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‘We need to finish building the wall’: Trump national security adviser applauds Utah’s border intervention

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‘We need to finish building the wall’: Trump national security adviser applauds Utah’s border intervention


Robert C. O’Brien also commended efforts by the Legislature to stand up to China and endorsed bills aimed at foreign government intervention in the Beehive State.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert O’Brien, a former national security adviser of the Trump administration, says a few words during a news conference in the Gold Room at the Capitol, on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024.

Robert C. O’Brien, a former national security adviser during the President Donald Trump administration, said Monday while visiting the Utah Capitol that “we need to finish building the wall that President Trump started.”

During a news conference where he talked about U.S. national security, and while also endorsing a bill that would prevent Russia, China, North Korea or Iran from purchasing land in Utah, O’Brien was asked about his thoughts on the southern border.

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“We got to keep control of the border,” he said. “And getting control of the border is not anti-immigrant.”

O’Brien added that anyone who has immigrated to the U.S. knows the border needs to be controlled.

“The wall works, but we also need to man the wall with Border Patrol agents, and in some cases National Guard,” he said. “So I’m glad to see Utah participating in helping Texas control the border.”

Last week, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced he would be sending five troops from Utah National Guard and five law enforcement officers from Utah Highway Patrol to Texas.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Riverton, says a few words during a news conference in the Gold Room at the Capitol, on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024.

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At the news conference, House Speaker Mike Schultz said he was “blown away” by his experience visiting the border. Cox and Schultz visited the border on Feb. 4.

“I expected seeing mass migration coming across, people camping and human tragedies,” he said. “When I got there, I saw a border in that area that had been completely secured.”

Schultz said Texas’ ability to safeguard the border shows what can happen when states work together to enforce the laws.

O’Brien said the No. 1 threat to U.S. security was the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party. He alleged, without providing any evidence, that 30,000 unaccompanied Chinese military-aged men had crossed the border.

“We’ve got a full spectrum adversary, it’s going to take a whole government approach on our part to defend against it,” he said.

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During the hourlong news conference, O’Brien also commended Utah legislators for their efforts to stand up against China.

“It’s very brave to stand up against China … and so it takes a lot of courage as a state legislator, elected official to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough,’” he said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, visits with Robert O’Brien, a former national security advisrr in the Trump administration, after a news conference in the Gold Room at the Capitol, on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024.

Rep. Candace Pierucci, R-Riverton, discussed two bills she introduced during this year’s legislative session that target foreign government intervention in the Beehive State.

HB404 prohibits a municipality from entering a sister city relationship with any places in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, and prohibits the purchase of a product made from “forced labor.”

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Pierucci said her other bill, HB516, “prohibits restricted foreign entities and companies headquartered in Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, from purchasing or owning land in Utah.”

“This is critical for our state as we safeguard our country and state’s interests,” Pierucci said.



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Utah

Biden and Utah's governor call for less bitterness and more bipartisanship in the nation's politics

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Biden and Utah's governor call for less bitterness and more bipartisanship in the nation's politics


WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox disagree on many issues but they were united Saturday in calling for less bitterness in politics and more bipartisanship.

“Politics has gotten too personally bitter,” said Biden, who has practiced politics since he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. “It’s just not like it was.” The Democratic president commented while delivering a toast to the nation’s governors and their spouses at a black-tie White House dinner in their honor.

Biden said what makes him “feel good” about hosting the governors is “we have a tradition of doing things together. We fight like hell, we make sure that we get our points across. At the end of the day, we know who we work for. The objective is to get things done.”

Cox, a Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association, preceded Biden to the lectern beneath an imposing portrait of Abraham Lincoln above the fireplace in the State Dining Room.

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The Utah governor said the association “harkens back to another time, another era, when we did work together across partisan lines, when there was no political danger in appearing with someone from the other side of the aisle and we have to keep this, we have to maintain this, we cannot lose this,” he said.

Cox leads an initiative called “Disagree Better” that aims to reduce divisiveness. He had joked earlier in the program that he and Biden might be committing “mutually assured destruction” by appearing together at the White House since they’re both up for reelection this year.

He told Biden that as state chief executives, governors “know just a very little bit of the incredible burden that weighs on your shoulders. We can’t imagine what it must be like, the decisions that you have to make, but we feel a small modicum of that pressure and so, tonight, we honor you.”

Biden said he remembered when lawmakers would argue by day and break bread together at night. He is currently embroiled in stalemates with the Republican-controlled House over immigration policy, government funding and aid for Ukraine and Israel.

Cox went on to say that his parents taught him to pray for the leader of the country.

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“Mr. President, I want you to know that our family prays for you and your family every night,” he said. “We pray that you will be successful because if you are successful that means that United States of America is successful and tonight we are always Americans first, so thank you.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat who is the association’s vice chairman, also offered a toast.

“We have a lot more in common and a lot more that brings us together as Americans for love of country and love of the people of our country,” he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, were among Cabinet secretaries and White House officials who sat among the governors. The group included North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who in December ended his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee and challenge Biden.

Guests dined on house-made burrata cheese, an entree choice of beef braciole or cod almandine and lemon meringue tart with limoncello ice cream for dessert.

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After dinner, the program moved to the East Room for a performance by country singer Trisha Yearwood.

The governors, in Washington for their annual winter meeting, heard from Biden and Harris on Friday during a separate session at the White House.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.



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Fighter Jets Scramble Toward a Balloon Over Utah

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Fighter Jets Scramble Toward a Balloon Over Utah


It was spy balloon deja vu on Friday, when fighter jets rushed to intercept a small high-altitude balloon in the skies over Utah, reports the Deseret News. Per a statement later that day from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, the balloon was at between 43,000 feet and 45,000 feet when it was intercepted, but once it was checked out, concerns died down. “NORAD fighters over Utah … determined it was not maneuverable and did not present a threat to national security,” the statement notes, adding, “NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon.”

An official tells CBS News it should have made it to the skies above Georgia by Friday night. On Saturday morning, there was further clarification, with a Defense Department official telling CBS News that the object was a hobbyist balloon. The outlet reports that the balloon was said to be made of Mylar and featured a 2-foot-by-2-foot box hanging underneath it. The AP notes that at one point, the balloon had also been spotted flying over Colorado. The balloon hullabaloo comes just over a year after a Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina. (More balloon stories.)

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If plan for a $22 million reservoir is ditched, southern Utah city could face building moratorium and land in legal hot water

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If plan for a $22 million reservoir is ditched, southern Utah city could face building moratorium and land in legal hot water


Ivins • If plans to build Dry Wash Reservoir in Ivins are ditched, the Washington County Water Conservancy District will not be able to fulfill its contractual obligation to supply water to the southern Utah city.

That’s the alarm Zach Renstrom, general manager of the district, sounded Wednesday evening at a public meeting on the $22 million reuse reservoir planned for 90 acres in west Ivins between Kwavasa Drive and Highway 91.

Moreover, he added, that would only signal the beginning of the city’s problems. For starters, the district would have to huddle with city officials to discuss when they might implement a moratorium to stop any further building.

Since Ivins has already approved a lot of new permits for construction, Renstrom said that would put city officials in the unenviable position of having to tell developers they couldn’t proceed as planned to build the agreed-upon number of homes.

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“They will get sued …,” Renstrom told the crowd that packed Rocky Vista University. “I will guarantee I’ll be the first one on the stand and they’ll ask me the question, ‘Could you have got water to Ivins city? And I [would say] ‘Yes, we have a plan [for a reservoir] that had been approved by multiple engineers. It’s a plan that had gone through environmental analysis. But we were not able to build that because the city said we weren’t [able to]. So therefore I can’t fulfill my contractual obligations [to Ivins].’”

Ivins dependent on district water

Currently, Ivins gets about 80% of its water supply from the district. Renstrom noted the city’s own water supply ran dry long ago. “But you are still able to grow today because you are getting water from the water district,” he said, adding a lot of the city’s water is currently coming from Sand Hollow Reservoir, Snow Canyon and St. George.

Dry Wash Reservoir, along with Graveyard Wash, a reuse reservoir planned for the Santa Clara area near Highway 91, is key to the water district’s plan to secure another 47,000 acre-feet of water by 2042 to keep pace with growth. By storing treated wastewater that could be used for outdoor irrigation, the reservoirs would free up culinary water to be used to supply new homes.

Doug Bennett, the district’s conservation manager, said implementing stricter conservation measures would account for about 11,400 acre-feet of the 47,000 acre-foot total. Most of the balance is projected to come from 100 projects — including a regional reuse water system — the district plans to build at a combined cost of more than $1 billion, most of which would be funded by impact fees.

(Mark Eddington | The Salt Lake Tribune) Washington County Water Conservancy District general manager Zack Renstrom talks about the importance of Dry Wash Reservoir at a public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, at Rocky Vista University in Ivins. Ivins Mayor Chris Hart is seated onstage to Renstrom’s right.

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In its current configuration, Dry Wash Reservoir would hold 1,500 acre-feet at its fullest point and be drawn down to a conservation level of 300 acre-feet during the hot summers when the water would be distributed to areas as needed.

During dry years, according to the district, the St. George wastewater plant would pipe treated reuse water to Dry Wash for storage. In wet years, the reservoir would store water from Gunlock Reservoir, which could then capture and store more spring runoff from the surrounding mountains. Without a place to store reuse water, the water would be discharged into the Virgin River to flow downstream into Lake Mead.

Residents not sold on Dry Wash

Still, many residents at Wednesday’s meeting were not sold on the merits of locating a storage reservoir in the middle of a fast-growing residential community. Chief among their concerns is that when Dry Wash’s water levels are lowered during hot summer months, it would expose much of the lakebed to high winds they argue could blow dust clouds across Ivins and neighboring Santa Clara.

Ivins resident Wayne Pennington, a geophysicist and retired dean of engineering at Michigan Technological University, addressed the dust issue in a short video presented at the meeting. He noted the water district’s current design for Dry Wash calls for a reservoir with a high-water elevation of 3,044 feet above sea level, four feet higher than the amount specified in an Environmental Assessment conducted in 2004.

Pennington said the current design would expose 47 acres of lakebed during the summer, resulting in “areas muddy with bugs or dry with wind-borne dust.” By way of contrast, he explained, that exposed lakebed would be larger than the entire 37-acre surface area of nearby Ivins Reservoir.

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“Just imagine an area one and a quarter times that of Ivins Reservoir drying up [and] blowing dust from reuse water inside Ivins city next to residential areas,” Pennington stated in the video.

To reduce the size of the exposed lakebed and potential for dust clouds, gnats and other negative impacts opponents have expressed concerns about, Pennington is proposing a smaller reservoir with a high-water elevation of 3,038 feet. Unlike the current iteration for the reservoir, his design would not include a 66-foot dam that critics argue could leak or overflow and pose a risk to nearby homes.

“These problems may be reduced, although not eliminated, by lowering the height of the proposed reservoir … ,” he asserted in the video, adding “Ivins will need to address these issues before approving the reservoir.

District officials and their engineering consultants countered Pennington’s suggestion for a smaller reservoir, arguing that cutting the size of the reservoir would significantly reduce its carrying capacity. Moreover, they added, independent experts and dam safety experts with the state Division of Water Rights have reviewed and signed off on the dam in the current design for Dry Wash.

Renstrom said the district has already spent considerable time and money exploring possible alternative locations to Dry Wash for a reservoir, none of which panned out. As for those who want Graveyard Reservoir built first to give opponents more time to explore alternatives to Dry Wash, Renstrom said a track from a Mojave Desert Tortoise, which is listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, was recently discovered at the Graveyard location, which has complicated plans for that reservoir.

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If Dry Wash Reservoir is built as planned, the district will be responsible for all operation and maintenance costs. Ivins has agreed to pay for dust mitigation and dealing with insects should problems arise. Before assuming that obligation, though, Mayor Hart said the city will hold several work sessions open to the public where elected officials can hear from experts about the reservoir and its perceived risks, address concerns raised by opponents and discuss the city’s options.



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