Open meeting laws disputed in Ward County cloud seeding talk

KENMARE, N.D. – Members of the Ward County Weather Modification Board are disputing if open meeting laws were violated in determining whether to move forward with the county’s ‘cloud seeding’ program in 2018.

The issue came to light at a special meeting of the board Friday morning in Kenmare.

Cloud seeding is where planes inject chemicals into storm clouds in an effort to break up hail and reduce crop damage. The program sparked debate last summer by Ward County farmers who argued the practice was directing rainfall away from their fields and worsening drought conditions.

Board chairman Hank Bodmer sent letters to townships in the county, inquiring as to whether they wanted to be included in the cloud seeding program this year.

Roger Neshem, a member of the board, claims Bodmer violated open meeting laws by not sending out letters to the townships that were certified and not giving them enough time to respond. He contends only three members of the five-person board were aware of the letter, which would constitute a quorum of discussion.

Bodmer says he does not think that he violated meeting laws with the letters, but if he did, he said he did not do it intentionally. He also says he handled the situation in the best way he could, and claims Neshem never contacted him about the matter.

The board members rejected a motion by Neshem to have the county suspend the cloud seeding operations until the county was clear of a drought monitor by a vote of 3 to 2.

The board went on to approve cloud seeding operations for 2018 by the same vote.

Last year the Ward County Commission voted to slash just under $90,000 from the cloud seeding program amid a series of county-wide budget cuts, leaving the program with $100,000 from the county for the year.