Scoping meeting message: Put EIR concerns in writing

Lauren Steinheimer
Many questions asked during last Wednesday’s public scoping meeting centered around the potential effects of Crystal Geyser re-opening the former Coca Cola bottling facility.

No formal presentation was planned for last week’s public scoping meeting about the Notice of Preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Mount Shasta sewer line improvements project. But the event held Wednesday evening at the Mount Shasta Community Center turned into a question and answer session.

The vast majority of questions from the public centered around the potential effects of Crystal Geyser re-opening the former Coca Cola bottling facility. Concerns ranged from the potential for increased air and water pollution to an upsurge in vehicle traffic.

The plan for the meeting was to give members of the public an opportunity to speak to experts at three stations that were set up to address different aspects of the CEQA process.

Instead, Paul Reuter of PACE Engineering, Wirt Lanning of North State Resources, and City Council members Geoff Harkness and Jeffrey Collings answered questions and presented information to a large crowd for longer than the two hours originally scheduled for the workshop.

Initially, Reuter was at a Project Formulation and Engineering Design station, and Lanning was manning Environmental Review Process and Environmental Issues stations.

Bruce Hillman, a representative of the non-profit organization We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review, also had a table set up to distribute packets of information including “frequently asked and un-answered questions” regarding the Crystal Geyser bottling facility. The packet was titled “Ask good questions of the EIR, expect good answers.”

Reuter stated that the planned sewer upgrade project will cost somewhere between $3.5 and $4.8 million, $3 million of which is being provided by the Crystal Geyser corporation. The remainder will be funded by a grant from the Economic Development Administration.

Collings stated that, should Crystal Geyser decide not to hook up to the proposed sewer line once the project is finished, the improvements will be paid for by the EDA grant.

Much information was made available about the five different alternatives being proposed for the sewer line upgrade.

Members of the public were encouraged to provide the city council with comments and concerns about the proposed project in writing. Mayor Pro Tem Geoff Harkness stated several times that only comments submitted in writing will be evaluated and integrated into the draft EIR.

Written comments are being accepted via mail or email until the end of the comment period on Dec. 1.

City attorney John Kenny said it’s not yet possible to know whether Crystal Geyser intends to utilize the proposed sewer system or the leach field on their property, but the city intends to develop “the most legally correct draft EIR possible.”

He said the draft will address all environmental impacts related to the sewer line upgrade and reminded citizens that they will have an opportunity to comment on the draft EIR when it is finished.

When asked about Crystal Geyser’s intentions for using the leach field or sewer system, Lanning pointed out that the city has no discretion over how the Crystal Geyser plant chooses to operate since its location is outside of the city limits. However, the notions of annexing the Crystal Geyser property and/or installing a shut-off valve within the sewer line were both discussed as possibilities not related to the draft EIR.

Lanning assured the public that regulations for Crystal Geyser’s water extraction will be included in the draft EIR.

Reuter declared that Mount Shasta’s sewer system has been at capacity and in need of improvements for years. He said the city has tried several times to acquire funding for a sewer upgrade project and doing nothing is not an option.

The proposed improvements would increase the current 12 inch pipeline to pipes from 18 to 24 inches.

In response to Lanning’s statement that the city has no discretion over the Crystal Geyser facility, community member Vicki Gold encouraged city council members to empower themselves by demanding that Crystal Geyser sign an agreement that’s binding and supports the citizens’ desire to maintain Mount Shasta’s natural resources that mean so much not only to the residents of the city, but also the tourists who visit from all over the world.

One point made often during the meeting is that the best way for concerned citizens to empower themselves is to submit a written comment to the city council via mail or email.