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Is Nestle Drying Up St. Helena Creek Near Middletown, CA?

We’re hearing rumblings from California’s Wine Country that St. Helena Creek is running dry for the first time in generations – while far upstream, Nestle mines 37,500,000 gallons of water annually from springs feeding the creek.

This text comes from the email of a concerned downstream landowner:

This attached image shows wild turkeys eating the stranded fish from the bed of St. Helena Creek, near Middletown, CA.  This creek dried quickly last week stranding Sacramento Pike Minnow and Riffle Sculpin.  A domestic cat came in to eat the fishes at 10:30 PM and the next morning an old domestic dog stumbled by at 6 AM and the wild turkeys started the final clean-up at about 7 AM.  The fishes were gone within an hour, the turkeys leaving only tracks.

One note – this is the driest this section of this creek has gotten.  Some neighbors have lived here for generations and decades and report it never going dry.  Nestle Waters America (Switzerland) has a permit to export 37.5 million gallons of water each year from the top of this drainage.

The picture is of poor quality, but it’s good enough to illustrate the dried creek, and feeding birds:

How much does Nestle’s pumping operation have to do with the dewatering of St. Helena Creek?

It’s difficult to say with any certainty.

In yet another example of Nestle’s “drill first, don’t ask questions until much, much later” environmental model, there is no historic flow data – yet.

After all, Nestle can’t confidently be accused of dewatering a watershed if there’s no solid data to represent the “before” picture (the exact same method they tried with McCloud’s Squaw Creek and used in Mecosta County, Michigan).

Also, Nestle’s water mining operation takes place a good distance upstream – in springs which feed the creek. Complicating matters is the lack of a fisheries biologist assigned to the region by California Fish & Game; Region 3 hasn’t had a biologist in years.

There’s more to come on this story – including an attempt to track down a story that Nestle agreed to refrain from pumping for a week (around Labor Day), but then reneged.

This one will be hard to pin down, but with the help of a few locals, we’ll keep trying.

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