WWU to Become Largest Public University in the U.S. to Ban Bottled Water

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Western Washington University [Bellingham, Wash.] is poised to become the largest public university in the country to ban sales of bottled water. The school joins Evergreen State College and Seattle University in making the move.

For many young environmentalists, saying no to bottled water and yes to public taps is an easy choice and a cause they can get passionate about.

That’s certainly the case for Carolyn Bowie, co-president of Students for Sustainable Water at Western Washington University in Bellingham. For her, bottled water is wrong from start to finish.

“The bottles themselves are made of petroleum, a non-renewable resource. And once people dispose of them, only one-fifth of bottles actually make it into the recycling,” she said.

The plastic clogs landfills and pollutes our oceans. And, Bowie feels, water should be considered a human right.

“And when corporations begin to extract water on huge scales, it really commodifies and turns what should be a shared resource into a commodity to make profit off of,” she said.

That’s the argument at the heart of a national movement that has helped 125 cities including Seattle ban bottled water use in official business. Fourteen National parks including Mt. Rainier, and more than 70 universities across the country are also going bottle-free.

Last spring, after nearly three years of campaigning, the student body at Western voted on the proposed ban of all bottled water sales on campus. Seventy two percent supported the proposal.

And last month, they received a letter from the school’s administration stating the school would begin implementing the ban as soon as possible to help the university meet its goal of serving as a model of institutional sustainability.

Bowie can hardly contain herself as she remembers getting the news.

“Oh, my God. We were ecstatic. I can’t express how excited we are to have this finally come to such a great conclusion for the year,” she said.

It wasn’t an easy win. As a public school, Western is facing massive budget tightening. The student association had to agree to absorb up to nearly $60,000 in lost revenue if people buy fewer cold beverages from campus shops and vending machines after the ban is in place. The money could be cut from the students’ budgets for residence halls and lecture series.

Skagit County Advances Tethys Bottling Plant

Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash.
Wed., July 30, 2013

Anacortes land expansion to be reviewed

By KATE MARTIN

MOUNT VERNON — Anacortes’ proposal to expand its city boundaries to accommodate a beverage bottling plant has passed one of several administrative hurdles, despite reservations by one county commissioner.
Skagit County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to review the city of Anacortes’ proposal, which includes incorporating and rezoning 11.2 acres southwest of the intersection of Reservation and Stevenson roads into the city’s long-term growth area. In return, the city would redesignate 16.6 acres of city industrial-zoned land on the southern shore of Fidalgo Bay for public use.

The proposed land-use change could make way for Tethys Enterprises Inc. to build a massive bottling plant on the land and surrounding urban growth area.

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The bottling plant would eventually reach 1 million square feet, according to CEO Steve Winter, and make all manner of beverages. Tethys has a contract with the city for 5 million gallons of water per day — the same amount the Tesoro Refinery uses.

But the proposal has sparked controversy, with opponents saying the city is squandering a public resource — water — for corporate interests. Some have concerns about the way the city handled the process of signing a contract with Tethys that would provide the city-owned water.

Supporters of the proposal, including the city’s Chamber of Commerce, say it would provide much-needed jobs for Skagit County residents.

Skagit County’s planning department received nearly 400 pages of comments from 174 residents by early May about the proposal.

County commissioners held a public hearing on the land-use change in April, where questions were raised about the legality of the process. Commissioners decided to have attorneys review the legal and procedural concerns of the proposal before making a decision about how to move forward.

Commissioners hired Seattle firm Gordon Derr because of the complexity of the case and to alleviate community concerns about conflicts of interest.

An issue that arose was whether the city was required to submit project-specific plans to the county or if the county would evaluate the proposal only on the request to rezone land for industrial use.

A memo to commissioners last month from Jay Derr, the contracted legal counsel on the issue, says it is appropriate for commissioners to review project-specific components of the proposal. A review may consider the city’s “population allocation and commensurate employment needs to support the UGA application,” the memo states.

Derr told commissioners they can request more information about the project. But moving forward, the commissioners might want to bring up impacts to water resources and rail traffic, he said.

“You know enough about the specific plans and the future for this site that those project-specific issues should be addressed as part of the environmental review,” Derr told commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioner Sharon Dillon seemed torn and asked Derr if the county could require the official in charge of the State Environmental Policy Act review to do a stringent Environmental Impact Statement analysis, instead of the less rigorous Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance.

Derr said a MDNS is not a “minor effort” and would require the applicant to address and mitigate for environmental impacts.

Dillon said she believes the city should ask for the land designation change in 2015, when the county issues its full comprehensive plan update. Nevertheless, she said, “we might as well deal with it this year.”

The county had several options: Move the request forward, deny the request or delay it until the county’s next comprehensive update.

When commissioners voted unanimously to move the request forward, Dillon winced as she cast her vote.

The land designation change is the first of many steps that must be taken, according to Planning and Development Services Director Dale Pernula.

Next, the county and city will negotiate an agreement on the SEPA process, costs and responsibilities. The issue will eventually be held in a public meeting in front of the county Planning Commission. It could take many months before that happens.

Agencies Release Draft Columbia Treaty

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — The U.S. agencies responsible for managing the Columbia River under a U.S.-Canada treaty say the treaty should be modernized to better reflect current Pacific Northwest priorities.

The 1964 Columbia River Treaty is an agreement between the two countries for developing and operating the river and its dams for flood control and power.

Either country may give notice beginning in 2014 that it wants treaty provisions changed or terminated. For the U.S., the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working with other stakeholders to develop recommendations on the treaty.

The agencies released their draft recommendations for public comment Thursday. The working draft notes that the treaty must be modernized to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to include the ecosystem as a focus.

Source:  http://earthfix.opb.org/water/article/agencies-release-draft-columbia-treaty-recommendat/