1/9/2000 -- -- Wisconsin anglers and environmental groups, led by Trout Unlimited, have demanded the DNR apply the toughest level of scrutiny for a proposed Perrier well and bottling plant in the Mecan Springs State Natural Area. In a letter this week, TU leaders and four other major state environmental groups urged the DNR to require an extensive environmental impact survey (EIS) before the project goes forward.
The French bottled water company has asked the DNR to approve granting it an easement and driving a 100-foot deep well on the natural area to bring water from the springs to a bottling plant it would build nearby. Trout anglers and environmentalists oppose installing a commercial facility on a natural area, which should remain a set-aside wild place with minimal human intrusion.
"The Mecan River is one of our special Wisconsin treasures," said Wisconsin Trout Unlimited Chairman John Welter in the letter to DNR Secretary George Meyer. "It harbors naturally-reproducing brook, brown and rainbow trout, an almost unique combination in our state. The springs and the area below, which the state has spent over $2 million to buy, are home to endangered and threatened species." The state must consider the impact on the Mecan River watershed of the pumping operation, the potential harm to wildlife, and the implications of opening a natural area to a commercial operation, Welter said.
Perrier's agents have purchased options to buy private land around the natural area, which lies 1.5 miles northeast of Coloma in Waushara County. The initial facility, to be build on adjacent private land, would be 250,000 square feet in size, but could be expanded up to 1.5 million square feet. The well's initial capacity would be 350 gallons per minute, but could be increased after an initial permit was granted. Perrier's representatives originally hoped to obtain quick approval of their plans, according to individuals who were approached and asked to sell their land.
"While commercial and perhaps political interests may press for a quick decision from the DNR in order to commence (Perrier's) development activities, it is far more important to the resources and people of this state to fully evaluate these and other potential impacts, both on this valuable streams and on the state's policies for protecting our resources, before any final decisions are made," TU told Meyer.
TU was joined in the letter by the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Madison Audubon Society and Wisconsin Wetlands Association. Trout Unlimited, first organized in 1959, is the nation's leading coldwater trout and salmon conservation organization. TU's volunteer members, including over 3,000 in Wisconsin and more than 100,000 nationwide, are committed to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.
Wisconsin state law defines a "Natural Area" as "an area of land or water which has educational or scientific value or is important as a reservoir of the state's genetic or biologic diversity" (sec. 23.27(1)(e), Wis. Statutes).