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.

Anacortes mayor’s debate focuses on proposed Tethys bottling plant

Skagit Valley Herald
Mount Vernon, Wash.

Friday, July 12, 2013


ANACORTES MAYOR


Anacortes mayor’s debate focuses on jobs, Tethys 

By MARK STAYTON 

ANACORTES — The four candidates for Anacortes’ mayoral seat offered their views on strategic planning, economic development and the Tethys water bottling plant proposal Thursday afternoon during their second debate leading up to the Aug. 6 primary election.

Hosted by the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce, the debate focused largely on how candidates Brian Geer, Mitch Everton, Laurie Gere and Mayor Dean Maxwell plan to bolster the local economy and bring living‑wage jobs to Anacortes.

A rift emerged between candidates on what has become the largest issue of the election: The proposal by Tethys Enterprises to build a 1-million-square-foot beverage bottling plant south of March Point.

Maxwell has received some criticism of how he handled the Tethys proposal.

Without public input, the Anacortes City Council in 2010 agreed to a contract with the company to provide it 5 million gallons of water per day from the Skagit River through 2050. Anacortes has rights to 55 million gallons of water per day and currently uses approximately 21 million gallons per day.

Tethys

“Tethys was terrible policy,” candidate Mitch Everton said when asked about the proposal during the debate.

“To tell the community that their input is inappropriate to me is just wrong,” Everton said. Everton said his support for the Tethys proposal rests on how many living‑wage jobs the plant can support.

He said Tethys hasn’t yet provided enough information on the plant to make an informed judgment about whether it will benefit the community. But he said the process is likely past the stage where citizens will have any meaningful effect on its outcome.

“Our mayor unilaterally thought Tethys was a good idea for Anacortes, and that’s why it’s coming here,” Everton said.

At an Anacortes Chamber of Commerce meeting last September, Tethys CEO Steve Winter said the plant would provide at least 540 jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the national average salary for beverage manufacturing workers at $40,250 annually, though Winter said that salary would be slightly higher in the Pacific Northwest.

Gere said one of the city’s failures regarding the Tethys proposal was that no strategic plan existed to determine whether the plant would provide what the community wanted or needed before it came to Anacortes.

Like Everton, she raised concerns about the plant’s possible environmental effects and how additional trains could affect traffic. She said the lack of communication between City Hall and citizens also is problematic.

“It’s not that it’s a good or bad idea; it’s that we were never asked,” Gere said.

Maxwell defended his actions in helping bring the Tethys proposal to Anacortes by saying that the city’s municipal utility has an obligation to provide water to businesses that locate there. He said the contract was put in place to make sure the company sets up a local manufacturing facility instead of transporting the water elsewhere.

Maxwell acts as mayor, city administrator and head of the city’s water utility.

He said he took the opportunity when it was presented and is looking toward further environmental and project reviews for the company to make more specific plans about the plant known.

“It’s six miles out of town. It’s in the perfect place. You’ll never see it … ” Maxwell said. “It is our future.”

Geer, who has served as an Anacortes city councilman for eight years, said he has supported the Tethys proposal since the beginning because it would provide living-wage jobs.

“If we want to move forward and have family-wage jobs, we have to have facilities to support it. And those facilities require truck and rail traffic,” Geer said.

He agreed with Maxwell that the city has an obligation to provide water to businesses that locate there.

Geer said he voted to move the process forward to get a better idea of what was being proposed.

Economic development plans 

Other questions at the debate focused on how candidates will support the creation of family-wage jobs in Anacortes and how larger economic development plans would be structured.

Everton said the first step is to develop a strategic plan that includes the community’s vision for desired industries and development, a road map and goals and strategies needed to achieve a successful outcome. He said his focus is to target entrepreneurial CEOs in those industries, streamline the business approval processes and consider forming an economic development organization.

Gere said she wants to form a two-part marketing strategy for the city; one is an individual or firm actively seeking new businesses to locate there, while another is installed in City Hall, making the transition to Anacortes as easy as possible.

She said she wants to emphasize Anacortes strengths by expanding development in health care, information technology and marine manufacturing.

Like the other challengers, Geer said a strategic vision for the city is needed first.

The Port of Anacortes already is working in economic development, and the Chamber of Commerce is doing a good job bringing business to the city, he said. Broader community development would help leverage the city’s current assets.

Maxwell said over the past 19 years he’s been mayor, incremental improvements to infrastructure — including a new library, police station and water treatment plant — have provided a good basis for economic development. He said taxes from the refineries have supported schools and police and fire departments, while extremely low property taxes have provided incentive for businesses to locate here.

Ballots for the primary election go out to voters on July 17, and the primary election is held Aug. 6. The two top candidates will then square off in the general election Nov. 5.

 

Defending Water in the Skagit Basin March Newsletter

Defending Water in the Skagit Basin March 2013 Newsletter- click to view PDF

Defending Water in the Skagit Basin March 2013 Newsletter- click to view PDF

Defending Water in the Skagit Basin, an arm of Defending Water in Washington presents this March 2013 newsletter featuring a Tethys Enterprises Beverage Bottling Plant Site Update. We hope this information provides insight to the impact that the plant will have on Fidalgo Island and surrounding Skagit County Communities.

All the best, Sandra Spargo Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin

Click to view, or Right Click + Save As to download:Defending Water in the Skagit Basin Newsletter – March 2013,

Meet the 13-Year-Old Taking On Bottled Water

AlterNet/By Maude Barlow, published Sept. 6, 2012

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her.
In the last year, municipalities across Ontario and the rest of the country have begun taking a much-needed stand to protect local water sources. Since  World Water Day  in 2011, nine municipalities across Canada have become Blue Communities with many well on their way.

Blue Communities  are municipalities that adopt a water commons framework by: banning the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events, recognizing water as a human right, and promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water and waste-water services.

The success of the Blue Communities project in Ontario can be mainly attributed to Robyn Hamlyn who has met with 18 mayors and councillors. She talks about the environmental impacts of bottled water, the preposterous amount of profit bottled water companies make off communities’ lakes and streams and the stricter standards with which tap water is regulated. People who hear Hamlyn speak are captivated by her charm, passion and foresight to think long term about our water sources. And the incredible part of this success story is that Hamlyn is only  13 years old .

Her success has not only caught the attention of mayors, city councillors, environmentalists and media but it has also caught the attention of industry and organizations that believe water should be sold for profit. Hamlyn’s determination and effectiveness has provoked responses from Nestlé and Enviroment Probe, an organization that promotes the sale of water as a commodity.

John Challinor, Director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé, has written letters to local newspapers saying there are other initiatives that the 13-year-old and others “can and should focus on to help preserve, protect and strengthen our water systems that are more effective than targeting bottled water.” More recently, Essie Solomon, an intern for  Environment Probe , wrote an article in the  Financial Post , chiding municipalities for taking “their advice from a 13-year-old.” It was shocking to read Environment Probe’s attack on Hamlyn who has been volunteering her free time to meet with municipal councils across Ontario to talk about the impact of bottled water on current water sources, climate change and social justice.

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her. Solomon, whose article is condescendingly titled ” Don’t bottle 13-year-old’s water wisdom ,” would do well to pay attention to Hamlyn’s work rather than toe the line of an organization that promotes the sale of water for profit.

It’s also insulting to mayors and councillors to imply they do not examine critically the information presented to them. Not only is Hamlyn dispelling important myths about bottled water but she is also raising important issues that Canada is facing.

We believe municipal governments and other public bodies should not spend public funds providing bottled water at meetings or events, when a cheaper and more sustainable public alternative is readily available on tap. It simply doesn’t make financial or environmental sense.

Municipalities are at a crossroads and face pressing infrastructure needs in the wake of budget cuts and conditional funding from the Harper government. The Harper government is targeting water and wastewater services for privatization. PPP Canada explicitly promotes privatization of public services by only allocating the $1.2 billion under the P3 Canada Fund to municipalities that let corporations deliver water and wastewater, transportation and communications services on a for-profit basis.

The Harper government has shut down public debate on many critical water issues and amended environmental legislation that will reverberate for generations to come. So we are heartened to see municipalities take on critical water issues and provide forums for much needed debate and it is in them that we place our hope.

The Blue Communities Project is a joint initiative of the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). This project builds on a decade of Water Watch work in coalition with many other groups to protect public water services and challenge the bottled water industry.  Click here  to learn more about the Blue Communities Project.

Ivy Colleges Shunning Bottled Water Jab at $22 Billion Industry

Bottled water is coming under attack on college campuses.
More than 90 schools, among them Brown University and Harvard University are banning the sale or restricting the use of plastic water bottles, unnerving the $22 billion retail packaged-water industry in the U.S. The University of Vermont is the latest to join the movement, announcing in January it would stop sales early next year.
A forklift moves bails of plastic bottles at the San Francisco Recycling Center. More than 9 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the U.S. last year. The industry is growing 5.4 percent annually. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Discarded water bottles lay in a trash can in Washington, D.C. Students at Brown, in Providence, Rhode Island, started a campaign to reduce bottled water consumption in 2010 and more than a dozen U.S. schools have campus-wide bans on the sale of plastic water bottles. Photographer: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
Freshmen at colleges across the country are being greeted with stainless-steel bottles in their welcome packs and encouraged to use hydration stations where free, filtered water is available. Brown, which used to sell about 320,000 bottles of water a year in vending machines and campus stores, ended sales in dining halls in 2010. Harvard and Dartmouth Collegeare installing hydration stations in new buildings to reduce trash.
“The product just doesn’t make common sense,” Sarah Alexander, 20, an environmental-studies major at Hanover, New Hampshire-based Dartmouth, said by e-mail. “Companies are taking something that is freely accessible to everyone on the Dartmouth campus, packaging it in a non-reusable container and then selling it under the pretense that it is somehow better than tap water.”
In response to the growing movement, the water industry released a video on YouTube last month poking fun at “Ban the Bottle,” an organization that advocates banning one-time-use plastic water bottles. The spot, which features “Star Wars”- like music and flashbacks of antiwar demonstrations, says bottled water is a safe, convenient product that is “one of the healthiest drinks on the shelf” and that its packaging is recyclable.

‘Serious Issues’

There “are really serious issues over here, and now you’re dealing with bottled water?” Joe Doss, president of theInternational Bottled Water Association, based in Alexandria,Virginia, said in a phone interview. While “there are anti- bottled-water groups going from campus to campus,” Doss said he doesn’t consider it “a big threat” at this point.
More than 9 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the U.S. last year, and the industry is growing 5.4 percent a year, according to Gary Hemphill, senior vice president of the Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York consulting firm. Sales to colleges and universities aren’t tracked separately.
The bottling industry may be worried about losing brand loyalty from college kids, said Eric Meliton, an industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan.
“If they lose that access, yeah, you would see a big dropoff on that demographic,” Meliton said in a phone interview. College students are “on the go, they’ve got backpacks and they may not choose to use bottled water.”

Saving Money

Reducing or eliminating plastic bottled water saves students money and has the environmental benefit of reducing the need to truck bottles across the country, Niles Barnes, project coordinator with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, said in a phone interview.
“It’s a really tangible, sustainable activity that students can get behind,” Barnes said.
Students at Brown, in Providence, Rhode Island, started a campaign in 2010 to reduce bottled water consumption and the school stopped selling it in dining halls that September. Brown holds about 50,000 bottles in reserve in case of a natural disaster or to distribute at graduation or other events, Chris Powell, director of sustainable energy and environmental initiatives, said in an interview.
“There’s an environmental impact to the waste” of disposable water bottles, Powell said. “We realized there were alternatives that we could put in place that everybody was agreeable to.”

Culture Shift

Dartmouth is trying to “shift the student culture” about purchasing bottled water, said Rosi Kerr, the school’s director of sustainability. Princeton University, in Princeton, New Jersey, promotes a “Drink Local” initiative to reduce plastic- bottle waste.
Some departments at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard have banned the purchase of bottled water for meetings. Cornell University has a reduction campaign, as does Yale University. The University of Pennsylvania encourages administrative offices to use hydration stations rather than bottled water.
Sitting back and “doing nothing” as environmental groups campaigned to ban bottled water wasn’t an option for the water industry, the water association’s Doss said. His niece, a student at The College of Charleston, alerted him to an effort on her campus, and he said there is an “active movement” across the nation.
More than a dozen U.S. schools have campuswide bans on the sale of plastic water bottles, according to Barnes.

Sweetened Beverages

Some colleges with a history of activism have rejected bans on packaged water. The University of California, Berkeley opted against the idea on concern it would drive students toward sweetened beverages, said Trish Ratto, a university health services official. So did Columbia University, after students said they’d buy it elsewhere, according to Nilda Mesa, assistant vice president of environmental stewardship at the New York- based college.
Brown philosophy major Terrence George, 21, calls the university’s policy an “unwarranted assault” on bottled water.

 

To follow college campaigns against bottled water, visit: http://www.banthebottle.net/map-of-campaigns/

Passamaquoddy moving ahead to build Bottling Plant

DW4L was alarmed to find out that the Passamaquoddy Tribal Leaders have returned to the idea to tap one of the largest aquifers in Maine, and build a bottling plant.  Under the guise of creating jobs, the Tribe now faces even more exploitation, if they give up the rights to their water.  In addition, the proposed plant is located dangerously close to the proposed East-West highway, ensuring exploitation by the global market.

Link to TV news report: http://www.wcsh6.com/news/article/191127/2/Water-water-everywhere-job-creation-in-Washington-County

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A team of geologists has made a discovery that could create 150 jobs in Washington County: a 1,000 acre aquifer with 22 untapped, bubbling springs.

The aquifer is on the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s land in Indian Township.

Tribal leaders are hoping to tap into that aquifer to manufacture Passamaquoddy Blue bottled water.

Geologists with A.E. Hodsdon Engineering said the aquifer has so much water, the tribe could tap 1 million gallons a day.

“We can probably take out 10 times that amount volume,” said Al Hodsdon.

“But you couldn’t bottle that much water, that’s a lot of water,” he said.

Hodsdon has called it the “Saudi Arabia” of fresh ground water, and said test results qualify the water as “above excellent.”

Members of the tribe said they have always known about the natural resource, but never knew how much water sat below the ground.

After consulting with Hodsdon and a developer, Mike Dugay, the tribe is moving foward with plans to develop the plant and manufacture the water.

Economic development consultant Harold Claussey, Director of the Sunrise County Economic Council, has forecasted that the plant would create between 60 and 80 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs.

“This is something that we’re really hoping becomes a reality,” said Indian Township Economic Development Director Ernie Neptune.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe reports an unemployment rate of 65 percent.

“With a 60 plus unemployment rate in this area, it’s going to be a blessing,” said Neptune.

It’s the poorest part of the poorest county, where surrounding Washington County towns report unemployment rates as high as percent.

But there is a sense of cautious optimism surrounding this project.

“I think a lot of people want to see it before they believe it,” said Passamaquoddy Karen Sabattis.

In the last decade, the tribe has attempted several projects to create jobs and boost the local economy: a natural gas line terminal, a racino, and a lumber company.

All three projects failed.

But project developers, geologists, and tribal government leaders think it’s going to be different this time around.

“So you’ve got great quality, great quantities, and great opportunity for Washington County, and certainly for the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Indian Township,” said Dugay.

The tribe needs to secure $22 million in funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs before they can build the bottling plant.

If that funding comes through, the tribe hopes to have the plant up and running by 2013.

Grand Canyon banning sales of bottled water

By Miguel Llanos, msnbc.com

Activists concerned that Coca-Cola might be influencing National Park Service policy were breathing a bit easier Tuesday after the Grand Canyon National Park announced it would eliminate the sale of bottled water inside the park within 30 days.

full story here:  http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/07/10340196-grand-canyon-banning-sales-of-bottled-water

Bottled Water Banished at University of Vermont

Vending machines to feature ‘healthy choices’

By Lauren Drasler, Assistant New Editor | The Vermont Cynic | Thursday, February 2, 2012

The sale of bottled water on campus will end Jan. 1, 2013, makingUVM one of the first institutions nationwide to pass this type of sustainable beverage policy, according to University Communications.

UVM will remove bottled water from its 57 vending machines and in retail outlets as well asmandate that one-third of the drinks in vending machines be healthy choices,University Communications stated.

Though the administration made this decision, Director for the Office of Sustainability Gioia Thompson said that student groups such as Vermont Student Environmental Program (VSTEP) really led the way.

“In 2010 and 2011, Mikayla McDonald and Marlee Baron each served as both VSTEP president and SGA senator,” Thompson said.  “They were key in connecting with SGA committees and leaders, who responded with resolutions.”

Thompson said that UVM’s campus has 200 water fountains that can easily be retrofitted with water bottle filling stations like the ones in the Davis Center for about $300 each.

“Other fountains will need to be replaced, costing in the thousands,” she said. “There may be some new fountain locations requiring new plumbing, as is the case in the Waterman building’s recent fountain upgrade.”

Vice President of Finance and Administration Richard Cate estimates that the cost of updating and replacing water fountains throughout campus will be about $100,000.

“This action is not likely to save the University any money, but hopefully students will save

money by having better access to chilled drinking water for which they do not have to pay,” he

said.

The Coca-Cola contract, which gives the company exclusive pouring rights at the University and is set to expire in June, generates $482,000 in revenue for UVM, Cate said.  Of that revenue, some is used to directly benefit students.

“$157,000 of the $482,000 from the current contract goes to student financial aid,” he said.

Cate confirmed that revenue from the new contracts will also be directed toward student aid.

President of VSTEP Greg Francese said that his club has worked directly with the Office of Sustainability and student organizations in order to educate the community about environmental issues such as the impact of bottled water.

Francese said that VSTEP’s main goal for the past five years has been to ban the sale of bottled water, with campaigns such as Bring Your Own Bottle days, in which students are encouraged to not buy bottled water for one day.

“We wanted people to think about why they’re purchasing bottled water,” he said. “The way we’ve done that is basically just by educating people about why you can get virtually the same product for free out of a water fountain.”

Though the decision to end sales of bottled water on campus is finally official, Francese said the news has not sunk in yet.

“It feels surreal, I guess it hasn’t really hit me yet,” he said. “There’s been a lot of congratulatory emails, and I got interviewed by one of the local news stations, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s happening.

“When it happens it will be great,” he said.

Former VSTEP president Mikayla McDonald said that she is very supportive of UVM’s decision to let the Coke contract expire and to remove the sale of bottled water from campus.

“UVM has shown great leadership with this action and will undoubtedly motivate students in other American colleges and universities to take similar initiatives,” she said.

McDonald said she has a variety of issues with the bottled water industry.

“Single-serving, plastic-packaged bottled water is one of those products which has a 100 percent manufactured demand,” she said. “That means that there was essentially no need or want for it until bottled water companies started spending billions of dollars on advertising.”

These advertising campaigns have successfully convinced many Americans that municipal tap water is dirty and dangerous while bottled water is cleaner and healthier, McDonald said. In fact, the opposite is true.

Many students said they agree with the University’s decision to stop selling bottled water.

“I think it’s awesome,” senior Audrey Stout said.  “We don’t need any more plastic, so I’m all for this idea.”

Other students agreed that bottled water is a waste.

“There is plenty of opportunity to get free water from the fountains, and reusable water bottles are always being given away here,” sophomore Isaiah Cory said.

Though most students said they supported the administration’s decision, others said they didn’t like the idea of completely banning water bottle sales.

“Anytime there is a ban it’s an infringement,” senior Ben Zabriskie said.  “If the University put a $1 tariff on bottled water, then that money could be used to support conservation instead of completely banning bottled water sales.”

“Bottled Life”, A New Documentary Film

DW4L has not yet had the chance to view this film, but it is a documentary about Nestle’s business of bottling water.

Here is a link to information about the film: http://www.bottledlifefilm.com/index.php/nestle-and-water.html

If you watch it, please write a review by selecting “comment” below this post.  Thanks!