Water Torture, Really?

As adjoining landowners, my neighbors and I have been living an absolute nightmare because of Weaver's water-bottling plant application

By Steve Harvey

I feel the need to write this not so much in response to Dave Skinner’s uninformed article, “Water Torture” (Feb. 22 Beacon), but to inform valley residents what has taken place regarding this proposed water bottling plant. I’m sure Mr. Skinner finds it amusing to exaggerate the issue in order to make his point, but some of us have an actual copy of Lew Weaver’s permit application and “have read it.” In order to understand this issue one first has to accept this application as a written, expressed fact of what Lew Weaver’s vision is for his plant and the Egan Slough farming community. After all, if his vision were actually smaller his permit would be smaller and a lot easier to obtain.

As adjoining landowners, my neighbors and I have been living an absolute nightmare for the past year, not because of what Lew Weaver says, but because of what his permit application states. Let me be clear, in his application he hopes to produce, and is asking for, up to 140,000 20-ounce bottles of water per hour. Industry representatives calculate the requirement of over 100 semi truckloads per day to move that amount of water. I think we can all agree that regardless of whether Lew Weaver can actually achieve what he wants, the full limit of this permit will have huge negative effects both to Egan Slough and the residents of the Flathead Valley and surrounding areas. One of the many alarming written “facts” in his permit is the predicted 2,089 wells that are expected to experience drawdown from the continuous pumping of this well. Understand that when Lew states to the public the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has determined there will be no adverse effects from the pumping of this well, that the DNRC does not consider lowering pumps or drilling deeper wells, to be an “adverse effect.”

In the past year I have rarely heard from people in the valley who support the idea of letting companies bottle up a resource that is given to all of us for free, only to truck it out of state to sell for profit. One position that has been expressed to me is, “There is no way Weaver is going to be able to sell or truck nearly the amount of water he is asking for.” Unfortunately, speculation does not apply here. Upon completion of the Weaver well, an additional high-volume well was drilled near the Creston Fish Hatchery. Both wells were completed by the same drilling contractor and employed the same consulting firm. Flathead County Health Department documents show the second well also was designed for the purpose of bottling water. In addition, farmers in the Creston area have been approached regarding a third bottling plant.

So Mr. Skinner, it is time we reveal our “true motives.” It is not stopping Lew Weaver from having a small bottling plant of 30 gallons per minute and three or four trucks a day like he continues to tell the valley through his various newspaper ads and articles. It’s not that we’re against progress or his right to do what he wants on his own property, so long as it does not trample on our rights as property owners. What motivates us to stand on the street corners in the rain with signs and march in parades, hire expensive lawyers and try to rally public support is Lew Weaver’s insistence to maintain his application as it’s written!

1.22 billion bottles per year!

This is a fight to convince the state to do what they should have done in the first place; to apply the written intent of Lew Weaver’s permit application to our neighborhood, county, and affected agencies using a proper EIS (Environmental Impact Study). This is also a fight to convince the Flathead County commissioners to protect agriculture and our personal property rights. The other alternative is for the DNRC and Lew Weaver to adjust his permit to reflect what he keeps saying is all he “actually wants” in the papers. Only then will we be able to make sure the state is not dropping in the county’s lap an irrevocable permit. Should these applicants be successful in achieving what their applying for, the county will be forced to deal with “unpredicted” costs and adverse effects.

I don’t know that Lew Weaver will be successful in his endeavors but I know with this permit looming over our heads, his success will mean our demise and that’s just not right! That, Mr. Skinner, is our “Water Torture!”

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