MOUNT SHASTA (AP) — Spring water bottler Crystal Geyser’s plans to tap an aquifer at the base of Mount Shasta in far Northern California is running into opposition from some residents, environmentalists and Native American tribes.
They say the planned bottling operation in the town of Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County could deplete wells and the aquifer, which feeds the headwaters of the Sacramento River, at a time of extreme drought in California.
Crystal Geyser says the concerns are overblown. The company plans to use a plant that was built by Coca-Cola to bottle water for Dannon.
Crystal Geyser CEO Doug MacLean tells the San Francisco Chronicle that Crystal Geyser will use half the water that Coca-Cola used, and there is plenty of available water.
But people in the town of about 3,400 say the county is not thoroughly studying the possible impacts of the project.
“This is the same aquifer that the homeowners who live nearby share,” Vicki Gold, a member of a citizens group opposed to the project, told the newspaper.
“There is no environmental impact review, no restrictions on groundwater extraction and Crystal Geyser has carte blanche in terms of traffic and to build as many buildings as they want.”
The area’s water is important for California. Snowmelt and storm runoff from the 14,179-foot Mount Shasta flows into numerous area streams and creeks, which feed into Shasta Dam.
That water is part of the federal Central Valley Project, which doles out the precious resource to farmers, fish and people.
The company paid $5 million for the bottling plant in October, and will spend another $10 million in waste disposal upgrades before being allowed to open.
It hopes to open by 2015 and begin bottling water, juice and teas, which would use about 115,000 gallons of water a day. The plan is to expand that to 217,000-365,000 gallons per day after that.
Still, the company will have to overcome the opposition, including from the Winneman Wintu Tribe.
A similar bottling plant proposed by Nestle in the nearby town of McCloud, was scuttled in 2008 after concerns were raised about its effects on the local water supply.
Siskiyou County officials say the plant is a needed economic boost in the rural area.
“Siskiyou County is the 14th most economically stressed county in the nation,” said Michael Kobseff, chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors. “We need family-wage-paying jobs year round, not unlike we had when we had mills in operation, but we lost that some time ago and never recovered.”