LOCAL OPINION: New power lines should be underground
Submitted by We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review
“Why the hell do we still have overhead wires in fire-prone areas?” - Gov. Gavin Newsom
Here is an easy quiz about starting fires from power lines strung up on towers, in comparison with undergrounding those lines.
(1) Which is more likely to break in the wind? In an ice-storm?
(2) Which is more likely to be severed by a falling or flying tree limb?
(3) Which is more likely to be struck and damaged by lightning?
(4) Which is more likely to present a target for deliberate sabotage?
If you answered all questions with “Obviously, power lines strung up on towers,” most all reasonable people would certainly agree with you. But not the most important people. An official of the California Public Utilities Commission wrote, in reference to undergrounding power lines for a local project here in Mount Shasta, ”... there is no evidence to support that doing so would result in a safer system.”
The official, Robert Haga, was responding to many dozens of local residents who specifically asked at a public hearing in 2018 (and in follow-up letters) that a replacement power line (from the Lassen Substation on South Old Stage Road to the yet-to-open Crystal Geyser Plant on Ski Village Drive) be undergrounded rather than strung up on new tall towers.
This CPUC opinion gives the green light to the tower project, and rejects undergrounding. But it is surprising, even by the CPUC’s generally pro-utility company standards. According to CPUC’s own website map, the proposed power line runs right through the middle of a “Tier-3” fire threat area. According to the CPUC: “Tier 3 fire-threat areas depict areas where there is an extreme risk (including likelihood and potential impacts on people and property) from utility associated wildfires.”
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W.A.T.E.R. and Winnemem Wintu Tribe Guest Opinion Article in Mount Shasta Herald
We all know that advertisements by giant corporations are not always reliable sources of truth. A case in point is the full-page ad by Crystal Geyser Roxane (CGR, a French/Japanese multinational corporation with a plant in Weed) in the June 3, 2020, Mt. Shasta Herald. In big bright red colored print, CGR informs us that it is "Committed to the Environment" and "Committed to You". We might contrast those self-serving pronouncements with their actual recent behaviors:
•1• An internal CGR document was accidentally sent to the newspaper of Lewis County, WA, where CGR wants to set up a water bottling plant in spite of major citizen and County government official opposition. In the email, a CGR official admits they are "fortunate not to have been sued yet", suggests to "hire a PR firm solely for the purpose of gathering grassroots supporters", and proposes to sue area landowners to "get them to the table". (1)
•2• CGR is the main driver of Roseburg Lumber's demand to take over Weed's historic 100-year water supply (Beaughan Springs), cut the City off, and then sell the water to CGR. In its full page ad, CGR says "we take our responsibility to our... community very seriously". But according to videoed public statements by the Weed mayor and a City Councilmember, the founder of CGR (and father of its CEO) threatened to "blow up" the Weed plant if he did not get all the water he demanded. (2) (Later that month, other CGR officials "apologized" for those comments). (3) As a result, the City of Weed has already expended substantial amounts of money on legal fees in efforts to re-claim their share of the Beaughan Springs water. The costs to the community will likely continue for decades.
W.A.T.E.R. takes "plastic free" petition to local retailers
As we hear in headlines almost daily, plastic pollution is a world-wide, catastrophic and growing problem for our oceans, other ecosystems, as well as all of humanity and wildlife.
Many in our community as well as all over the world are concerned about this growing problem and would like to do what we can to stop it. Although many of us recycle what we can, we recognize that our current plastic recycling infrastructure falls far short of effectively addressing the pollution issue. Because of the ongoing subsidies to the petroleum industry, virgin plastic is so cheap there likely will never be effective recycling options. Many of us have chosen to reduce the use of plastics in our households (for more information, see cawater.net), however, this can be challenging if we are not given the option to purchase non-plastic products. Thus we consumers cannot solve this problem alone.
Engaging Local Retailers
It is a constant challenge to find in our local stores products that are plastic-free. We are asking that our local retailers do their part to reduce plastic pollution by stocking on their selves products that are neither made from nor packaged in plastic. The petition, signed by 261 community members, demonstrates the community interest in having such products available.
See the petition report HERE.
Expanded Power Lines on Old Stage Road Pose Fire Risk!
First Call for Action in 2021!
It takes our collective voices to make change. Contact the Mt. Shasta City Council, Board of Supervisors and the Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and demand the power lines be put underground. They need to hear from the community!
Speaking at the December 14 Mount Shasta City Council meeting, W.A.T.E.R. continued to push for undergrounding the proposed power line expansion along Old Stage Rd, crossing Fish Hatchery Ln. This project proposes to enlarge and heighten the power lines leading from the power substation to the Crystal Geyser plant, the primary beneficiary of this project. This power line project should be undergrounded to prevent fire dangers and not paid for by rate payers. W.A.T.E.R. board member Geneva Omann told the council members: “Undergrounding is more expensive, although not nearly as expensive as burning down a whole town and its beautiful surroundings.” She went on to provide ideas for funding this project. See her full comments HERE. W.A.T.E.R. board member Dan Axelrod further informed the city council, “There is no question that above-ground power lines are far more susceptible to weather and wind damage and to starting fires than undergrounded lines. As you know, the Sierra foothill town of Paradise was destroyed two years ago by a PGE above-ground powerline failure, and they are now rebuilding the lines entirely underground because that is safer. Indeed, Pacific Power also knows the hazard, which is why they are now doing power shutoffs on hot windy days, done twice this year already in parts of this area, a strategy that has its own obvious inherent public safety risks.” See his full comments HERE. W.A.T.E.R. has also written to the CPUC, see our letter HERE and to the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, see HERE.
Make your voice heard!
Contact the Mount Shasta City Council, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors and the Californian Public Utilities Commission with your concerns about this project and demand they work together with Pacific Power to underground the power transmission and distribution lines (cite project number CPUC # A.15-11-005).
Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors
California Public Utilities Commission, Docket Office
505 Van Ness Avenue, Room 2001
San Francisco, CA 94102
Reckless Logging Will Increase Wildfire Risk for Mountain Towns
By Karen Maki, Jeff Stone, and Raven Stevens for We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review
Over four million acres burned in California in 2020. Despite this unprecedented climate disaster, CalFire is poised to increase future wildfire risk for residents of Dunsmuir, Mt. Shasta City, McCloud and Castella by approving the Soda Springs Timber Harvest Plan (THP), which would use an unnecessarily dangerous even-aged logging method, similar to clearcutting.
Changes to Forest Management Will Reduce Wildfire Risk
California officials and state agencies have repeatedly called for additional thinning to remove underbrush and small trees to reduce wildfire risk, but they do nothing to stop logging plans that create the same dense small trees. The Soda Springs THP is especially dangerous because it is so close to towns, and hence will expose residents to increased fire danger. One may remember that the 2018 Carr and Delta Fires that threatened these same towns burned through plantations.
Shasta-Cascade Timberlands, the Australian multinational timber company that owns the land, is prioritizing the short-term economic benefits of clearcutting over the potentially devastating effects on local communities. (https://newforests.com.au/new-forests-to-acquire-california-timberlands-from-roseburg-resources/)
More and Less Safe Types of Forest Management
There are two main categories of logging practiced in California: even-aged management and uneven-aged management.
After clearcutting or other forms of even-aged management harvest, a same-age and typically same-species conifer plantation is established. These plantations of dense young trees are easily ignited, and once ignited, burn fast and hot. Their temperature is often hotter than nearby diverse, shaded forests, and there are no large trees to break wind speed. The recent Bear and Creek Fires were made more dangerous by the plantations in their path, and the worst fire in California history, the Paradise Camp Fire, also burned through plantations that were established after a fire that occurred ten years previously.
MOUNT SHASTA CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS STATE THAT CRYSTAL GEYSER WILL NOT PROCEED WITH BEVERAGE BOTTLING PROJECT!
At the May 11 Mount Shasta city council meeting council member Tim Stearns stated that Crystal Geyser representatives had called council members to inform them that Crystal Geyser has “no intention of proceeding” with the project, that they have placed the property up for sale and that they have “vacated” the building that was to be the beverage bottling plant on Ski Village Drive. Council member Stearns advocated using this information to annex the property into the city limits to have more control over the property’s future development. Stearns had previously been one of the major boosters of the project, having "cut the ribbon" for it at a ceremony in 2013.
This is potentially very good news for all of the community members and others concerned about our mountain environment and the type of development suitable for our community. Over the past six years many of you have put in huge amounts money, time, and resources to understand this project. We demanded an environmental review (against the desires of the County supervisors) to protect our area from this possible water depletion, pollution and noise. None of this would have been possible without community support, well attended public meetings, EIR comments, and financial donations.
Community Water Bottle Refill Station Dedicated
Eloise de la Pedraja and her brother Ash Hanelt give it a try!
(photo by Bruce Hillman)
It was a ‘blue bird’ day at Parker Plaza when the W.A.T.E.R. group (We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review) dedicated the first Water Refill Station to the town. A group of about 25 community members were there for the celebration, along with Lorie Saunders from the Mt. Shasta Beautification Committee.
Raven Stevens, W.A.T.E.R. Board member and project leader said, “We want to thank the Beautification Committee, the City of Mt. Shasta, specifically Julianna Lucchesi and Murial Terrell, the Public Works Department and our funders for making this a reality today. This device is freeze proof, has an ADA drinking fountain and also a lower bowl for our 4-legged friends.”
The project was funded in part by Plastic Oceans International’s “Rethink. Refill." Program. This program puts wall-mounted water bottle refill stations in schools in the United States and Mexico. Julie Anderson, Global Executive Director of Plastic Oceans International says “Plastic pollution affects everyone, regardless of socioeconomic standing, and ‘Rethink.Refill.’ levels the playing field. By reaching underserved communities, more youth are better equipped to evaluate their plastic usage, affect change, and improve upon solutions from an early age. Education and data are a powerful combination to empower the next generation.”
The second grant was awarded by the Community Foundation of the North State. "Community Foundation of the North State’s mission is to impact the region through the power of giving. On behalf of The McConnell Fund – one of 150+ funds at the Community Foundation – we are proud to assist W.A.T.E.R. and the City of Mt. Shasta with the installation of its first water bottle refill station. The ADA-accessible drinking fountain serves the whole community as well as visitors who support the region through tourism, providing the fresh mountain water the region is known for while reducing plastic waste impact." Kerry Caranci, CEO of Community Foundation of the North State.
Finally, the project funding was completed by community members who donated through W.A.T.E.R. via North State Giving Tuesday in 2020. W.A.T.E.R. President Frank Toriello spoke noting “It is our hope that this refill station will encourage an end to the prevalence of single-use plastics like the bottles that water is sold in. We are blessed in Mt. Shasta to have water coming out of the tap which has been awarded state-wide recognition three times as the best tasting water and has also been acknowledged nationally! And now everyone can come and refill their water bottles here for free!”
Stevens commented, “This water refill station is one small step toward minimizing plastic use in our community and the world. It’s important to model the change we want to see. Bring your friends down and show them how we roll!”
This is the completion of a project that will increase access for community and tourists to clean and delicious Mt. Shasta spring water for generations to come!
Crystal Geyser Lawsuit Continues!
In 2013 W.A.T.E.R. organized to challenge the proposed Crystal Geyser Water Company (CGWC) beverage bottling plant which would have proceeded without an environmental review, even though there was considerable community concern about suspected significant environmental impacts of plant operations. The seven and one-half years of persistent community work paid off. In May of 2021, CGWC issued a public statement that they will not be operating the beverage bottling plant and the property was listed for sale. W.A.T.E.R. and many in the community are hopeful the property will be used by a new occupant for purposes benefiting the Mount Shasta Community.
Even though Crystal Geyser is selling its property and has announced it will not be operating in Mount Shasta, we shall continue the legal challenge against Siskiyou County and the City of Mt. Shasta with the goal of having the flawed EIR set aside by the court. Recently the County approved an additional $10,000 budget for the case (to be reimbursed by Crystal Geyser). Our appeal is currently waiting to be heard in State Appellate Court in Sacramento. Due to case backlogs and Covid related delays we are unsure when this case will be heard. When we know, we will let you know! Read Appeal Brief Summary Here
Find out what W.A.T.E.R. has been up to in the last year.
Our annual report highlights our organization's mission statement and how we turn this into concrete actions.
The primary objectives and purposes of our organization are to:
● Advocate preservation of natural resources and a healthy environment.
● Advocate long-range community planning and regenerative practices to protect all
citizens and to promote a thriving community.
● Communicate these concerns to local government officials and agencies.
● Encourage community-wide participation through educating the public about these
● Defend these issues with public interest litigation activities if necessary.
W.A.T.E.R.'s fiscal year 2021-2022 Impact Report is now available!
In a Win for Winnemem Wintu Tribe and W.A.T.E.R., the Third District Court of Appeal Rejects Crystal Geyser Project EIR Approval
In a victory for a community effort led by the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review (W.A.T.E.R., a grassroots, community non-profit organization based in Mt. Shasta), California’s Third District Court of Appeal ruled in the groups’ favor in a long-running fight against approvals by Siskiyou County and the City of Mt. Shasta for the Crystal Geyser Water Company (CGWC) bottling plant project. The ruling capped an 8.5 year effort by community members to ensure the proposed project would not harm the environment and community.
W.A.T.E.R. and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe challenged the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared by the County to review the impacts of a bottling facility proposed by CGWC, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In the case against the County, the unanimous decision confirms that the County’s EIR for the project based its analysis on an impermissibly narrow set of project objectives, such that approval of the project as proposed was a “foregone conclusion,” rendering the alternatives analysis an “empty formality.” The Court also found that the County failed to recirculate the EIR after new emissions studies revealed that the project would produce almost twice the amount of greenhouse gasses as was revealed in the Draft EIR.
We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review, more commonly known as the W.A.T.E.R. group, is a grassroots, non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to protecting Mount Shasta’s water and other natural resources from privatization and depletion by extraction for corporate profit, protecting groundwater from contamination by industrial activity, and protecting the environment from other inappropriate and polluting industrial/commercial activities.
Mission: The primary objectives and purposes of this nonprofit organization shall be to:
• Embed the climate crisis front and center in our work, given the urgent, existential threat it poses to humanity;
• Advocate for the restoration and preservation of the biosphere to ensure a healthy environment, with a primary emphasis on
advocating for the ecosystems of the regions encircling Mount Shasta and its watersheds, while recognizing the connections
between surface, spring, and groundwater;
• Advocate for and participate in long-range community planning and regenerative practices to promote healthy and sustainable
• Encourage community-wide participation and volunteerism through education and action;
• Engage with government officials and agencies in advancing these issues with active participation, social activism and, if necessary,
litigation that benefits public interests.
Vision: We envision a society that stewards and equitably shares in the care of our planet’s ecosystems now and for future generations.
Why Environmental Groups Must Oppose War
Should an environment-protecting group like W.A.T.E.R. get involved in issues of international war? Or conversely, should W.A.T.E.R. "stay in its own lane"? More generally, should pro- environmental groups also be anti-war? The US government has been involved with fighting or funding wars for much of the past 80 years, so the question for us, as Americans, is not new. It is particularly pressing now because of the war in Ukraine.
Everyone knows that wars are hugely destructive to both people and the environment; that is indeed the tactical intent of every exploding bomb and lethal projectile. Escalation to nuclear use would be a worldwide humanitarian and ecological disaster. Fighting around nuclear power plants - an especially stupid thing to do - may well lead to catastrophic toxic radioactive waste release spread over huge swaths of land. It is obvious that military action (and preparation for action) itself consumes a huge amount of energy and produces a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. According to a 2019 study at Boston and Brown Universities¹, "the DOD is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world."
It is also obvious that military contractors are the recipients of tens of billions of dollars in government contracts (i.e., our tax dollars) that could otherwise be used for many useful projects, including environmental protection, cleanup, and transitioning to clean energy, all while creating living- wage jobs.
However the main thrust of this article is a point that rarely makes it into the media or is mentioned by either of the "mainstream" parties. That point addresses why the wars are being fought in the first place. Usually, we are told all about "national security", or "defense of democracy", or stopping some crazed irrational power-hungry dictator. However, there is (too often) a deeper geostrategic and economic rationale behind what is going on: a struggle for ownership, control, and access to natural resources, the extraction of which causes tremendous, long-term ecological damage.
by the Board of Directors of We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review