The WATER group says Mount Shasta is at a crossroads and it "encourages the City of Mt. Shasta to find the political will to protect our water resources by requiring a full EIR" on the Crystal Geyser project.

Guest opinion by Bruce Hillman, Geneva Omann, Roslyn McCoy and Vicki Gold for We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review

Mt. Shasta city officials now say they cannot mandate an EIR to cover the Crystal Geyser beverage bottling operation (Mount Shasta Herald, February 4, 2015) after the state Economic Development Administration (EDA) required them to change the use of the $3 million grant previously earmarked for the proposed sewer interceptor line. This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

Hundreds of community members have spoken publicly in the last 16 months, showing the City Council the need to achieve a full, independent, comprehensive EIR. The community group “We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review” (WATER) has collectively spent thousands of hours researching the history of the EDA grant through Public Records Act and Freedom of Information Act requests to various local jurisdictions and agencies.

WATER has researched legal precedents for mandating an EIR of the Crystal Geyser project, and has accumulated a library of informative data surrounding the proposed project. (Much of this information is available at WATER web site: groupspaces.com/WATERS. If the political will is there, the City is fully capable of requiring an EIR. The applicant, Crystal Geyser, should pay for it, as is usual and customary.

If political will is lacking, concerned community members will insist and assure that California Environmental Quality Act law is followed in our beautiful town.

California is experiencing a 1200-year drought; wells throughout the state are going dry. Local residents must conserve water. Meters are about to be installed for the first time; sewer rates could double or more. To allow a multi-billion dollar international pharmaceutical conglomerate to extract up to 1 million gallons daily (according to CG’s own estimate to the EDA) for free without caps or regulation, and to potentially use all remaining capacity at the wastewater treatment plant, surely justifies very careful scrutiny.

Neighborhood wells suffered during Coca Cola’s tenure; this must not happen again. Full hydrogeological studies are mandatory. To do otherwise would be negligence of duty in protecting our quality of life and the lifeblood of our community, our water.

When Crystal Geyser and its parent company Otsuka Pharmaceuticals (Japan), refused to pay for an EIR in Orland, that community chose to protect themselves and insisted on it anyway (CG pulled out rather than submit to an EIR). Why should Mt. Shasta have less stringent environmental review? Most communities require an applicant to put money into an escrow account to cover all staff and consultant expenses incurred in addressing a large project involving sewer connections and water. This is standard operating procedure. Why was it not mandated here? Even the EDA was shocked to hear that Crystal Geyser had not been required to put funds in escrow.

The EDA was never in the business of funding EIR's (costs the private enterprise or development in question normally pays) and it predictably refused to do so here. Fortunately, the EDA has apparently allowed the $3 million to be re-allocated to the much-needed expansion of the wastewater treatment plant.

Mt. Shasta is at a crossroads. Will our town become a center for heavy industry (and eventually decaying and abandoned factories as in many industrial towns that historically relied on resource extraction) or will it retain its special mountain environment and pure water, cherished by locals and tourists from all around the world? The Crystal Geyser project affects the City's “Sphere of Influence”; i.e., its water supply. The WATER group encourages the City of Mt. Shasta to find the political will to protect our water resources by requiring a full EIR.