Instead of using our in-house judgement to determine the biggest stories of the year, we decided to look at simply how many views each story received at the San Juan Record website at sjrnews.com.
The website has been visited by readers more than ten million times since it became an important part of the newspaper in 2007.
The website carries approximately seven of our main stories every week, in addition to all obituaries and a number of photos. The San Juan Record will introduce a new expanded website in 2020.
1. Monticello man killed in La Sal Mountain avalanche
Using the website criteria, the biggest story of the year, by a large margin, is the tragic January 25 death of Monticello resident Scott Pehrson Jr. in an avalanche while snowmobiling in the La Sal Mountains.
Pehrson was snowmobiling with a group of area residents when he was caught in an avalanche in the Dark Canyon Basin.
The popular Monticello native is survived by his wife LaShaye, four children, and a large extended family.
2. Projects set the stage for Spanish Valley growth
Ongoing development in the Spanish Valley area is the second largest story of the year.
The area in San Juan County, along the border with Grand County near Moab, will be the subject of intense development pressure in coming years.
Our February 5 story about the water and sewer system was the most popular of a long list of stories in 2019 that featured Spanish Valley
The Utah School and Institutional Trust Land Administration (SITLA) owns thousands of acres in Spanish Valley and has signaled an intention to develop the area. It may be the largest community in San Juan County within a short period of time.
Developments of the past year include the new water and sewer system, the development of planning and zoning ordinances in the area, a six-month moratorium of commercial development along Highway 191, and the potential development of a large Loves Truck Stop.
3. Special Forces training center dedicated to memory of Aaron Butler
A large new Special Forces Headquarters for the Utah National Guard was named after Aaron Butler, a San Juan County Special Forces soldier who was killed in Afghanistan in 2017.
The SSG Aaron R. Butler Readiness Center is a 140,123 square foot facility that will house the 19th Special Forces Group at Camp Williams.
The August 9 announcement of the honor was the third most read story on the San Juan Record website
4. Marathon hearing to discuss residency of Commissioner Willie Grayeyes
The residency of San Juan County Commissioner Willie Grayeyes was the subject of a hearing before Seventh District Judge Don M. Torgerson on January 22.
Torgerson ruled that Grayeyes was a resident of San Juan County and, as a result, could serve as Commissioner. The story was very popular over a period of weeks, with the hearing coverage our fourth most read story of the year.
5. Earthquake may have been triggered by brine injection at Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility
A March 4 earthquake near Paradox Valley was the subject of the fifth most read story of 2019 at sjrnews.com. The 4.5 tremor was likely caused by operations at a salinity control facility on the Dolores River near the epicenter.
6. Utah open meeting laws ignored in county administrator hiring decision
In a year of more than a dozen highly-read stories regarding the San Juan County Commission, coverage of their May 7 meeting was the sixth most read story of 2019.
Commissioners approved the hiring of an interim administrator, David Everitt, even though the item was not on a Commission agenda. Everitt was hired on an interim basis to replace Kelly Pehrson, who had resigned to accept a position with the State of Utah.
7. San Juan County moves out of severe drought
After an extended drought in 2018, it was a wet and wonderful winter for San Juan County in 2019. Our story about the departure of the drought conditions that gripped the county in 2018 is the seventh most read story of 2019.
8. Separate town hall meetings address simmering controversies
Tensions in the county reached a boiling point when two town hall meetings were held in August. A meeting in Monticello attracted a large crowd who heard about a number of issues, including a ballot initiative to investigate a new form of county government.
A much smaller meeting in Mexican Water quickly deteriorated into a shouting match, with racial and religious allegations. Our story was the eighth most read story of 2019.
9. Updated election results verify defeat of ballot question on San Juan County government
By a narrow margin on November 5, voters in San Juan County rejected a ballot proposal that would have created a committee to investigate a new form of county government. The proposal failed in a partisan and geographically divided county.
Support for the proposal was particularly strong in Blanding, where many residents feel they have been disenfranchised from county government. The story was the ninth most read story of 2019.
10. Judge rejects SUWA motion in public lands case
In September, Federal Judge Clark Waddoups rejected a motion by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) to become a full-party participant in a landmark public lands case.
The story was the tenth most read story of 2019 on the San Juan Record website.