Category Archives: arrowhead

Nestle Taking Water From National Forest Land Using Permit That Expired 27 Years Ago

Nestle would like you to believe they’re a “good corporate citizen” — one that monitors the health of the aquifers it plunders and gives back to its communities.

Which makes you wonder exactly how it was they mined water from a National Park — under a permit that expired in 1988 — 27 years ago.

(No, that’s not a typo.)

From an investigative article in the Desert Sun:

Nestle Waters North America holds a longstanding right to use this water from the national forest near San Bernardino. But the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t been keeping an eye on whether the taking of water is harming Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it. In fact, Nestle’s permit to transport water across the national forest expired in 1988. It hasn’t been reviewed since, and the Forest Service hasn’t examined the ecological effects of drawing tens of millions of gallons each year from the springs.

Even with California deep in drought, the federal agency hasn’t assessed the impacts of the bottled water business on springs and streams in two watersheds that sustain sensitive habitats in the national forest. The lack of oversight is symptomatic of a Forest Service limited by tight budgets and focused on other issues, and of a regulatory system in California that allows the bottled water industry to operate with little independent tracking of the potential toll on the environment.

Nestle would like you to believe this is just a paperwork snafu, but in the same article, retired Forest Service Biologist Steve Loe had this to say:

“They’re taking way too much water. That water’s hugely important,” said Steve Loe, a biologist who retired from the Forest Service in 2007. “Without water, you don’t have wildlife, you don’t have vegetation.”

The Desert Sun’s article covers a lot of ground, including the usual Nestlespeak, which suggests everything is peachy with Nestle’s water-taking operations — despite the fact the state is in the grip of a record drought, and Nestle’s water use is increasing.

You simply have to wonder — in a state gripped by drought, why is the Forest Service selling water to a bottling company at all?

The habitat is very delicate, and there’s no way Nestle can argue that removing water from a drought-stricken habitat doesn’t affect fish and wildlife.

And what does the public get for allowing Nestle to plunder this precious resource?

$524. A year.

More on Nestle’s Hiring of Key Advisor to Sacramento Mayor (and Potential Conflicts of Interest)

From s Sacramento News & Review Editorial Piece:

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Heads turned three days later when it was revealed that Smira had also taken a job working as a consultant for Nestlé Waters, the giant water-bottling company now building a bottling plant in south Sacramento.

So, uh … wait a minute.

There’s little doubt that Smira got the Nestlé job at least partially based on her political connections to the mayor. (Interestingly, he’s the one who greenlighted the water plant without a public hearing.) Like lobbyists, public-relations professionals use their connections to help them produce results for whoever they work for. That’s how it works.

But it’s weird to have key staffers (even volunteer ones) consider moving in and out of local public service this way, since a symbiotic relationship can develop between the two roles—and what’s good for the city is often not what’s good for an industry. That’s why there are anti-revolving-doors laws at the state and national level.

As the Smira case illustrates, it’s past time for Sacramento to take the revolving-door syndrome more seriously and strengthen existing laws that keep this tendency in check.

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Nestle Greases Sacramento Skids: Hires Top Mayoral Advisor

In yet another example of Nestle’s penchant for moving quietly into town and recruiting advocates (long before the public’s aware of anything), the company has apparently – in a fairly naked display of influence buying – hired one of the Sacramento Mayor’s top advisors (found in the Chico News & Review):

Michelle Smira, one of Kevin Johnson’s top volunteer advisors, is leaving city hall, and going to work as a consultant for Nestle.

Smira gave her resignation last week, on October 22, and you can read her resignation letter below.

She told SN&R that she’s giving up her role as an official volunteer advisor to the mayor in order to work on Johnson’s strong mayor initiative. She also said that she was not leaving her City Hall role because of any legal conflict of interest, but because she would not otherwise have time to run her public relations business, MMS Strategies.

It just happens that MMS was hired, over the weekend, by Nestle Waters, to help win hearts and minds, and building permits, for its controversial water bottling plant in South Sacramento.

With the Sacramento mayor being one of the biggest boosters of the Nestle project – apparently willing to trade unlimited amounts of water for a handful of jobs (many of which are going to people outside of Sacramento) – it’s clear that Nestle knows whose skids need to be greased (they certainly did in McCloud & they’re certainly doing it right now in Fryeburg).

via Sacramento News & Review > Blogs > SNOG > Revolving door: One of the Mayor’s top advisors goes to work for Nestle > October 28, 2009.

Bad Public Process Follows Nestle Water Bottling Operation to Sacramento

While their claim to “good corporate citizenship” seemingly doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it is true that Nestle Waters of North America certainly knows how to slink into town and cut a deal before the public is aware of anything.

It’s happened in almost every small town situation (and we’ve certainly mentioned it before) – and it’s happened again in the case of their Sacramento plant.

Not only was the economic development director apparently aiding the company in keeping their project secret, Nestle also took advantage of a (possibly illegal program) that allowed them to begin work on their plant before the necessary permits were issued (via the Sacramento Bee):

For three years, the city of Sacramento has allowed developers to start work on their projects before receiving formal permits.The practice, covered by the controversial Facilities Permit Program FPP, is now part of an expanding city investigation into the operations of its Community Development Department.

That investigation was launched after city officials said the son of a city councilman improperly allowed new homes to be built in the Natomas flood zone – months before permits for those homes were issued.

Questions about the permit program surfaced this week after city officials determined that construction of a new Nestlé water bottling plant was permitted to start with a verbal approval and authorization letter – and not a formal building permit.

You can read the whole post at Sacramento let developers get jump-start before formal permits – Sacramento News – Local and Breaking Sacramento News | Sacramento Bee.

What Nestle Doesn’t Want You to Know About Their Sacramento Water Bottling Plant (From SaveOurWaterSacramento.org)

What Nestle doesn’t want you to know about its plans to open a water bottling plant in Sacramento

* Nestlé and the City of Sacramento worked hard to quietly fast-track this project so Nestlé could open its South Sacramento bottling plant by January 2010. The project was only announced in a brief back page article in the Sacramento Bee at the end of July.

* While Sacramento residents are required to abide by city-imposed water restrictions, Nestlé would be able to siphon water from our municipal water supply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to one staff member at the Economic Development Department, the only limit on the amount of water Nestlé can pump is the size of their pipes.

* Nestlé claims the Sacramento plant would be a “micro-bottling plant,” bottling only 50 million gallons of water per year. However, according to the Department of Utilities, the estimated water usage is 215 thousand – 320 thousand gallons of water per day (78 – 116 millions per year). This would make Nestlé one of the top ten water users in Sacramento at a time when we are in our third consecutive year of a drought.

* According to Nestlé, approximately 30 million gallons of water would come from Sacramento’s municipal water system and 20 million would be trucked to the plant from “private springs.” City staff have refused to answer questions about the springs and Nestlé has provided no information about their location, other than telling the Sacramento News & Review that they are somewhere in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

* Bottling 50 million gallons of water a year would create 800 million water bottles annually. It takes over 400,000 barrels of oil to produce that much plastic. Only 14% of plastic bottles get recycled – the rest end up not only in our landfills, but also in our forests, streams, and oceans.

* The diesel fuel required to truck 20 million gallons of water from the “nearby springs” to Sacramento and 800 million bottles across the state is enormous. Diesel truck emissions contain carbon dioxide and diesel soot, which both contribute to global warming. Diesel exhaust also contributes to air contamination, which is known to cause cancer and other health problems.

* Nestlé would take our tap water and sell it back to us after marking it up over 1,000 times what they paid for it. If Nestlé is allowed to build a water bottling plant in Sacramento, they can take as much water as they want, for as long as they want, without any limits or accountability.

* Water is becoming scarcer as the population grows and the drought continues. The water in Sacramento should be for the plants, animals and humans in this region to live on, not for big companies to amass enormous wealth. If Nestlé is allowed to build this plant, we give up even more control of our water for as long as that plant exists. The City says that Nestlé has a right to move here. Shouldn’t Sacramentans have a right to a secure water supply?

via Save Our Water Sacramento

Sacramento Citizens Not Uniformly Happy About Nestle (SaveOurWaterSacramento.org)

Opposition to Nestle’s zero-public-input, no Environmental Impact Report water bottling operation in Sacramento, CA, is coming under increasing scrutiny.

First, a group has formed to ask the tough questions that apparently the city staff didn’t ask, like how does this fit into the city’s Sustainability Master Plan?

To find out more, visit SaveOurWatersSacramento.org.

Cosmo Garvin of the News & Review riffs on the project, identifying a whole host of issues:

It’s been two months since Nestlé Waters North America announced they plan to build a new bottling plant in Sacramento, where they’ll suck up millions of gallons of delicious Sacramento tap water every year, in order to sell it back to us in plastic at 1,000 times the price (see “Something in the water,” SN&R Bites, July 30).

Well, unlike some mayors that Bites knows, not everybody thinks this is such a great deal for Sacramento. Meet Kristie Harris, spokeswoman for Save Our Water, dedicated to, well, saving our water from corporate takeover. Or, barring that, she at least wants city leaders to ask some basic questions before selling out.

“Giving Nestlé access to unlimited amounts of our water in the third year of a drought is completely unacceptable. There’s been no public forum on this, no environmental impact report, no critical analysis at all.”

via SN&R > Columns > Bites > Going against the flow > 09.24.09.

Nestle Waters Sites Water Bottling Plant in Sacramento, CA

Nestle Waters’ star-crossed McCloud bottling proposal continues to simmer, yet the water bottling giant isn’t standing still – they just announced a new water bottling plant in Sacramento.

via Nestle Waters to build bottling plant in Sacramento:

Nestle Waters North America announced today it plans to build a water bottling plant in a warehouse at the Florin Fruitridge Industrial Park in South Sacramento.

The $14 million plant is scheduled to begin operations early next year and will employ 40 people. It will bottle water for the Nestle Pure Life and Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water brands, a news release states.

The plant will be supplied with piped water from the city of Sacramento, as well as water trucked from several private springs in Northern California, a spokeswoman said. It will initially bottle as much as 50 million gallons a year, primarily for distribution in Northern California.

Nestle’s gotta be celebrating this one – every other new Nestle Waters bottling project is facing a mortifying amount of opposition (even in Cascade Locks), yet this deal was apparently done in just a few months.

Not only is Nestle planning to bottle its Pure Life municipal water product in Sacramento, but it’s also trucking in water from “private” springs and bottling its Arrowhead brand.

The “spring water” brands are typically bottled in their rural bottling plants – which incidentally are the same plants receiving the most unfavorable attention.

And yes, we wonder what this will mean to their McCloud project, which may just have grown redundant – especially with Cascade Locks on the drawing board.

Solid Piece About Nestle’s Extraction Proposal in Chaffee County, CO in Salida Citizen

Nestle’s Chaffee County (CO) extraction project has continued to make the news, only as of late, it’s been because Nestle hasn’t yet paid the invoices sent to it by the county. As a result, the county has refused to begin deliberations on the project, leaving the bitterly fought contest in limbo for a little longer.

Local journalist Lee Hart has covered the Nestle project from the beginning, and her latest offers yet another perspective on the issue: Just say no: Potential longterm losses should sink Nestle water proposal

Ecologist Delia Malone of Colorado Natural Heritage Program came under fire for recommending exactly such consideration in her review for the county of potential natural resources impacts from the Nestle project. Nestle vehemently objected to numerous findings in Malone’s first draft report in which she devoted a section to climate change including this statement: “Climate trends will alter stream flows and aquifer recharge rendering (Nestle) predictions about pumping sustainability unsupported and inconclusive.”

Nestle consultants argued that “given the current state of knowledge, it seems tenuous and illogical to base project approvals on climatalogical conditions (with considerable uncertainty) to occur many years in the future.”

But Malone, whose draft report had referenced scientific opinions included reference to climate change predictions for Colorado from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fired back saying, “given the current state of knowledge regarding the impact of climate change on water resources in the West, I strongly recommend erring on the side of caution by conserving the water resources that are predicted to be impacted by our changing climate.”

Given the volume of concern over reports pointing to the certainty that climate change will impact to water resources here and throughout the West, we agree with Malone that the county should err on the side of caution.

Nestle has not conclusively demonstrated that benefits accruing to the county from its operations will “outweigh the losses of any natural, agricultural and recreational resources with the county or losses of opportunities to develop such resources,” a basic tenet of the 1041 regulations. Therefore, we urge the commissioners to live up to their campaign promises and other public pronouncements about keeping water in the valley and that green, as in sustainability, is the future for the county, and say no to Nestle.

For those with an aversion to corporate doublespeak, Nestle’s argument against considering climate change essentially devolves into “no one can predict the future, so let us have what we want now.”

That’s convenient for Nestle’s stakeholders, but not exactly the kind of thinking that benefits Chaffee County, who stand to gain little from the Nestle project – except perhaps future limits on growth due to water shortages.

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Television Show Highlights McCloud River, Nestle’s Threat To It in Advance of 2/18 Meeting

The Friday night broadcast of Trout Unlimited’s “On The Rise” episode focusing on the McCloud River – and Nestle’s cavalier approach to the river and the town of McCloud – has already generated a spike in traffic to StopNestleWaters.org. (The show is being re-broadcast Saturday 2/14 at 1pm PST)

More importantly, it exposed yet another layer of people to the problems inherent in bottled water – and to the somewhat predatory nature of Nestle Waters of North America.

Curtis Knight of CalTrout deftly outlined the threats to the river, and while it’s a fly fishing show – so he only had time to hit the high points – the information was passed along to an audience that I’ve heard numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

It’s more pressure on Nestle to start playing fair with rural towns, and while this is another small victory, it’s a shame that every town facing Nestle can’t get its own TV show.

I’d love to see Nestle’s depredations in Fryeburg detailed so all the little rural towns thinking of making a deal with Nestle will know what can happen if the predatory multinational doesn’t get what it wants.

In Advance of Nestle’s February 18 Meeting

The timing of the broadcast was excellent; it comes in advance of Nestle’s community input meeting of February 18, where Nestle make yet another corporate sales pitch presentation about their proposed McCloud project, and invites “community input.”

Keep up the good work, everyone.

Nestle Waters Seeking New Negotiation With McCloud; Town Says “Not So Fast”

Nestle’s proposed water bottling plant in McCloud has been the subject of two recent meetings of the McCloud Services District (MCSD), and while the outcome remains unclear, what is apparent is McCloud’s ardor for a Nestle water bottling plant has cooled.

Little wonder; after five years of Nestle’s fractious, town-dividing interference in local politics, the residents are simply suffering from Nestle Fatigue. At the most recent McCloud Services District meeting, the directors spoke of proceeding cautiously (if at all), and prevaling public opinion was to take a long breather, or dump Nestle entirely.

In fact, the only real decisive action was to ask to speak to someone higher up the Nestle food chain, Nestle operative Dave Palais apparently having worn out his welcome. Witness this from Charlie Unkefer of the Mount Shasta Herald:

After almost three hours of board discussion, a review of communications – letters submitted to the board prior to the meeting, expressing a myriad of opinions – and public comment, the board passed a motion 5-0 to “address the issues with higher level Nestle executives.”

Though the issue listed on the meeting agenda cited “discussion/action regarding a request… to enter into new contract negotiations,” the motion passed focused only on continued dialogue, with  a tone of caution prevailing.

Director Tim Dickinson, who first brought the issue to the table in his opening comments on the project, noted,  “What I need is a conversation with the executive level of Nestle to find out what direction they are going in… I would hate to go six months or one or two  years and then have the contract dropped. My idea is to have that contact and have discussion.”

Farther down the story, the idea of a “community survey” reared its head, though director Schoenstein should be commended for resisting Nestle’s pressure negotiating tactics (that have worked so well in other rural towns):

Schoenstein also expressed his interest in conducting a thorough survey of the community’s desires around the issue. “We need to know where the public stands,” he stated, emphasizing that this information would better inform the board as they continue their discussions with Nestle.  However, Schoenstein remained cautious. “There is no need to hurry or fear that if we don’t (re-negotiate now) that Nestle will leave.”

Clearly, Nestle’s attempts to speed back into negotiations for a water bottling plant aren’t working. Moreover, the whole McCloud fiasco has cost them bitterly in terms of time, bad press, and yes – money. In the past, I’ve commented on Nestle’s unwillingness to alter their business template to meet the needs of small rural communities. That seems true in the current situation; they’re not offering the town any incentive to enter into negotiations, and to their credit several of the MCSD Board of Directors seem to recognize it.

Nestle Opponents in McCloud Point to Nestle’s Lack of Stewardship, Legal Bullying as Reasons for Opposition

The local newspaper recently ran a lengthy interview with Dave Palais – Nestle Waters of North America’s operative in McCloud. In that interview, Palais (sadly) took the low road by suggesting that opposition to Nestle’s plant is coming from non-permanent residents and San Francisco fly fishermen.

It’s an astonishingly divisive statement, especially given that Palais himself doesn’t live in McCloud, and as far as we know, Nestle’s headquarters remain in Switzerland, not McCloud.

The Mount Shasta Herald recently published an interview with CalTrout’s Curtis Knight and Debra Anderson (President of McCloud Watershed Council), and while we’ve excerpted key parts below, it’s worth a read.

The relevant passages? First, CalTrout’s Knight immediately attacks Nestle’s oft-repeated (and largely disproved) claims of exemplary environmental stewardship:

Curtis Knight: California Trout’s work on this issue started with the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report in 2006. We had never reviewed a more deficient document and were concerned about the lack of specifics potential project impacts and the lack of baseline information. For example, there was no attempt to collect stream flow and temperature data on Squaw Valley Creek.

California Trout’s goal has always been that if this project gets sited in McCloud that its operations do not harm the health of the McCloud River watershed. The lack of information in the DEIR raised a huge concern that Nestle, despite their public statements to the contrary, were not going to be good stewards of the water.

We have said all along that a responsible contract can only be drafted once we understand how a plant might impact the watershed and what mitigation measures might be implemented to protect the region.

You can read the entire interview here, but we’ll leave you with this response to a question about why Nestle’s encountered so resistance in other towns:

DA & CK: Reasons range from Nestle operations negatively impacting area water resources to legal bullying. In Michigan, a court ordered Nestle to halt operation after damages to area water resources were found. Nestle refused to fully comply and continued litigation activities including arguing to the Supreme Court that the citizens didn’t have standing to sue them.

In Maine, Nestle operates a plant in Hollis and wanted to expand with new wells in a nearby town, including a truck loading station. When the nearby town refused Nestle sued and argued before the Maine Supreme Court that Nestle’s right to grow market share superceded the town’s right of control. These examples suggest that once Nestle gets a foot hold in a community they are not always a ‘good neighbor’ and show a history of using their considerable legal clout to punish rural towns.

Nestle’s Calistoga Water Bottling lays off 78% of Workers

Recent Industry Layoffs Raise Questions About Economic Sustainability

When Nestle dangles the promise of jobs to economically depressed rural communities, a rarely asked question is “what happens to those jobs if the bottled water market tanks?”

To 78% of Nestle’s Calistoga workforce, it’s suddenly very clear.

The Calistoga Beverage Company (a Nestle company) just announced it was laying off more than three-quarters of its workforce – the result of a staggering bottled water market (from the Weekly Calistogan):

Feeling a ripple effect from high fuel prices and a tight financial market, Calistoga Beverage Company announced the layoff of 78 percent of its workforce.

“We’ve been experiencing a softening in demand of bottled beverages for some time,” said Calistoga Beverage Company’s Director Chris Canning early Wednesday. “As a result we’re taking action to reduce our workforce.”

This announcement comes on the heels of PepsiCo’s announcement it’s laying off 3,300 nationwide and closing 16 plants. Given the battering the bottled water market’s taken at the hands of a growing consumer movement and a bad economy, even the industry itself suggests more layoffs are coming soon:

“As much as we hate to admit it, ours is a disposable income product,” Canning said. “When times get tough people focus more on meeting their basic needs.”

We’re saddened to see so many workers losing their jobs. To the residents of a small rural town which had built its economic base atop a single industry, a blow like this would be staggering. In fact, it’s the same scenario McCloud already experienced when its timber industry faded away.

Coupled with PesiCo’s massive layoffs, Nestle’s layoff forces us to ask the question: In the face of soaring transportation costs (fuel) and significant questions about the viability of the market, how economically sustainable are bottled water jobs?

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