The Legislature's water committee will consider altering weather modification laws, perhaps leading to the first changes in 28 years. Also at its March 9-10 meeting, the Water Policy Interim Committee moved ahead on a study of the future of the Montana Water Court.
Weather modification, or cloud seeding, is the injection of silver iodide into clouds under certain atmospheric conditions to increase rain or snowfall. Some research shows cloud seeding increases hydrological output in basins, while others, claim that cloud seeding is akin to "cloud rustling" and decreases downwind precipitation.
Due to concerns primarily from eastern Montanans about cloud seeding in western North Dakota, the 1993 Montana Legislature passed legislation that was more restrictive on weather modification operations, including increased environmental and public meeting requirements. Since the 1993 law, the state has not permitted any weather modification activities.
The draft concept contemplated by WPIC would lessen permitting and licensing requirements, reduce environmental reviews, and remove a public meeting requirement. A bill draft will be available before the committee's next meeting as part of its House Joint Resolution 40 study.
For its HJ14 study, in March WPIC heard proposals from the Judicial Branch and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation about the future of water rights administration. The Judicial Branch proposed permanent and exclusive Water Court jurisdiction over:
- appeals to DNRC permit and change application decisions
- boundaries of irrigation districts
- cases regarding ditch easements
- administration of decrees.
The DNRC proposed a pilot project to distribute water under the agency's authority. WPIC will further consider these proposals at its May meeting.
In other WPIC action, a committee-appointed Geocodes Working Group seeks public input on a 15-point framework to improve ownership updates into the DNRC water rights database. The working group will host a conference call in mid-April.
The committee's next scheduled meeting is May 18-19. For more information on committee or working group activities and upcoming meetings, please visit the committee’s website or contact Jason Mohr, committee staff.
Committee Website: www.leg.mt.gov/water
Committee Staff: firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-444-1640
The Legislative News.