After more than four hours of talk, testimony and votes, the Inyo Supervisors denied appeals, called for a more extensive monitoring program and approved the planning measures that moved forward a major $25 million expansion project of the Crystal Geyser Plant at Cartago.
The Elton Family Trust, the Cartago Water Company and the Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club filed appeals to the project. They all expressed concerns about environmental impacts caused by Crystal Geyser’s plans to increase groundwater pumping and the need for more in-depth monitoring. Mark Bagley from the Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club spoke at length about potential reduction of flowing springs due to groundwater pumping and the impacts on wetlands, wildlife and plants.
Rick Moore, consultant for Crystal Geyser, assured that the company would continue to contribute to the community, has created 120 jobs with its current plants and would add more jobs. Supervisors mildly scolded Mr. Moore for Crystal Geyser’s two-year failure to complete promised landscaping around the existing plant. Moore also vowed to work with the County Water Department on a monitoring plan that was not yet put in place.
With advice from County Counsel Randy Keller, the Supervisors came up with language to deny all three appeals but at the same time modify requirements for a Conditional Use Permit to develop a groundwater mitigation monitoring plan in conjunction with the Inyo Water Department. That plan will go back before the Board of Supervisors for another public hearing and approval before Crystal Geyser can ever pump water.
The Supervisors voted unanimously to deny all appeals and to approve the monitoring plan process. They then voted unanimously to adopt a resolution certifying the Environmental Impact Report on the project, a General Plan Amendment and Zone Reclassification. Enactment of an ordinance on all of this is now set for next Tuesday, February 26th, at 1pm.
The expansion project includes a 198,000 square foot bottling plant and a 40,000 square foot warehouse. Inyo Planning Director Josh Hart had much earlier said that the project would likely employ an additional fifty people. Part of the plant will be automated. Hart had said that the project is close to 30 acres but 15 acres of that would be subject to ground disturbance.
Crystal Geyser plans to withdraw groundwater from three existing on-site wells at a combined average rate of 170 gallons per minute year-round for a total of 360 acre feet per year. Plans say that construction will take place in three phases over a number of years with build-out anticipated in 2025 to 2027.