The Idaho Water Resource Board at its Sept. 16-17 meeting voted to continue cloud-seeding programs — and to start a new effort this winter in the state’s southeast corner.
House Bill 266, which the Legislature passed this year, says the board is responsible for authorizing cloud seeding and may participate in it and hire contractors.
HB 266 directs the board to identify additional basins that cloud seeding would benefit, and to work with stakeholders. It limits liability for participating in certain projects and says no state or local permits are required.
Cloud seeding has been used in parts of Idaho for years. The Upper Snake, Big Wood, Boise and Payette river basins have aircraft- or ground-based equipment to seed winter storms.
The board is continuing its longtime partnership with Idaho Power Co., which operates cloud-seeding operations in those basins.
Cloud seeding can increase snowpack 5-15%, the board said.
The board approved a one-year pilot project for aircraft cloud seeding in the Bear River Basin. It contracted with North American Weather Consultants, which operates a ground-based seeding program in the Utah portion of the basin, to carry out airborne cloud seeding this winter. North American also will provide the board with information that could help in building out a more comprehensive program.
“We think there are a lot of basins that would be candidates for cloud seeding,” board chairman Jeff Raybould said in an interview. “There have been some studies done on the Bear River Basin, so we have a pretty good idea of how to start a program on the Bear.”
Another advantage is that Bear Lake can store the additional snowpack and runoff cloud seeding produces, he said.
The board will start slowly in the basin, using aerial seeding and then probably adding some ground generators later, Raybould said. “We just felt like we’ve got to get going.”
He said the board plans to evaluate several other basins for cloud seeding, including Raft River, Goose Creek and Lemhi River basins. More data are needed before programs can be evaluated and possibly started, he said.
“Given the dry conditions we are currently experiencing, we need to take advantage of every opportunity we can to increase our water supply,” Raybould said. “Cloud seeding is one of the tools we can use.”