aug 9, 2012
Big Cottonwood Canyon
Dan Bammes

Salt Lake County will be asking for public input on new general plans for Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood and Parley's Canyons at an open house scheduled for Thursday afternoon August 9th at the Millcreek Community Center.  The county plans deal primarily with private property in those canyons.  Rolen Yoshinaga, the head of the county's Planning and Development Services Division says the goal is to keep the plans governing those canyons are kept up-to-date.  He spoke with KUER's Dan Bammes.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert has appointed Dan Shrum, a senior vice-president of EnergySolutions, to the state's new Radiation Control Board.  EnergySolutions runs a mile-square landfill in Tooele County for low-level radioactive waste.  The law authorizing the board requires an industry representative to be on it.  Company spokesperson Mark Walker says Shrum is the right guy.

"He's a very fair and balanced man, has been involved in environmental issues his entire career, not only in Utah but around the country" Walker tells KUER.  "And there's absolutely no conflict of interest."

Snake Valley
Dan Bammes

The director of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Pat Mulroy, is threatening to take the state of Utah to the U.S. Supreme Court over an agreement to allocate groundwater in the Snake Valley on the Utah-Nevada state line.  The statement was made in an e-mail to members of SNWA's board of directors.  The agreement was required by federal law before a pipeline could be built carrying water from the Great Basin to Las Vegas.  

prairie dog tunnel next to runway light
Alicia Geesman

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow the city of Parowan to kill the prairie dogs that have been digging tunnels under the runway and causing other damage at its airport.  Utah prairie dogs are protected under the Endangered Species Act, but the agency issued a new rule yesterday that allows killing the animals where they pose a safety risk.  Parowan City Manager Shayne Scott thinks the new rule will help bring business back to the airport.

The ever-expanding Jordan River Parkway Trail just got a little more accessible and educational. A printed map complete with information about the trail is now available to the public.

It’s not just a map, it’s an educational experience. It highlights restoration areas, dog parks, urban fisheries, as well as native plants and animals. Laura Hanson is Executive Director of the Jordan River Commission. She says the new map will show people where to go, and what they’ll find along the way.

Mitch Power
University of Utah

A geologist from the Natural History Museum of Utah has been studying the charcoal found in lakebed sediments around the world.  Mitchell Power has discovered that the number of wildfires dropped significantly from about 1400 AD until about 1800.  That corresponds with the so-called "Little Ice Age," when tree rings and other evidence shows global temperatures were considerably cooler than they are today.

Ron Stewart

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is ready for the Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project in the high Uinta Mountains. The project is scheduled for a couple of weeks after Labor Day along a stretch of the Sheep Creek drainage above the ten thousand foot level. The Utah DWR will be using rotenone to kill all of the non-native fish on the eight and half mile stretch of the streams and lakes, including brook, rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Regional aquatics manager for the division Trina Hedrick says they’ve been waiting a long time for the right conditions.

As temperatures in Utah continue to approach and exceed 100 degrees, cities across the state are trying to meet high energy demands. In southern Utah, St. George’s population growth has made them less dependent on outside companies for energy and spurred a growth in their own energy infrastructure.

BLM Delays Decision On Alton Coal Mine

Jul 10, 2012
Coal Hollow strip mine near Alton, UT
Alicia Geesman

The Bureau of Land Management was expected to issue a decision this fall on whether to allow Alton  Coal Development LLC to expand its strip mine in Kane County.  But it's now decided to issue a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project.  That won't come out until early next year, and it will be followed by another six-week period for public comment.  Keith Rigtrup, who has supervised the process for the BLM since it was first proposed in 2006, says they got a lot of feedback on the draft EIS.

More Salt Lake City neighborhoods now have some added incentives to cut back on driving. The City announced today it will expand its SmartTrips program which encourages residents to get out of their cars and instead take public transportation, bike or walk to their destination. Smart Trips provides residents who sign up for the program with resources like bike maps and bus schedules. They’ll also get a free pedometer, bicycle taillight AND a one-week pass to ride UTA.

Cyclists in National Parks around the country may soon have more trail riding opportunities. A rule change by the National Park Service will allow individual parks to decide whether to open certain areas to bike traffic.

Brian Grimmett

Quail Fire

Dinosaur National Monument Goes Green

Jul 5, 2012
National Park Service

The visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument received Gold LEED rating Thursday. The certification nationally recognizes a structure’s environmentally sustainable design.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was developed through the U.S. Green Building Council. Buildings must meet certain environmental standards to achieve the certification.

Ray Howze

Salt Lake City neighborhoods will have the opportunity this fall to participate in a curbside glass recycling pilot program. The city hopes to eventually expand the program city-wide.

Brian Grimmett

Update 3:40 p.m. July 4, 2012

U.S. Forest Service updates size of burn area. They say the fire has now burned 1993 acres but is still growing and is 5% contained.

Update 12:35 p.m. July 4, 2012

Firefighters continue to fight the wildfire known as the Quail fire in the mountains near Alpine, Utah this morning. The fire is still at 0% containment but residents living south of 300 N and west of  Oak Hills in Alpine have been allowed to return to their homes. All other evacuation orders still stand. 

The Fremont Indians lived in what is now Utah from 700 to 1300 A.D. Little is known about this group of Native Americans, but some archeologists discovered a unique structure in central Utah that could expalin more about their way of life.

Kyrill Poole

With more than 80,000 acres of Utah land in flames, city officials are placing considerable restrictions on the use of fireworks throughout the state. Utah Governor Gary Herbert addressed reporters outside the state capitol Thursday with the State Fire Marshall and dozens of city mayors.

Thousands of Utah residents were able to return home on Saturday after a massive wildfire whipped through Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain last week. The fire began on Thursday and scorched more than 6,000 acres of land, coming dangerously close to homes but none were damaged. About 588 homes were evacuated Friday, but residents were able to return Saturday evening. Officials had determined a shift in wind pushed the fire back on itself. Steve Layton says the flames were about 100 yards from his home in Saratoga Springs when he evacuated.

Wildfire Forces Thousands to Evacuate Homes

Jun 22, 2012
Image by <a href="">arbyreed</a> / <a href="">Creative Commons</a> via flickr

A wildfire continues to burn Friday evening in Western Utah County near Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain.  Mandatory evacuations have forced thousands of people out of their homes. Sergeant Spencer Cannon is a Public Information Officer with the Utah County Sheriff Department. He says that officers have been going to door to door, telling people they need to leave.

“Of course people don’t like doing that, but we’ll increase patrols in the area and make sure homes are protected,” said Cannon.

Land Swap Proposed in Skull Valley

Jun 21, 2012
Proposed Skull Valley land swap
U.S. Bureau of Land Management

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is asking for public comment on a proposed land swap in the Skull Valley area of Utah's West Desert.   It would trade about 14,000 acres, mostly near the town of Terra, for a similar acreage of private land in and around the Onaqui Mountains east of Dugway. 

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance supports the trade.  Field Director Ray Bloxham says this is an unspoiled area of the state.

Setting New Standards for the Great Salt Lake

Jun 20, 2012
Sailboat on the Great Salt Lake
Dan Bammes

The Utah Division of Water Quality has begun a long-term project to set new pollution standards for the Great Salt Lake.  The lake contains significant levels of toxic pollutants such as arsenic, lead, selenium and mercury, among other things.  Jeff Ostermiller, the chief of the Water Quality Management Section at the division, says some of that comes from industries surrounding the lake.  But he says there are many other sources as well, including urban runoff from streets along the Wasatch Front.

Desolation Canyon
Adam Swisher, National Outdoor Leadership School

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved a plan proposed by Gasco to drill 1,300 new oil and gas wells in eastern Utah over the next 15 years.  Some of the wells will be drilled in the Desolation Canyon area near the Green River.  That has environmental groups warning of what they call a "disaster."

Map of 2012 Utah Wildfires
Utah Department of Natural Resources

New restrictions to help prevent wildfires across Utah were put in place Thursday. The dry weather and lack of rain have created an early and intense fire season that is expected to continue if conditions don’t change.