A group of Hettinger County residents are trying to put a stop to cloud seeding operations statewide. Cloud seeding began with ground operations in the 1950s and currently operates in six counties: Bowman, Burke, Mckenzie, Mountrail, Williams, and parts of Slope County.
By Cole Benz
A petition—that has been circulating around the county for more than two weeks—has garnered upwards of 400 signatures. Jamie Kouba, a farmer south of Regent who helped organize the movement, told The Herald that the intention of the petition is to present the response to the county commissioners.
“Our goal with the petition is to take it to our commissioners and ask them for an injunction against whatever level it takes to stop Weather Mod in North Dakota all together,” Kouba said.
Residents of Bowman County put the issue to a vote last year, with 70 percent of the residents supporting the issue. Kouba said the concern is that Hettinger County, being downwind from the operations in Bowman County, is negatively impacted.
Kouba said he really started to pay attention to the program a few years ago, when a relative of his flew with the crew. And after one year of excessive moisture (2014) and three subsequent years of drought, Kouba looked into the program further.
“The studies are obviously bias,” he said. “When you look at their increase in rainfall downwind it’s really easy for them to prove, but it doesn’t make it accurate.”
In an email response to The Herald from Darin Langerud, Director of the North Dakota Atmospheric Resource Board, he said that “The evaluations of the cloud seeding program are conducted by independent atmospheric scientists and economists, not the Atmospheric Resource Board or its contractors. Those evaluations have been conducted with various types of datasets using accepted scientific methods.”
But Kouba said the majority of their data comes from the west side of Bowman and Slope County, where he said most of that part of the state is drier by nature—being that it’s the start of the badlands.
Kouba said he would witness rain coming from the southwest, and the southeast, but said recently the moisture has come from a direction that’s not dictated by the Weather Modification, Inc. operations.
“The clouds that come from the southeast would be [not] be messed with by man,” he said.
Currently, Hettinger County does not employ cloud seeding services and has not since the late 1980s, which is why Kouba and the group is trying to get it stopped throughout the state. He also added that though they did allow the issue to go to vote last year in Bowman County, they didn’t have any regard for those affected downwind.
Private residents do have the power to initiate their own injunctive, but the hope of the group—according to Kouba—is that the governing body of the county would have more weight if they brought it, and he believes that if one county presents an injunction, more will follow.
“We are just trying to gather enough support with this petition so the county commissioners know just how much we dislike weather mod,” he said. “We just want a return of natural weather.”
In the initial email from Langerud, he defended the cloud seeding process.
“Several independent evaluations indicate that cloud seeding in North Dakota has increased rainfall from 5 to 10 percent, reduced crop-hail losses by 45 percent, and increase wheat yields by 5.9 percent,” he said. “Cloud seeding, like fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides, is just another tool in the producer’s toolbox to help increase crop production.”