With the recent announcement of its intention to conduct a five-year weather modification program in the Mt. Shasta region, PG&E has fielded a barrage of questions and criticism from concerned Siskiyou County residents. 
PG&E officials take exception to the idea that has been expressed that Siskiyou County residents will see no benefits from their planned cloud seeding, even though any additional electricity it helps produce will be used by customers living outside the area.
PG&E has also confirmed a date to make a public presentation about their intentions to modify weather in Siskiyou County. PG&E will address the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Dec. 9 sometime in the afternoon (the time is expected to be determined on Dec. 5).
Weather modification, also known as cloud seeding, is a process that involves injecting silver iodide aerosol into already existing storm clouds with the hopes of creating more moisture.  The goal of the PG&E program is to create 5 to 10% more moisture, which, argues PG&E, will help promote the hydroelectric power generation facilities that exist in the Upper McCloud and Pit river watersheds. 
Conflicting views on issue
While the introduction of chemicals into the atmosphere has alarmed some residents, previously released environmental impact reports on the subject support the fact that the process is virtually harmless and deem cloud seeding a safe and effective way to promote additional precipitation.
However, critics question the existing science, claiming the research is both incomplete and may have inherent biases, given that the utility companies that promote the projects have conducted several of the studies themselves. Others root their opposition in a fundamental belief that altering the weather is an inherently flawed management practice and will, at some point, reap unintended consequences. 
Citizen action on issue
In recent weeks, Mt. Shasta area citizens have sought action that would either postpone or halt the project altogether. Numerous residents have contacted PG&E officials, requesting more information and the possibility of alternative action. Others have taken their concerns to the County Board of Supervisors, requesting that the county’s primary governing agency scrutinize the matter more closely and take the steps that the citizens feel are required by California and/or federal environmental law.  Among those seeking more review are representatives from the Mt. Shasta District of the Winnemen Wintu Tribe.
PGE responds
In a recent phone interview, PG&E project supervisor Byron Marler and media specialist Paul Moreno both expressed concerns that it has been reported, on more than one occasion, that Siskiyou County would not benefit in any way from the project.
The two PG&E officials assert that this is not true, citing what they feel are the many benefits to the region.
Though it is true that Siskiyou County residents do not receive their power from PG&E (Pacific Power supplies the residents of Siskiyou County with their electricity), the two company representatives cited benefits that they feel have been overlooked. They say additional moisture created by the program will make the targeted region (which lies east of McCloud, south of Medicine Lake, north of Burney and west of Big Valley) less susceptible to drought and insect infestations and, consequently, less prone to the vagaries of wildland fires.
The PG&E officials also cite additional precipitation as beneficial to the growth of rangeland grasses, which occupy much of the targeted region, and note that this would be a benefit to the ranching community.  
They also claim that the additional moisture generated from the seeding would be a boon to recreational fisheries in the targeted drainages, as the program would be adding water to the McCloud and Pit rivers and their tributaries and, consequently, would be lowering river temperatures. This, claims PG&E, would benefit fish habitat.
Lastly, Marler and Moreno emphasized that though silver iodide aerosol is rated as a “Class-C hazardous chemical,” this is a standard applied to dumping materials down a drain at one part per million. Marler stated, “What we’re talking about in the environment for cloud seeding is one part per trillion, which is a million times less than that water standard.” He continued by noting that, “It’s a complication of a standard that’s s not applicable in our setting.” 
County clarifies role
Like the PG&E officials, Siskiyou County Natural Resource Specialist Ric Costales has been fielding numerous calls, letters and e-mails from area residents.  Costales, among other things, noted that this is something that the county is reviewing closely, and that he has attempted to clarify the issue as best he can.
In a recent phone conversation, Costales reiterated concerns brought up by county supervisor Marcia Armstrong that the issue was reported as something that the county unequivocally “approved.” That assumption, asserted Costales, is false, and he noted that clarifying that misunderstanding was one of the reasons that he made the trip to Mt. Shasta to attend the initial meeting on the subject.
“The county initially looked at this thing (back in January 2006) and they decided that they were not in a position to either approve or disapprove the project. The county looked hard at this and determined that they had no authority on this matter,” stated Costales. He noted, however, that the issue is something the county is “looking pretty hard at” right now.