Headwaters Report – Feb. 2018

McCloud – Scoping comments for new water bottling plant due Feb. 5 at 5 pm

A Scoping Meeting on Jan. 18 informed citizens about the McCloud Artesian Spring Water Company’s (MASWC) plans to build a 105,000 sq. ft. structure in the northernmost edge of McCloud and bottle up to 200 gallons/minute (not to exceed 144,000 gal/day). The proposed contract documents can be found here. Comments should be submitted to Kimberly Paul, General Manager of the McCloud Community Service District (MCSD), at Kimberley@ci.mccloudcsd.ca.us

The Scoping Meeting format was not traditional, where a formal presentation is delivered, then public comments are heard. This meeting was open and informal, with three stations available for community members to learn about the project and ask questions about the environmental review process. While this format did not provide a cohesive understanding of the project, or opportunity to hear local concerns, it did accommodate interaction and dialog.

MASWC introduced to their project to McCloud two years ago. Over this time, the project description has undergone significant changes. Regardless of what the DEIR reveals, the company has demonstrated a willingness to say whatever is necessary to get their foot in the door. As soon as some version of a contract is signed, they adopt drastic changes more indicative of desired outcomes, and amend the contract accordingly.

A few hurdles facing MASWC are: first, property acquisition from Hancock Timberlands, requiring a zoning transfer from Timber Productivity to Heavy Industrial; and second, annexation into the MCSD boundaries. Though both are feasible, each process invites scrutiny of vulnerabilities and provides opportunities for objection. A third hurdle is that MASWC failed to consult with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe prior to signing a development agreement with MCSD. Since passage of AB 52, industrial projects occurring in Tribal territories require Tribal consultation.

From a community and environmental perspective, the proposal is fraught with risks. The project implies nearly 90 truck trips a day, using residential Haul Road to access Hwy 89 to I-5. The intersection of Haul Rd. and Hwy 89 is already dangerous, and eighteen property owners on Haul Rd. have retained legal representation. The project would precede the town’s water supply through a dedicated pipeline tapped straight into the Intake Springs vault, McCloud’s primary water source. Operations would impose significant pressures on the community’s existing simple sewerage system. The project would also emit untold amounts of greenhouse gases and plastic pollution during a time when (most of) the rest of the world is working to phase out fossil fuels, and severely limit carbon emissions.

Proponents of the project tout that MASWC proposes to take significantly less water than Nestle. Snowpack seems to be dwindling, however, and hydrological conditions are changing. Unnecessary consumptive uses of water for the sake of private profit are not conducive to economic wellbeing, disaster resilience, habitat restoration or climate preparedness.

Of utmost concern is the fact that MASWC is not a beverage company, they are building contractors. A transferability clause in the contract opens the door to MASWC selling the plant to Nestle or Crystal Geyser as soon as it is built.  This Scoping phase is simply to inform the preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). Concerned citizens who were unable to comment at this stage will have another opportunity to provide feedback when the DEIR is circulated.