Opinion: Musings on the coast


Targeted Cloud Seeding in Laguna 

By Michael Ray

You’ve all heard of cloud seeding, right? It is a weather modification technique that increases rainfall by introducing seeding materials into clouds, such as silver iodide, to increase ice crystals in local cloud systems and encourage, well, rain. The potential benefits to a place like Laguna Beach, which, like all Southern California, is a desert, are manifold. For example, it could be used to reduce water scarcity and reliance on imported water and increase local sustainability and ecosystem health.

First, as you also know, Laguna Beach enjoys one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines and thanks to the no-take (of marine life) zone off our shores, an incredibly diverse underwater life system, which begins with kelp, that sustainer of tiny lifeforms that beget bigger lifeforms, then fish, then of course sharks to eat the tourists. (Sorry, there really are few, if any, local man-eating sharks, but I had to throw that in to discourage the tourists, who frantically watch “Shark Week” and assume they’ll be eaten if caught swimming locally. Instead, maybe they’ll go to Newport, where they belong—that place is full of sharks, mostly the horizontal variety, but also those that swim.)

In any case, more sustained rainfall reduces the risk of wildfires in Laguna. That is, while more rainfall will increase local vegetation, which increases the wildfire risk, more sustained rainfall will increase the moisture content of local vegetation and create a more fire-resilient landscape. This is important because the local lobby opposed to cutting down any tree is as strong as Paul Bunyan, that mighty mythical American lumberjack. Example: the city arborist recently recommended cutting down a diseased eucalyptus tree that threatened to fall onto a nearby rooftop. It was a safety issue, but horrors(!), the local anti-cutting-down-any-tree lobby showed up so strongly at the relevant city council meeting that the council caved, hired an outside arborist (at great cost) to get a second opinion, and only then could that dangerous eucalyptus be eliminated. Parenthetically, if we wish to reduce the overall risk of wildfire risk, the city should eliminate all “eucs.” They brim with highly flammable oils and go up and off like gunshots, and their burning leaves are blown hundreds of yards, still exploding with flames where they engulf still more houses. But, oh boy, try getting the city council to pass that ordinance.  I already can hear the local anti-cutting-down-any-tree lobby exploding in its own firestorm.

Then, perhaps most important of all, there is the growing water shortage. we in Southern California do not really perceive its world-wide effects, but soon will: historic allocations from the Colorado River, which have so favored California, soon will be modified, probably reducing all allocations as the Colorado River, itself, is facing a rainfall shortage. Then there is the aqueduct from the Sacramento basin, fed by snowfall, itself also declining—and don’t be fooled by this year’s heavy snow and rainfalls- those are anomalies.  

To secure more water, desalination plants have been and are proposed along our coastline. The one near Dana Point was approved by the Coastal Commission but faces years of lawsuits, and what it will produce is puny anyway. The one off Huntington Beach was killed, and others face similar issues.

No, we need targeted cloud-seeding right here in Laguna Beach, open our cisterns, collect water, and don’t pass go as we watch other regions, so slow to match our own unmatched progress into the future, that our quick-twitch city council once again will lead us into that wonderful, unmatched march into the future. 

Michael co-founded Orange County School of the Arts, The Discovery Cube, Sage Hill School, Art Spaces Irvine and several other area nonprofit organizations. He is a business partner with Sanderson-J. Ray Development and has lived in Laguna Beach since the early 1980s.

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  1. And what about communities outside of Laguna Beach? What effects do these cloud seeding operations have on areas east of California? People like to blame climate change for all of the flooding and tornadoes we’ve seen in Texas and Nebraska. California gets plenty of precipitation and the state would be wise to build more lakes and reservoirs to store all of that snow runoff.


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