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Water rights groups win lawsuit in Siskiyou County over environmental review

Liam Moriarty
A long-dormant water bottling facility owned by Crystal Geyser Water Company outside of Mt. Shasta, CA. In May the company announced it would no longer pursue plans to operate the facility.

An environmental group and native tribe have won a five-year legal battle against the Crystal Geyser Water Company over its efforts to build a water bottling plant in the city of Mt. Shasta, Calif.

The group “We Advocate Through Environmental Review” and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe had challenged the environmental impact report prepared by the city and Siskiyou County.

They argued county officials offered a misleading report, and failed to properly look at the impacts of the bottling plant on the environment.

The groups filed two lawsuits, one against the city and one against the county.

Crystal Geyser abandoned plans to open the plant last year, facing pressure from the public and the group’s lawsuits.

That means these judgements won’t have a real-world effect, but will still set a precedent for local environmental reviews done in the future.

The appellate court ruling sends this case back down to the lower courts, and require the courts to specify what the city and county must change on the reports to comply with the law.

The reports also need to recirculate the through the public; though their approval won't impact the bottling plant at this point.

After abandoning plans to build the plant, Crystal Geyser sold the land and facility to a California based developer. The new deed contains a stipulation forbidding the use of the land for the bottling of water.

In a statement, both plaintiffs were happy to see victory after this drawn out fight.

"The wins in these two cases demonstrate that when we come together we can protect our water, our environment and the web of life we all depend on," the groups say.

They noted the work that came from the community to protect local water resources.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.