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Board of Supervisors Update; Study finds no negative effects from cloud seeding

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer


There’s no evidence that cloud seeding has negative effects on the environment or public health. But more research should be done.

That’s what an advisory committee told the Plumas County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 20.

Almanor Basin Watershed Advisory Committee Chairman Ryan Burnett said, “We don’t have any smoking gun to suggest that they (PG&E) should stop (cloud seeding) right now.

“There’s certainly potential benefits to cloud seeding. And we found nothing in our research that really was compelling to say that they should stop doing it,” Burnett said. “But we have some concerns.”

The advisory committee, which was formed by the Board of Supervisors in 2005, began studying cloud seeding last spring in response to public concerns.

The nine-member committee presented the supervisors with a five-page report that included recommendations for the board.

Burnett said PG&E was “a huge help” in the study, which included talking to some of the leading experts in the field.

Many of the committee’s questions came directly from the public.

The committee hosted a community forum in the Almanor Basin last spring that attracted about 75 people, according to Burnett. PG&E representatives attended the meeting, as did several scientists who had studied cloud seeding.

“After that meeting, there were a number of unanswered questions that the public had, and that we had as a committee,” Burnett said. “So we formed a subcommittee, specifically on cloud seeding.

“We worked for six months and talked to some of the leading experts about some of these issues — especially some of the nano-particle issues which became the forefront of this.”

Burnett said the subcommittee included two members of the public.

“We had quite a good group of people working on this,” Burnett told the supervisors. “And that’s how we came to our recommendations that you see before you.”

Those recommendations included asking PG&E to do the following:

—Assure cloud seeding installations located in Plumas County are secure, including all chemicals stored on site.

—Inform the county of any proposed changes to current cloud seeding programs.

—Work with PG&E science staff and outside experts in the fields of ecotoxicology, atmospheric chemistry and nano-technology to develop a rigorous monitoring program.

—Include silver as a monitored constituent as part of the long-term water quality monitoring of Lake Almanor.

—Use a website to provide real-time notice of when cloud seeding activities are occurring, as well as cloud seeding activities to date.

Although cloud seeding has been happening for 50 years in the Almanor Basin, Burnett said there are very few rules in place.

“One of the biggest things we discovered is that this is highly unregulated by the state of California,” Burnett said. “It’s overseen by the Department of Water Resources. But there’s no regulation.”

The committee’s vice chairman, Dick Daniel, pointed out that the chemicals for cloud seeding “could be quite toxic when they are sitting in a box.”

“But the process that they go through to disperse them high into the air involves very high heat. That re-aggregates the chemicals such that they are relatively inert when they are actually doing their cloud seeding,” Daniel said.

“The concern dealing with our first recommendation is the fact that, like many chemicals, these things can be hazardous — certainly in volume, certainly if inhaled as dust,” Daniel said. “We wanted to make sure that the public was protected from that. And we got assurances that that is the case.”

Chester-area Supervisor Sherrie Thrall, who initiated the advisory committee’s study, said she was pleased with the committee’s work.

“It was an interesting study for everybody. Because there is so little known. What little is known is not aggregated into a single repository of information,” Thrall said. “So they had to spend a lot of time looking for information.

“I’ll be sitting down with you guys (Burnett and Daniel), and with PG&E, and we’ll look through the recommendations and come up with a plan and bring it back to the board for approval.”


New Plumas Corporation leader

Greg O’Sullivan will become the new executive director of Plumas Corporation in January.

O’Sullivan is replacing John Sheehan, who is retiring after nearly 20 years as Plumas Corporation’s executive director.

Sheehan introduced O’Sullivan, who will be moving from Red Bluff.

Sheehan added that O’Sullivan was the unanimous choice by the panel that interviewed four finalists for the job.

“Greg has worked throughout the country, and particularly throughout Northern California, in executive directory positions,” Sheehan said. “Because of his background, it just seemed to be a real good fit to everybody who was on the interview panel.”

O’Sullivan has been in Quincy for about a week “trying to immerse himself in things that we have going on,” Sheehan said.

“I have been going layer by layer through John’s desk, trying to brief myself,” O’Sullivan said. “I think we are down to the 1990s now.”


Probation department

The supervisors approved a supplemental budget of $130,619 for the probation department as part of the state funding of Assembly Bill 109 Public Safety Realignment.

The money will be used to help pay for community supervision of inmates released from the county jail on probation and parole.


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