LAWTON, Okla. - The City of Lawton has officially received the OK from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and will move forward with its cloud seeding project starting Wednesday.
Since March, city officials have been waiting for the board to approve their contract with a Texas company, Seeding Operations and Atmospheric Research. Now the company's planes are ready to take to the skies in hopes that Southwest Oklahoma will get the slow soakers it desperately needs.
By the time you add gas for the plane, the flares that will be used to create heavier water in the clouds and for the crews, the final bill is in the ballpark of about $50,000 each month. That's a steep cost, but officials are hitting the ground running and are ready to steer the city out of drought.
"The idea behind cloud seeding is that we'll be able to take the moisture that is in the cloud and be able to get more moisture out of the cloud that would fall. Sometimes the weight of the water droplets are too light and too small, you don't get much rainfall from them," explained Assistant City Manager Jerry Ihler.
That's about to change for the area after receiving the final stamp of approval from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, a process that took some final feedback from the public.
"We had to put notices in the papers in the counties to tell them we were doing the cloud seeding for a public comment period and it's my understanding that they did not receive any public comment," said Ihler.
The project will begin Wednesday, a later start than originally planned.
"We would've like to have started April 1 as we looked into the permit process that was required because of the notification requirements and the water board meetings, it wasn't until today that we were able to get the permit approved,” said Ihler.
So now, Lawton will sit back and hope the city will strike gold in the form of consistent rainfall for the next several months.
"We want to be able to show a positive result from the cloud seeding and the feedback has been positive. We're in the middle of a drought, and so we need to look at all alternatives," said Ihler.
Ihler says cloud seeding works best when clouds with moisture are already present. That means Wednesday could be a perfect shot for crews.