Heritage Preservation �
CSWAB ACTION ALERT! Scoping Process is an opportunity to comment on the future of Badger. Badger Workshop, Oct. 14, 2000
Speak Up Now - No Crandon Mine! DNR Public Meetings - Feb. 26 - Mar. 28 Dates and information
Great Lakes for sale! Michigan's Odawa Indians lead anti-Nestle fight
by Brian McKenna
If water is the oil of the 21st century, then Michigan, smack dab in the middle of the Great Lakes, is Saudi Arabia. And after banging their straws at the Big Dipper for years, Nestle Corporation has finally succeeded in plunging into the liquid gold.
On February 28th Michigan Governor Granholm signed a bill that will, for the first time, permit a multinational corporation to scoop up given amounts of the Great Lakes and sell bottled water across the world. For the first time in history the concept of the Great Lakes as a commons for all to enjoy has been breached. And NAFTA, as we'll see, might insure a run on the Great Lakes.
The new Michigan law allows Nestle Corporation to continue its five-year takings of up to 250,000 gallons per day and sell them at a markup well over 240 times its production cost. Nestle's profit from drawing this water could be from $500,000 to $1.8 million per day. A key proviso is that the bottles can be no larger than 5.7 gallons apiece.
Nestle had been ferociously fighting in court to prevent Granholm from exercising her veto power against diversion, but with her acquiescence to the 250,000 limit, Nestle dropped its suit.
The irony is that most mainstream environmentalists compromised with Nestle and the Governor. James Clift the policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), a coalition of about 70 environmental organizations, called the new law, "a huge step forward for Michigan." Not so says Dave Dempsey, the former Policy Director of MEC. "I think Nestle is dancing in the streets." Dempsey is author of "On the Brink, The Great Lakes in the 21st Century."
NAFTA's Trojan Horse
Few Midwesterners are aware that the ubiquitous Nestle bottled water filling their shopping carts is really the peoples' water. How could they know? Nestle calls the water "Ice Mountain," and they adorn their plastic containers with a majestic snowy Mountain, even though there are no such places in Michigan, let alone Mecosta County where it draws the water from four wells 60 miles North of Grand Rapids.
Truth in advertising might require Nestle to label the bottles, "Your Great Lakes for Sale Plundered at a 24,000% mark up."
Under NAFTA's Chapter 11 corporations are protected from differential treatment meaning that Pepsi could line up next. Once one corporation gets its foot in the door to extract a resource there are no restrictions on others to do the same. If barriers were put up against Pepsi, for example, they could sue Michigan government for a potential loss of profits.
For years there has been talk about ocean tankers loading up the Great Lakes water for the Far East, or a pipeline diverting the bounty to the dry Southwest which has already mined the Colorado River. Michigan environmentalists succeeded in stopping those types of water diversion - for the moment at least - but they failed to stop this Trojan horse of privatization on the Great Lakes. Nestle came to Michigan after former Republican Governor Engler enticed with a sweetheart $10 million deal to create jobs after Wisconsin's citizens and tribes kicked them out.
Largest gathering of Great Lakes Tribes since 1764
First Nations people are at the forefront in mounting challenges to Nestle and the nation state sovereigns along several fronts. Frank Ettawageshik is Chair of the Little Traverse Bay tribe of Indians. In February, 2002 the tribe filed suit against Nestle and Governor Engler in federal court contending the Ice Mountain project violated the 1986 Water Resources Development Act which protected water as a public trust. It was later dismissed in June 2002, the judge claiming the tribes had no right to sue.
Ettawageshik fought on, telling audiences he feared, "soon there will be bus tours of the sunken ships of the Great Lakes," if this goes forward. He calls the Lakes, "the white pine of the 21st century," referencing the logging assault which felled most of Michigan's forests in the nineteenth century.
Angry that the U.S. and Canadian governments disrespected the tribes in its 2001 Great Lakes Charter, where tribes were treated as "stakeholders" not sovereign nations, Ettawageshik deliberated with other tribes about a response. After a while he joined John Beaucage, Grand Council Chief of the Union of Ontario Indians to form a coalition of more than 140 tribes to sign the historic Tribal and First Nations Great Lakes Water Accord.
The organization is called the United Indian Nations of the Great Lakes (UINGL) and it was officially launched in April 2005 in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The location is historically significant. It was the largest gathering of Great Lakes native leaders since the Treaty of Niagara in 1764. That Treaty grew out of he Royal Proclamation of 1763 which provided all land west of the Ottawa River as Indian land.
Ettawageshik was influenced by the Water Walkers of the Great Lakes. In 2003 Indian women began journeys around the Great Lakes carrying a copper bucket full of water. They want to recall the traditional Anishnabe role of women as protectors of water, what they call the lifeblood of Mother Earth. So far they have completed treks around Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. They begin their walk around Lake Ontario on April 29, departing from Niagara. "We're not stakeholders but bonafide owners," Bob Goulais, a spokesperson for the Union of Ontario Indians, told me. "The Great Lakes are not for sale."
The tribes are supporting Clean Water Action which is beginning a petition drive to amend Michigan's Constitution to stop privatization. "Enshrining Great Lakes diversion protection in the Michigan Constitution may be the best and the only way, in the end, to keep our waters from being privatized and sold off to the highest bidders," said CWA's David Holtz.
Nestle Votes with Its Feet on March 16th
Nestle claims it cares about Great Lakes preservation but it was a no show on March 16th when Senators Clinton, Obama, Jeffords, Levin and other dignitaries assembled at the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to hear testimony from Great Lakes Governors for $20 million to preserve and protect the Lakes. Yellow perch have declined by 80% in Lake Michigan over past 25 years due to the zebra mussel. Raw sewage is a huge problem as are exotics like the sea lamprey which preys on native fish.
"Some of us joked that the Great Lakes should be in pristine condition for Nestle Waters to ship it out in millions of little 12 oz. bottles!" said Mary Lindemann, a tribe spokesperson. No matter, Senator James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, said that funding for Great Lakes restoration is unlikely in these tight fiscal times. The nation has other priorities.
The story was different that day in Mexico City. On March 16th about 10,000 protesters marched outside the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City, some "armed" with wooden rifles. Water diversions, long water lines and sewage stink are propelling outrage. Protesters organized an alternative forum, a few miles away, claiming that the official summit is a cover for companies that want to privatize water services.
Nestle was central to the gathering, sponsoring five grade school students to the official summit. Two were 12-year-old girls from Wisconsin, which sits in the Great Lakes basin. They are part of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society whose work focuses on the use of rice to clean and filter water. According to Nestle, they "created awareness about the spiritual and ecological importance of this traditional Native American plant." Meanwhile Nestle fights the Great Lakes Indians tooth and nail in Michigan, while absenting itself from the Senate Meeting that day in D.C. Nestle, which brought us the infant formula scandal (in which hundreds of babies died after Nestle persuaded moms to forego their breasts in favor of the formula which they mixed with polluted water) has no shame.
Michigan as Tap and Dump
Picture two trucks passing one another at Michigan's border. One is taking away tons of Michigan's fresh water while the other is bringing in tons of Canadian garbage.
That's the reality.
As the estimated 190,000 diesel powered Nestle trucks ship out Michigan water every year, another 295,000 dump trucks enter, bearing Canadian trash. In fiscal year 2005 the 11.5 million cubic yards of Canadian mess was equivalent to a trail of bumper to bumper trucks stretching 1,233 miles long, each with 40 cubic yards of waste. Thanks to NAFTA, Michigan governments cannot stem the tide, as privatized landfills make enormous profits from the commodities in circulation, against citizen outrage. Michigan's soil and water are available to capital at bargain basement prices. Meanwhile the polluted air from all the trucks wafts over the Mitt, just another social cost shouldered by the lungs of Michigan's citizens.
In short, the Wolverine state is now host to a neoliberal orgy of environmental profiteering and pollution.
Tribes represent a counterculture to neoliberalism, putting forth a public politics that underscores a collective responsibility to resist capital encroachments.
Michigan Governor Granholm herself called the tribes "Michigan's original environmentalists," when she signed an Intergovernmental Accord with them in May 2004. But she didn't listen closely enough when the tribes told her that "Preserving the environmental quality and quantity of Great Lakes water resources for the present and for the next seven generations is absolutely essential to the Tribes."
Indians are at the forefront of establishing an anti-corporate discourse and movement. They were at the fore in Bolivia against Bechtel, on the march against multinationals in Mexico City, and are now are at the lead in the Great Lakes. But mainstream environmentalists typically resemble the nation's Democrats willing to accommodate and concede, rather than stand their ground.
Friends of CCN and WOW--
The next hearing for the CCN/Ho-Chunk vs DNR/Perrier lawsuit will be on January 30, 2002 at 11:00 a.m., at the Columbia County Courthouse in Portage. Please pass this info along to others who may be interested. It would be very helpful to have a full courtroom again if possible.
The new statute (part of the budget bill recently signed by Gov. McCallum) that was the basis for the continuation is given below.[please forward this to others]
--Arlene and Hiroshi Kanno
2001 Senate Bill 55 - 587 - 2001 Wisconsin Act 16
Section 3160v. 281.17 (1) (c) of the statutes is created to read:
281.17 (1) (c) 1. Except as provided in subd. 3., the department shall impose as a condition in each approval under this subsection that the person issued the approval may not use, or permit another person to use, any water withdrawn from the well to produce bottled drinking water, as defined in s. 97.34 (1) (a), unless the department approves use of the well for that purpose.
3. This paragraph does not apply to a withdrawal of water by a public utility engaged in furnishing water to or for the public.
[paragraph 2 was vetoed in its entirety]
August 28, 2000
This letter and subsequent attachments serves as written testimony regarding the Draft Environmental Assessment issued by your offices of the Perrier Group Of America�s application for a high capacity well approval on behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
As you know, the Ho-Chunk Nation is opposed to Perrier�s plans for the bottling company as the project site includes a sacred well site as well as rich archaeological, historical and cultural resources of the Ho-Chunk People. Specifically, this testimony�s purpose is to demand a comprehensive cultural/archaeological assessment of the project site and to add to the final EA an adequate impact of the project on the Ho-Chunk Nation�s interests as stated. The current draft does not convey the probable impact of this project on our people and our resources.
In addition, the Cultural Resources Division office is readily available to assist any parties in conducting and concluding a comprehensive assessment of the rich cultural resources in the project area. Feel free to call on me for such assistance and any questions you may have.
�to preserve, protect and nurture the cultural
The following is
the oral testimony offered by Samantha House, Ho-Chunk Researcher of the
Ho-Chunk Nation�s Cultural Resources Division of the Department of Heritage
Preservation on August 1, 2000, at the DNR Public Hearing re: Draft Environmental
Assessment, held in Wisconsin Dells High School Gymnasium, Wisconsin Dells,
"Hello. My name is Samantha House. I am a Ho-Chunk Researcher for the Ho-Chunk Nation�s Cultural Resources Division. The Ho-Chunk people, formerly known as the Winnebago, have occupied the project site area both in historical and pre-historical times. Thousands of years of occupation in this area have resulted in the identification of sacred traditional sites. Big Spring is one of these sacred sites. Therefore, the Ho-Chunk Nation�s Cultural Resources Division has serious cultural resource preservation concerns both for the sacred springs and for the archaeological resources in the immediate area.
The site itself lies within ceded territories of the Ho-Chunk and Menominee Nations. Yet, to the Ho-Chunk Nation�s Cultural Resources Division�s knowledge, no good faith effort has been made by Perrier, the DNR, or the State Historical Society to consult with the Ho-Chunk Nation. The Draft EA fails to relay the significance of the sacredness of springs to the indigenous peoples of this area, namely the Ho-Chunk.
The Cultural Resources Division is in the process of determining this project�s impact on the Ho-Chunk Nation and its traditional cultural resources and will submit written testimony. Therefore, the "Cultural" section and the "Archaeological/Historical" section needs to be accurately reflective of the cultural resource needs of the Ho-Chunk Nation as indigenous peoples of this site."
The following is the oral testimony offered by Samantha House, Ho-Chunk Researcher of the Ho-Chunk Nation�s Cultural Resources Division of the Department of Heritage Preservation on August 22, 2000, at the Senate Oversight Hearing Committee, Rm. 411, State Capital Building, Madison, Wisconsin.
"Good afternoon. My name is Samantha House and I am representing the Ho-Chunk Nation. The Ho-Chunk Nation, formerly known as the Winnebago Tribe, is a federally recognized Indian Tribe and a Sovereign Indian Nation. We have a structured government with elected officials. I am speaking on behalf of these government officials; the governing body of the Ho-Chunk Nation (the Legislature), the Executive Branch, and most importantly, our traditional Clan Leaders, the Traditional Court. Today I offer the positions of our Nation�s officials via a tribal Legislative resolution and a Traditional Court memorandum of support.
The spirit of many laws affords the indigenous peoples� of this country access to sacred sites, traditional cultural property preservation and protection, and traditional cultural resource abundance. Such laws include the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act.
The Ho-Chunk Nation strongly encourages this hearing committee to further consider the spirit of these laws with regard to the adequate assessment of the impact of this project. These laws were created as a result of lifetimes of cultural ignorance and insensitivity. Time and time again, the Ho-Chunk Nation�s traditional cultural properties are subject to desecration, destruction and commercialization. In this day and age, our ancestral remains are moved from place to place to accommodate "development", our mound sites are dug into, and funerary objects and sacred objects are illegally trafficked to museums, institutions and private collectors.
Know that majority of so-called "developments" in our state, including the Perrier project, result in adverse impacts to indigenous peoples� cultural traditional rights, properties, and resources. The ignorance and disrespect to our culture must end.
In cases dealing with such development, the Ho-Chunk Nation has suggested a good-faith process which include a comprehensive cultural resource assessment of the project site, inclusion of the Nation�s knowledge of history and use, and proficient consultation between interested parties. In some cases a Memorandum of Agreement is engaged into which provides a means for a proactive plan of action on dealing with cultural resources when encountered.
Yet, a good-faith effort to collaborate with the Ho-Chunk Nation during the preliminary planning and development of this project has not been the case. The DNR, State Historical Society, nor Perrier have approached the Ho-Chunk Nation in a good-faith effort to properly assess this project�s impact on the Ho-Chunk people. Therefore, the Ho-Chunk Nation is extremely disappointed that the DNR has issued a Draft EA lacking a comprehensive assessment of the cultural/historical/archaeological components of the project area.
The DNR suggests that they are few of any such resources, that they are out of harms way, and if any such resources are encountered during the advancement or the bottling plant project, they will be dealt with accordingly. Little or no consideration has been given to the Ho-Chunk people, their history or religious needs in assessing the impact of the project.
In fact, the project has already adversely affected the religious practices of the Ho-Chunk people. On August 15, Ho-Chunk tribal members attempted to access Big Spring for water and to offer tobacco but were blocked by locked fences, notices of trespassing, and pro-Perrier signs. While the Nation understands the properties are owned privately, access, to the best of my knowledge, has never been denied.
In conclusion, the Ho-Chunk Nations wishes that all pertinent deciding parties seriously consider the position of the Ho-Chunk Nation. The water at the Big Spring site, the Ho-Chunk ancestral human remains at the Big Spring site and the mounds at the Big Spring Site; all of these things, are no less sacred to the people of the Ho-Chunk Nation as the dollar is to Perrier and/or the state of Wisconsin. With that, the Nation will continue to pursue all measures to ensure the preservation and protection of the Big Spring site."
HO-CHUNK NATION LEGISLATURE
SUPPORT OF THE OPPOSITION TO A HIGH CAPACITY WELL
Legislative Secretary Date
| August 17, 2000
P.O. BOX 70
BLACK RIVER FALLS, WI 54615
TO: Ms. Samantha House, Research Specialist/HCN Historic Preservation
CC: Larry Garvin, Director of HCN Historic Preservation Department
FROM: Willard Lonetree, Recording Secretary of the HCN Traditional Court
RE: Perrier Group of America Proposed High Capacity Well at Big Spring in New Haven Township, Adams County, Wisconsin
This memorandum shall serve to express the position of the HCN Traditional Court Clan Elders, who are in opposition to the proposed installation of a high capacity wells at two sites, Jensen�s Pond and Buckley Springs Pond, referred to as Big Springs site in Adams County near Wisconsin Dells.
It is with strong commitment to historic and cultural preservation that this concern is expressed over another multi-million dollar exploitation of what is considered sacred to the Ho Chunk Nation. The commercialization of our most sacred natural resource, water, and the possible desecration of known ancient burial sites compels the Clan Leaders of the Ho Chunk Nation to state their position.
The most serious concern at this point is the time within which the Ho Chunk Nation has to react of this very serious matter, and the options available to the tribe, if any, and the need to do an assessment of the legal regulatory process in this matter. Additionally, a review of the applicable Wisconsin State Statutes and Regulations affected in this matter should be done by the HCN Justice Department and provide legal counsel to the nation�
Please keep the HCN Traditional Court informed of any developments in this very serious matter, and we shall be eager to assist in pursuing a positive conclusion on behalf of the Ho Chunk Nation.
New complaints aim to stop the company's drilling of wells
Wisconsin State Journal
AP, State Journal Staff
Friday, October 20, 2000
Two more lawsuits have been filed in connection with Perrier's proposal to pump and bottle water in Adams County.
Lawsuits were filed this week by Waterkeepers of Wisconsin against Perrier and by the Ho-Chunk Nation against the state Department of Natural Resources, both seeking to halt drilling at the spring sites east of Wisconsin Dells.
Perrier started drilling test wells at the site Thursday.
The lawsuit filed by Waterkeepers of Wisconsin against Perrier claims the company is violating an Adams County ordinance that zones the site for agricultural use.
The lawsuit also alleges the wells violate a county shoreland protection ordinance and seeks an injunction against drilling the tests wells.
Gary Dreier, an attorney for Waterkeepers, said Adams County zoning officials told him Perrier never submitted applications to drill test wells.
On Thursday, a lawsuit was filed in Dane County Circuit Court by the Ho-Chunk Nation against the state Department of Natural Resources for approving a permit that allows Perrier to sink wells in the springs. The Ho Chunk Nation says the springs are sacred sites and that the tribe was not consulted by the DNR prior to its decision to issue the permit.
In testimony at an August DNR hearing on the Perrier proposal, Samantha House, a researcher with the Ho-Chunk's Cultural Resources Division, said the tribe occupied the spring site both in historical and pre-historical times. She said Big Spring, one of the springs Perrier wants to use, is considered a sacred traditional site.
In the past, House testified, Ho-Chunk people have been allowed access to the site, even though it has been under private ownership. But on Aug. 15, House said at the hearing, tribal members trying to reach Big Spring for water and to offer ceremonial tobacco were blocked by locked fences, notices of trespassing and pro-Perrier signs.
Despite House's testimony, the Ho-Chunk lawsuit states, the DNR failed to consult with the tribe on what cultural resources are in the area.
The lawsuit alleges that the DNR failure to consult the tribe violated the Wisconsin Environmental Protection Act, which calls for considering adverse effects on cultural sites. Also, the lawsuit states, the DNR violated its duty to protect the public trust and violated the tribe's rights to due process.
The Ho-Chunk ask in the lawsuit that the court set aside the DNR's decisions to approve the Perrier permit and to not require a full environmental impact statement.
Perrier and a subsidiary, Great Spring Waters of America, are seeking to drill two 200-foot wells that would pump a total of 500 gallons a minute near Big Spring in Adams County.
Company officials said drilling for a pump test to determine the project's environmental impact began Thursday. The five- to 10-day pump test will begin after Nov. 1, Perrier spokeswoman Jane Lazgin said.
Lazgin said the test wells were meant to answer questions about the bottling operation.
"It will answer questions people have had. This seems an effort to stop the information gathering," she said.
If Perrier does not respond to the Waterkeepers lawsuit within 45 days, a hearing will be scheduled in Adams County Circuit Court. Similarly, the DNR has 45 days to respond to the Ho-Chunk lawsuit.
The Ho-Chunk lawsuit is the second such action filed against the DNR in connection with the Perrier plan. Earlier this month, a citizens group in Newport, a community near the site of Perrier's proposed plant, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources in Columbia County Circuit Court.
Ho-Chunk Takes Stance Against Perrier
From: "Terry Swier" email@example.com
Terry Swier President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC)
Michigan: Little Traverse Band et al vs. Perrier
Update on Perrier vs Michigan tribes
On February 22, 2002, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, filed suit in Federal Court against Great Spring Waters of America (a subsidiary of the Perrier Group of America, Inc.) and Governor Engler. The Tribes are asking the Federal Court to interpret and enforce the federal Water Resources Development Act ("WRDA") as it applies to Perrier's proposal to extract 500,000-750,000 gallons of water per day from a site in Mecosta County, bottle the water, and ship most of it out of the Great Lakes basin. This water would otherwise ultimately flow into Lake Michigan.
WRDA is intended to protect the Great Lakes Basin for the benefit of the public by requiring the governor of each of the Great Lakes states to approve any diversion or export of water from the Basin. No State Governor, except Governor Engler, has approved this project. While Governor Engler does not believe that the protections of WRDA apply to this project, the Michigan Attorney General, Jennifer Granholm, and Senator Carl Levin have expressed the opinion that Perrier's diversion and export of water falls within those protections. To protect the Great Lakes, the three Tribes seek a declaration from the Court that WRDA applies to this project and an injunction stopping the project unless and until the governor of each of the Great Lakes states expressly approves the project.
The Tribes have a profound interest in protecting the Great Lakes based on their continuous reliance on the lakes for commercial and subsistence fishing. The Tribes' right to fish the Great Lakes for subsistence and commercial purposes was reserved in the 1836 Treaty with the federal government. In 1979, a federal court affirmed the treaty right.
The Great Lakes are already at very low levels. The Tribes strongly believe that any project that removes water from the Great Lakes Basin must be strictly scrutinized under WRDA. The cumulative effect of many small projects or the location of any particular project could have disastrous effects on fishing and navigation in the Great Lakes. Removal of any water from the Great Lakes basin is a significant environmental issue and must be carefully considered by all interested parties. The WRDA provision that the Tribes seek to enforce, that requires the express approval of all of the governors of the Great Lakes states, is intended to insure broad based decision making that promotes the protection of the Great Lakes.
Native Americans, environmentalists join forces
March 10, 2002
By George Weeks
The Detroit News
On the wall of a church where northern Michigan Native Americans worship, there is this prayer: "O Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds. ... Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock."
The first people of Michigan, conservationists by tradition and instinct, have learned the lessons well and are at the forefront of some environmental battles.
"You have to appreciate every blade of grass," says Daisy Sharp of Garden City, a Mohawk elder.
The growing alliance between Native Americans and environmentalists is underscored by a federal lawsuit filed recently by three northern Michigan tribes to block the Perrier plant under construction in Mecosta County to bottle water withdrawn from a spring that feeds a tributary to Lake Michigan.
The tribes, asserting their "property interests" under the Treaty of 1836, contend the project is a diversion of water from the Great Lakes basin and should not be allowed unless approved by governors of all eight Great Lakes states.
Gov. John Engler and the Department of Environmental Quality approved the project, contending that it is for "consumptive use" and does not require approval of the other states. Some other governors agree with Engler.
Atty. Gen. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin argue the project constitutes export of water for use outside the basin. Granholm, in a letter to Engler, said the water would come from "groundwater hydrologically connected to the Great Lakes."
Therefore, she said, consent of the other governors is needed as stipulated under the federal Water Resources Development Act. Engler is not bound by her interpretation, and the courts have yet to interpret the act.
So cheers to these three tribes for bringing the issue before U.S. District Judge Richard A. Enslen: the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
Michigan has no law that regulates withdrawals or protects aquifers from overuse, although five bills have been introduced to do so. Perrier may well be right that its Mecosta County project will not "inevitably result in decreased lake levels" as the tribes argue in their request for a federal injunction. But there's need for a federal ruling on whether federal law applies to the project.
George Weeks is The News' politics columnist. You can reach him at 335 N. Seymour, Lansing, Mich. 48933 or firstname.lastname@example.org
States fear being drained by bottled-water giants
March, 31 2002
Scripps Howard News Service
There is a growing national backlash against bottled water companies, especially market giant Perrier, by communities that fear local wells, wetlands and streams will be drained dry in the quest for corporate profits.
Proposals by bottlers to pump huge amounts of water from rural communities � in some cases as much as 500 gallons per minute � have drawn intense opposition in at least six states: Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
The battles have launched nearly a dozen citizen activist groups with names like "Save Our Springs," "Save America's Water," and "Save Our Groundwater." The issue has prompted the introduction of bills to tighten water laws in nearly all of the states where controversy has arisen and several governors have jumped into the fray. Lawsuits have been filed in Wisconsin and Michigan, including one by three Indian tribes. A recent legal case in Texas went all the way to the state Supreme Court.
In every state except New Hampshire, the water fights have involved the Perrier Group of America Inc., which sells more bottled water in the United States than any other company. Perrier is a subsidiary of the multinational conglomerate Nestle S.A. of Vevey, Switzerland, the world's largest food company.
Headquartered in Greenwich, Conn., the Perrier Group draws water from 75 spring sites across the country for 15 brands of bottled water, including the Ice Mountain, Deer Park, Zephyrhills, Poland Springs and Ozarka labels.
The controversy reflects the phenomenal success of the bottled water industry, which has annual sales of $35 billion worldwide. Bottled water sales in the United States have tripled in the past 10 years to $5.7 billion in 2000, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York research and consulting firm. Bottled water is projected to surpass coffee and milk to become second in volume to soft drinks by 2004.
To meet demand, bottled water companies have had to expand their pumping operations and find new sites to drill wells. In 1990, 2.2 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States, nearly all of it produced domestically. By 2005, sales are projected to top 7.2 billion gallons.
The bottled water fights are "a relatively new phenomenon," said Stephen Kay, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association. "It's a classic NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) issue."
Bottled water companies that invest millions of dollars in pumping operations and bottling plants have an interest in making sure aquifers aren't pumped to the point they can't recharge, Kay noted. "It wouldn't begin to make good business sense to come in and deplete a water resource and make it not viable," he said.
But large groundwater users don't have to pump groundwater to the point of no return before they adversely affect private wells and the environment, said University of New Hampshire professor Tom Ballestero, a civil engineer and hydrologist.
"The groundwater they are pumping and exporting was going somewhere before where it had an environmental (benefit)," Ballestero said. "Once you take it out, it's gone forever."
Perrier spokeswoman Jane Lazgin said residents in most places are pleased that the company is creating jobs and generating revenue in their community and that opponents are a vocal minority.
Perrier's opponents said local opposition to the company's projects is widespread, but small communities with limited money and expertise are at a disadvantage.
"It's David versus Goliath," said Terry Swier, 58, a retired librarian in rural Mecosta County, Mich., where Perrier has received permission from the state to construct a plant capable of bottling 260 million gallons of water a year from the local aquifer.
Swier, who had no previous experience in community activism, is president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, which was formed last year to fight the project. She now gives talks to groups across the state on the importance of protecting local water supplies.
The project has become a hot political issue in Michigan. Gov. John Engler, a Republican, has sided with Perrier, while state Attorney Gen. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, both Democrats, oppose the project.
Last month, three northern Michigan Indian tribes sued Engler and the state agency that granted pumping permits to Perrier, arguing the project could impact rivers and streams that feed the Great Lakes.
Disputed Michigan Bottling Plant Opens
May 10, 2002
By James Prichard
Associated Press Writer
STANWOOD, Mich. -- Ice Mountain Spring Water Co. said Friday it has begun bottling water from the Great Lakes basin, which environmental groups have gone to court to stop because there are no limits on how much water the company can withdraw.
Company officials say fears about the $100 million plant in western Michigan are unfounded. But separate lawsuits have been filed to stop the plant from shipping water out of the Great Lakes basin spring and to change the state's permitting process for such an operation.
Before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved the factory, environmental impact tests were run on the spring source, about 12 miles northeast of the plant. But the state has no limits on the amount of water that can be taken from the ground.
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, a group of residents who live near the plant about 50 miles north of Grand Rapids, sued last year, and are seeking legislation giving the state more control over water resources.
Plant spokeswoman Deborah Wudyka said the company, which has self-imposed a daily withdrawal limit of 575,000 gallons, performed exhaustive studies to ensure the operation does not deplete water sources or harm the local ecosystem.
"That is very central to what this company is all about," Wudyka said.
The plant started bottling May 4, but has taken only about 114,000 gallons per day as only one of five production lines is operating.
Terry Swier, president of the water conservation group, said she believes the company began operations early because of the pending lawsuits. She said the legal action will "answer the question, `Whose water is it?' I think that's the bottom line for me."
Three American Indian tribes in Michigan also sued three months ago in federal court. They argue the operation violates the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 and requires approval from the governors of other Great Lakes states.
Ice Mountain Spring Water is a division of Nestle Waters North America, which until a few weeks ago was called Perrier Group of America Inc.
Federal judge tosses out tribes' lawsuit against water bottler
May 31, 2002
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that three American Indian tribes filed against the former Perrier Group of America Inc. in an effort to keep the company from operating a new $100 million water-bottling plant in Mecosta County.
The suit was filed Feb. 22 in U.S. District Court by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
Production started May 4 at the Stanwood plant, where water is piped in from wells about 12 miles away in northeastern Mecosta County.
The tribes alleged that distributing Michigan spring water outside the Great Lakes Basin would violate the Water Resources Development Act of 1986.
They also claimed that withdrawing the amount of groundwater that the plant intends to use -- the company basically self-imposed a daily withdrawal limit of 575,000 gallons -- could reduce the water level in the Great Lakes, and impair the tribes' fishing rights on the lakes.
Company officials maintained that such fears are unfounded.
The court ruled Tuesday that the tribes did not have the right to sue under the provisions of the 1986 act. In his opinion, Judge Richard Alan Enslen said that the act intended that the Great Lakes governors would act in favor of the interests of their residents. He also said that he didn't believe that the interests brought up by the suit were federal simply because of tribal rights.
Gov. John Engler was also listed as a defendant in the suit.
"We are pleased with the judge's ruling that the congressional intent, through WRDA, was to give state governments the authority for protecting our natural resources and representing the best long-term interests of the citizens," said attorney Michael Haines, who represents Greenwich, Conn.-based Nestle Waters North America, the new name of Perrier Group of America.
A telephone message seeking comment was left Friday at the office of Traverse City attorney William Rastetter, who represents the Indian tribes.
Last year, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, a group of residents who live near the bottling plant, filed suit seeking legislation that would provide the state with more control over its water resources. That lawsuit is still active.
Nestle Waters won't develop Big Spring siteCompany says project is dead, letting high-capacity well permits expire
By KEVIN MURPHY
Special to the Journal Sentinel
Last Updated: Sept. 17, 2002
Madison - Two years after Perrier's plan to pump millions of gallons of spring water in Adams County boiled over in controversy, the firm on Tuesday announced the project is officially dead.
Quotable This is the way it should have been. Hopefully, we've saved a very valuable water resource.
- Jon Steinhaus,
A spokeswoman for Nestle Waters North America, formerly Perrier Group of America, said plans for a bottling plant in the Big Spring area have been "put on the back burner" ever since a similar facility in Michigan went into production in May 2001.
The company will allow its high-capacity well permits to expire this month without developing the site.
The Michigan plant meets Nestle's spring water supply needs for its sales in the Midwest, but the company retains interest in property leases in the Big Spring area and wants to stay involved in discussions of groundwater regulations, said Lynn Morgan, a Nestle spokeswoman. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requires high-capacity well permit holders to either "use it or lose it," said Morgan, and Nestle has "no plans to renew them."
The DNR issued permits to Perrier in fall 2000 to tap Big Springs in the Town of New Haven for two high-capacity wells on the condition that tests be conducted to determine the impact on the water table.
The DNR and Perrier were then sued in Adams and Columbia counties by residents and state environmental groups. The Perrier issue sparked a recall of an elected official who sided with Perrier.
In November 2000, then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson asked Perrier to abandon plans to bottle Big Spring water, citing local opposition. Morgan acknowledged Tuesday that the resistance to the well plans may have been a factor in the decision to go to Michigan, where the company got a warmer reception.
Jon Steinhaus, a vice president of Waterkeepers of Wisconsin, whose suit against Nestle is pending, called the company's announcement, "very encouraging."
"This is the way it should have been. Hopefully, we've saved a very valuable water resource," said Steinhaus.
Ed Garvey, attorney for some residents who sued the DNR and Perrier, challenging the thoroughness of environmental studies, called Nestle's announcement "one of the most exciting developments."
"There was no chance of stopping this we when got started," Garvey said.
Perrier had wanted to pump 720,000 gallons of water a day from Big Spring, which Steinhaus said could have caused big problems for the area's existing water users
"That's a lot of water to take out of the Fox River watershed, a watershed that's very shallow. No one can exactly say what would happen to the wetlands when you draw out that much water because it has never happened there before," he said.
Even though it was not required, Perrier agreed to conduct wetland and water quality studies, said Deputy DNR Secretary Franc Fennessy. The company also agreed to set pumping volumes at levels that would not affect the water table, decisions that were a "significant gesture" by Perrier to protect the state's water resources, said Fennessy.
"Those studies were not complete and they would have had to invest a significant amount of money to do so," Fennessy said, "and I think it came down to a business decision for them to go to Michigan."
The environmental studies conducted in 2000 showed that Big Spring Creek is a stream under pressure from irrigation practices and runoff, and Nestle has retained a University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher to develop a stream restoration plan, Morgan said. The state's high-capacity well law has not been amended despite the controversy over Perrier's plans, but Fennessy said it should be made more environmentally sensitive.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sept. 18, 2002.
Meet the everyday people who brick-walled Perrier
Sept. 22, 2002
Wisconsin State Journal
Susan Lampert Smith
BIG SPRING, Wis. - With its gingham curtains, American flag, well-worn maple floorboards and polished tables staffed by those helpful ladies who work all the elections, the New Haven Town Hall could be the centerpiece of a Norman Rockwell painting of rural America.
But a minor revolution has taken place here in the heart of rural Wisconsin.
The little old ladies (and their men) got mad. Drive around the block, over the bridge, and past the clapboard rural church, and you'll see signs telling Perrier, part of the multinational Nestle corporation, to go away.
This week it sounded like Perrier finally got the message - the company acknowledged it was letting its permit to pump groundwater from the Big Spring lapse.
A few hours north near Crandon, another group of grassroots activists also heard this week that they'd won a significant victory in their battle to keep a mine from opening near the headwaters of the Wolf River. BHP Billiton announced it was no longer interested in developing the mine; a mining industry spokeswoman said other buyers may be turned off by having to "bang their head against the Wisconsin brick wall" of local opposition.
I met this week with part of that "Wisconsin brick wall," and found that the wall that turned back two multinationals was composed of little people retirees, Indians, farmers - and financed by chili suppers, barbershop quartets and people reaching deep into their own pockets.
The victories came with costs - both towns threw out chairman deemed to be too cooperative with the corporations; and in both places, neighbors still don't talk to neighbors.
And in both situations, the victories may be only temporary. The mine site could find a new buyer and Nestle could renew its permits if it decides its Michigan plant won't meet its needs.
Still, both camps felt it was time to celebrate. And I wanted to meet with them and find out how they did it. I haven't covered the Perrier issue because my family owns property along the Mecan River near where Perrier first wanted to pump spring water. I remember how bleak things seemed back in the winter of 2000, when we learned that Perrier had already sunk test wells next to the stream, and that there wasn't much in state law to stop them.
But people from all over rallied because of the Mecan's status as a world-class trout stream. So the company concentrated its efforts in Big Spring, where the water was good, but the stream less famous. The outside spotlight faded a bit as the issue moved into Adams County.
"What was unfortunate was so many people stepped back," recalled Mary Jane Schmudlach, who lives along the Mecan, but offered help to the Big Spring area. "Those senior citizens had to take up the fight all by themselves. They got dragged through a lot more than we would ever see."
About two dozen of those senior citizens, members of the group Waterkeepers of Wisconsin (WOW), gathered at the town hall this past week to talk about how the fight has changed them.
For one thing, they're more than a little cynical about corporations and their government.
"I'm as upset with the Legislature as I am with Perrier," said Joan Byers, who thinks that stronger ground-water legislation is long overdue. "They heard testimony from (many ground-water experts) and they didn't do anything."
Others are planning to vote against Gov. Scott McCallum, who vetoed a provision in the 2001 state budget that would have required Perrier to undergo an environmental impact study before it could sink wells.
"He (McCallum) stood up in the Dells and promised us that Perrier would never come here," Dan Bailey said. "He promised us one thing and then turned around and did another."
But while the legislative route failed (Perrier spent $59,651 lobbying legislators between January and June 2001, while WOW spent $4,861), the opponents won in court. An allied group, the Concerned Citizens of Newport (CCN) formed in a neighboring town where the water-bottling plant would be built. It sued the Department of Natural Resources, and won a judge's ruling in February that high-capacity wells do, indeed, need environmental impact assessments.
Hiroshi and Arlene Kanno, founders of CCN along with one of their neighbors, had to refinance their retirement farm to help pay the legal bills for that lawsuit.
"We are the little guys," Hiroshi Kanno said, of their fight.
They've also been plunged into the world of water protection, a crusade that has filled their home with environmental books and reports.
"This thing," Kanno added, "has really taken over our lives."
It's also taken the Kannos to international environmental conferences in Vancouver and, last month, in Johannesburg, South Africa. There, they ran into Mole Lake Ojibwe tribal members from northern Wisconsin who were there to express their concerns over the mine. The Wisconsin activists took each others' photos at a rally against multinational corporations. Each group came home to a big win, but no one thinks either fight is over.
Back at the New Haven Town Hall, Margaret Kutzke was selling raffle tickets for a "Santa Luncheon" and craft fair to raise money for WOW.
"As long as Nestle Waters (Perrier's parent company) is still active in our area," she said, "we'll keep having fund raisers."
Meanwhile, Anna Davis, one of those election poll workers at the town hall, was correcting my notes. She's a human computer who can still recall the vote against the former town chairman, who was ousted for not fighting Perrier hard enough.
"We voted him out 263 to 92."
"I know," she added, nicely, "because I counted it."
Susan Lampert Smith writes about the people and places that make Wisconsin unique. Send her story ideas at email@example.com or to Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI 53708
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation
For background on Perrier in Michigan (25 miles from Mount Pleasant):