Tag Archives: McCloud

Big Days for McCloud, Fryeburg as Nestle Saga Continues for Both

It’s a couple of very big days for Nestle Waters of North America (and those who oppose them).

Tonight (the 12th), the McCloud Services District’s agenda includes an item from Nestle proposing the district once again enter into contract negotiations with Nestle (at the end of this post, we included the statement presented by the Save Our Waters Coalition).

Despite the fact that Nestle has completed no flow studies and almost no environmental monitoring, they’re trying to rush back into negotiations for water – when nobody knows how much water is really available.

The problem, of course, is that Nestle believes the water that enters Squaw Creek and the world-renowned McCloud River is “wasted” – the kind of thinking guaranteed to make a real fisheries biologist soil his shorts.

After Nestle’s disastrous public meeting in McCloud (to read about that nightmare on wheels, click here), Nestle announced they weren’t going to bother with any further meetings, a move which suggests Nestle’s newfound “committment” to community involvement in the negotiation process is – like its committment to stewardship of the watershed – largely illusory.

Big Day for Freyburg

Tomorrow (the 13th), Nestle’s suit against Fryeburg – where Nestle’s trying to force its 24/7 truck loading station into a residentially zoned part of Fryeburg – will be heard again in Maine’s State Supreme Court.

Those who are counting along at home just ran out of fingers; this is the fourth appeal of the original lawsuit (that adds up to five), and we can only guess that Nestle’s aim wasn’t so much to win the legal case as it was to bankrupt their opponents, winning not by being right, but by default.

You’ve got to believe a loss for Nestle here would be the end of the line for their loading station, but they’ve made some mind-boggling moves in the past (in a prior suit, they argued their right to grow market share superseded Fryeburg’s right to say no).

In truth, Nestle’s incredibly heavy-handed legal maneuvering in Fryeburg has become something of an embarrassment for the company – a recent ad in a nearby newspaper largely pretended the whole affair simply wasn’t taking place – yet another triumph of Nestle’s PR over reality.

Hopefully, we’ll hear from folks at both events, and as soon as we know anything, we’ll pass it along.

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Oops, forgot to post this after I said I would:

Statement the Protect Our Waters Coalition to be read at the January 12th 2009 McCloud Community Services District Board Meeting

Honorable Board Members,

Tonight I urge you to think about what is in the best interest of McCloud. We all want prosperity and a thriving community without sacrificing our area’s magnificent natural resources. Fortunately we now have a clean slate and can determine what is truly best for McCloud.

Good things are happening in McCloud right now. In the past few months while we’ve had the chance to breath we’ve started talking to each other and working together. We are coming up with good ideas and real economic opportunities. From the Chamber hosting Willits, to the Michael Shuman community meeting, to the Business Idea Contest to JEDI’s survey–good things are happening.

But then we come back to the Nestle issue and with it the feeling of our community being divided.  While the Kearns and West meeting was uncomfortable, the statements from the meeting, and their meeting summary show that our community does not have enough information to begin negotiations on a new contract with Nestle now.  How could we make a commitment to contract details right now?  We don’t know any more now about the impacts of a plant on our community than we did 5 years ago.

McCloud has a second chance to explore whether the idea of a Nestle plant in our community is a good one, and a second chance to do it the right way – with real public process, good science, and sound economic analysis of its likely impact on our community. We have other economic opportunities for this town’s future as well.  Saying No to Nestle now would enable us to build upon those opportunities as a united community.

Going into a negotiating process with Nestle now is premature.  Nestle should complete background studies on our water, air quality, historic preservation, and traffic among other issues, and let those studies inform the project description they present to the community.  We shouldn’t waste MCSD time now on discussing a contract negotiation process with Nestle when we lack so much information.

If it were me, I would just say ‘no thanks’ to Nestle now, like other communities have across the country, because mistrust of Nestle is the big ‘elephant’ in the room. Considering Nestle fired Kearns and West and is planning to host their own meeting about their revised project description it seems they are going back to business as usual.  It is hard for me to see the trust issues going away.

But at least, I would give our community time to discuss what we want, and tell Nestle “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Better Than Nestle: Building Local Economies (w/o the Trucks, Waste and [thankfully] Nestle Waters)

This press release caught our eye – it outlines one way a group of McCloud citizens are trying to revive their local economy, and without suffering the negative economic and lifestyle effects of the proposed Nestle water bottling plant:

McCloud, CA – The McCloud Local First Steering Committee announced today that they have launched the first-ever McCloud Basin Business idea Contest. The purpose of this contest is for area residents, elected officials, business leaders and others in the community to share and develop business ideas that could create jobs in McCloud.

The three best business idea authors will each win $100 cash and $100 in gift certificates to local businesses. Winners will also receive a free consulting session with the Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI). Submissions will be judged by a panel of McCloud residents, business owners and JEDI.

“Starting local businesses that also create jobs for McCloud residents is critical to McCloud’s economy,” said April Gray, steering committee chair. “McCloud has the innovation, creativity and commitment to launch successful, long-term businesses in our area, but we need to work collaboratively in order get the best results. This contest is designed to help facilitate this community collaboration,” she said.

To enter, simply type or write no more than 2 pages about your business idea and e-mail it to jobsinmccloud@yahoo.com or drop it off at the McCloud Market, McCloud General Store, or McCloud Mercantile by January 21st at 5 pm. All business ideas must represent viable, sustainable businesses that create jobs for McCloud residents. Anyone can submit an idea-as long as the business would be located in the McCloud Basin. Business ideas that are locally owned and operated, fill a niche in the local market, and have potential for export markets will receive extra consideration.

Submissions should include the following information:

  • Who will be working on this project (is it just you, or do you have a team?)
  • Description of your product or service
  • Name your market (who will purchase your product or service? Extra consideration for developing a local market.)
  • How will your business make money? How much will people be paying for your product or services?
  • Besides creating jobs, what environmental or social contributions does your business make?
  • How many jobs could your business provide?

“By inviting all area residents to submit their ideas and then sharing those ideas with a robust panel of judges, we hope to broaden our community’s ability to create local jobs,” said Brian Stewart, steering committee member and new McCloud Community Services District Board member.

All submissions will be delivered to the judging panel on Thursday January 22, 2009. The judges will return their scores Monday January 26th. The three contest winners will be announced at the McCloud Local First Steering Committee community meeting on Wednesday January 28th2009 (6:30 pm at Scout Hall). Contest winners will present their business idea and receive their prize.

About the McCloud Local First Steering Committee
The McCloud Local First Steering Committee formed this year to facilitate the development of a local first initiative and business alliance based on the BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) network model, and to pursue ideas generated at the Michael Shuman community meeting. The current steering committee includes McCloud residents and business owners, supporting agencies such as the McCloud Chamber of Commerce and stakeholders including McCloud Watershed Council, JEDI and California Trout. The committee operates by consensus and is chaired by April Gray and vice-chaired by Robin Singler.

It’s often the case that small rural towns are stampeded into bad economic development practices by Nestle, whose plants (and water extraction operations) often don’t make sense.

They often buy the land and get the water for free (taking advantage of the lamentable state of groundwater resource laws), impact watersheds, run trucks through rural areas 24/7, and don’t deliver the jobs they promised.

And EcoNorthwest economic study – one that analysed the negative ecnomic impacts of a Nestle Waters of North America plant in the town of McCloud – revealed some fairly shocking numbers, one of which was that once the lifestyle impacts on the economy were considered, McCloud could actually suffer a negative economic impact.

One solution?

Local economic development where business profits stay local (instead of heading directly from McCloud’s springs to Nestle’s headquarters in Switzerland). Economist and author Michael Schuman outlines his strategy in his best-selling “The Small-Mart Revolution” book.

As we’ve noted in the past, Nestle often casts opponents of their water bottling operations as being “anti-business” when the truth is something else; they’re simply pro-local economies.

After all, we saw how a downturn in the bottled water industry translated to the local workforce in Calistoga, CA; 78 workers lost their jobs.

Local businesses contribute more in terms of living wages to local ecnomies, and yes, they’re less likely to hammer a big chunk of the town’s workforce to drive a fractional improvement on some Swiss accountant’s spreadsheet.

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 a Good Corporate Neighbor? Not to Highly Respected McCloud Businessman

In an attempt to mitigate the traffic impacts of Nestle’s proposed water bottling plant in McCloud, a highly respected McCloud businessman crafted a railroad transportation plan, and thought he’d created a solution that worked for everyone.

When he took his idea to Nestle, he met a wall of indifference to point where several meetings were canceled at literally the last minute.

While it remains to be seen if Forbis’ solution would have worked, the episode this angered locals who wanted to see the area’s railroad heritage respected – and didn’t want to see 300 trucks per day rolling in and out of town.

This excerpt from the Mount Shasta Herald describes Forbis’ discussion of the issue at a McCloud Services District meeting:

Forbis [ed: the local businessman and owner of the McCloud Railroad] then went on to describe his negotiations with Nestle over the years about the train servicing the proposed bottling plant as being “coolly received” by the water bottling company. Though admitting that an outside assessment of his company’s ability to ship Nestle’s bottled water from McCloud came up with economic figures which “weren’t what I had hoped for,” he described to the board a history of failed negotiations with Nestle which included Nestle cancelling meetings with him at the last minute.

Nestle’s Dave Palais responded by saying, “What Jeff said is correct. We did have missteps in getting Jeff to talk with our logistics people. We did have a couple meetings scheduled that got cancelled. It frustrated Jeff and it frustrated me. But you can’t just come to a company without a detailed concept. I told Jeff that early on… [Nestle] has had bad experiences with rail… problems with rail delivery schedules.”

Board member Al Schoenstein told Palais, “It appears that a serious effort wasn’t made to talk to Jeff… You probably could have worked with him more seriously, it would have been a ‘good neighbor’ policy to work with Jeff… He did go to meetings where nobody was there to meet him.”

One audience member told Forbis, “You’ve gone out of your way with Nestle, they’ve been dangling a carrot before us to get a contract. It’s a game.”

Now that Nestle’s original plans for a million-square-foot water bottling plant have been scrapped, the world’s largest food and beverage company wants to enter into new negotiations with McCloud, yet several missteps have led to a growing chorus of locals calling for local economic development – businesses more accountable to the community.

Many want to revisit the municipally owned water bottling plant idea that was rejected by the same McCloud Services District Council who negotiated the original (and wholly lopsided) Nestle contract.

Others point to the recent community meetings featuring the Willits Chamber of Commerce and rural economist Michael Shuman as possible paths.

It’s clear that Nestle’s latest PR efforts revolve heavily around a “good corporate neighbor” message. In fact, their just-released Corporate Citizenship Report features the title “The Shape of Citizenship” and a subhead of “Creating Shared Value.”

Sadly, where it counts, Nestle’s “good neighbor” policy falls far short of the hype – especially when it comes to respecting the local values and culture of a rural community.

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Nestle Public Meeting in McCloud Bigger Disaster Than Thought: Public Suffering “Nestle Fatigue?”

The newspaper headline simply said the “First Nestle Meeting Was Rocky,” but what the reporter describes sounds sounds like a near-death experience for Nestle’s Kearns & West facilitator – the firm hired to facilitate Nestle’s series of public meetings in McCloud:

The meeting, put on by Nestle and facilitated by Kearns & West, a California public relations company hired by Nestle to mediate and negotiate dialogue within the McCloud community about the contentious proposed bottling plant, saw a turnout of close to 150 people, many of whom were hoping the forum would live up to its billing as a chance for both sides of the issue to meet and work toward “mutual goals.”

But a weak effort at publicizing the meeting by Kearns & West in the days and weeks leading up to the event set the stage for those already distrustful of Nestle to come to the high school on the defensive.
Though Kearns & West, which bills itself as “a neutral third party,” had ample time to disseminate information about the meeting to the McCloud community, the company clearly failed on this front. A newspaper announcement the day of the event, coupled with Kearns & West’s last minute distribution of a letter inviting community members to the meeting, saw a number of the principle opposition voices miss the meeting altogether [ed: my emphasis].

Added to this was a lack of sufficient programs for the large turnout, poor acoustics in the gymnasium, and an equally poor presentation by Kearns & West’s facilitator Bill Pistor. Charged with moderating a meeting whose goals never became clear, Pistor spent nearly 20 minutes apologizing for the late publicity of the event, followed by another half an hour rehashing the familiar history of the Nestle issue.

Pistor spoke, often wholly inaudibly, while seated beside his projector until frustrated members of the audience called on him to stand and speak clearly into the microphone. His attempt to describe Kearns & West’s effort to gather information from a cross-section of the McCloud community was lost when audience members began to badger him about his ineffectual presentation style.

As Pistor again explained to the agitated audience that Kearns & West, though contracted by Nestle, was not a Nestle representative, Claudia Ellis of McCloud’s Brown Dog Gallery said from the back of the audience, “Your voice is so monotone. We can’t understand what you are saying. Nestle is one of the biggest conglomerates in the world. If this is the best that Nestle can do, this is awful.”

Frankly, it gets worse for Nestle, and in another post, we’re going to look at the two disturbing (if you’re Nestle) trends that emerged from the meeting.

First, the mistrust of the Swiss multinationals corporation in the town is running at an alltime high; according to the article, 80% of the attendees spoke out against Nestle, with only 20% speaking favorably of the big corporation.

Second, several speakers at the meeting cited what amounts to “Nestle fatigue,” saying the town doesn’t want to be confronted by this issue right away, and wanted the multinational to go away for a couple years.

Nestle, of course, is trapped between its “good neighbor” rhetoric and its desire to get its water bottling plant online as soon as possible, and what remains to be seen is how quickly the McCloud Services District  (MCSD) launches back into negotiations with Nestle when so much of the town clearly wants anything but.

There is a lot happeing right now in McCloud around the Nestle issue, so expect a lot of posts on the topic. In the meantime, the reporter’s article offers ample fodder for comments, and interested parties should feel free to leave comments both here and on the newspaper’s site.

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Nestle Waters Divisively Insists “Non-Locals” the Source of its Problems

It’s becoming a recurring Nestle talking point: “non-locals” are the villains behind Nestle’s recent failures to secure new supplies of water.

“National environmental groups” are a favorite boogeyman, and “Poland Spring is just a bunch of Mainers” is a refrain frequently heard from Nestle Maine Operative Mark Dubois.

In an interview in a local paper, Nestle’s California operative Dave Palais took time out to stigmatize opponents with “The real point, the important point, is not that the AG wrote the letter. It’s that a large portion of the opposition to the project comes from outside McCloud. Non-permanent residents.”

It’s ironic that the world’s largest food and beverage company would play the “outside agitator” card – especially when it’s largely untrue.

And just so everyone’s clear, here is a (long, long) list of Nestle’s brands (via Wikipedia) – how many seem “local” to you? (More on the “local” issue tomorrow.)

Cereals
* Cinnamon Grahams
* Cheerios
* Honey Nut Cheerios
* Oat Cheerios
* Cookie Crisp
* Fitnesse
* Force Flakes
* Golden Nuggets
* Golden Grahams
* Honey Stars
* Koko Krunch
* Milo Cereals
* Nestlé Corn Flakes
* Nesquik
* Shreddies
* Shredded Wheat
* Clusters

Coffee
* Bonka
* Dolca (Argentina)
* Ecco (Peru) (Chile)
* El Chaná (Uruguay)
* International Roast
* Kirma (Peru)
* Loumidis (Greece)
* Nescafé
* Nespresso
* Partner’s Blend
* Ricoffy
* Ricoré
* Taster’s Choice
* Zoégas

Water
* Aberfoyle
* Aqua D’Or
* Acqua Panna
* Al Manhal
* Aquapod
* Arrowhead
* Contrex
* Dar Natury (Poland)
* Deer Park
* Hépar
* Ice Mountain
* Korpi
* Levissima
* Na??czowianka (Poland)
* Nestlé Aquarel
* Nestlé Vera
* Ozarka
* Perrier
* Poland Spring
* Powwow
* Minere
* Pure Life/Pureza Vital
* Quézac
* San Pellegrino
* San Bernardo
* Viladrau
* Vittel
* Zephyrhills

Other drinks
* Nestea
* Milo
* Carnation
* Caro
* Chocolate D’Onofrio (Peru)
* Cocoa D’Onofrio (Peru)
* Nesquik
* Nescao (Argentina)
* Nescau (Brazil)
* Vascolet (Uruguay)
* Libby’s
* Buxton

Shelf stable
* Christie
* Bear Brand
* Carnation
* Coffee-Mate
* Gloria
* Ideal (Peru)
* Klim
* La Lechera
* Milkmaid
* Moça (Brazil)
* Molico (now Svelty)
* Nespray
* Nestlé
* Nestlé Omega Plus
* Nido
* Ninho
* Svelty
* Emswiss

Chilled
* Chamyto (Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Philippines)
* Chiquitín (Mexico, Chile)
* Club (Mexico)
* La Laitière (France,Belgium)
* La Lechera (Spain,Mexico)
* Moça (Brazil)
* Chandelle (Brazil, Chile)
* LC1 (Switzerland)
* Molico (Brazil now Svelty)
* Nestlé
* Ski
* Sveltesse (France)
* Svelty (Mexico)
* Yoco
* Munch Bunch (UK)
* Le Viennois (France, Belgium, Switzerland)
* Hirz (Switzerland)
* Nesvita (Philippines)
* Ninho (Brazil)

Ice cream
* Åhusglass (Sweden)
* Camy
* Diplom-Is (Norway)
* D’Onofrio (Peru)
* Dreyer’s
* Frigor (Argentina)
* Frisco
* Häagen-Dazs (North America)
* Hemglass (Sweden)
* Hjem-IS (Denmark & Norway)
* Kotijäätelö (Finland)
* Maxibon
* Motta
* Mövenpick
* Mivvi
* Nestlé
* Oreo (Canada)
* Peter’s (Australia)
* Push-Up
* Savory (Chile)
* Schöller
* Underground is (Denmark)
* Valiojäätelö (Finland)

Infant foods
* Alfare
* Beba
* Bona (Finland)
* Cérélac
* FM 85
* Gerber
* Good Start
* Guigoz
* Lactogen
* Nan
* NAN HA
* NanSoy
* Neslac
* Nestlé
* Nestogen
* Nestum (Portugal)[1]
* Nido
* Piltti (Finland)
* Pirkka/Napero (Finland)
* PreNan

Performance nutrition
* Musashi
* Neston
* Nesvita
* PowerBar
* Pria
* Supligen

Healthcare nutrition
* Modulen
* Nutren
* Nutren Junior
* Peptamen
* Peptamen UTI
* Jenny Craig
* Novartis
* Ovaltine

Seasonings
* Buitoni
* Maggi
* Thomy
* Winiary

Frozen foods
* Maggi
* Stouffer’s
* Lean Cuisine
* Buitoni
* Hot Pockets
* Lean Pockets
* Papa Guiseppi
* Findus (Sweden)

Refrigerated products
* Buitoni
* Herta
* Nestlé
* Toll House

Chocolate, confectionery and baked goods
* 100 Grand Bar
* Aero
* After Eight
* Allens
* Animal Bar
* Baby Ruth
* Bertie Beetle (Australia)
* Big Turk (Canada)
* Blue Riband
* Breakaway
* Butterfinger
* Butterfinger BB’s
* Butterfinger Crisp
* Bon Pari (Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary)
* Cailler
* Capri (Chile)
* Caramac
* Carlos V
* Charge (Brazil)
* Chips Ahoy! (Canada)]
* Chokito (Brazil)
* Coffee Crisp (Canada)
* Chunky
* D’Onofrio (Peru)
* Damak (Turkey)
* Drifter
* Frigor
* Galak/Milkybar
* Heaven
* JOJO (Czech Republic and Poland)
* Icebreakers
* Kit Kat (except the United States)
* Lion
* Matchmakers
* Milky Bar
* Minties (Australia)
* Mirage
* Joff
* Munchies
* Negrita (Chile)
* Nestlé Alpine White
* Nestlé with Almonds
* Nestlé Crunch
* Nestlé Crunch Crisp
* Nestlé Crunch with Caramel
* Nestlé Crunch with Peanuts (Limited Edition)
* Nestlé Crunch Pieces
* Nestlé Crunch White
* Nestlé Milk Chocolate
* Nestlé Wonder Ball
* Nestlé Yes (Germany)
* Nips
* Oh Henry (except Canada)
* Orion (chocolate) (Czech Republic)
* Peppermint Crisp
* Perugina Baci
* Polo
* Prestigio (Chile,Brazil)
* Quality Street
* Rolo (except the United States)
* Sahne Nuss (Chile)
* Sensação (Brazil)
* Smarties
* Sufflair (Brazil)
* Super 8 (Chile)
* Susy (Venezuela)
* Texan Bar
* Toffee Crisp
* Toll House cookies
* Trencito (Chile)
* Turtles
* Walnut Whip
* Violet Crumble
* Yorkie

Wonka confectionery brands
* Bottle Caps
* Donutz
* FruiTart Chews
* Fun Dip
* Gobstoppers
* Laffy Taffy
* Lik-M-Aid
* Nerds
* Nerds Gumballs
* Nerds Rope
* Oompas
* Pixy Stix
* Rainbow Nerds
* Runts
* SweeTarts
* SweeTarts Rope
* SweeTarts Shockers
* Tart ‘n’ Tinys
* Wonka Bars
* Thrills

Foodservice products
* Chef-Mate
* Davigel
* Minor’s
* Santa Rica

Petcare
* Alpo
* Beneful
* Dog Chow
* Fancy Feast
* Felix
* Friskies
* Go Cat
* Butchers
* Bakers
* Winalot
* Gourmet
* Mighty Dog
* Mon Petit
* ONE
* Pro Plan
* Purina
* Tidy Cats

Nestle Bungles Public Meeting, Raises Questions About Commitment to Local Values and Economy

If Nestle Doesn’t “Get” Us or Share Our Rural Values, Are They Really Right For McCloud?

In order to nullify complaints about the last contract’s “closed door meeting” origins, Nestle planned a series of public meetings, the first of which was held Wednesday, Oct. 22.

To put it mildly, it was a spectacular failure.

Not only was the meeting bungled, but it raised significant questions about Nestle’s understanding of our rural values and commitment to our local economy.

The mistakes began early; instead of hiring a local organization or facilitator – someone who understands McCloud, its residents, and our local values – they hired a mega-corporate PR firm with offices in Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, etc.

We have to ask: Why didn’t they hire a local organization or facilitator? Why not spend those thousands of dollars locally, benefiting our local economy and hosting a civil meeting?

Sadly, this was only the first mistake. Nestle’s high-dollar PR firm (Kearns & West) didn’t publicize the meeting in the local media, fanning suspicions Nestle was holding the meetings only for show – that public input was simply a public relations effort.

The facilitator then began the meeting by mumbling unintelligibly, angering attendees to the point where he finally became the target of Nestle proponent and opponent alike. Naturally, he lost control of the meeting the minute he opened the floor for comments.

In the wake of this embarrassment, many have said the meeting was a step backwards for the community of McCloud.

Even if we give Nestle the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn’t purposefully orchestrate the meeting’s failure (and not everyone’s willing to do so), the whole affair raises troubling issues.

Simply put, how competent is Nestle, and why don’t they understand rural communities? Why can’t they resolve traffic and environmental issues instead of pretending they don’t exist?

Are they so inflexible in their business model (a corporate trait) that they can’t make this project work in McCloud?

Nestle says it guarantee it will hire locals for its jobs, but what kind of guarantees have they made to use local businesses and providers of goods and services?

After all, Nestle’s profits on this plant will be immense; should we make sure at least some of that money stays local – beyond a handful of sub-living-wage jobs?

Now that McCloud’s no longer obligated to Nestle, isn’t it time McCloud invited an open competition for its water, or revisited the idea of a municipally owned plant – one that would answer to the town’s needs and concerns?

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Local Paper Interviews Nestle’s Palais, Who Fans Flames in McCloud

Small, rural communities often bear the brunt of Nestle Water’s business model, the most visible aspect being the communities split by fractious, divisive debates.

That it’s happened in so many locations isn’t a coincidence, and many have wondered if “divide and conquer” isn’t simply part and parcel of Nestle’s method.

Perhaps.

When Nestle’s local operative was recently interviewed in the Mount Shasta Herald, he threw gasoline on the conflagration already raging among McCloud’s long-suffering populace.

In the midst of a question about Nestle’s flawed Environmental Impact Report (EIR), Nestle’s Dave Palais takes a ninety-degree turn and attacks the opposition:

Q: Why was the Attorney General so unsatisfied with Nestle’s draft EIR that he wrote a letter in July to the Siskiyou County Planning Director calling it, ‘fundamentally and basically inadequate’?

A: I can’t speak as to why the Attorney General was not satisfied by the draft EIR. The comments in the letter were not unique. If we had moved forward, the County (the Lead Agency) would have had to respond to all comments received. To some of the comments, they may have responded by saying, ‘Thank you, the comments are not relevant because there is no “significant impact to the environment”.’ Like if the comments said that they wanted a building to be yellow and not blue. But if the comments are related to a potentially significant environmental impact, there’s a responsibility to respond to them. The real point, the important point, is not that the AG wrote the letter. It’s that a large portion of the opposition to the project comes from outside McCloud. Non-permanent residents. I’m not saying that’s all of the opposition. Some local residents do oppose it. But a large part of the financial and political influence being used in coming from outside of McCloud.

This, of course, is designed to further fan the flames enveloping the tiny town of McCloud, and does a huge disservice to those who only want what’s best for the tiny town.

In fact, the town has taken steps towards healing the fractures that have grown since Nestle arrived; bottling foes and proponents alike worked side-by-side in the restoration of a McCloud public building, and both sides are looking closely at McCloud’s other economic development opportunities.

In short, McCloud is a tiny rural town that’s showing the signs of being ready to heal itself, working instead towards a common goal.

That Nestle’s representative would choose this moment to fan the flames of division is astonishing.

Must we assume that Nestle Waters of North America apparently condones this level of discourse? That a divided town is what they sought all along?

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First McCloud Public Meeting this Wednesday, Oct. 22 (Free Pizza!)

This email from the McCloud Watershed Council:

As you know, in August Nestle canceled their contract with the McCloud Community Services District. Two weeks later Nestle sent a letter requesting the start of new contract negotiations.

The Services District Board decided to table a response to Nestlé’s request until their new board is seated in December. In the mean time, Nestle hired Kearns and West, a public involvement firm, to facilitate a series of public meetings regarding Nestlé’s new project proposal. This is a perfect opportunity for all perspectives to give their input into a new process.

To encourage attendance, and in an effort to bring McCloud residents together, the McCloud Watershed Council is hosting a FREE “Pre-Nestle Meeting” Dinner. If you don’t have time to cook and also make it to the meeting, then please come to the free pizza dinner at 5pm in the courtyard on Main Street next to the McCloud Hotel.

What: Community Meeting About Nestlé’s Proposed Water Bottling
Plant in McCloud
When: Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: McCloud High School Gymnasium, 133 Campus Way, McCloud
Why: Everyone who has a stake in the future of the McCloud community, economy and the McCloud River watershed deserves to have their voice heard.

McCloud Chamber of Commerce Looks at Local Jobs Tonight

Nestle’s biggest lever into small, rural communities is the promise of jobs. Unfortunately for many communities, the jobs don’t appear as promised, and the economic impacts of jobs which send locally generated profits right out of the area (say, to Switzerland) is only now becoming clearer.

The news isn’t all that good.

Locally generated jobs are still far better for a community (best-selling biz book author Michael Shuman recently spoke in the area, and is coming back to make a presentation in McCloud), and the McCloud Chamber of Commerce is taking a positive step towards local self-sufficiency by hosting a “Fresh Business Ideas” mixer tonight (from the Mount Shasta Herald):

The McCloud Chamber of Commerce will host Fresh Business Ideas and Goals Potluck Mixer this Monday, Oct. 20 at the Scout Hall in McCloud. The potluck mixer will be from 6 to 7 p.m.; the presentation and question and answer session is from 7 to 8 p.m.

Special guests Willits Mayor Holly Madrigal and Willits Community Development Director Alan Falleri will share how another small mill town is building a strong and self-reliant economy and answering the need for local jobs.

“As chamber president, I am promoting the importance of purchasing local products and supporting local businesses. This is good economically for our community. Come hear what Willits can teach McCloud,” said McCloud Chamber President Anne Simons.

McCloud’s suffered it’s share of in-fighting and bitterness, yet the community pulled together recently to help paint the Fire Hall. Here’s hoping they have another great event.

Nestle Waters Conducts Low-Flow Studies on McCloud’s Squaw Creek… Months Too Late

I’m late on this one, but better late than never when you’re posting an excellent example of how Nestle Waters – when finally forced to study the effects their water mining operations have on a watershed – isn’t particularly interested in playing fair.

At a recent meeting, the McCloud Services District voted 4-1 to allows Nestle to divert flows from Squaw Creek to study the effects their 600 gallons-per-minute water mining operation will have on the small creek and rest of the watershed.

The MCSD did so over the objections of a real fisheries biologist – Curtis Knight of CalTrout – who pointed out that low-flow studies would really only mean anything if they occurred during the late summer (August/September) time period, when the water is at its lowest and warmest.

Diverting water now – when cold air temperatures keep water temps from rising into the lethal range – isn’t good science.

Unfortunately, the local paper only printed one side of the issue (a refrain commonly heard among rural activists nationwide), and the reasons for Knight’s objection were obscured.

From the Mount Shasta Herald:

In supporting the diversion request from Nestle, the board signaled its intention to allow Nestle to immediately take action to study the effect of its proposed bottling operation on the Squaw Valley Creek as it progresses toward satisfying California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy Act reviews necessary to the permitting of the plant.

If the board had voted against the diversion, which many, including Curtis Knight of Cal Trout, asked that it do during the public comment period, Nestle’s proposed plant – already delayed by two to three more years – would have been stalled by yet another.

The optimal time to study low-flows occurs in the late summer/early fall, Palais countered in his rebuttal to Knight’s and other’s objections. Because the past two years have been particularly dry, doing the low flow study now will allow Nestle to study the Squaw Valley Creek when water levels are at their lowest, thereby answering critics’ concerns over what the estimated 600 gallons per minute consumed by the proposed plant will do to the creek during a drought.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on Nestle’s water mining studies.

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The Top Six Reasons Why Small Communities Can’t Trust Nestle Waters, Part II

In Part I of “The Top Six Reasons Why Small Communities Can’t Trust Nestle Waters,” I looked at Nestle Waters of North America’s less savory behaviors, including their tendency to:

  • #1. Negotiate deals in private
  • #2. Use aggressive (and questionable) legal tactics to bend small towns to their will
  • #3. Ignore environmental studies and impacts – even as they proclaim their environmental sensitivity

Sadly, that was only the first half of the list; cataloging Nestle’s least-attractive behaviors required two articles. What’s left?

#4. Nestle Promises Jobs They Don’t Deliver

Nestle’s only real lever in its negotiations with rural communities is the promise of jobs. To poor, economically depressed rural communities, jobs are like red meat to a starving lion, and Nestle’s promises of employment often turn the tide in favor of their bottling plants.

But how real are those promises?

The St. Petersburg Times newspaper delivered a crippling blow to Nestle’s credibility when it reported on the Nestle bottling plant in Madison County, Florida (Madison Blue Springs).

Nestle promised Madison county 300 jobs, but never employed more than 250, and now only employs 205 – 46 of which aren’t even from Florida.

The state did much more than fight to get Nestle the right to pump as much water as possible from the spring.

As an added incentive for Nestle, the state approved a tax refund of up to $1.68-million for the Madison bottling operation. To date, Nestle has received two refunds totaling $196,000 and requested a third tax refund.

Nestle had promised to create 300 jobs over five years. The most people it has ever employed was about 250. The number dropped to 205 late last year, 46 of them from Georgia, which Nestle defends as common for a work force along a state line.

The net result is half the jobs promised to the state of Florida actually accrued to the state of Florida. To get those jobs, that state struck an awful bargain: they approved a tax refund, and also overrode the recommendation of the local water management district scientists, giving Nestle the right to take 1.47-million gallons a day from the drought-stricken spring (at its lowest recorded flows ever) instead of the 400,000-gallons a day sought by staff.

The Negative Economics of Water Bottling

Nestle’s proposed one-million sq.ft. water bottling plant in McCloud (the largest bottling plant in the USA, and thankfully one that’s not being built right now) promised 240 jobs, but an EcoNorthwest economic study looked hard at the positive AND negative economic effects of the plant.

The results weren’t encouraging for the tiny town of McCloud. From the report synopsis:

  • The Nestle proposed facility would impose costs and obligations on the community that would likely outweigh the benefits.
  • People from outside McCloud would likely fill higher paying jobs. (Pages: 35-40)
  • Nestle will not improve unemployment rates or overall employment levels in McCloud or Siskiyou
    County
  • Nestle may cause losses of other jobs, firms, and residents in the county, thereby offsetting the 1 million annually in property taxes they might eventually generate.
  • The facility would likely displace current employment at existing firms and employment that would have materialized in the future thus the net job increase at full build out is likely closer to 70 jobs.
  • Hidden costs of truck traffic include traffic accidents, congestion, air pollution, negative health effects, increased road maintenance, and possibly the need for additional law-enforcement services. (Pages: 54- 57)

Some residents of McCloud were clearly hoping the Nestle bottling plant would revive the fortunes of this former mill town, but with $9/hour jobs going begging at two other nearby water bottling plants – and most of the better-paying jobs typically going to outside management teams brought in by Nestle – the economic boon many are hoping for isn’t likely to happen.

#5. Nestle Recommends Consultants to Towns With Conflict of Interest Issues

Nestle’s modus operandi in small towns often involves “helping” small towns with recommendations for “experts” burdened by conflicts of interest.

For example, Clinton, Maine’s Board of Selectman – already in trouble with a citizen’s group for negotiating with Nestle in secret and destroying a signed memorandum of understanding – used a Nestle-recommended hydrologist to review a project and make supposedly unbiased, science-based recommendations to the board.

From the Worcester Telegram:

They have also been asked whether they consider destruction of the signed memorandum of agreement to be advisable or appropriate; why they hired the same hydrogeologist that Nestlé uses (even though not for this project); why they would use this hydrogeologist to review records and data of the hydrogeologist’s own client (Nestlé), for purposes of advising another of its client’s (Sterling)

As you can see, the hydrologist worked with Nestle on other projects, reviewed only Nestle data, and had his fee paid out of an escrow account established by Nestle.

That escrow account was also expected to fund the production a legal opinion about whether a zoning change was needed to allow the Nestle project, and get that zoning change written if necessary.

Taken as a whole, these actions are akin to the police relying on criminals to report the details of their own crimes; the conflicts of interest abound, and citizens can hardly be expected to trust the information, conclusions and contracts drawn from these machinations.

#6. Nestle Interferes With Local Politics and Splits Communities With Divisive Tactics

Of all Nestle’s tactics, this is probably the least savory, and because examples abound, this has become our longest topic.

After all, pitting residents of a small community against each other is a despicable-yet-effective tactic – one that’s played out time and time again wherever Nestle arrives.

Part of the problem is Nestle’s attempts to negotiate contracts in secret, then rush approval before citizen review can take place. In the town of McCloud, this had the effect of electrifying opponents of the negotiated-in-secret deal.

Outraged that the McCloud Services District signed Nestle’s rapacious contract without public review, residents soon discovered just how bad the contract was – and the town quickly divided into two factions.

In an International Herald Tribune article, Curtis Knight of CalTrout perceptively said:

“It’s the issue in town,” said Curtis Knight, the Mount Shasta area manager of California Trout, a wild fishery conservation group. “You know, who are you and are you pro-Nestle or are you anti-Nestle? It’s really been a wedge through town, and I think it’s unfortunate.”

Nestle furthered this split when it funded a slate of Pro-Nestle candidates for the McCloud Services District Board election in 2006 (the entity that negotiated the Nestle contract). Nestle slyly maintained a “hands off” policy right up until the day before the election, when they wrote a check to the Pro-Nestle slate for $2500.

The timing was critical; this allowed Nestle to state they were steering clear of the election right up until it occurred, the kind of shrewd political maneuver little seen in small town elections.

The total spent spent by the slate was only $3680, so Nestle’s $2500 contribution had a big impact; all three Pro-Nestle candidates won election to the board.

To a multinational bent on securing profits from a rapacious water contract, $2500 doesn’t even register as petty cash. To a small town trying to come to grips with a proposal to build the largest water bottling plant in the world, it feels like millions.

Since then, Nestle – facing a storm of protest over its inadequate EIR, potential project impacts and the reality of high fuel costs – backed out of the original contract and is seeking a new contract.

Unfortunately, the divisive rhetoric from its local operative has also ratcheted up a notch. Speaking in a recent interview in the Mount Shasta Herald (a local weekly paper), Nestle spokesperson Dave Palais played the “outside agitator” card when asked an unrelated question about the California Attorney General’s opposition to Nestle’s wholly incomplete Environmental Impact Report:

The real point, the important point, is not that the AG wrote the letter. It’s that a large portion of the opposition to the project comes from outside McCloud. Non-permanent residents. I’m not saying that’s all of the opposition. Some local residents do oppose it. But a large part of the financial and political influence being used in coming from outside of McCloud.

Palais’ counterpart in Maine – Mark DuBois – echoed the eerily divisive screed:

Much of the opposition, he said, is coming from organizations from out of state [ed: emphasis added] that are concerned about global water privatization or use and sale of water in arid or dry climates that have scarce renewable water supplies.

In the context of their local battles, both statements are largely untrue, and wholly divisive.

Opposition to the McCloud contract was spearheaded by two local citizens groups, and CalTrout – a California coldwater fisheries-based advocacy group – has every right to challenge Nestle’s clear lack of environmental concern for one of California’s Blue Ribbon trout streams (Nestle performed no flow studies downstream of their proposed plant).

Both Palais’ and Dubois’ statements are clearly designed to foster resentment among residents, and they’re a good example of Nestle at its divisive worst.

Of course, the irony of either statement can’t be ignored; Palais himself lives an hour away from the town of McCloud, and Nestle is a multinational headquartered in Switzerland.

So we’re forced to ask the obvious: Who, exactly, is the non-local unduly influencing local politics?

Community of Fryeburg Split by Cost of Nestle Lawsuits

In Fryeburg, Maine, one activist spoke about the deterioration of relationships in the small town as it deals with Nestle’s repeated attempts to force a tanker loading station on the town’s planning commission – a station that will run 250 trucks per day through a residential area and offers little in the way of economic benefit to the town:

“People are afraid to speak up; relationships that have existed for 50-60 years in Fryeburg have been busted by the Nestle issue. If this precedent is set – allowing a loading 100 truck trips per day, 365 days per year – then the integrity of every residential neighborhood in Maine is in jeopardy.”

The result of all Nestle’s lawsuits and appeals on the residents of the town?

“People are tired of the fight; they don’t want to talk about water and they’re sick of the issue.”

With the coalition fighting Nestle’s loading station already $20,000 in debt (an enormous sum in an economically depressed rural area), it’s possible Nestle will accomplish its goal – winning the right to run 100 truck trips per day through a residential neighborhood through sheer force of legal attrition.

If that happens, residents will be reminded of their loss – as Nestle’s 50 trucks first enter then leave their neighborhoods every day.

Internet, Media Bringing Nestle’s Questionable Practices to Light

In the past, Nestle’s aggressive (and questionable) tactics received little attention in the national media, and local citizen’s groups had no way to connect and share information.

That meant they could employ the same untrustworthy tactics in one small community after another, secure in the knowledge there would never be a wholesale, nationwide accounting of their actions.

The growth of Internet accessibility in rural areas has changed that dynamic; activists in small communities can communicate and share information. Search engines now speed the retrieval of information from other locales; when Nestle shows up at a town, it’s likely to find people waiting for it – people armed with information about the secret meetings, rushed contracts, lack of environmental review, punishing legal challenges, and divisive tactics.

BusinessWeek touched on the power of the Internet in this statement:

Time was when multinationals could arrive in economically depressed communities and pretty much have their way. But in the age of hyper connectedness, residents in McCloud were able to turn their issue into an international sensation. Now Nestle has capitulated. The management lesson: no company can afford to go forward with projects like these without engaging ALL stakeholders, not just supporters. Yes, this is David versus Goliath. But the Davids now have megaphones.

Nestle’s efforts to build new water bottling plants and tap new sources of water have been stymied as of late, and in one sense, it’s an opportunity for them to stop dealing to small rural communities from the bottom of the deck.

Whether they do so – or simply retrench and employ a new arsenal of questionable, untrustworthy tactics – is entirely up to them.

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