Category Archives: shapleigh

Maine Towns Say “NO” to Nestle, Force Removal of Secretly Dug Test Wells

Nestle/Poland Spring aren’t having it all their way in Maine – they were run out of Shapleigh and Newfield by a citizen uprising, and just removed the test wells they drilled without the knowledgege of the local citizenry:

After an extended grassroots campaign, Nestlé is finally removing 23 bottled water test wells from a wildlife management area in Shapleigh and Newfield, ME.

Shelly Gobielle and her neighbors first discovered the wells a year and a half ago, three years after Nestlé’s under-the-radar installation. Upon realizing that Shapleigh was likely one of the next site for Nestlé’s water extraction for its Poland Spring brand bottled water, residents approached town officials with their concerns about what bottling would do to the local ecosystem. Their words fell on deaf ears, as Nestlé had already lobbied for and secured the support of the Shapleigh town officials.

The only option was for residents to take matters into their own hands, forming the group Protect Our Water and Wildlife Resources (POWWR). Members hit the streets and went door to door educating the public and signing enough petitions to call a town meeting, held four months ago.

Residents in both Shapleigh and the neighboring town of Newfield passed ordinances that asserted the right of townspeople to control their own water and to prohibit commercial water extraction, a reality that can at last be assured.

Secret negotiations are a standard part of the Nestle approach – time and time again, they’ve quietly negotiated deals with officials they approached quietly well in advance. McCloud, the Sterling/Clinton mess, Shapleigh & Newfield… the list goes on.

Bye Nestle. I don’t think the town’s going to miss you or your legal bludgeon.

via Maine Community Rebuffs Nestlé Over Water Rights | The Water Conservation Source.

Local Citizens Groups Forming to Prevent Nestle Extraction Projects, Foster Local (Sustainable) Economic Growth

Nestle Waters of North America has long been in the practice of imposing their water extraction business template on small rural communities, typically without much protest. And in truth, water and resource laws rarely offered residents the ability to say “no” to corporations like Nestle.

That reality is changing fast, and in fact, Nestle’s projects across
the United States are coming under fire from residents are agitating
for more local control (and local benefits) from the extraction of
their resources.

Maine Ordinances

As noted in a recent NPR story, Maine’s small town residents are collecting signatures, forcing special town meetings and saying “yes” to ordinances which retain local control of water:

The Alliance For Democracy – Wells, Maine, residents vote this weekend on local versus corporate power

In a recent story on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Defending Water for Life organizer Emily Posner defended the ordinance and the thinking behind it: “This type of approach is reflective of a paradigm change that’s happening in our society and our culture around how we want to interface with the economy and the environment and the future,” she said. “We’re seeing people moving away from big box stores and trying to revitalize their local economy, and this is a similar type of approach that’s happening through the political sphere, where we’re trying to re-localize our political infastructure so that we as communities have the right to decide what will actually happen within our town borders.”

Nestle tries to pretend it’s a “local” company by offering up a refrain of “we’re Poland Spring – a local company,” others have noted that Poland Spring isn’t even a corporation in the state of Maine.

Chaffee County’s Sustainability Group

In Chaffee County (CO), Nestle’s water extraction project – which initially promised nothing more to the community than free bottled water to the school – is now facing determined opposition, and to avoid an embarrassing (and precedent-setting) defeat in their first attempt at an extraction project in Colorado, Nestle’s whipping out the checkbook.

Still smarting from a embarrassing series of “errors” in their 1041 application which grossly overstated the economic benefits to the area, Nestle’s also being confronted by a Chaffee County Sustainability Group, who realize that Nestle’s tapping an important resource, delivers few benefits, and could likely harm the formation of local, sustainable businesses.

Suddenly, the “we’ll do what we please” multinational is making noises about a community endowment and announcing local construction contracts right before meetings, and even if Chaffee County’s residents lose the fight against Nestle’s water extraction project, it’s interesting to note how far Nestle’s willing to go (or needs to) just to stay in the ballgame.

McCloud’s Local First Group

Meanwhile, the long-suffering former timber town of McCloud (CA) is still being intentionally factionalized by Nestle’s attempts to build a water bottling plant there, and in fact, Nestle’s operative Dave Palais marginalized opposition at a nearby Rotary Club meeting by saying “There is a small group that is opposed to the project and many are from out of town.”

The “wealthy San Francisco fly fishermen” refrain has been trotted out numerous times by Nestle’s operative, and it’s a pattern that repeats itself often enough elsewhere (including Maine) that it must be simply considered a divisive part of the Nestle playbook.

Belying that claim is the recent formation of a McCloud Local First group whose goal is:

The McCloud Local First Network is dedicated to strengthening McCloud and the local economy by promoting, preserving, and protecting local, independently owned businesses.

We’d humbly suggest that’s not the manifesto you’d expect from a bunch of “wealthy” out-of-towners.

Sustainable Use of Local Resources

While Nestle’s water bottling operations are under assault on both the economic and environmental fronts, it’s likely their biggest fear is playing out right before their eyes: We’re seeing the formation of local citizens groups dedicated to the development of sustainable businesses.

Multinationals which tap local resources (essentially for free) and send all the profits overseas aren’t exactly a part of that picture, and we can expect Nestle to deny that reality with a wave of PR-driven “community” projects.

Those, sadly, will not alter the fundamentally unsustainable nature of Nestle’s water bottling business (extract, truck, bottle, truck, truck, sell, throw away) – nor the multinationals impacts on local communities.

, , , , ,

Interview With Four Communities Targeted by Nestle Waters’ Water Bottling Operation

The good folks at Corporate Accountability International published a transcript of an interview with the leaders of four different community groups – all of whom are dealing with the unwelcome attentions of Nestle Waters of North America’s bottled water operations.

As you read these, notice the similarities between their stories – despite the fact the communities are separated by the width of a continent. Nestle’s template includes sneaking in under the run, dividing communities, and dangling too few jobs for too little money.

First, Deborah Lapidus of Wisconsin recounts her group’s hard-fought victory over Nestle’s intention to build a water bottling plant:

Transcript: National Press Call – Nestle Week of Action | Corporate Accountability International

So, how did this happen? Nestlé, which was then called Perrier Group of America muscled itself into our community. It foresaw $1 million a day sales of a product that cost the company essentially nothing and that was bottled so-called spring water. Nestlé promised to bring jobs to the area and they kept repeating the philosophy that development equals progress. It looked like our local zoning might be up for sale. However, many citizens when they found out what was happening, they valued our natural setting and they saw through all the corporate lies and they were insulted by tactics such as offers of money to local officials and an offer of money to the PTO of the little tiny school in the area. Nestlé also bought the prize calf at the county fair and got their picture in the paper. This was really insulting to people.

However, the issue divided neighbors and even families because some of them apparently stood to gain financially but others of us would lose our beautiful environment. Now Nestlé, to make it brief, they abandoned their efforts only after we had massive grassroots action here. We realized that Nestlé was really after something that was very precious to us.

So, what we did included creating and distributing two videos. We garnered the support of many environmental organizations particularly from Madison and the rest of Wisconsin and we had four years of grants from foundations that Concerned Citizens of Newport got.

Finally, as part of our public education project, we got legal assistance, a lot of it was pro bono and this delayed Nestlé’s quest for profit sufficiently that Nestlé turned away from Wisconsin. We regret that our so-called success was to Michigan’s detriment because what they did was they went to Michigan.

Then Terry Swier of Michigan recounts her group’s fight against Nestle’s pumping operation in Mecosta County, which damaged an entire watershed, leading to several lawsuits – including Nestle’s infamous lawsuit designed to severely curtail the rights of Michigan citizens to file environmental lawsuits:

Over eight years ago, MCWC organized, stood up to and challenged a large corporation, Nestlé that wanted to bottle our spring water and ship it to other states and countries for its own profit. Our lives have changed since Nestlé came to Michigan with plans to pump 720,000 gallons per day of spring water from a private hunting preserve, pipe it to its plant, bottle it and ship it out of the Great Lakes Basin for its own profit. Nestlé’s pumping has lowered a stream, two lakes and adjacent wetlands.

MCWC, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, has spent over a million dollars in court cost and lawyer and environmental expert fees. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has taken Nestlé to court to prove that water belongs to the people and ask for adjustment of Nestlé’s pumping levels to prevent environmental impacts. Nestlé has continued to run communities dry in more ways than one. MCWC is again heading back to circuit court in July 2008 to ask the judge to adjust Nestlé’s pumping limits.

Friendships had been severed as people took sides in the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation versus Nestlé battle. Nestlé did interrogative telephone polling, asking questions about MCWC and its president. Nestlé sent private investigators to homes of people who had signed MCWC’s referendum asking intimidating questions. Nestlé has threatened a potential strategic lawsuit against public participation known as a slap suit against my son.

Throughout all of these, Nestlé proposed to be a good neighbor company to our area yet it continues to pump at high rates during periods of lower precipitation and recharge.

Next we heard from Debra Anderson of McCloud, who recounted her experience once Nestle came to town:

A special town meeting had been called to discuss the Nestlé project and many people came out so that they could actually understand what the project was, voiced their concerns and their comments and get questions asked and people were just like I said shocked when at the end of that meeting, the gavel was struck and the contract was signed for 100 years. Many felt that the public profits had been circumvented and that the deal was actually struck behind closed doors with Nestlé prior to the meeting.

This contract was egregious for numerous reasons. Not only did it give Nestlé the right to 1,600 acre-feet of spring water but it also gave them an unlimited amount of ground water. It was an unheard of 100-year contract for less than a tenth of a cent a gallon. This project would add over 600 truck trips a day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to our beautiful two-lane scenic volcanic highway. That meant that a truck would be leaving McCloud every three minutes around the clock.

They would destroy our historical mill site by tearing down all of the remaining historical buildings and McCloud is known to being a historical mill town. Not only would they be changing the integrity of our town but also our way of life but most of all, this contract was taking the control of our water away from the local people. Nestlé had truly treated our community as though we were a third world country and this all came on the guise of boosting our economy by creating jobs which, in reality, were too few jobs for too little pay.

Finally, Ann Winn-Wentworth of Maine – vice chair of POWWR (Protecting Our Water and Wildlife) shared her experience helping to pass a rights-based water extraction ordinance in two small Maine towns:

In February of 2008, Nestlé began public hearings in Shapleigh to pave the way for large scale water extraction from our local aquifer which is on a 4000-acre Vernon Walker Land Preserve and it was discovered that those monitoring wells had been there for over three years and none of us were made aware of it. This is on land that must remain in its natural state. It was purchased with federal funds to always remain in its natural state. Many of us care deeply for this preserve and we’re [up in arms] to learn that the State of Maine who manages this land would allow a foreign corporation to go in, cut trees and install wells without any notification. Both towns, Shapleigh and Newfield, share this preserve and we were gravely concerned.

POWWR recently got their ordinance – though they had to call a special town meeting to do it – and now they’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. Will Nestle attempt to challenge the ordinance?

The similarities in the stories above are striking, and there’s little question that Nestle’s approach to small rural communities – despite the “good neighbor” happy talk – is a largely predatory one.

, , , , , ,

“How Your Town Can Keep Its Water Out of Corporate Hands”

Intelligent words from AfterDowningStreet.org: How Your Town Can Keep Its Water Out of Corporate Hands: A Test Case

This is certainly not the first time that a multi-national corporation treated Maine as if they were a colonial power entitled to our resources. In the past, international paper companies have turned our rivers brown from pollution and huge timber companies have exploited our forests. But the battle over our pure groundwater resources has become the tipping point in Maine. Community after community are now resisting corporate control.

The battle in Newfield and Shapleigh began when resident Ann Wentworth was hiking in the Wildlife Preserve and discovered that Nestle had (illegally) drilled several “test” wells without notifying the townspeople. The community was shocked, which galvanized support of the activists efforts to stop Nestle.

This was not an easy victory, as Nestle sent “representatives” out into the community to convince the residents of both Newfield and Shapleigh that they would be “a good neighbor.” Nestle also spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertising in the community and it is alleged that they offered money to the fire department for new equipment. However, to quote activist Sol Linowitz, “The way to beat organized money is with organized people.”

The P.O.W.W.R. water activists and allies know their neighbors, and once people understood that it was in fact the Nestle Corporation who was after their water and not the small Maine- owned Poland Springs company of years past, the townspeople did their homework and decided that this was not a company that they wanted to do business with. Nestle has been on the non-profit Corporate Accountability’s Hall of Shame for years, as one of the world’s worst corporations. This bad reputation goes back over 30 years during the baby formula scandal in Africa to the present baby formula scandal in China.

, , , , ,

Second Maine Town Enacts Water Extraction Ordinance,

A second Maine town has enacted a rights-based water extraction ordinance (Shapleigh was the first); now Newfield passed a ban on a vote of 228 to 146.

From WCSH6.com – Newfield Passes Ban On Large Scale Water Extraction

NEWFIELD (NEWS CENTER) — The town of Newfield is now the second in Maine to ban large-scale water extraction.

Saturday’s vote was 228 in favor of the new ordinance and 146 against. The vote is a reaction to interest from Poland Spring Water and its parent company, Nestle, in pumping water from an aquifer shared by Newfield and Shapleigh.

Shapleigh voted for the same ban on water extraction two weeks ago. However, there is some concern that that ordinance could be overturned in court. As a result, townspeople voted on a different ordinance at town meeting Saturday that would lay out what a water company would have to do to be able to extract water from the aquifer.

While Shapleigh’s Selectmen are making noises about the legality of the Shapleigh ordinance, the real questions revolve around Nestle/Poland Spring’s willingness to step into yet another damaging legal fight (one wonders what their five suits against Fryeburg have cost their already-tarnished reputation).

, , , , , , ,

Letter From Shapleigh Residents (Proud to Live In Shapleigh)

This from the Defending Water in Maine “Water in the News” blog – a letter from a Shapleigh resident about the just-passed rights-based ordinance. Kinda makes you smile.

Proud to live in Shapleigh (letter)

We are so proud to be counted among Shapleigh’s Citizens, and especially among those voters that were at the Citizen’s Town Meeting this past Saturday, February 28, 2009.

HOORAY & KUDOS to all of us who voted to keep our water in our own hands. Hooray & kudos also to all who voted their conscience. It just proves that we now live in a town which gives every citizen the right to vote on issues that will impact our way of life. We’re not divided at all. We simply utilize our right to vote!

We’ve had a lot of precipitation lately, but that won’t always be the case. We heard recently that just before the Fire of 1947, there was an abundance of rain. Then quite suddenly a very dry period. People were actually driven to the ocean, we are told, to stand there in the water until the fire was extinguished. California is now experiencing a tremendous drought. One never knows when water will be badly needed here in York County where we are so blessed with water.

Edward Murphy of the Portland Press Herald wrote an article for the March 1, 2009, Sunday Telegram about our vote to ban large scale water extraction. It was a comment from Bill Hayes’, in this article, that took us by surprise. At all of the Public Hearings, questions were asked of him and the Planning Board about what Poland Springs was bringing to the table regarding monies they would spend for our water. Always the response was no particular water extractor had expressed an interest or applied for a permit, and that even if one had, discussion of money would not take place until well into the exploratory process.

Now that all is said and done, and large scale water extractors are banned from mining our water, Mr. Hayes says that talks with the water bottler never got to the point where a dollar figure was discussed, but the amount “would have been significant.” Now wait a minute – talks with a water bottler? Weren’t we told none had applied for a permit? Wait another minute – didn’t get to the point of discussing dollars? How then would Mr. Hayes know it “would have been significant.”? Not that it would have mattered to Shapleigh’s citizens – at least most of them. We still want to keep our water within our control.

We the voters of Shapleigh made ourselves clear. We do not want our water extracted and sold. We’re a caring community. As far as we know, we would gladly give water to anyone who is thirsty.

Sat., March 14, 10:00 AM, Shapleigh Memorial School, is the annual Shapleigh Town Meeting. Part of that Warrant will be to enact the Town of Shapleigh Ordinance Governing the Large-Scale Pumping or Extraction of Groundwater, Spring Water and/or Water from Aquifers within the Municipality of Shapleigh, Maine – An addition to Town of Shapleigh Ordinances Section 105 -. We need to, once again go to the school and vote “NO” on this Regulatory Ordinance. We already stated with our vote on Shapleigh Water Rights & Local Self-Government Ordinance that we don’t want our water mined and sold out of our town.

And also on Sat., March 14, 1:00 PM, Newfield has the opportunity to be part of this historical moment and enact Newfield’s Water Rights & Local Self-Government Ordinance. We share an aquifer, and we’d like to share the historical glory. Abraham Lincoln stated it grandly: “Right Makes Might!” GO FOR IT!

Marty & Barbara Britten
No. Shapleigh, Maine

More on the Shapleight “Rights-Based” Water Extraction Ordinance

This from the Portland Press Herald outlines the basic clash between citizens and their own Board of Selectmen, who apparently haven’t been listening to their citizens. You can read the entire article at Shapleigh closes tap for water companies:

During a special town meeting Saturday morning, residents voted 114 to 66 to adopt the ban drafted by Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, which had opposed Poland Spring’s efforts to test, draw, bottle and market the town’s water.

The ban had been opposed by the town’s Board of Selectmen, which had favored instead a set of regulations on drawing water in the town that will be on the warrant for the regular town meeting on March 14.

“The problem in Shapleigh is that all three selectpeople want Nestle (Poland Spring’s parent company) in here,” said Shelly Gobeille, one of the leaders of POWWR. “This vote says they can’t come in.”

Will we see yet another attempt by Nestle/Poland Spring to bypass local control? Given the questions being asked by other small towns about Nestle/Poland Spring’s legal activities in Maine’s small towns, do they dare? Do they care?

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Shapleigh Residents Just Say “NO” to Nestle/Poland Spring: Pass Water Extraction Ordinance

I’m sure this is just the beginning of the story – Nestle’s willingness to use a legal bludgeon to ensure profits is well known – but the residents of Shapleigh have overwhelmingly voted to ban water extraction in the tiny Maine town (from the Journal Tribune):

SHAPLEIGH — Residents Saturday approved a rights-based ordinance that prohibits water extraction by corporations.

The vote was 114 to 66 and came 25 minutes into the Town Meeting – and only seven minutes after the call for the vote.

The vote makes Shapleigh the only Maine community to have approved a rights-based ordinance. Residents of Barnstead, N.H., passed a similar ordinance in 2007.

The question now: Will it be challenged?

Immediately following the vote, Selectman Bill Hayes seemed to suggest that selectmen might issue a challenge, but when confronted by a voter, said the board would seek legal advice.

“We’ll seek advice from counsel,” said Hayes. “If the ordinance isn’t enforcable, it puts us in a pretty precarious position as how to proceed.”

Both the town’s lawyer and a Maine Municipal Association attorney have said the rights-based ordinance is unconstitutional and against Maine law.

Selectman Mike Perro read a statement from town attorney Ron Bourque just before the vote, which said the ordinance was illegal, unconstitutional and unenforcable.

Martin Bretton, of the citizens group Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, read an opinion from the group’s attorney, Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor, who is also a candidate for governor as a Green Independent. Williams noted that the ordinance hasn’t been tested in court so, in her opinion, to say it is illegal or unconstitutional isn’t in an attorney’s purview.

Passage of the ordinance is a victory for the citizens group. When it approached selectmen with a petition last year to have the rights-based ordinance on the annual Town Meeting ballot, the group’s request was rejected, based on the lawyers’ opinions.

Town selectman fought the adoption of the ordinance every step of the way, though residents were clearly unhappy with a proposed “extraction-friendly” ordinance written by a consultant (referred to board by Nestle/Poland Spring).

There’s little doubt that Nestle Waters/Poland Spring – in an effort to forestall the adoption of similar ordinances elsewhere – would be willing to use its heavy legal hammer to turn back the ordinance — and create a little fear and doubt in the minds of others considering a similar action.

Good luck to the residents of Shapleigh, who voted to retain local control of one of their most critical resources.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Nestle Continues Attempts to “Force Their Hand” Against Shapleigh Citizens

It’s instructive to watch Nestle Waters enforce the same blueprint rural community after rural community.

While I’ve got a report coming about last week’s McCloud meeting, this article on Nestle’s attempt to (as they so quaintly put it) “force their hand” in the tiny rural town of Shapleigh reads as if it was taken from the Nestle playbook:

Shapleigh and Newfield are small rural communities, nestled in the foothills of the Presidential mountain range. Combined, the towns’ population is less then 4,000 residents.

These two small Maine towns share an abundant sand and gravel aquifer that is protected by the 4,000 acre Vernon Walker Game Management Area. Vernon Walker is publicly owned state land that is managed by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In 2006, without any public oversight, Nestlé sunk up to 16 bore wells in this public land to determine the viability of industrial water extraction.

When the state offered a price/gallon too high for the Fortune 500 company, they started bargaining with Shapleigh town officials in an effort to instead begin operating on town land adjacent to Vernon Walker.

On September 20, 2008, Shapleigh citizens sent a clear message to Nestlé when the town voted overwhelmingly for a 180-day moratorium to protect their groundwater. They also voted NO to drilling and testing by Nestlé on the town-owned parcel of land.

In the Boston Globe, Nestlé’s lead geologist was quoted as saying, “we might need to force our hand” in regards to the resistance of Shapleigh and Newfield residents.

And since the vote in September, the company has not stopped in its efforts to get the precious water from this area, and the Town’s elected officials are attempting to push forward an ordinance that will open the door to large scale industrial water extraction.

Read the entire article at Nestlé is moving fast–southern Mainers need your help

Register Your Thoughts: Letter: People POWWER (Feb. 12, 2009)

This thoughtful letter to the editor draws a bead on the water ordinance proposed by Shapleigh’s Board of Selectmen – an ordinance written by a Nestle-referred consultant.

It falls far short of the ordinance desired by the citizens of Shapleigh when they voted for a water extraction moratorium:

The “Ordinance Governing Water Extraction,” proposed for the Shapleigh voters to act upon (available at www.shapleigh.net ) boils down to an application permit. Once any company has met, or promises to meet the requirements of this ordinance, the town would not have the legal right to refuse the applicant permission to extract water.

The town relies upon the applicant to supply information, without independent verification. Any state-certified hydrologist working for a company need only tell the “truth,” not necessarily the “whole truth.” Pertinent facts can be omitted or skewed by the inclusion of extraneous information.

Also of note, is that under the application “conditions of permit” the applicant is given an unspecified amount of time to show adherence to the stated requirements. In truth, some of the requirements would require long term pumping at high capacity just to satisfy the information being asked.

Once again, the public’s desire to participate in the future disposition of their own water supply is on the verge of falling victim to bad public process.

You can read the rest of this powerful letter to the editor via Register Your Thoughts: Letter: People POWWER (Feb. 12, 2009).

Poland Spring/Nestle Facing Challenges in Maine (Wonders Why??)

With Nestle/Poland Springs facing growing opposition in Maine, you knew the self-righteous whining was sure to follow. And sure enough, it has.

From the Portland Press Herald: Challenges piling up for Poland Spring

After 146 years of doing business in Maine, Poland Spring is fighting battles on three fronts these days — over test wells in Shapleigh, a proposed tax that would cost the company $7 million a year, and a state Supreme Court case over a pumping station in Fryeburg.

Actually, there are a couple more fights in progress, and that’s ignoring the looming fight over truck/traffic issues that will eventually (mark my words) come to the fore.

Still, that doesn’t prevent Nestle’s operative on the ground from voicing a regrettably amusing lament:

“Where have we done harm or where have we caused issues that have caused people to take drastic steps like this?” asked Mark Dubois, natural resource director for Poland Spring, a subsidiary of Nestle Waters North America.

We’re going to speak slowly here so our friend Mark can follow.

Mark, your company is slow-roasting the town of Fryeburg with your five-suits-and-counting legal assault (and because you can afford expensive attorneys, your predatory multinational could easily strip the town of control over its own development).

In several instances you’ve apparently tried to cut water extraction deals before citizens could notice.

In fact, I compiled a list of reasons why small towns don’t trust Nestle (though you’ve created new reasons you frisky corporate types, and I haven’t updated the list yet), and perhaps you’d like to review that list here.

Still, it’s hard not return to the subject of Fryeburg, where your predatory company acts as if it’s entitled to build a truck loading station in a residential despite what the town’s planning commission and citizens seem to want.

In fact, Mark, I’m going to make a bold prediction here; if Nestle wins it suit and forces itself on the tiny town of Fryeburg, your troubles in Maine – and I say this with a great deal of sincerity – are only beginning.

Maine Water Group POWWR Wants Rights Based Ordinance Put to Vote

Maine water rights group POWWR – unhappy with a Nestle-friendly ordinance (written for the Shapleigh Board of Selectmen by a Nestle-referred consultant) – presented a petition calling for the town to vote on POWWR’s own rights-based ordinance:

To meet or not to meet is the question confronting Shapleigh selectmen after being presented with a petition to vote on banning water extraction.

Shapleigh Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Hayes said Monday the board is waiting for an opinion from town attorney Ronald Bourque about how to proceed.

The issue was forced when members of Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, or POWWR, presented a petition to Shapleigh Town Clerk Joanne Rankin calling for a town meeting to allow residents to vote on the “rights-based” ordinance drafted by the organization.

Rankin said Jan. 30 that all signatures on the petition have been certified.

The petition for the town meeting came after members of POWWR rejected an invitation to participate in a Jan. 28 workshop to resolve differences between the proposed ordinances to regulate or ban water extraction.

In the wake of Nestle’s attempt to extract water from a nearby aquifer – and what many felt was an attempt to rush the town into a deal by selectmen – Shapleigh residents have already passed a 180-day moratorium on commercial water extraction, and many want a rights-based ordinance put into law.

Selectmen refused to even place POWWR’s ordinance on the ballot, suggesting it violates the state’s constitution, while POWWR members say the consultant-written ordinance is sipmly too weak:

“I don’t trust these big corporations,” Manville said about Nestle, owners of Poland Spring. He also worried about damage to roads because of increased truck traffic.

Hayes said he has not made up his mind on whether Poland Spring should be allowed to withdraw water for bottling. He said he is concerned international trade agreements might override local ordinances governing extraction because Poland Spring is a subsidiary of the Swiss-owned Nestle.

In a Jan. 27 letter to Shapleigh selectmen, POWWR members called the regulating water extraction ordinance “weak,” especially as it made no provisions for the rate of extraction, hours of operation and traffic flow.

You can read the whole article here: Register Your Thoughts: Group tries to force water vote (Feb. 5, 2009).