An arctic start
Below zero temperatures throughout January tested Moab’s infrastructure with broken water mains. During the first week of January temperatures didn’t get above freezing once. Those extreme temperatures led to two City of Moab main water line breaks on Jan. 8. “We’ve talked about it a number of times. No one could remember a winter where we’ve had this kind of freeze. Some have been here 20 to 25 years,” said Jeff Foster, the director of public works for the City of Moab. Residents near the water main break on 400 East were without water for days at a time, while public works crews try to resolve the problem. That water main break also periodically shut down traffic on 400 East, an arterial street from Hwy 191. That section of waterline was replaced with a 12-inch line in April to permanently resolve the problem.
The Grand County Board of Education wrestled with how to handle the aging Grand County Middle School. A board was developed to determine whether to rebuild, or to remodel the building that is fraught with electrical, plumbing and safety concerns. While no decision has been made, the school board proposed a property school tax increase in August that would set aside $200,000 annually into a newly created Capital Development Fund to be used “in an effort to meet the rising cost of improving and maintaining facilities.”
Transportation by the public
The Purple Bench program launched in February, resulting in the placing of several purple benches in Moab and nearby Spanish Valley by the end of the year to be used as a grass-roots, citizen form of transportation. Those needing a ride signal to drivers by sitting on a purple bench. Those willing to give a ride stop at the bench and offer a ride.
Natural gas for cars
Residents and visitors driving cars that use compressed natural gas have a new filling station, put in place south of Moab on Hwy 191 in February. Utah Clean Cities Coalition paid 70 percent of the new Questar filling station. “Gov. Huntsman’s original plan was to create a natural gas corridor along I-15 so you would never have to go more than 100-miles for a station,” said Darren Shepherd of Questar.
Bighorn sheep captured from the Colorado River corridor were trucked by trailer to a remote canyon tributary of the San Juan River at the end of February. The herd, which were a splinter from a herd in Arches National Park, were moving too close to Castle Valley, where there was a potential threat of disease from domesticated goats and sheep.
Work began on the what could be the nation’s first fuel-producing tar sands mine in the Book Cliffs, sixty miles north of Moab. U.S. Oil Sands, a Canadian company, leased 32,000 acres of School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) land on the border of Uintah and Grand counties to mine bitumen, a naturally occurring petroleum product that is also known as asphalt. The company has estimated that 75 jobs would be created within the first year, and that more than 500 jobs will be created by the project over the next ten years. The tar sands were a major focus of local environmentalists, whose protests throughout the year brought widespread attention to the project.
Twenty-year-old Moab resident Zachary Taylor fell to his death while rappelling with friends on March 13. His fall was one of six falling fatalities in 2013. Less than two weeks later, Kyle Lee Stocking, 22, of West Jordan fell to his death after he left too much slack in the rope he was using for a rope swing on Corona Arch. Adam Weber, 32, of Salt Lake City fell to his death on May 5 after completing a tandem rope swing with his new fiancee, Stacee McConnell Shiner. Christina Allen, 19, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., died from a fall during a rock slide in the Kane Creek area south of Moab on May 7. Elizabeth Stiles Patterson, 23, of both Moab and Telluride, Colo., fell to her death from Porcupine Rim while camping with friends on June 2. Daniel Moore, 22, fell to his death during a BASE jumping accident on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The body of Gregorio Salazar Campos, 33, was found the morning of Sunday, April 7 in the water near the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Colorado River. “The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds to the victim,” said Sheriff Steve White. Campos was first reported missing on March 29. Local authorities received a tip on Saturday, April 6 that allowed them to find the body.
Two males, age 16, were taken into custody. Charles Anthony Nelson and Brody Blu Kruckenburg were each charged with first degree murder and obstructing justice in the seventh district court.
The murder charges were dropped for the young men in July and the case was moved to juvenile court. Kruckenberg pleaded guilty to manslaughter and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to juvenile detention until he turns 21. Nelson pleaded guilty to obstructing justice. His sentence is pending a psychological assessment by juvenile court.
Low water on the river
River runners faced another low water year due to low snowfall in the Colorado and Green River basins. “For March the Colorado River was 55 percent of the 30-year median,” said Chris Wilkowske, a hydrologist at the USGS Moab Field Office. “Close to half its normal volume.”
Utah State University-Moab had its largest graduating class in May. Sixteen Moab area students graduated from Utah State with associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The satellite campus awarded its first doctorate degree to Grand County High School principal Stephen Hren. Hren also earned his master’s degree through USU-Moab.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) worked on resolving a land exchange within Uintah, San Juan and Grand counties. “The exchange would allow for consolidation of federal of state lands,” said Joy Wehking, a realty specialist in the Utah BLM Office.“It would allow for more efficient management.” Some Grand County recreational landmarks are being considered in the exchange, including Corona Arch, portions of Negro Bill Canyon and sections of the Colorado River corridor that are now managed by SITLA.
Public Land Initiative
Utah Congressman Rob Bishop invited public land stakeholders to work together to resolve public lands use conflicts in five eastern Utah counties – Grand, San Juan, Wayne, Uintah and Carbon – through the Public Land Initiative. The congressman’s office sent a letter in April to 26 different Utah public land stakeholders – such as Utah Association of Counties, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Western Energy Alliance – to gauge their interest in working with a delegation for the public land initiative. He and Congressman Jason Chaffetz held an open house Aug. 9 to meet with residents to hear their perspective on public lands.
SITLA agreed in August to lease up to 155 square miles of the Book Cliffs region to the Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which said it would get started in an area that already has some oil and gas wells. The company’s lease also covers approximately 18,000 acres of undeveloped lands in an unspoiled, roadless section of Grand County that is home to big game. Sportsmen’s groups raised opposition and the action could have affected the efforts Bishop’s Public Land Initiative. SITLA agreed to a three-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling within the roadless section in September after discussions with Gov. Gary Herbert and Congressman Bishop.
Rocky Mountain goats
Rocky Mountain goats were introduced on the La Sal Mountains, despite outcry by local agencies and residents. ”We look at different areas that support different species of wildlife and then try to fill those habitats,” said Guy Wallace, a biologist for the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR). “It’s a niche to be filled.” Rocky Mountain goats are not native to the mountains. DWR relocated 20 mountain goats to the La Sal Mountains on Tuesday, Sept. 3. In response, several environmental organizations requested that the U.S. Forest Service develop a management plan to protect the Mount Peale Research Natural Area, which is home to several sensitive plants as well as the La Sal pika.
Changes for Moab Regional Hospital
Robb Austin was hired to be the new chief executive officer of Moab Regional Hospital. Roy Barraclough served as the CEO for seven years for the county-owned Allen Memorial Hospital and then the Moab Regional Hospital that opened in February 2011. Barraclough retired in January and is now the interim administrator for the Canyonlands Care Center.
State paleontologist Jim Kirkland moved nearly seven tons of dinosaur bones from a quarry north of the Arches National Park boundary in June. Scientists have been working to carve out a giant slab of fossils of Utahraptors and iguanodots and other dinosaurs for 10 years. The fossils were found in the Yellow Cat member of the Cedar Mountain Formation, from the Jurassic geologic time period, approximately 145 to 200 million years ago.
Greater Canyonlands National Monument
Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, visited Moab to spoke on June 11 at Star Hall about the establishment of a Greater Canyonlands National Monument. The Outdoor Industry Association sent President Barack Obama a letter in November 2012 asking him to create the Greater Canyonlands National Monument by presidential proclamation. The proposed national monument would include 1.4 million acres surrounding Canyonlands National Park that are now managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Canyonlands National Park is now 337,570 acres.
Due to low water in Ken’s Lake, the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency (GWSSA) asked the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to consider allowing the agency to divert additional water from Mill Creek during the winter to the reservoir to be used by farmers for irrigation in Spanish Valley. While the agency and BLM were in discussion, no final decision was made for the request.
A then-Grand County Sheriff’s deputy was arrested after assaulting his father, the fire chief of the Moab Valley Fire Department on July 12. T.J. Brewer pleaded guilty to assault and assault on a police officer, both class A misdemeanors on Aug. 6.
Monsoon weather arrived in July sparking flash floods and doubling the flow of the Colorado River. On July 16 one and a half inches fell in a 24-hour period. The following day, five miles east of Moab an additional one and a quarter inches of rain fell, resulting in the debris flows of mud and rock on State Route 128.
Keep it rural residential
It was standing room only at a Grand County Planning Commission meeting held Wednesday, Aug. 14 and a Grand County Council meeting held Sept. 17. Community members voiced their opinions regarding a land-use change for a 17-acre parcel near Old City Park in Spanish Valley.
Randy Day, a developer with Red Rock Partners, wanted to build a subdivision on the parcel, requesting that the land use code change from Rural Residential (RR) to Small Lot Residential (SLR).
RR limits development to a maximum of 1.6 units per acre. SLR would allow up to 8 units per acre. With 17 acres, that could allow up to 136 units. Day said wanted to build 54.
Quest for the state football title
The Grand County High School football team progressed to the Utah State 2A Championship game against South Summit on Nov. 16. The Red Devils placed second in state. It was the Red Devils’ seventh time in the state title game and the first since 2005, when they defeated San Juan 25-22 for their only state title. The South Summit Wildcats had been to the championship game 11 times, winning four, their most recent victory coming in 1988. Much of the team’s drive to excellence was in remembrance of 15-year-old Sam Woodruff, a fallen team member who died on Saturday, Aug. 10.
Woodruff’s untimely passing sent shock waves through the community.
Mountain trail system
The U.S. Forest Service Moab-Monticello Ranger Districts presented their plan for changes to the non-motorized trail system in the La Sal Mountains in September. The release of the final version of the plan follows several years of research, planning and public comment. It includes the retention of 60 miles of existing trails, the creation of nearly 30 new miles, and the closure of 3.5 miles of trail.
The forest service’s new plan will also put use restrictions on several trails.
The third annual Moab Pride Festival was held Sept. 27, 28 and 29. Over 1500 people arrived in Moab in 2013 to celebrate diversity with festivities and a parade, making it the second biggest small-town pride festival in the country.
The next month the Moab City Council voted 4 to 1 to adopt an ordinance to legally recognize a variety of committed relationships through the establishment of a Mutual Commitment Registry at their council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 22. “A commitment registry recognizes relationships of mutual support and caring to support the financial welfare of one another,” said Jen Oestreich, a Moab Pride organizer.
Federal lands closure
National parks and BLM campgrounds were closed during a federal government shut-down beginning Oct. 1. Gov. Herbert wired over $1.6 million to the Department of the Interior to open the parks Oct. 9. Herbert said that the shutdown of national parks has been “devastating” to individuals and businesses that rely on visitation to national parks. He estimated the economic impact of the government shutdown on Utah at about $100 million. Figures compiled by a coalition of retired park service workers indicated that some 700,000 people a day would have been visiting the Utah parks and that the surrounding areas were losing $76 million in visitor spending per day. Grand County estimated over $2.6 million in lost revenue between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 in commercial business alone and a continued loss in revenue of $380,000 per day.
Mountain bike championship
Hundreds of high school mountain bike racers descended on the Brand trail system north of Moab Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8 and 9. Forty-two high school mountain biking teams will compete for the state championship. In 2012 the Utah league had 325 registered student athletes, 28 teams, and 252 racing student athletes.
Viral BASE-jump video
Ammon McNeely, a professional climber known by the nickname “El Cap Pirate” for climbing records he set on Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan, almost lost his foot and life in a BASE jumping accident. The 43-year-old BASE jumper’s chute didn’t fully deploy when he jumped from a location known as the Electric Chair near the Moab Portal on Friday, Oct. 25. He hit the rock wall several times before coming to rest on a cliff ledge about 600 feet above Kane Creek Blvd. As he waited for rescuers he took a graphic video of his injured leg, complete with protruding bones. The video went viral and had more than 800,000 views by Sunday, Nov. 3. Due to a quick rescue by friends and Grand County Search and Rescue, McNeely’s life and foot was spared.
Vision for the Moab Tailings
The Moab Tailings Project Steering Committee accepted the Community Vision plan presented by the Site Futures Committee at their meeting Wednesday, Nov. 13. The Community Vision was drafted by the Site Futures Committee after receiving public input since May. The Site Futures Committee began seeking public input in May for how the site should be used after the clean-up is completed at the uranium mill north of Moab that was in operation between 1956 and 1984. One resounding theme presented in all the proposed site plans was that it should be a community asset and provide an appealing gateway to Moab.
Colorado River Pathway
The Colorado River Pathway, a pedestrian and bicycle path built alongside State Route 128 and the Colorado River was completed in November. The $10.1 million project began in 2012.
The pathway begins at the junction at Hwy 191 and ends at Negro Bill Canyon near mile marker 3. The pathway is intended to provide safe travel for cyclists and pedestrians along the narrow two-lane highway. There remains a half-mile gap where bicycles and pedestrians will use the narrow shoulder of the road near Negro Bill Canyon until more federal grants are awarded.
City council elections
Heila Ershadi beat Jeff Davis in a three-way race for two at-large Moab City Council seats during the election held Tuesday, Nov. 5. Councilman Kyle Bailey, who has served on the council for 12 years, received the most votes with 522. Challenger Ershadi received 445. Davis, who has also served on the council for 12 years, lost his seat with receiving only 378 points. Dave Sakrison, who ran unopposed for Moab City Mayor, received 686 votes. David Erley, the mayor of the Town of Castle Valley, was challenged with a write-in campaign by Oscar Duncan. Erley retained his seat by receiving 53 votes to Duncan’s 36.
New air service
SkyWest Airlines was appointed the new provider for Essential Air Service (EAS) at Canyonlands Field Airport on Dec. 6. SkyWest will offer a minimum of 12 flights per week from Canyonlands Field Airport to Salt Lake City. There was strong community support for choosing SkyWest.
Ruth Dillon, the administrator for Grand County, said she was aware of fourteen letters sent by citizens and businesses to the Office of Aviation recommending SkyWest, as well as letters from the Moab Area Travel Council Advisory Board, the City of Moab, the Moab Chamber of Commerce, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Utah State University, Moab Film Commission, Moab Regional Hospital and Canyonlands Care Center.
Recovery of the Canyonlands Care Center
The Canyonlands Health Care Special Service District’s budget went from a red to black in 2013. As of Dec. 31, 2012 the Canyonlands Care Center, which is managed by the health care district, had an operational debt of $604,587. Due to the increase of mineral lease monies, sale of property and increased efficiencies in operating costs at the care center, the health district has been able to pay off considerable debt, as well as have two years’ worth of bond service on the care center building in reserves. The health care district was able to pay their remaining debt to Moab Regional Hospital, as well as contribute $140,000 ‘seed’ funding to Moab Regional Hospital in order for it to receive Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments from the state. DSH payments are for hospitals that serve a significant number of low-income patients.
The year ended much as it began, with unseasonably cold temperatures and above average moisture. The first winter storm of the season brought heavy, wet snow and power outages. Moab received 6.5 inches of snow from the storm that began Nov. 27. “For Moab, the average annual snowfall is just under seven inches,” said John Kyle, from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). “So Moab received nearly their annual total in this one storm.” A second storm on Dec. 4 dropped an additional seven inches that left highways icy. A semi-trailer truck overturned in Moab Canyon north of the Arches National Park entrance. The semi blocked all four lanes of traffic until it was towed to the side of the road. Another three semi-trailers hit each other north of the accident within the hour. “The two accidents together closed traffic for about an hour,” said Sgt. Richard Haycock with the Utah Highway Patrol. In addition to the accidents on north Hwy 191, another five tractor-trailers slipped off the road and required assistance.