The Utah Board of Water Resources has agreed to urge the Legislature to renew funding for a cloud-seeding program aimed at increasing rain and reducing hail damage to crops in Cache, Rich and Box Elder counties.

Kent Norton of the federal Bear River Resource, Conservation and Development Office told the board Friday that a successful five-year cloud-seeding program ended in 1981 when lawmakers failed to continue funding.For three years, the Utah counties joined four southeastern Idaho counties in operating the program, but the Idaho counties dropped out when that state experienced severe tax cuts, Horton said. The Utah program continued for another two years.

Horton said that while the program was in operation, the counties received 14 percent more moisture and showed a 60 percent reduction in hail damage.

"For those who took out hail insurance, the premiums went down 15 percent," he said.

Horton said that although Utah experienced extremely wet years during the early 1980s, hail damage skyrocketed after the program was eliminated.

"It's a mystery to many people why, when the Great Salt Lake is being pumped, we asked for cloud seeding, but it's very helpful in preventing costly hail damage," he said. "Several other counties have told us they would like a winter cloud-seeding program to help the ski industry."

Horton said farmers in Cache and Box Elder counties have been particularly hard hit by this year's drought.

"It seems like the right year to try to have the program re-established," he said.

Horton said it would cost about $250,000 a year to reinstate the program in the Bear River Basin and said contractors had estimated a statewide program would run about $500,000.

Board members advised Horton to check with other Utah counties interested in a cloud-seeding program, and Chairman Wayne Winegar vowed to do "all we can to help get this through the Legislature."