“Now water is not a commodity; it's a human right. We cannot live without clean water,” said Monica Zinda, Weed City Planning Commissioner and co-moderator for the town hall meeting held last week to discuss water issues facing the city of Weed. “We need our water. We need to stand up for it,” she said.
Nearly 100 people filled the College of the Siskiyous classroom including camera crews from Siskiyou Media MCTV, KTVL 10 Medford, Siskiyou Progressives, Berkeley Graduate Department of Journalism, which is producing a documentary on Weed’s water issues, and Lightbox media, which is working on an independent documentary.
The Jan. 26 evening meeting was sponsored by the Water for Citizens of Weed group.
“This is something everybody in our community cares about,” said co-moderator Bruce Shoemaker of Weed.
Weed Mayor Pro-tem Bob Hall presented a previously missing letter written by Supervising Watermaster Robert A Steel that Hall says proves water rights to 2.0 cubic feet per second of Beaughan Springs water belongs to the City of Weed.
Hall showed the letter to the audience and read sections of it. “So this pops up now, and what our group has been saying all along: ‘Folks, we’ve got to go to court,’” said Hall who is a member of the Water for Citizens of Weed.
He said the letter was found in the garage of International Paper’s Resource Director, who later became Roseburg’s head engineer.
Using a slide show presentation, Hall presented a timeline showing the history of the lumber companies in Weed, their relationship with City of Weed, and use of water from the spring.
He pointed out sections of documents dating back to 1909 that he said shows that 2 cfs of water from Beaughan Springs has always been adjudicated to the City of Weed for domestic and municipal purposes.
Hall said that in 1965 the City was just starting to form and purchased the delivery, supply and storage equipment from International Paper for Beaughan Springs water. In 1966 the City signed a 50 year lease to pay IP $1 per year for the 2 cfs of water from the spring in exchange for free fire protection, sewer system usage and for domestic water. That lease expired last year.
Shoemaker added that when the 50 year lease was signed, the water rights should have been challenged then and again in 1982 when International Paper left Weed and Roseburg took over the plant.
Hall said in 1996, Crystal Geyser Roxanne came to town and Roseburg began selling water to them.
Hall’s presentation showed documents of communication from watermaster Shawn Pike that, Hall says, supports the need to go to court to determine the water rights.
Hall went on to explain that the water lease the City of Weed signed last year with Roseburg is about “getting off” the Beaughan Springs water.
According to the agreement signed in 2016, the City of Weed began paying $97,500 for the water and will look for other sources of water within the next 10 to 15 years.
Hall said water from Beaughan Springs is gravity fed. It could cost residents more per month if water from a new source has to be pumped. Drilling new wells, maintaining those wells and pumping water could run residents at least $20 more a month, according to Hall.
Former Mayor and longtime Weed resident Jim Gubetta spoke about the State Water Control Board watermaster, Scott Valley/Shasta Valley district watermaster, local district watermaster, and the Weed City Council’s failure to uphold the 1932 decree.
Gubetta said the Weed City Council spent $300,000 on fees for a previous water attorney which he said was “nothing but a wasted resource.”
Gubetta said that Crystal Geyser Roxane’s “sewer bill has never been addressed as to how much they’re putting in our sewers.”
Retired Weed Fire Chief Darin Quigley spoke during audience comments, agreeing that the sewer bill for CGR should be a lot higher. He said he was Weed City Fire Chief and on the City Management Team when the initial sewer rate for CGR was established based on the number of bathrooms, like other commercial buildings. However, CGR had bottle flush water going into the sewer system which was much more than just bathrooms. He said the city “has been nice and given that to them for free for over 20 years.”
Quigley said the city should be able to raise Crystal Geyser’s rates like they did for residents after the city entered into the 2016 water lease agreement with Roseburg.
Jim Taylor, president of Water for Citizens of Weed, said the group is proposing a fee or tax initiative regardless of the outcome of the fight to secure Weed’s water rights from Beaughan Springs.
They are proposing a two cent per gallon tax on bottled water shipped and exported overseas from Weed. He said the tax would protect local aquifers, provide funds for maintenence, and reduce water rates. The initiative will be voted on next summer in a special election.
The Weed Area Water Alliance lawsuit against Weed and Roseburg was summarized by Shoemaker. He said WAWA’s lawsuit is asking to negate the water lease agreement that was signed between Roseburg and the City of Weed and to have the legal rights to the water affirmed.
Dale La Forest of Mount Shasta talked about environmental issues created by that lease agreement. He said the city did not provide this information to the public.
About nine members of the audience commented afterwards.
Bill Hofer asked what would happen if the tax initiative passed and CGR closed because they felt they were losing water and money. Gubetta said another water company would buy the plant because the profits are “astronomical.”
Hofer raised a question about conflict of interest for council and the WAWA lawsuit. Hall clarified that he is not part of WAWA, and the Mayor is not a part of either Water for Citizens of Weed or WAWA.
Responding to a question about pursuing eminent domain, Hall and Taylor explained how costly and complicated that is.
Quigley spoke about the likelihood the lawsuit will take years to resolve.