Hettinger County resident addresses cloud seeding with commissioners

Hettinger County resident Jamie Kouba is continuing his pursuit of ending cloud seeding in Bowman County. A few days after a town hall meeting in Mott with Gov. Doug Burgum and North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, Kouba presented a stack of signed petitions to the Hettinger County Commissioners during their Aug. 10 meeting. Kouba said his stack was just a fraction of what they had gathered. Kouba previously told The Herald that there were two others also gathering signatures in the county.

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The document states:

A Petition to end experimental and ongoing weather modification project. We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act out and end the weather modification in Bowman County.

Kouba and his group—along with many residents in counties adjacent to Bowman County—believe the seeding negatively affects the moisture they receive.

The purpose of the petition, according to Kouba, is to let the commissioners know how much support is out there in regards to stopping weather modification. The hope of Kouba and his supporters, is that the county commissioners will use their governing power to first talk to Burgum.

“We’re asking you guys to first poke on Governor Burgum, shake that tree a little bit,” Kouba said, suggesting that the commissioners ask the governor if there is some type of executive order he can sign to halt cloud seeding in the state. “Anything to stop this from happening,” he said.

If that doesn’t work, Kouba and his group was asking the commissioners to step up with an injunction. He suggested filing an injunctive relief, because that would allow the courts to decide the fate, but reiterated his desire to first speak with the governor.

“First I’d like you to shake the tree of the governor, none of us want a lawsuit,” Kouba said. “I don’t think any of us want to fight that.”

The problem with Kouba’s plight, is that Bowman County voted to support the cloud seeding program last year by a vast majority, and the commissioners said there wasn’t much they could do about how another county conducts their business.

“In visiting with the county commissioner, I don’t think they have any intention of doing anything,” said commissioner John Plaggemeyer. “The voters had spoken.”

The other problem for Kouba and his supporters is the legal precedent.

Amy Pikovsky—Hettinger County State’s Attorney—said during the meeting that she had been researching case law on the subject, and found that it hadn’t been tried very often before, and the success rate was zero.

“I am not able to find a single lawsuit in the United States where the plaintiffs were successful,” Pikovsky said.

She believed that the lack of success in all the cases boils down to the fact that there just isn’t the scientific backing to prove causation. Something Kouba believes he can now show with data he and his group has collected.

“The courts have just failed to find that there’s sufficient data to show that weather mod causes drought,” she said.

Ultimately, Pikovsky recommended that the commissioner not move forward with a legal case.

“I wouldn’t encourage the county to pursue a lawsuit because I think the chances of success would be very low,” she said. “There’s president, and it’s just not in favor [the plaintiffs].”

Commissioner John Plaggemeyer said the fact that a majority of Bowman County residents voted in favor would also be a hinderance to any legal action they may take against them

“[The vote] is going to hold a lot of weight,” Plaggemeyer said.

He also pointed out to Kouba that not everyone in the county agrees with his thoughts.

“I had a number of people talk to me after this meeting the other night, that are strongly in favor of [cloud seeding],” he said.

Kouba asked the commission to give him any number of percentage of the people he would need to sign the petition for them to take action.

“How much of a percentage to you want me to put together from this county on this petition?” Kouba asked the commissioners. “Because I can get it.”

On hand during the meeting was the Director of the Atmospheric Resource Board, Darin Langerud, who was also present at the town hall meeting earlier in the week.

Kouba pointed out the fact that only a handful of counties—six in total—participate in it after the program once had a membership of 36 as a sign that it’s unpopular.

But Langerud told The Herald after the meeting that the six counties that are still participating in the program were involved in it since its inception. He also said that in 1975 the state had a 50/50 cost sharing benefit for it’s participants, but that when it was rolled back many counties dropped out.

“When that money wasn’t available for cost share, a lot of them pulled back,” Langerud said.

Some counties were in only in in for a year or two, and Langerud said many weren’t even in a the program long enough to get the necessary data.

Langerud also said the radar only gives viewers a composite picture of the system. The resource board doesn’t have the necessary software to show a base image of a storm system. What they do display is a composite of the system. Meaning, the storm may sometimes look like it’s full of precipitation, but that moisture could be a few miles above the surface of the Earth.

“There may be some times when something looks when something looks stronger above you than what you may be seeing [of] the precipitation on the ground,” Langerud said. “But that’s because that rain drop is a couple miles above your head at that point.”

The commissioners indicated they wouldn’t seek a legal fight against cloud seeding, but they were willing to discuss the situation with the other county commissioners and they would send a letter to the governor about the subject.