Weed CA and Mt. Shasta water featured in documentary series

Weed, CA water rights, Mount Shasta and the topic of water bottling and water privatization will be the focus of the fourth episode of an upcoming series on food and water, produced by UK’s Fusion/LightBox Productions. Here’s a one minute trailer advertising the 8-part series. While the Weed area water protectors are only on screen for 5 seconds, starting at 0:34, they make their point, and the whole series looks like it will be worth checking out.

Episodes will be posted online shortly after the airtime, and the water program is scheduled for Tuesday, April 17. The first three in the series are available here.

Timber Company Tells California Town, Go Find Your Own Water

by Thomas Fuller, The New York Times

WEED, Calif. — The water that gurgles from a spring on the edge of this Northern California logging town is so pristine that for more than a century it has been piped directly to the wooden homes spread across hills and gullies.

To the residents of Weed, which sits in the foothills of Mount Shasta, a snow-capped dormant volcano, the spring water is a blessing during a time of severe and prolonged drought.

To the lumber company that owns the land where the spring is, the water is a business opportunity.

Roseburg Forest Products, an Oregon-based company that owns the pine forest where the spring surfaces, is demanding that the city of Weed get its water elsewhere.

“The city needs to actively look for another source of water,” said Ellen Porter, the director of environmental affairs for Roseburg who led the company’s negotiations with the city. “Roseburg is not in a position to guarantee the availability of that water for a long period of time.”

For the past 50 years, the company charged the city $1 a year for use of water from the Beaughan Spring. As of July, it began charging $97,500 annually. A contract signed this year directs the city to look for alternative sources.

Roseburg has not made public what it plans to do with the water it wants to take back from the city. But it already sells water to Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring, which bottles it in Weed and ships it as far away as Japan. Crystal Geyser is looking to increase its overall supply.

Residents of Weed, including the current mayor and three former mayors, say the water was always intended for municipal and domestic use and should not be sold to the highest bidder.

“The corporate mentality is that they can make more money selling this water to Japan,” said Bob Hall, a former mayor of Weed and currently a member of the City Council. “We were hooked at the hip with this company for years,” he said of the timber company, the largest private employer in the area. “Now, they are taking advantage of people who can’t defend themselves.”

Bottled-water plants have met with resistance and in some cases protests in a number of places across California, including a Nestlé plant last year in Sacramento. In the water-rich towns in the shadow of Mount Shasta, residents have raised concerns over proposed bottling plants that they say could severely diminish local water supplies.

A measure on the ballot in the November election in Siskiyou County, where the towns are, would for the first time require that companies obtain permits to export water.

The disputes echo California’s broader water wars. Five years of drought have escalated competition among farmers, factories and residents over water use and have pitted the arid south against the more water-rich north.

“Water is money,” said David Webb, a resident of the city of Mount Shasta who follows the water disputes in the area. “If you can get it, you can make money from it.”

Bob Hall, a Weed city councilman, at one of the local springs that provide the city's water. Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

Bob Hall, a Weed city councilman, at one of the local springs that provide the city’s water. Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

The mayor of Weed, Ken Palfini, says the value of the city’s water was emphasized during a visit several weeks ago by Pierre Papillaud, the founder of the company that owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring. In what the mayor and another participant described as a tirade of abuse, Mr. Papillaud demanded that the city give up its spring water so that his company could have more.

“He said if he didn’t get his way, he was going to blow up the bottling plant,” Mr. Palfini said of Mr. Papillaud’s visit. “He said that twice.”

Mr. Papillaud’s son Ronan Papillaud came to Weed in mid-September to apologize for the brusque treatment and to rescind his father’s demands. But Mr. Palfini said it was a lesson on how small municipalities in the area need to protect themselves from water-hungry companies.

“They are just corporations,” Mr. Palfini said. “They are not your friend.”

Residents of Weed, which is still rebuilding after a major wildfire two years ago, say they believe that their dispute with Roseburg will end in the courts and that they have a document showing that the previous owner of Roseburg’s timber business here, International Paper, handed over water rights to the city in 1982.

But they describe a David and Goliath battle between Roseburg, a wealthy corporation capable of paying for high-powered lawyers, and a relatively poor city with just 2,700 people.

Residents in Weed followed the legal battles of Missoula, Mont., where the State Supreme Court ruled in August that the city could seize water from a private company by eminent domain to secure the municipal water supply.

The alternative to legal proceedings for now is to drill a new well at a cost of around $2 million, according to Ron Stock, the Weed city administrator.

Roseburg has suggested a site on its property, but city officials say it is potentially dangerous: The well would be located a few hundred yards from a former wood treatment facility that is contaminated with highly toxic chemicals including arsenic. The facility, which is managed by Roseburg, was fenced off in 1986 and has been declared a Superfund site.

Because of the complex hydrology of the area, including lava tubes that carry water in various directions under the mountains, the city would not know whether the water was safe until it drilled a test well, Mr. Stock said.

“The city has to be very careful,” he said. “We don’t want a Flint, Mich., situation.”

Ms. Porter, the Roseburg representative, said the proposed well site was “well outside any area of contamination.”

In an interview at the company’s timber plant outside Weed, where logs are spun and shaved into thin sheets used for plywood, Ms. Porter blamed Mr. Hall, the city councilor, and others in the city for casting Roseburg in a bad light.

“We are becoming the corporate bad guy, and that’s really unfortunate,” she said. The city already has wells that serve around half the population, she said.

Ronan Papillaud, the president of CG Roxane, which owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring together with a Japanese pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, was also defensive when asked about his company’s plans.

“We do not belong in this story,” Mr. Papillaud said. “We are not depriving anyone of anything.” CG Roxane has bought water from Roseburg since the late 1990s and dedicates one of its production lines in its Weed plant to bottling water bound for Japan.

Mr. Papillaud described his deal with Roseburg as a simple relationship between a buyer and seller.

“Is this blood water? Are they involved in child labor?” he asked rhetorically. “We are clients, end of story.”

Watching the water dispute warily are members of the Winnemem Wintu, a small Native American tribe that considers the slopes of Mount Shasta sacred.

According to tribal beliefs, one of the springs on the mountain is the place where animals and mankind emerged into the world. Six years ago, for the first time in the oral history of the tribe, that spring dried up, according to Luisa Navejas, a tribe member.

The water around Mount Shasta is not limitless, she said.

“This mountain is calling us now, and we need to listen,” Ms. Navejas said of the inactive volcano.

“This mountain will talk,” she said. “The time will come.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/us/california-drought-weed-mount-shasta.html?emc=eta1

Today, Sept. 20, and tomorrow: Two Run4Salmon events

Support the Winnemem Wintu Tribe at the Run4Salmon, “a 300-mile trek that follows the historical journey of the salmon from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Winnemem (McCloud River) to raise awareness about the policies threatening our waters, our fish, and indigenous lifeways. It’s a dire time in California for wild chinook salmon (Nur) – climate change, giant dam projects and draining rivers for Big Ag irrigation threaten the survival of the keystone keepers of our waters.”

Join the movement to save the Delta and protect the people who depend on it! Restore the Delta plans to participate in the Communities and Issues forum today and the Benefit Concert Wednesday.

Event: When Salmon Speak | Communities and Issues Forum
Date: Tuesday, September 20, 4:00pm-9:00pm
Location: Washington Neighborhood Ctr, 400 16th St., Sacramento
Admission: Free, donations appreciated
More details/Facebook event page

Event: Run4Salmon Benefit Concert
Date: Wednesday, September 21, 6:00pm-11:00pm
Location: Crest Theater, 1013 K St., Sacramento
Admission: Pre-sale $15, At the door $20
More details/Facebook event page

More about the Run4Salmon, visit their website here.

Run 4 Salmon seeks to protect fish, habitat, and tradition

It’s a dire time for wild Chinook salmon in California. Climate change, dam operations, watershed clear-cuts and the diversion of rivers for irrigation all threaten the survival of this keystone species.

To highlight the peril and demand action, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and a collective of Indigenous women, activists and allies are embarking on a 300-mile trek from the California Bay Delta to Mt. Shasta, re-creating the upstream swim of the salmon’s return to its native spawning grounds. They are inviting supporters to participate in this historic march.

Join Run 4 Salmon, a series of trek segments and events taking place from September 17 to October 1, 2016. The mission is to raise awareness about the policies threatening Winnemem Wintu waters, fish and indigenous lifeways. The journey will start in the Bay Delta city of Vallejo and continue through Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Colusa, Woodson Bridge, Cow Creek, Shasta Lake and Redding, ending in McCloud, the winter-run Chinook’s historic spawning ground, where they have been missing since the construction of Shasta Dam.

The dam flooded over 90 percent of the Winnemem Wintu village, burial and sacred sites, and the winter-run Chinook salmon have been missing from their spawning grounds ever since. Now their fragile ecosystem is under attack once again, threatened by the $17 billion Delta Twin Tunnels project, designed to funnel water to thirsty agribusiness and fossil fuel corporations conducting fracking.

Earthjustice, representing Restore the Delta in ongoing hearings before California’s State Water Resources Control Board, is submitting detailed testimony from communities such as the Tribe that will be most affected by the project.

Do your part. The Run for Salmon event includes segments that you can walk, run, boat, bike and even ride on horseback. Sacred ceremonies and benefit concerts will be held along the way. Visit Run4Salmon.org for a full list of events open to public participation.

Press release: Weed CA citizens and Weed Area Water Alliance sue City of Weed and Roseburg Forest Products to protect water rights, environment

From: Weed Area Water Alliance (W.A.W.A.)
Press Contact: Vicki Gold 530.926.4206 ~victoria7@snowcrest.net

On June 23, long-time citizens of Weed and a newly formed citizens group, Weed Area Water Alliance, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Sacramento against the City of Weed and Roseburg Forest Products Company in response to their recent signing of a Water Lease Agreement. The lawsuit challenges the claim by the City that approval of the Water Lease Agreement did not require full review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the federal Clean Water Act.

“As we allege in our Complaint, there is no question that a CEQA review is clearly necessary,” stated Philip Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in Burlingame, CA, counsel for the Plaintiffs. “We allege Roseburg Forest Products and Baxter Industries, adjacent to the Roseburg property, are former EPA Superfund Sites. Under the law, it would be both irresponsible and illegal for the City to proceed without proper environmental review.”

The water infrastructure of the City of Weed delivers gravity fed water from Beaughan Springs. Beaughan Creek’s path flows through the Roseburg property in unincorporated Siskiyou County, then through the City of Weed and beyond as an important tributary to the Shasta River and the Klamath River. Given that these are waters protected by federal law, they are protected by the Clean Water Act.

Roseburg Forest Products, an Oregon corporation, is reputed to gross $1 billion dollars annually, compared with the City of Weed’s annual budget which is between $3-4 million. Weed is still recovering from the significant loss of 153 homes during the September 2014 Boles Fire. Only 50 homes have been rebuilt. The Complaint asserts the anticipated increase of water rates by $30/month is a significant burden for the citizens.

“We brought this case because extending the current lease for 2 years will allow the City time to comply with CEQA and to better protect its citizens,” observed long time resident and former Mayor of Weed, Dave Pearce. “We feel a court will agree with us that the domestic and municipal uses are the highest and best use of the purest mountain spring water. Industrial use for watering logs and for the co-generation plant should not take precedence over the public’s access to this water source. Additionally, allowing Roseburg to export water for Crystal Geyser Roxanne to put in plastic bottles is likely a contributing factor to Roseburg’s unwillingness to continue supplying water to the City. Apparently Roseburg is counting on the profit from pure Beaughan Springs water both from the City and Crystal Geyser. Roseburg should not control our water, the most important resource of any community.”

Over 100 citizens appeared at City Council meetings to protest the creation of the new Water Lease Agreement, to object to the limited review of the CEQA Notice of Exemption, and to request that Roseburg extend the existing lease for 1-2 years. According to the local residents, this proposed extension would allow time for the City to perform proper environmental and legal reviews to determine a course of action to protect the safety, health, and welfare of the community. During the Water Lease Agreement negotiation process, the City’s longtime consulting water attorney resigned. Privately, Roseburg apparently has refused all requests to extend the lease so that proper environmental review could be conducted. Instead, Roseburg allegedly threatened to shut off the water if the City refused to sign the new Water Lease Agreement.

In addition to its obvious environmental impacts, the new Water Lease Agreement will reduce the City’s historical use of 2.0 cubic feet/second (cfs) of water by 25% to 1.5 cfs for 10 years with a possible 5 year extension. The Water Lease Agreement also obligates the City to seek alternate water sources within 6 months and to begin acquisition proceedings within 2 years followed by expensive public work projects to set up the plumbing and delivery systems for those sources.

According to Joe Berry, Secretary/ Treasurer of plaintiff Weed Area Water Alliance, “Our Complaint was filed because the City did not do its job to protect the future of the citizens of Weed. While the City is obligated to find new water sources, it is not even clear that suitable sources can be found at any affordable cost. Drilling new wells is unpredictable, in terms of quality and quantity of water.” Berry went on to point out: “The history of industrial contamination in the area makes quality a critical issue even if new sources can be identified. There is no question environmental review is required because adding new expensive infrastructure for high-volume pumping has potential significant consequences for the public and for owners of properties adjacent to identified new wells. The entire contiguous watershed of the Shasta Valley and Klamath River could suffer serious consequences.”

The history of the water lease arrangement is as follows: since its incorporation as a City in 1965, Weed provided Roseburg and its predecessor, International Paper Company, with drinking water, industrial water, and water for fire protection. Roseburg pays only $30,000 annually of the total City Fire Protection costs of $300,000. Although Roseburg’s mill is located just outside the city limits, the private corporation has benefited for decades from taxpayer funds. Millions have been spent by the City rebuilding the old redwood pipeline infrastructure with a 12 inch steel pipeline providing water to both Roseburg and the City.

Previously a company town, Weed has had beneficial use of the water for domestic, commercial and municipal purposes for 107 years. The City previously held a 50 year lease with Roseburg for $1 per year in exchange for accepting at no cost the domestic sewage from Roseburg’s mill. The new Water Lease Agreement is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2016. However, in the new Agreement, Roseburg requires the City pay the private corporation $97,500 annually increased by 2% each year after the first 5 years.

“In addition to this skyrocketed cost, which must be covered by ratepayers in this economically challenged and fire-ravaged town, the Water Lease Agreement includes provisions requiring Weed to accept future industrial waste (not just domestic waste) for the first time in history,” observed plaintiff Holly Hansard. “As our lawsuit points out, costs for upgrades of the City’s sewer system could reach $20 million. An important cost factor is the need to address the toxic chemicals known to be associated with the mill site and co-generation plant. This expense should be borne by Roseburg, not by the citizens of Weed.”

Roseburg also requested Storm Water and Industrial Waste diversion as part of the Water Lease package. Under pressure from the public, Roseburg backed down and the Storm Water component was not approved. The City Council felt that Roseburg was forcing their hand and approved the Water Lease Agreement under duress, yet the City’s rush to sign the Notice of Exemption from CEQA failed to protect the citizens and the environment.

“Based on our analysis in the Complaint, the Water Lease Agreement incorrectly assumes that the water in question is actually owned by Roseburg,” Gregory pointed out. “This assumption is not at all clear based on a legal analysis, especially since the existing plumbing and infrastructure from the well are owned by the City. Our lawsuit points out, accessing water from Beaughan Springs will cost Roseburg virtually nothing; it will cost the citizens of Weed millions. Drought and climate change have and are impacting the entire state. Depletion of groundwater has caused wells to run dry. Water is Gold and water privatization is an idea whose time has passed.”

Links and coverage: A copy of the Complaint can be found at the Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy website.







Loophole in Water Law Opens Way for Bottling Plant

A large beverage bottling operation could receive a free pass to use all it wants of a small Northern California community’s groundwater supply, thanks to an obscure allowance in state water laws and a protective trade agreement.

Crystal Geyser has plans to launch a new beverage bottling operation in the small northern California town of Mount Shasta. In response to California’s drought, locals here cut water use by about 40 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to officials. However, an exemption in newly drafted groundwater regulations could give the giant company leeway to use unlimited water from the community’s underground supply. The company has sworn it will take an insignificant volume of water from the ground and that local wells will not be affected.

The concern among locals, however, is that there is nothing in the law that will curtail Crystal Geyser’s use. That’s because the city of Mount Shasta’s groundwater supply is considered to be a “volcanic basin,” not an “alluvial basin” – a geologic distinction that carries significant consequences under a set of new water use laws.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the newly passed legislation celebrated as a potential fix to the state’s aquifer overdraft problems, only addresses alluvial basins. Alluvial basins occur mostly in low-lying valleys, where substrate like sand or gravel is saturated with large volumes of water that flows in from upslope sources. SGMA’s new regulations are based on Bulletin 118, a Department of Water Resources list that names several hundred of the state’s important groundwater sources. All are alluvial basins.

Tim Godwin, an engineering geologist with the California Department of Water Resources, says there are two basic types of groundwater sources recognized by scientists – alluvial basins in valley areas, where river sediments have accumulated for long periods of time, and aquifers in mountain regions, where the ground consists mostly of solid or fractured rock.

“[The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act] only focuses on alluvial basins with lots of groundwater production,” he says.

An alluvial basin is characterized by predictable “radial flow in permeable, porous medium,” he says, adding that this flow pattern makes managing, predicting and limiting water use relatively easy.

But groundwater in mountain areas is very different. It doesn’t move through the earth in the relatively homogeneous way that water generally seeps through the alluvial sand or gravel soils of valley regions.

“It’s very difficult to understand connectivity and flow in these basins,” he says. “So, as you start to enter into the fractured rock areas, like around Mount Shasta, you have combinations of conditions that make understanding how the groundwater behaves really challenging.”

Fractures, porous volcaniclastic rock and tubes created by lava flows all serve as conduits for water, he explains. Groundwater in areas of solid bedrock flows in even less predictable ways.

Godwin says that roughly 98 percent of the state’s groundwater use comes from alluvial aquifers, meaning few people will be affected by the exclusion of volcanic and fractured rock aquifers from SGMA.

But for Californians who depend on mountain groundwater deposits, the exemption of such basins from the widely heralded new groundwater management laws seems an egregious omission. In the Mount Shasta region, the water that flows just below the surface ultimately winds up in the Sacramento River system – an increasingly troubled ecosystem in which native species are vanishing and on which millions of people, and vast sprawls of farmland, depend.

“Leaving the Sacramento River’s source region out of SGMA is like trying to cure peripheral vascular disease without addressing the heart,” says Vicki Gold, who lives just outside of the city of Mount Shasta.

Godwin says that aquifers that won’t be covered by SGMA may still be monitored and regulated by county officials. But Gold says she and other locals don’t trust that county authorities will do so in a fair way.

Even if Siskiyou County wishes to bar Crystal Geyser from pumping the region’s groundwater, the beverage giant may have its way with local water resources through a new business-friendly trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP has been drafted through years of negotiations between the United States and 11 nations surrounding the Pacific Rim, and it could be activated this year. The partnership will work as a boon to economic growth and will essentially allow multinational business ventures to skirt local regulations.

Since Crystal Geyser is owned by a Japanese pharmaceutical firm called Otsuka, the Mount Shasta beverage bottling project could be protected from any restrictions imposed by state or county laws.

Nancy Price, the national co-chair with the Alliance for Democracy, says the TPP will allow corporations to sue governments in a TPP-specific court if any laws infringe on the profits of foreign-owned ventures.

“What if groundwater sources are reduced or springs near Mount Shasta go dry after a really severe drought, and if the community decides that the amount of water taken for the bottling plant impacts these resources and needs to be reduced?” says Price. “The Japanese corporation that owns Crystal Geyser could sue the county by taking a case to protect their ‘investor rights’ in a secret international trade court that bypasses our U.S. court system and allows for no appeal.”

According to Gold, when Coca-Cola operated the bottling plant now being resuscitated by Crystal Geyser, local groundwater supplies dwindled.

“Wells went dry when Coca-Cola was pumping,” Gold says. “People had gravel and sand in their pipes.”

Raven Stevens, the community liaison for the Mount Shasta Gateway Neighborhood Association, moved to the area four years ago but has talked with many of her neighbors about groundwater quality and reliability in recent years. She says at least six wells within half a mile of the bottling plant went dry or almost dry between 2005 and 2009. In 2010, the beverage maker left town.

“Then everyone’s water issues went away and didn’t even return through the worst drought in history,” she says.

Stevens says that Coca-Cola representatives informed of the well issues at the time said that because only some local wells, and not all, were experiencing issues the problem must have been related to the landowners’ pipes or the wells themselves.

“But we’re in a volcanic aquifer,” Stevens says, explaining that the unpredictable movement of groundwater in such aquifers makes Coca-Cola’s straight-line conclusion much too simplistic to trust.

Greg Plucker, community development director with Siskiyou County, says no records exist of resident complaints about groundwater supplies during Coca-Cola’s use of the bottling facility. Moreover, he says a review by the Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2001 determined that extracting 450 gallons (1,700 liters) per minute from the aquifer below the plant would not negatively influence local groundwater water supplies. He says Crystal Geyser has plans to use much less than that.

Steve Burns, with the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, which is representing Crystal Geyser, confirms this. He says the plan is to draw 80 gallons per minute – or 115,000 gallons per day – from the site’s production well and, perhaps in several years, if the project is successful, double that use. Never, he says, will water use on the Crystal Geyser site approach what Coca-Cola pumped from the ground.

Stevens believes this is misinformation. She says that an additional domestic well on the property will have the capacity to take up to 320 gallons per minute. Eventually, she warns, Crystal Geyser’s project will be pumping at least the volume of water that allegedly drained locals’ water supplies seven years ago.

“There is nothing legally stopping them from taking all the water they want,” she says.

According to Burns, the domestic well will take a fraction the water that the production well will produce. “I don’t care how much water could come out of [the domestic well],” Burns says. “How many toilets would you need to flush to even come close to matching that production level?”

Following a lawsuit filed last August by a citizens’ group demanding a thorough review of Crystal Geyser’s proposed project, the company announced it would conduct an environmental review to ensure its bottling plant does no harm to the community. The first step in that process is submitting review applications to local agencies.

At press time, Burns said the county application had been submitted months prior and another application would be turned in “any day now” to the city of Mount Shasta. He says it may take the city and the Siskiyou County Air Pollution Control District another two months to determine whether or not an environmental impact report is actually needed. An EIR, he says, could take many months more.

Plucker, with Siskiyou County, says that even though California’s incoming groundwater laws will have no effect on the volcanic basin beneath Mount Shasta, an environmental review could potentially derail or stall the project.

Stevens feels the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will adequately serve communities in low valleys but fails communities like Mount Shasta.

“The problem is that SGMA disregards areas like the top of the Sacramento River, where we are,” she says. “It’s no wonder Crystal Geyser has left places like Calistoga and Bakersfield, because they know it will be 20 years, and maybe 40, before the state turns its eyes up here.”

Alastair Bland is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. He can be reached via Twitter at @allybland.

Source: http://www.waterdeeply.org/articles/2016/02/9564/loophole-water-law-opens-bottling-plant/

Crystal Geyser, small town locked in bitter water fight

By Peter Fimrite, reposted from sfgate.com  – The clean freshwater that squeezes out of the crags and burbles up into springs and creeks around Mount Shasta is cherished far and wide as a curative natural serum for every ailment short of hurt feelings.

That may explain why the mineral-rich water is now a source of so much pain in the picturesque city of Mount Shasta, at the base of the Siskiyou County volcano.

To the dismay of residents, Crystal Geyser recently came to town hoping to turn a profit. The Calistoga-based purveyor of water and juice wants to tap a local aquifer known as Big Spring, bottle the water and sell it.

The move has infuriated environmentalists, local American Indian tribes and residents of this city of 3,394, whose interest in the resource borders on the spiritual. Continue reading