Utah News

Utah News and UPR Newsline are productions of Utah Public Radio. Our news partners include: The Herald Journal.

Utah Lowest State For FAFSA Completion

Aug 11, 2015

Only thirty-four percent of high school students in the state fill out FAFSA forms, the lowest number in the nation.

“It’s estimated that we are leaving on the table about forty five million dollars a year that could be available to Utah college students to help pay for tuition,” said Dave Buhler, Utah commissioner of higher education.

Buhler said possible reasons for this include students may not think it is worth their while to fill out the forms and they may think the applications are for loans that need to eventually be paid off.

Navajo Nation Fights Pollution From EPA Spill

Aug 10, 2015

San Juan County is home to the very northernmost portion of the Navajo Nation. County officials expect the contaminated water from Colorado’s Gold King Mine to reach Utah by Monday. The Environmental Protection Agency claims that 3 million gallons of polluted water have entered the river system, up from its initial estimate of one million gallons. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority shut off water pumps in the communities of Montezuma Creek and Aneth.

USU Professor Discovers Venomous Frogs

Aug 10, 2015
Dr. Carlos Jared / Institutio Butanan

Utah State University professor, Edmund Brodie, is among a team of scientists who recently discovered that at least two species of frogs are venomous.

Corthythomantis greeningi and Aparasphenodon brunoi are both found in Brazil and are the only frogs known to be venomous.

“To this point, no one had considered that a frog could be venomous, specifically able to transmit toxin into another animal with a spine or something of that nature,” Brodie said. “Now all of a sudden we are seeing something that is completely different and unknown among amphibians.”


Researches at Utah State University have been working in coordination with researchers at Ulster University in Belfast Northern Ireland to develop an app to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Gray Matter’s app is still in the research stage of development, but Maria Norton, a family, consumer and human development professor at Utah State, said they have seen progress in better understanding the disease that effects more than five million Americans.

Utahn New Head Of Interstate Group

Aug 7, 2015

Provo Republican state Sen. Curt Bramble had previously served a term as the group’s vice-president when he was elected as the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures on Thursday. Bramble, a Certified Public Accountant by trade, has served in the Utah Senate since 2001.

Upon hearing the news of the senator’s election, Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser released a statement, praising Bramble’s leadership ability.

The national discussion over the issue of racism has led to new efforts by some in Utah to rename Dixie State College in St. George, and Negro Bill Canyon in Moab.

This week, in a 4-3 vote, the Grand County Council once again rejected a proposal to rename Negro Bill Canyon. The majority cited opposition to the name change by the NAACP office in Salt Lake City. The change was originally proposed last year by African American resident, Louis Williams, who has argued that the current name clouds the real history of William Grandstaff, one of Moab’s earliest settlers.


Rape Victims Testify Against USU Fraternity Member

Aug 6, 2015
Christopher Campbell

On Thursday, two women testified against Jason Relopez, a member of Utah State University’s Sigma Chi fraternity who has been accused of rape.

One victim a 20-year-old woman, testified that despite her saying “No,” Relopez proceeded to have sex with her.

Another victim, who is 19 years old, testified that he struck her, choked her and raped her in the fraternity house.

Defense attorney Shannon Demler said his client's encounters with both women were consensual.

Utah Prisoners Protest Through Hunger Strike

Aug 5, 2015

Inmates at the Utah State Prison in Draper are participating in a hunger strike to protest their living conditions.

About 30 of the 42 maximum-security prisoners have written complaints to the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

“This group of prisoners have organized this strike in response as a way to express their political views and their objection to the conditions of their incarceration,” said Leah Farrell, staff attorney for the ACLU.

News Service

Abby Albrecht is the executive director of the Utah Transportation Coalition. She said the report shows that nearly a third of urban roadways in the region are described as being in "poor" condition. She said tire damage from potholes, glass damage from rocks and extra fuel expense from congestion are major problems with a far-reaching economic impact.

Changes Come To The Tour Of Utah

Aug 5, 2015

Now in its twelfth year, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah brings cyclists from around the world to race through some of the state’s most beautiful and challenging cycling landscapes.

According to Jenn Andrs, executive director of the Tour of Utah, the tour is known around the country as being one of the most challenging races.

“We are known as America’s toughest stage race. That’s our tagline,” Andrs said. “And this year we will travel 712 miles in seven days and climb 51,000 vertical feet. That is the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest just under two times.”


On Monday, President Barack Obama unveiled the Clean Power Program to combat carbon emissions across the country. The plan, which requires states to meet certain emissions reductions, was hailed by environmental groups as a step in the right direction.

Opponents have criticized the plan, claiming that it will lead to a rise in energy prices. Some Utah officials, including Gov. Gary Herbert, have called for the plan to be rejected. Lindsay Beebe of the Sierra Club in Utah said that the President’s proposal was the right move, and that she expects pushback from state officials.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

An area in Southern Utah once known for trout fishing is being restored after nearly being destroyed by wildfire.

Lynn Chamberlain with the Division of Wildlife Resources said crews are using heavy equipment to add large dead trees to the stream-bed of North Creek near Beaver. He said the trees will help contain flood waters, which come down from the mountains and were previously held back by the trees lost in the wildfire a few years ago.

Chaffetz Calls For Removal of IRS Chief

Jul 30, 2015

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz is calling upon President Barack Obama to fire John Koskinen from his post as chief of the Internal Revenue Service. Chaffetz accused Koskinen of obstructing justice by failing to tell the truth about emails related to the alleged targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan threatened to hold Koskinen in contempt of court, claiming the IRS failed to turn over the emails at the center of the controversy. Speaking to the media Thursday, Chaffetz said that the judge’s threat didn’t come as a surprise.

Christopher Campbell

On Tuesday, “The Book of Mormon” opened in Salt Lake City without members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints picketing in front of Capitol Theater.

However, not all Mormons are happy that it has come to the same city where the Church headquarters is located. Lisa Nelson from American Fork said she made her decision to not see it after hearing “South Park” creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, wrote it. Though she has never seen the TV show, Nelson says she has heard it is raunchy.

Wildfire Spreads Near St. George

Jul 28, 2015

A wildfire just 55 miles south of St. George spread from 640 acres on Monday to 820 on Tuesday.

A lightning storm started the High Meadow fire on the Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strip near Mt. Trumbull and Potato Valley on July 14.

“Crews have been managing it since that time,” said Rachel Carnahan, Arizona Strip District public affairs officer for the BLM. “And heavy winds on Saturday did cause the fire to become quite active again.”

Carnahan said the fire is difficult to maintain in the area it is in.

Study: Medicaid Benefits Children As They Grow Up

Jul 28, 2015

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation that established Medicare and Medicaid. This week's report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that adults who benefited from Medicaid as children have lower rates of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and lower blood pressure.

According to Lincoln Nehring, president and CEO of Voices for Utah Children, healthy kids go on to have successful lives.

Wildfire Near Jordanelle Reservoir Is Contained

Jul 27, 2015

About 100 residents at Fox Bay Condominiums left their homes on Monday after a fire broke out by the Jordanelle Reservoir, which has now been contained.

Mike Eriksson, an area manager for the Utah Division of Forestry, said the evacuation has been lifted, and residents should be back home by now.

“It turned out to be only one acre after they GPS’d it,” Eriksson said. “So it was pretty tiny.”

Eriksson said a possible reason the fire did not spread is the summer has been wetter than average, and moisture in the plants made them difficult to burn.

Researchers Work Together On Red Butte Creek

Jul 27, 2015

Last week, researchers from multiple Utah colleges and universities worked together to gather data from the Red Butte Creek in Salt Lake City.

According to Paul Brooks, professor of hydrology and biochemistry at the University of Utah, this effort is the first of its kind, with diverse types of observations, including hydrology sampling, water chemistry sampling and biological sampling. Some researchers studied drought stress and interviewed local residents on water use.

Herbert To Lead National Governors' Association

Jul 27, 2015

On Saturday, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert was named chairman of the National Governor’s Association. Almost immediately, the governor laid out an initiative entitled “States: Finding Solutions, Improving Lives.” The initiative calls for more state-federal partnerships while highlighting state solutions to political issues.

State Rep. Jon Cox said that Herbert’s new appointment will allow Utah to learn from what other states are accomplishing. He said that the NGA is an invaluable platform to share ideas.

August Race To Support Autism Program

Jul 23, 2015

A charity organization, Race 4 a Cause, will hold the second annual First Dam Pancake Run on Aug. 15  in Logan to raise funds for a preschool program at Utah State University called Autism Support Services: Education, Research and Training, or ASSERT.

The Rising Opportunity Of Utah Biofuel

Jul 23, 2015

The biofuel industry may be closer to rivaling conventional fuel companies for financial success. Ray Dellinger, CEO of Argo Fuels, said that his new NanoCatylist Processor will help turn biodiesel into a viable alternative to petroleum. He said that biofuel producers working together can not only turn a profit but, through low-cost production, release the industry from reliance on government subsidies.

Logan Man Arrested In Fraternity Rape Case

Jul 22, 2015

Police say a Logan man has been arrested on suspicion of raping three women at a Utah State University fraternity house. 27-year-old Jason Relopez was booked into Cache County Jail on Tuesday due to allegations by a woman who reported to Logan police that she had been sexually assaulted at a Sigma Chi fraternity house. 

Logan City Police Chief Gary Jensen said that investigators have found enough evidence to charge Relopez with multiple counts of rape.


On Aug. 1, Utah will kick off its third annual Pacific Island Heritage Month with activities at the Sorenson Unity Center in Salt Lake City.

In 2013, Gov. Gary Herbert declared this month because of the large population of Pacific Islanders who live in Utah.

“Utah has the largest Pacific Island community per percent in all states,” said Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou, co-founder of Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources, which founded the Utah Pacific Island Heritage Month.

Aimee Cobabe

Residents in Utah have joined programs aimed at lowering the cost of solar installations.

“Solar has grown very quickly especially in the last three to five years,” said Kate Bowman, Solar Project Coordinator for Utah Clean Energy, a public interest organization. “Looking back to 2009, on average Utah’s cumulative solar capacity—so the total amount of solar in the state—has increased by 82 percent each year. So that’s almost doubling each year since 2009.”

Owens Enters 2016 Congressional Rematch

Jul 21, 2015

On Tuesday, former Democratic Party candidate Doug Owens announced that he has officially entered the 2016 race for Congress in Utah’s fourth district. Owens plans to challenge incumbent Mia Love for the House seat, as he did in 2014. His candidacy has some optimistic that the Democratic Party can regain a House seat in Utah.

Utah Democratic Party Chair Peter Corroon said that increased voter turnout will ultimately help Owens’ candidacy.