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Toxic algae warning advisory issued for Provo Bay in Utah Lake

Utah health officials have issued a harmful algal bloom warning advisory for Provo Bay in Utah Lake and are encouraging residents to keep themselves and their pets safe in the water.

The warning advisory, issued on Friday by the Utah Division of Environmental Quality, states that a monitoring team visited Utah Lake on June 7 and observed HABs at the Provo Bay entrance.

No algal blooms were observed at other parts of Utah Lake, including Lindon Beach, Lindon Marina Beach, South Point at North Dike, South Point Marina, Lincoln Beach Marina, north of Lincoln Beach Marina, Saratoga Springs Marina Boat Ramp, American Fork Beach or American Fork Marina.

According to the DWQ, toxigenic cyanobacteria cell density results for Provo Bay show cell counts at 266,863 cells/mL of Dolichospermum, which is “a known toxin producer.”

Health officials noted that the cell densities observed at Provo Bay “are above the UDWQ/UDOH recommended Warning Advisory threshold of 100,000 cells/mL.”

The Utah County Health Department stated on Friday that Utah Lake State Park Marina remains open for boat traffic “but water recreation within Provo Bay should be avoided.”

HABs develop “when naturally occurring cyanobacteria in the water multiply very quickly to form green or blue-green water, scum, or mats,” according to the DWQ, which notes that HABs “can produce potent cyanotoxins that pose serious health risks to humans, pets, and livestock.”

Symptoms of human exposure to HABs include rashes, hives or blisters from skin contact, and a runny nose, sore throat, asthma or “allergic-like reactions from breathing in droplets from contaminated water. Swallowing contaminated water can result in vomiting and diarrhea, stomach pain, weakness, tingling, dizziness or trouble breathing.

Symptoms of animal exposure include weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing, vomiting and convulsions.

To stay safe, health officials recommend avoiding swallowing water when swimming, washing hands with clean water before preparing or eating food, cleaning fish well and discarding of guts, keeping animals away and recognizing the signs of an algal bloom.

Last summer, health officials issued multiple warning and danger advisories for various areas of Utah Lake — including the Utah Lake State Park Marina, which is about 1 mile north of Provo Bay — after finding toxic algae concentrations above the threshold for safe recreation.

The DWQ and Utah Department of Health began monitoring for HABs and waterborne pathogens this year on June 1 and will continue to visit and monitor waterbodies throughout the summer.

For concerns about possible human exposure, call the Utah Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222. To report a bloom, call the 24-hour Utah Department of Environmental Quality incident line at (801) 536-4123.

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LDS Church and NAACP join hands in major education and humanitarian initiatives

NAACP President Derrick Johnson speaks during an LDS Sacrament Meeting Sunday, June 13, 2021 in Salt Lake City. 

In what some would consider an unlikely friendship, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have joined hands as they pave the way for three major initiatives.

The First Presidency, which includes President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring, and the national leadership of the NAACP announced Monday new educational and humanitarian initiatives that are part of an ongoing collaboration.

It has been three years, since May of 2018, when these groups first met and began a growing relationship.

“Today, we are pleased to announce three key initiatives that have emerged from our many discussions and prayerful planning,” said Nelson at a news conference, shortly after meeting with NAACP leadership in the Church Administration Building on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

“Leaders of the church have found common ground with the NAACP as we have discussed challenges that beset some of God’s children,” Nelson said. Along with his counselors, they were joined by elders Ronald A. Rasband and Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy.

“The challenges are huge, and our capacities are limited. But together, we want to make a difference, even though our efforts may seem relatively small,” Nelson said.

Nelson noted the details about the academic and philanthropic-focused plans that have resulted from their ongoing discussions and collaboration.

To support the groups’ educational goals, the global faith leader announced the church’s commitment to fund a $1 million scholarship donation per year for three years, overseen by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), which will help young Black students in the United States.

Nelson also shared the church’s plans to provide $250,000 for an Amos C. Brown Student Fellowship to Ghana and explained that the experience “will allow selected students from the USA an opportunity to learn more about their heritage.”

“These efforts represent an ongoing desire of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to teach and live the two great commandments — to love God and neighbor,” Nelson said.

Together, Nelson explained, the two entities will “bring relief to suffering souls in underprivileged areas of the United States,” and through these efforts, “teach important principles of self-reliance.”

To accomplish this objective, the senior leader pledged a $2 million church contribution per year for the next three years “to encourage service and help to those in need” in those areas.

“This is consistent with our many humanitarian efforts around the world for which our members have donated so generously,” Nelson said.

NAACP leaders in attendance included Derrick Johnson, president and CEO; Wilbur Colom, special counsel; Eris Sims, chief of staff; Yumeka Rushing, chief strategy officer, and Reverend Dr. Amos C. Brown, senior pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco and president of the NAACP Branch in San Francisco.

UNCF representatives at the event included Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO; Maurice Jenkins, executive vice president and chief development officer, and Monica Sudduth, regional development director of San Francisco.

Nelson expressed his thanks to the NAACP and UNCF leaders for being a part of the shared vision.

“On this week of Juneteenth — a time designated to remember the end of slavery in the United States — we are honored to join with our dear friends from the NAACP and the UNCF to announce these goals and our shared vision,” he said.

“While a global pandemic has impacted our ability to meet in person, we have been hard at work, and we are pleased to meet today in that same warm spirit to share now some joint initiatives that will take our progress to a new level,” Rasband said.

Monday’s gathering of Latter-day Saints and NAACP leadership was reminiscent of the groups’ news conference just over three years ago when Nelson called for people to demonstrate “greater civility and kindness and to work together to bless the lives of all God’s children.”

“On May 17, 2018, the church and the NAACP — in this very room — made a unified plea for greater civility and racial harmony. It was the solidifying of a growing friendship and the beginning of discussions about how we could learn from and serve one another.”

In July 2019, Nelson spoke to the NAACP 110th National Convention’s attendees in Detroit. His message centered on how “differences need not undermine society’s shared humanity.”

A year later, he and NAACP leaders authored a national op-ed on how to build greater understanding, overcome prejudice and address the intolerable sin of racism.

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BYU takes conservation steps, professor stresses severity of drought

Brigham Young University recently announced the completion of a five-year smart irrigation project that is set to reduce water consumption on campus by 20% to 50%. With current drought conditions, the university is trying to conserve water while professors speak out about climate conditions and how locals can help.

Other work at BYU over the past years has included converting landscape sprinklers to non-potable water, xeriscaping on campus, using compost to reduce water usage in flower beds, reducing water usage from faucets and toilets, and communicating with the campus community about the school’s efforts.

“In response to the governor’s declaration of drought across Utah, BYU Grounds will slow the revival of lawn areas from dormancy,” a message to the campus community said on May 5. “Grounds has worked diligently to check and repair all irrigation systems before beginning irrigation schedules. They will monitor drought conditions and conserve precious resources while maximizing their water access.”

Dr. Matt Bekker, a professor of geography who oversees BYU weather data reported to the national weather service, uses tree rings to reconstruct what past droughts have looked like, then gaining a perspective on how past years relate to the current climate.

Bekker pointed to the severity of the drought right now, citing that Lake Powell and Lake Mead are expected to be at record lows by the end of the summer.

“We hardly ever get any precipitation, relevantly most of Utah, once we get to mid-June, so we don’t expect to see much from here at least until the end of July, we might get a little bit of moisture with the North American monsoon that time of year but that is pretty variable also,” Bekker said. “The outlook isn’t good for the rest of the summer and that is why you would expect Powell, Mead and other reservoirs to continue to go down for the summer. The hotter conditions will just evaporate more of that water away.”

When asked about what has led to the current conditions in the Beehive State, Bekker said that the last two years have been really dry.

On a broader scale, when looking back 20 years, the state has seen many consecutive dry years with the occasional wet year mixed in. While people may say the drought was over, which it might have been for that time period, Bekker said the state is experiencing what some refer to as a mega-drought.

The 20-year drought has been continually taxing the water supply in Utah.

“It’s not just the last two years, it’s about the last 20 years which some people call a mega-drought,” Bekker said. “A drought of a given magnitude worse than what we have seen in the instrumental record, that lasts at least 19 to 20 years. That’s usually how it is defined.”

With regards to tips for people looking to conserve water, Bekker added that most of the efforts should be taken outdoors, making sure to water plants and lawns in the morning or evening.

Watering during the middle of the day would see more water being evaporated due to the hot temperatures. Another way to limit water consumption is xeriscaping, replacing more water-demanding landscapes with drought-resistant landscaping.

But Bekker said it doesn’t just start with homeowners, it’s about everyone doing their part to help.

“We need help all up and down the line here, homeowners, businesses, agriculture, local and state legislatures,” Bekker said.

For more resources for water conservation, Bekker suggested people visit the Division of Water Resources website, water.utah.gov, or contact a local water conservancy district along the Wasatch Front.

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Lehi moves to limit watering to twice a week

Lehi officials are implementing the third and final phase of the city’s water shortage management plan as extreme drought conditions continue throughout Utah County and the rest of the state.

Under Phase 3, which goes into effect on Tuesday, water users may not water their yards more than two days a week and must wait at least 48 hours between watering cycles.

One irrigation cycle is equivalent to 20 minutes with pop-up spray heads and 40 minutes with impact rotor sprinklers, according to the city.

“With the current restrictions in place, we understand that there will be spots on lawns where there may be browning. We would encourage residents to spot water in those areas rather than run a whole irrigation zone or running your system longer,” Lehi Public Works wrote in an announcement about the restrictions.

The additional restrictions come just two weeks after the city moved to Phase 2 of the drought plan, which limited lawn watering to up to three days a week with 48 hours between watering cycles.

Also during Phase 3, hard-surface washing is restricted “except for health or safety reasons.”

A first violation results in a “hand-delivered written notice of violation and instructions on necessary corrective action,” while a second violation results in a $100 fine and warning of actions consequent to a third violation. A third violation results in a $500 fine.

The water shortage management plan includes exceptions for “new lawns that require frequent irrigation within 30 days for establishment purposes,” as well as for “short cycles required for testing, inspecting, and maintaining irrigation systems.”

The restrictions come as the west half of Utah County experiences “exceptional” drought conditions, while the east half experiences “extreme” drought conditions, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

During a Lehi City Council meeting on June 8, Matt Dalton of the Lehi Water Department said that “if we keep headed down the road we’re on with water usage, we will literally be running out (of irrigation water) come the first of September.”

“We need to conserve what we have to be able to sustain through the whole irrigation system,” Dalton said.

Dalton recommended that the city quickly implement Phase 3 of its water restriction plan, noting that doing so “is going to be absolutely necessary to make it through this summer.”

“And I don’t know that it’s worth waiting another two weeks to come here and revisit this,” he said.

Councilmember Paige Albrecht agreed that they should “pull the trigger now” and move to Phase 3, as did Councilmember Chris Condie.

“I think we have to,” Condie said. “There’s no choice.”

Mayor Mark Johnson advised that the city wait until Tuesday to implement the new restrictions to allow time to get the message out and avoid confusion.

Councilmember Paul Hancock noted that the drought “is a statewide problem” and “not just a Lehi problem.”

“Every statewide municipality is facing this,” said Hancock.

“It’s not just Lehi,” agreed Dalton. “It’s not the development that’s driving this drought. It’s Mother Nature doing it to the state.”

For more information about Lehi’s latest drought restrictions, visit http://www.lehi-ut.gov/conserve.