Former Crystal Geyser bottling plant project's EIR overturned in a win for tribe, activists
An environmental group and Native American tribe are celebrating after a recent court ruling that reversed the approval of the environmental impact report for a water bottling project in Mount Shasta that was abandoned a year ago.
The Crystal Geyser Water bottling plant was sold in March to a San Francisco Bay Area group for $7.15 million and the deed states the property can’t be used for manufacturing, distribution and sale of water bottling products.
The sale came about a year after Crystal Geyser said it would not move forward with the controversial project.
Still, opponents of the defunct project said it was important that the legal case against the project’s EIR continue to ensure it would not remain valid.
Raven Stevens of We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review (W.A.T.E.R) pointed out that the deed also gives Crystal Geyser the first right to purchase the property back should the new owners decide to turn around and sell it.
“They could turn around and be back in business, so with the win in court, they are not back in business,” Stevens said.
The state's 3rd District Court of Appeal agreed with W.A.T.E.R. and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe that the environmental review done by Siskiyou County was inadequate under the California Environmental Quality Act.
“We agree that the County defined the project’s objectives in an overly narrow manner. Second, we also agree that the County’s process for evaluating the project’s impacts to climate change was flawed,” the court’s decision read in part.
The court noted that Siskiyou County officials initially said that the bottling plant project would result in greenhouse gas emissions of a certain amount, but after the public comment period ended, the county “disclosed that the project would actually result in emissions nearly double what it initially estimated.”
Because of this, the county should have allowed the public more opportunity to comment on the project, the court said in its decision to reverse the EIR approval.
The two groups also challenged the city of Mount Shasta's approval of the wastewater permit for the project.
"The City should have made certain findings under CEQA before issuing the wastewater permit," the court stated in reversing the city's approval.
“This kind of project sets the wrong precedence in our area,” said Stevens, who has lived in greater Mount Shasta since 2006.
These kinds of industrial projects that extract resources from the area to operate are “dinosaurs,” she added.
Mark Miyoshi, tribal historic preservation officer for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, agreed it was important to invalidate the EIR.
“That EIR would have actually been very valuable because that EIR could have been passed on to a new owner,” said Miyoshi, who lives in Mount Shasta.
Meanwhile, Shasta LLC, the new owner, has not announced its plans for the former water bottling plant building and surrounding properties.
John Troughton, of Kennedy Wilson, who helped broker the sale, has said the new owners will lease it out, marketing it for distribution and manufacturing.
“We are keeping our tabs on it and trying to meet with the new owners, or at least their agents,” Miyoshi said.
“I know that the public will be watching very closely,” Stevens said.
David Benda covers business, development and anything else that comes up for the USA TODAY Network in Redding. He also writes the weekly "Buzz on the Street" column. He’s part of a team of dedicated reporters that investigate wrongdoing, cover breaking news and tell other stories about your community. Reach him on Twitter @DavidBenda_RS or by phone at 1-530-225-8219. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today.