Vic Zadra, who
runs a hunting camp and owns Ridgway ranch land on the Uncompahgre River, warns
that: "The kind of heavy runoff we experienced this year really ruins
fishing. Extra gravel and silt are washed down and cover feeding beds. And with
extra snow in the mountains it's tough reaching the high-country
Much of the
concern for wildlife is borne out in a 1969 Bureau of Reclamation-sponsored
study on the "Ecological Effects of Weather Modification." Two
University of Michigan scientists say that "big game populations could be
adversely affected if artificial increase of snowpack further reduces winter
range which is already critically short in many localities."
suggest "higher elevation spring and summer ranges, particularly those
heavily used by elk or bighorn sheep, may also be adversely affected by
increased snow accumulation." The experts add that extra precipitation
could also affect jackrabbits, waterfowl and vegetation. The possibility of
silver iodide killing off fish is also mentioned.
Of course there
is no assurance that the cloud-seeding program will work. In 1969 a University
of California team found that a five-year cloud-seeding project in southern
Missouri and northern Arkansas reduced net rainfall by 20%. And recently Dr. B.
J. Mason, head of the British weather service, declared that after 20 years of
seeding "nobody really has any confidence that cloud seeding has produced
significant increases or decreases in rainfall in a way that we can
Whether or not
cloud seeding prolongs San Juan winters, the Bureau of Reclamation is apt to
become a whipping boy. Johnny Siegfried, general manager of the Dixilyn mine
and owner of a Silverton sporting goods store, says: "Even if cloud seeding
doesn't produce more snow, people will tend to blame weather accidents on the
Bureau of Reclamation."
The prospect of
sabotage of the seeding equipment is not remote. Tempers run high in these
disputes. For example, when Los Angeles bought up land in California's Owens
Valley for reservoirs, dams and aqueducts, some townsmen and ranchers fought
back. Between 1924 and 1927 waterway facilities were dynamited nine separate
times. Repairs cost Los Angeles $250,000.
in the San Juans probably could not thwart the cloud-seeding project. But the
Bureau of Reclamation isn't taking chances. Says Dr. Kahan: "Most of the
silver-iodide generators are sited in areas hard to reach except by helicopter.
Frankly I don't see why the residents need to be so emotional. We won't ever
seed to achieve more than 150% of the existing longtime average snowpack.
Seeding will be hailed any time there is an avalanche or flood hazard. Our
studies will guard against long-range harm to game, ranching and agriculture.
We are also trying to set up a system to compensate residents for damage caused
by the seeding. This program is nothing to worry about. All we are doing is
helping nature be a little more efficient."