Mt. Shasta Water Issue on Ballot

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An ordinance outlawing water bottling plants and cloud seeding in Mount Shasta will be on the November ballot. The Mount Shasta City Council voted 5-0 Monday night to put the proposed ordinance to public vote. The only other option would have been to enact it into law. “This is about our right to water,” said Ami Marcus with the Mount Shasta Community Rights Project.

The ordinance comes from community concern about health issues that could result from cloud seeding and ecosystem damage by large water draws, Marcus said. Many in nearby McCloud, a town of 1,300, recently resisted a six-year-long effort by Nestle to build a water bottling plant there, and Coca Cola runs a bottling plant just outside Mount Shasta. Mount Shasta, the 14,179-foot volcano that towers over the town named for it, produces prolific mountain springs that provide pure water.

The proposed ordinance ran into some resistance at City Hall. “The (council) majority couldn’t really support it the way it was written,” said Kevin Plett, Mount Shasta’s city manager. Plett said the law, if approved by voters, would be the first city ordinance of its kind in the state. Between last fall and February, volunteers with Mount Shasta Community Rights Project canvassed their town, collecting signatures from 700 out of 2,072 registered voters, Marcus said.

The grassroots group formed last year solely to create the proposed ordinance. She said the group’s leadership is glad the ordinance is going to a vote because it will get more people in Mount Shasta involved in the issue. “Our larger focus and intention is about building community,” Marcus said. Monday night’s meeting drew about 150 people, 56 of whom spoke about the ordinance during three hours of public comment, said Michael Murray, Mount Shasta’s mayor.

All but two of those speakers said they supported the ordinance. Murray said that he conceptually supports the effort to protect clean water in the town but that he questioned some of the legal language in the proposed ordinance. “They are trying to overturn existing laws,” Murray said. “Everyone wants clean water, clean air. It’s the legal structure that is the avant-garde part of it.” The city’s attorney also expressed concerns about the ordinance’s language in a Friday memo to the City Council. “This ordinance attempts to create new rights and liabilities that are contrary to the body of law establishing rights, liabilities and damages adopted by the state Legislature,” wrote Mount Shasta City Attorney John Kenny.

Along with helping the group craft the proposed ordinance for free, a pair of nonprofit groups have offered pro bono legal assistance if the law comes into question by state or federal agencies, said Angelina Cook, another leader of the Mount Shasta Community Rights Project.

She said the San Francisco-based Global Exchange and the Pennsylvania-based Community Legal Defense Fund are supporting the effort. Cook, who lives in McCloud but used to live in Mount Shasta, said the group is set to start campaigning for the proposed ordinance, which will need more than 50 percent of the vote to pass. By: Dylan Darling

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