SACRAMENTO, California - The State of California will challenge the environmental plan for a bottled water plant that Nestle Waters North America intends to build in Siskiyou County if the company does not revise its contract to pump water from the McCloud River, says the state's top lawyer.
"It takes massive quantities of oil to produce plastic water bottles and to ship them in diesel trucks across the United States," said California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.
"Nestle will face swift legal challenge if it does not fully evaluate the environmental impact of diverting millions of gallons of spring water from the McCloud River into billions of plastic water bottles," Brown warned in a letter to the company July 28.
On the same day, the company issued a press release agreeing to a study and evaluation of the intended primary source of water for the project, Squaw Valley Creek, a tributary of the McCloud River.
Nestle has contracted with North State Resources to conduct the study, while scientists from the University of California-Berkeley and UC Davis will supply data and oversight of the evaluation.
Data on the existing hydrology and biology of the Squaw Valley creek watershed will be used to develop baseline information to improve understanding of the watershed.
"Nestle Waters is committed to ensuring that our projects are consistent with the sustainability and long-term availability of water in the communities in which we are located," said Nestle project manager Dave Palais.
"We are excited to get this important work started to help us better understand the watershed. The combination of North State Resources understanding and expertise in Northern California with the knowledge of some of California's leading scientists from the University of California will result in the development of valuable data that will benefit the McCloud Community for years to come," said Palais.
The press release states that Nestle will conduct further studies on air and water quality, traffic conditions, hazardous materials and also will explore the potential impact of climate change on water supply which will be included in a new draft environmental impact report.
Nestle, the biggest food company in the world, signed a water supply contract with the town of McCloud in 2003, but many residents oppose the deal, which they contend was signed without public participation.
The attorney general said the company's draft environmental impact report, DEIR, "fails to address in any meaningful way the project's likely environmental impacts."
"The DEIR fails to analyze the global warming impacts of the project even though bouling and transporting water are highly energy-intensive," wrote Brown. "Nor does the DEIR adequately examine the impacts of the project on air quality, water quality of the McCloud River and its tributaries, biological resources, or solid waste.
The McCloud River is unique among California's larger rivers in that most of its water derives from springs and underground lava aquifers rather than from rainfall or snowfall. The river and its associated riparian area provide habitat for over 200 wildlife species. The Lower McCloud has been designated a Wild Trout Stream by the state Department of Fish and Game.
As originally proposed. the project would allow Nestle to bottle 520 million gallons of spring water, and potentially unlimited groundwater, from the McCloud River watershed each year for the next 50 years for sale and distribution. Nestle would construct a one million square foot water bottling facility on the site of a former lumber mill, where it would bottle spring water and other beverages.
Nestle recently indicated that its revised proposal will reduce the size of the facility to 350,000 square feet and the annual water take from 1,600 acre fect per year to 600 acre feet per year - a reduction of approximately 60 percent
In a letter sent to Siskiyou County Planning Department Interim Planning Director Terry Barber on July 28, the attorney general said that "the environmental review for the previously proposed project had serious deficiencies."
Brown said "the suggested changes would require significant revision of the contract between Nestle and the McCloud Community Services District, a new, formal project proposal, and circulation of a new Draft Environmental Impact Report."
Brown also said the environmental analysis fails to consider the global warming impacts of producing and transporting millions of gallons of water including greenhouse gases from producing the plastic bottles, electrical demand for the project, and diesel soot and greenhouse gas emissions from trucks transporting the bottled water to market.
The attorney general has asked Siskiyou County to revise its environmental impact report and circulate a new draft of the environmental impact report.
© Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008