'A historic day': Weed strikes deal for water source after years long battle
After years of uncertainty over its source of water, residents of Weed now have a guaranteed supply from the spring the city has been using for more than 100 years.
"It's a historic day for the City of Weed," said city manager Tim Rundel. "We've now secured water rights needed to provide water to the citizens of Weed indefinitely."
The Weed City Council approved a sale agreement with Crystal Geyser Roxane Thursday night for water rights to two cubic feet-per-second from Beaughan Springs.
The city agreed to pay $1.202 million to CGR for the rights, over a 12-year period.
The payments will be divided into $100,000-plus per year. There will be zero interest.
The somewhat complex agreement comes in a three-way deal. The third party is Roseburg Forest Products, the contested owner of Beaughan Springs.
Roseburg is selling Beaughan water rights for 2.0 cfs to CGR, for $2.207 million. This is the 2.0 cfs that CGR is selling to the city.
The difference between Roseburg's $2.207 million sale price and CGR's $1.207 million sale price for the same water is $1 million. CGR is facilitating the sale to the city by taking the loss, which it views as a donation to the city, said Rundel, who explained the agreement during Thursday's city council meeting.
Rundel said the city will pay nothing for the water it distributes to its utility customers when the purchase price to CGR has been paid off. In describing the agreement to the council, Rundel said the city will dismiss an eminent domain lawsuit it has against Roseburg, and the 10-year water lease it currently has with Roseburg will be terminated.
"This is a major, major change for our community," said city councilor Bob Hall, who is also a member of the group "Water for the Citizens of Weed California," better known as WCWC.
Roseburg has maintained that it owns the water rights to Beaughan Spring, something the city and citizen groups fought unsuccessfully in court in 2017. Roseburg counter-sued the city, Water for Citizens of Weed, and nine members of the public. The Roseburg suit was dismissed by the superior court judge, who also ordered Roseburg to pay those defendants’ attorney fees.
The city's $100,000 yearly payment to CGR is the same amount the city has been paying Roseburg in its 10-year lease extension, beginning in 2016. When the Roseburg lease term was due to end, the city would have had to find another source of water, according to Weed City Attorney Robert Winston. That 10-year lease extension with Roseburg superseded the city’s $1 per year lease for water, which had been in effect since 1961 when the city was incorporated. The city has been receiving its water from Beaughan Springs since 1909.
"We are proud to be part of the hard and honest work that was achieved last night with the city council’s approval," said Crystal Geyser Roxane COO Page Beykpour by email on Friday.
Rundel met with Beykpour and Ronan Papillaud, CGR's owner and CEO, months ago to begin a discussion about Weed's water situation.
"He (Rundel) was very open about what the City of Weed needed, and also what it could and could not do. We had a very similar conversation with Roseburg. This open and honest exchange with both parties allowed us all to work constructively to bridge the gap," said Beykpour.
Asked about Crystal Geyser's motivation for such an agreement, Papillaud wrote, "given our close partnership with both parties, we felt that CG Roxane was best positioned to serve as a bridge here.
"We are not perfect, but our goal is to always try to do the right thing. Nowadays in business, a short-term vision is the norm. We, as a private enterprise, can do things differently and not simply for purely financial reasons," Papillaud said.
'Morality is prevailing'
The city council, staff and members of the public expressed joy over the news of the agreement.
"I want to thank Crystal Geyser. They're a good community partner who recognizes the value of what's morally just," said councilor Ken Palfini.
Councilor Hall spoke about the fight he and others had been engaged in over the past five years. He said things heated up when documents were recovered in 2016 that showed that the disagreement between the city and Roseburg was "a clerical error." WCWC then met with the city council, which with a vote of 5-0, directed the staff to take the new information to the water district.
"The next day the city was sued by Roseburg, and nine of us (Weed citizens) were sued," Hall said, adding that being sued "is terrible."
"Now I don't know how many people get sued, but when you're sued, and you go back home to your family and say I'm being sued .... And two days later, here comes a fella serving the papers, he had a stack of papers 300 deep, and he said, 'I'm being paid $10,000 to deliver these papers.' This let us know the loser was going to be paying the attorney fees. And people around town would say, 'what did they expect, you mess with the bull, you're gonna get the horns.'
"But this group of people I'm with said, 'we're not giving up, we're not giving up.' And we went to court," Hall continued.
"And now, lo and behold, morality is prevailing. Crystal Geyser made an effort here to step forward and do the right thing. They are really doing the right thing," Hall said.
Rundel mentioned another positive result of the agreement. He said the struggle with Roseburg was "coming to an end. The city has invested a lot in this case, but I think it's now coming to an end, and it will stop the bleeding in terms of our litigation costs, which have been substantial the last few years."
During public comments, Jim Taylor, president for Water for Citizens of Weed, thanked Rundel and city staff.
"Tonight we accomplished our goal. None of this would have happened if the city had not stood up and fought. Our group is only the tip of the iceberg in the community who fought back," Taylor said.
Bruce Shoemaker, also of WCWC, agreed. "It was a difficult situation over the last five years, with a lot of challenges. I want to thank the city council, and our past and current city administrators. We couldn't be happier that all this is behind us, it's a great outcome."
A Roseburg spokesperson contacted for comment did not return calls.
* This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Crystal Geyser Roxane.