Worries that southwestern Wyoming might be losing valuable precipitation to Utah cloud-seeding projects have Gov. Mike Sullivan planning to ask the Legislature for $70,000 for additional studies on cloud seeding.
More than 100 ground generators are used in a cloud-seeding program conducted along the Wasatch Front by North American Weather Consultants, which maintains the practice doesn't adversely affect downwind locations in Wyoming.Uinta County officials don't agree with that contention, however.
"Nobody can give conclusive proof that it doesn't have some sort of a detrimental effect," County Commissioner John Stevens said.
"The only thing we've asked for all along is accountability," he said. "But nobody wants to give it. The entire thing is so arbitrary. Nobody really knows what the effects may be."
Stevens said that several years of observations have left him convinced that cloud seeding in Utah diminishes precipitation in southwestern Wyoming.
"I think it's one of the most serious environmental concerns you can have," he said. "And we're going to continue to push it very fiercely."
The $70,000 Sullivan wants the Legislature to appropriate would enable Wyoming to participate in a Utah State University study of cloud seeding, which is done to help build snowpack for Utah's ski industry.
University of Wyoming researchers have been studying the effects of the cloud seeding on Wyoming, but so far haven't concluded that seeding deprives the state's southwestern corner of badly needed moisture.
Vic Hasfurther, associate director of the university's Wyoming Water Research Center, plans to submit a written report on the study later this month. He told the Uinta County Herald that the researchers "saw no change occur because of cloud seeding" in their analysis of precipitation records.
"I understand the problems and concerns, but from a scientific standpoint, I can't sit there and say that Utah is doing bad things," Hasfurther said.
The researcher did say, however, that simply studying precipitation records is a "crude method" to determine the effects of cloud seeding.
Dan Perdue, the governor's state planning coordinator, has been heading a state "working group" formed to look into cloud seeding. He said the $70,000 request was made because the governor and the group agreed "we need to further develop this."
Perdue said the preliminary finding from university researchers that cloud seeding doesn't decrease precipitation in Wyoming "goes against the grain of what people see and feel in their guts."
"I don't think this is going to go away," he said. "And I still think there are a lot of unanswered questions."