FOR IMMEDEATE RELASE (July 2, 2007)
Brian Johnson, Trout Unlimited, 510-528-4772
Brian Stranko, California Trout, 925-408-6173
Debra Anderson, McCloud Watershed Council, 530-964-2502
Nestlé Agrees to Rework the Environmental Review For its Proposed McCloud Bottling Plant
In a major victory for the McCloud River, Nestlé Waters North America has asked Siskiyou County to conduct additional environmental analysis and prepare a new Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the company’s proposed water bottling plant in McCloud, CA.
The EIR will be “re-circulated,” allowing more time for data collection and input from stakeholders as the document is re-written and re-published for public review.
“We are very happy to see Nestlé take this progressive step forward in response to public comment,” said Brian Stranko, C.E.O. of California Trout. “We are encouraged that Nestlé wants better analysis before the project moves forward.”
Last year, California Trout, the McCloud Watershed Council, and Trout Unlimited criticized the Draft EIR, asking the County to collect more data on the project’s impacts and re-circulate the report. The groups also met with Nestlé Waters officials from California and the company’s headquarters in Connecticut to make the case for a new approach.
“From the original environmental review, it was impossible to say what effect the plant would have on Shasta-area springs or the renowned McCloud River fishery,” said Brian Johnson, Director of Trout Unlimited’s California Water Project. “Nestlé’s agreement to start over is a significant decision, because it gives us all a chance to find out what the consequences would be.”
“Before we give our water away to a multi-national corporation for a hundred years, the true costs to our families and our future must be adequately assessed. The original document was deeply flawed, and re-circulating the DEIR will provide an opportunity to better assess the true costs, benefits and impacts of the proposed project,” said Debra Anderson of the McCloud Watershed Council Board of Directors.
The agreement to re-circulate another Draft EIR is clearly a positive step. The next step will be to define the process and timeline for preparing a new draft. The groups are especially interested in a more complete project description that clarifies the amount of water that can be used, a more robust analysis of mitigation measures and project alternatives, and additional information to adequately assess baseline conditions.
At the heart of the request for a re-circulation of the DEIR is the need for several years of peer reviewed studies to determine baseline conditions. For example, there is no adequate record of flow and temperature conditions in Squaw Valley Creek, a valuable tributary that could be harmed by the project. Without this most basic stream condition information it is impossible to determine potential impacts of the project.
The water use issues surrounding the Nestlé Waters proposal also highlight the need for Siskiyou County to update its current water management plans and ordinances.
“Siskiyou County has an obligation to require comprehensive scientific and economic studies to determine potential impacts. An up-to-date and integrated water management planning approach by the County is needed to address increasingly complex and controversial water issues such as the proposed 1 million square foot bottling plant,” said Curtis Knight, Mt. Shasta Area Manager for CalTrout.
Indeed, the existing Siskiyou County groundwater management code identifies the need for a comprehensive county water plan “to foster prudent water management practices to avoid significant adverse overdraft-related environmental, social, and economic impacts.” But the County has yet to initiate such a process. Poor groundwater management in California and throughout the West has caused significant problems for coldwater fisheries and rural communities. (See “Gone to the Well Once Too Often,” at www.tu.org/groundwater.)
The bottled water industry has come under increasing scrutiny lately, with the California legislature considering a bill to require disclosure of the water quality of bottled water and inspection of water bottling facilities, the nationwide concern over the privatization of local water, and the City of San Francisco’s recent decision banning city departments from buying bottled water.