Updated Nov. 24 at 11:24 a.m.
The application for a cloud seeding project in Northern New Mexico has been “retracted,” according to New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission Deputy Director Hannah Riseley-White, who spoke with the Taos News Wednesday morning (Nov. 24).
Western Weather Consultants of Durango, Colorado, contacted Riseley-White Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 23) to tell her of the change in plans. Calls to WWC had gone unanswered as of press time for this story.
“The reason they gave was the timeline was pushed back too far for adequate time for the program,” Riseley-White, who is also chair of the newly formed ISC Weather Control Committee, said.
She speculated that WWC's decision to withdraw the application may have stemmed, in part, from her comment toward the end of a webinar hosted by the ISC on Monday (Nov. 22), during which the majority of the 150-plus members of the public who dialed-in strongly voiced their objections. Given the amount of response, Riseley-White said during the meeting that the ISC may want to hold a public hearing on the project.
At stake was a proposal to conduct a cloud-seeding project between December 13, 2021 until March 15, 2022 along the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from Red River to Santa Fe in Northern New Mexico. It was being funded by the Roosevelt Soil and Water Conservation District in Southeast New Mexico, which then hired Western Weather Consultants, who planned to use seven Cloud-seeding Nuclei Generators. The devices produce plumes of silver iodide crystals (artificial cloud nuclei) “at rates between 5 and 28 grams per hour from multiple ground based CNG sites to be diffused by favorable wind flows into selected storms or cloud types suitable for precipitation increases meeting the seeding criteria over the target area.”
A Nov. 11 legal notice in the Taos News states the “intended effect of the operation is to increase precipitation/snowpack water content … to benefit: natural habitat, agriculture, municipal water, stock growers, recreational and tourism interests, local economy.”
The Weather Control Committee is so new it hasn’t even met yet, Riseley-White said. Based on the webinar on Monday, which was designed to give the applicant a chance to provide more information about the project and was not really a public comment meeting, she said WWC opted to step back. It is unclear at this point whether the company will try to reapply at some point in the future.
Cloud seeding has been conducted for at least 75 years in the United States, and is becoming increasingly popular due to ongoing droughts in the western states, although the processes' effectiveness at increasing precipitation and its potential environmental and public health effects have remained a subject of concern.