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New West Daily Roundup for Sept. 21, 2016

Today in New West news: Utah releases draft water plan, Chipotle launches food-safety campaign, and an update on the Jon Krakauer case in Missoula.

Earlier this month, we reported that reservoirs in Utah were “direly low,” with projections for a very dry 2017 in the Beehive State. Now, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, the state’s Water Strategy Advisory Team has released a draft water strategy—after discussing the plan behind closed doors, to the consternation of the public. The report, posted through Envision Utah, discusses several strategies managers could employ to meet water demands for the upcoming year and includes a section for comments. From the Tribune:

Tage Flint, general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and one of the advisory team’s co-chairs, said future drafts will be released as they are completed.

“There was no attempt to keep it from the public,” he said. “We just thought it was fair for the committee to see it first.”

The draft aims to compile input from some 800 public comments, from Envision Utah surveys and from team members into a 50-year water management strategy. The final version will be submitted to [Governor Gary] Herbert.

The deadline for comments on the Envision Utah site is Monday, Oct. 24.

Flint said he believes the document makes “a good attempt at explaining the complexities of the water business in general.”

“It really comes down to being a balancing act,” he said, “between a growing population, more water conservation, making our water supplies go further, and balancing environmental impacts and dealing with aging infrastructure.”

But Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, called the document schizophrenic.

“It’s supposed to be a 50-year plan,” he said, but it embraces the status quo again and again, he said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

Over in Colorado, we’ve been following Chipotle’s decline from “Fast Casual’s Golden Child” to spurious food vendor, after hundreds were sickened by e. coli and norovirus across the U.S. In an effort to regain customers and trust in their brand, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has announced an awareness campaign highlighting their food-safety practices, according to the Denver Post:

In a marketing campaign beginning Wednesday, the Denver-based company proclaimed that it is tracing ingredients back to the farm, blasting pathogens off chorizo with high-powered water jets and requiring restaurant managers to receive food-safety certification.

In the months after the outbreaks, which included salmonella in Minnesota, norovirus in California and Boston, and E. coli in 14 states ranging from Oregon to Delaware, Chipotle tried to win back customers with free burritos and a loyalty program that rewarded repeat visits.

But sales continued to slide. Analysts began urging the company to assure customers that its food was safe to eat. In addition to newspaper ads Wednesday in nine major U.S. newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, Chipotle plans to run digital ads drawing consumers to its website, where they can read more about the food-safety improvements.

Some new methods that the chain tested to keep food safe disappointed customers. When Chipotle moved the preparation of some ingredients to central kitchens, where they could be tested for pathogens, customers complained that the quality of the lettuce and bell peppers declined. Chipotle executives worried that their competitive advantage of serving fresh food swiftly was at risk, said David Acheson, a former chief medical officer at both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration whom Chipotle hired in February to help design its food-safety system.

The challenge, as Dr. Acheson put it: “Can we do this safely or do we have to walk away from this?”


All 3,862 Chipotle restaurant managers are required to undergo special training and certification in proper food-handling methods. Restaurant workers also are taking food temperatures at different points in the cooking process to make sure that meat is being heated properly.

All restaurants are subject to frequent internal food-safety audits and new quarterly external audits. Half of manager bonuses are tied to scores from those audits. The compensation of corporate executives isn’t tied directly to food safety, but the company explains that executive compensation is driven largely by the stock performance, which would be affected if there is another outbreak.

“You’re never done with food safety. It’s a constant investment,” Dr. Acheson said.

Chipotle hasn’t disclosed how much its food-safety program will cost.

Finally, over in Montana, we previously reported author Jon Krakauer would appear in the Montana Supreme Court as the plaintiff in Krakauer v. State of Montana and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian. Krakauer is seeking records related to the expulsion of former University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson after he was found guilty of rape by the university, although he was later acquitted in Missoula County District Court. Krakauer wrote an entire book on the case, entitled Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.

Now, according to the Missoulian, the Montana Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to review the case:

In an opinion released Monday, the court both affirmed in part and reversed in part a previous order by Lewis and Clark County District Court that all the records be released. The Montana Supreme Court said that while the District Court had correctly ruled Krakauer, who lives in Colorado, could make the request under Montana’s right to know law, the student’s education records have a heightened level of privacy protection that the lower court needed to balance with that right.

The investigative journalist made a records request after claiming the Commissioner of Higher Education vacated campus decisions to expel former University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson after UM proceedings found he raped a fellow student. Johnson was acquitted of a criminal charge of sexual intercourse without consent after a 2013 trial in Missoula County District Court.

In February, the Montana University System (MUS) reached a settlement with Johnson, agreeing to pay him $245,000 to resolve claims that UM’s investigation of the rape accusation against him was mishandled.

Krakauer’s 2015 book, “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” dealt in part with the case. The Montana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Krakauer case in April.

In remanding the case to District Court Judge Kathy Seeley, the high court ordered it to conduct a confidential review of the records before deciding which, if any, should be released.

“I feel pretty good about it. This outcome is almost exactly what Mike Meloy predicted would happen, based on statements made by the justices at the hearing last April,” Krakauer wrote in an email Monday. Meloy, of Helena, is his attorney.

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