Wyoming News Briefs Jan. 24


January 23, 2020

Uinta County authorizes land sale for detention center

EVANSTON (WNE) — The Uinta County Commission Chambers were again full for the regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21, when commissioners voted unanimously to pass a land transfer resolution authorizing the transfer of approximately 63 acres of county property located adjacent to the Bear River State Park to CoreCivic for the intended purpose of constructing an immigration detention/processing center.

A Memorandum of Terms regarding the property sale between the county and CoreCivic lists the purchase price as $5,000 per acre. At that rate, the total purchase price of 63 acres would be $315,000.

The project remains contingent on CoreCivic securing a contract for the facility from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

According to Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson-Kallas, the price the county paid for the land when purchasing it from the state about a decade ago was approximately $550 per acre.

In a continuation of what has become commonplace at public meetings concerning the ICE facility, numerous people spoke both for and against the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.

Many of the comments were similar to those voiced at any number of meetings over the past nearly three years since the proposal was first mentioned in the spring of 2017.

However, some new concerns were raised.

Evanston resident Joice Mander asked if the property had ever been listed as being available for purchase and said other businesses should have been given the opportunity to purchase the land, even suggesting she knew of another potential buyer that would meet or better the agreed upon price.


Second ‘ozone outlook’ announced for Upper Green

PINEDALE (WNE) – In January alone, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has already announced two “ozone outlooks” warning the public about possible high ozone levels in the Upper Green River Basin.

The first high levels are happening again this winter at the DEQ’s Boulder air-quality monitoring station, where numerous exceedances occurred late in the 2019 winter ozone season.

The DEQ’s new Paradise Road Mobile Station also shows elevated ozone levels in the same time periods.

DEQ’s second “ozone outlook” came on Wednesday, Jan. 22, forecasting possibly high ozone levels during the weekend. Air-quality monitors at Pinedale, Boulder and Paradise Road Mobile data show high one-hour levels into Wednesday.

Winter ozone was first discovered in the Upper Green River Basin, where polluting emissions from combustion, such as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, are the main known precursors for ozone formation.

Snow cover, low wind, direct sunlight and temperature inversions are factors that the DEQ Air Quality Division study to forecast potentially high ozone levels.

“We never claimed we could control winter ozone development,” said DEQ spokesman Keith Guille in an interview Thursday. “We can only try to curb it as much as possible.”

DEQ’s compliance staff in the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah Field are making site inspections and working with operators and contractors to “make sure everybody is living up to what they signed up for,” Guille said.

Two full-time inspectors – to be joined soon by a third – have made 102 inspections in the past 23 days.


Grand Teton visitation remains strong

JACKSON (WNE) — Grand Teton National Park stayed near its highest-ever visitation levels in 2019, trailing only 2018 for numbers of tourists passing through.

That’s a trend that somewhat bucks that of its National Park Service sibling to the north, Yellowstone National Park, which had its slowest tourism year since 2014.

Teton park’s spokeswoman chalks up the continued busy times to more people coming during the historically slow shoulder seasons.

“I don’t know what to make of the difference between the two parks,” Denise Germann said, “but I do believe our shoulder seasons are expanding a little bit. In 2019, we saw record visitation in both March and August.”

For the year, Grand Teton National Park attracted 3.41 million “recreational visitors” — a category that excludes some passers-through, such as commercial truckers on Highway 26/89/191.

July, as is the custom, was the busiest month of the year, with 776,000 visitors. The nadir fell in February, followed by November and December — months that attracted fewer than 50,000 recreational visits each.

Taking a decadelong perspective, both parks are up significantly. Grand Teton visitation has increased 28% since 2010, when visitation hit 2.67 million. Yellowstone’s decadal gain was just 10%, although the bottom for tourists post-recession wasn’t until 2013.


One killed in accident south of Laramie

LARAMIE (WNE) — The Wyoming Highway Patrol reported Wednesday a fatal crash occurred Monday morning on U.S. Highway 287 just south of Laramie, close to Calvary Ranch Road.

One person died as a result of the crash, one woman was airlifted to Colorado and nine people were brought to Ivinson Memorial Hospital for their injuries, according to the news release.

Each driver and many passengers were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash.

A 2002 Ford Explorer driven by Laramie resident Phillip Black, 33, was stopped in the southbound lane of the highway waiting to make a left turn on to Calvary Ranch Road.

Rock Springs resident Kyler Yerkovich, driving a 2010 Chevrolet Colorado, had started to slow down as he approached Black’s stopped car.

Yerkovich “noticed a southbound 2018 Honda Pilot approaching from behind and not slowing down,” according to the news release.

The driver of the Honda, 50-year old Laramie resident Martha Doyle, “failed to notice the stopped vehicle until it was too late.” She entered the northbound lane of the highway, where she collided head-on with a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Speed, cell phone use and driver inattention on the part of Doyle are being investigated as possible contributing factors to the crash, according to the WHP.

The driver of the Jeep, 50-year-old Fort Collins resident David Hanlon, was wearing his seatbelt but died at the scene of the crash.


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