OPINION: Now that Crystal Geyser’s not moving in, ‘dare to dream’
It was reported at the May 10 Mount Shasta city council meeting that Crystal Geyser Water Company is not proceeding with their beverage bottling project and the property is up for sale. This was reported shortly after We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe filed a brief with the State Appeals Court challenging Siskiyou County’s shockingly inadequate Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the CGWC beverage bottling plant. WATER, the WWT, and large numbers of local residents and others concerned about the environment enthusiastically welcome the departure of Crystal Geyser.
As many people who have read the CGWC Environmental Impact Report already know, CGWC planned to pump water from the same Mount Shasta aquifer used by the household wells in a nearby neighborhood of about100 homes, but at rate 10 times that of all the homes combined! Despite repeated requests and demands from the community, the EIR never actually directly investigated whether this would harm or even collapse the aquifer. It ignored past evidence that neighborhood wells were severely impacted by previous bottlers. Combined with overlooking the problems of pollution, noise, traffic, aesthetics and enforcement, the EIR completely whitewashed over the problems with this project.
The community is hopeful that the property will be used by a new owner for a purpose that protects our town and does not pollute and extract from it. Dare to dream! Affordable housing? A convention and visitor center? A building full of small businesses and start-ups? A non-profit community development corporation founded to purchase it? If we want to have a good outcome from this entire process we must work for it.
But aside from all of our continued planning and vigilance, there is a deeper issue. Why did the Board of Supervisors and Siskiyou County Planning Commission so easily accept and promote a project with such questionable benefit to the community and support an EIR process that ignored many serious environmental issues with the plant? Why did they willfully ignore the judgment of many professional experts who easily pointed to the EIR’s obvious inadequacies? Why did the Mount Shasta City Council, whose own experts had identified serious problems for the city and asked that the issues be addressed, cave in and accept the defective EIR? It appears many of these so-called community leaders feel that “growth” for its own sake is worth the degradation of our community. But most citizens have a slightly different idea of what is "good": a town that is healthful, affordable, fair, diverse, friendly, safe, beautiful, culturally exciting, and in which they have information about, and a voice in, what is going on.
Economic "growth" as a guiding goal might be expected from the rules of the corporate game, where accumulating vast private profits in a few hands is more important than anything else, but it has far from a spotless track record: Detroit "grew" when the automobile industry moved in, and then collapsed when the industry found it could pay fewer people less in other locations; West Virginia "grew" with its industrial mining and mountain-top removal but was left abandoned when markets changed, leaving behind oceans of toxic waste sludge and poverty. The drive for "growth" for its own sake leads to extreme differences in wealth, health, education ,and consequent problems of crime and desperation. Unlimited growth looks good from the point of view of a cancer cell, but not so good for the surrounding cells or the whole organism.
So we must be vigilant and elect and demand that our representatives see beyond the reflexive mantra of "growth" and instead believe government should serve ordinary people and protect the environment and public health as a top priority.
Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.