Citizens rally behind water rights ordinance
Mount Shasta, Calif. —
More than 100 community members offered vocal support during Monday night’s Mount Shasta City Council meeting for an ordinance that would prevent corporations from cloud seeding and bulk water extraction within city limits.
The council heard dozens of passionate appeals during public comments, then voted unanimously to order a special report on the Mt. Shasta Community Water Rights and Self Governance Ordinance, which will appear on the November election ballot.
The Ordinance was brought to council after 700 certified voter signatures were gathered from residents.
If the Ordinance is passed in November, it will be the first of its kind to regulate chemical trespass due to cloud seeding, although 130 communities in the United States have passed similar ordinances to protect themselves from a variety of other corporate activities.
City manager Kevin Plett began the discussion in the community building with staff’s recommendation to order a report on the Ordinance, due to its “broad nature.”
Plett explained that the council had three options: to adopt the Ordinance, to order a special election or to order a 30 day special report, which would put it in the correct timeframe to be included on the general election ballot in November.
Mayor Mike Murray opened public comment after congratulating proponents for successfully collecting the required number of signatures.
“You’re really sending the message that you care about the environment,” he said.
Forty-six community members then stood to speak, a process that took more than two hours. Only one spoke against the Ordinance. Many comments were greeted with loud applause that echoed off the walls.
“I am the ‘official’ proponent,” Molly Brown said, “but I represent many who have been working hard on this for 18 months.”
Thomas Linzey, the executive director and founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in Spokane, Wash., explained the Ordinance is designed “to put decisions back into the citizens’ hands,” and gives them the right to choose what happens in their community.
Linzey said the Ordinance would establish water rights for residents, and would make it unlawful for corporations to do anything that would result in a toxic or potentially toxic chemical being in the body of a Mount Shasta resident.
The Ordinance would establish community rights that are superior to state and federal law.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Mount Shasta citizens,” Linzey said, as he offered his continued advice and services to the city.
The crowd cheered, applauded, and got on their feet following Linzey’s presentation.
Kirsten Moller, executive director of the Global Exchange, an international human rights organization based in San Francisco, said, “After speaking with the people of Mount Shasta, I realized the power of the love this community has for their environment... what’s happening here is being talked about in Bolivia and Ecuador... Mount Shasta is making news around the world.”
“Increasing the amount of precipitation is crazy to me,” said Mount Shasta resident Leslie Ellorin, whose house was severely damaged in January due to heavy snow. She talked about the intensity of Mount Shasta’s natural storms as well as the cost of snow removal and other related costs, such as the green dump site.
“We do not have the right to play a role in weather decision making,” Ellorin finished.
“When you’re born in a place, you feel very connected to the land,” said lifelong Mount Shasta resident Tatiana Diakoff. She added that she has a vested interest in maintaining the resources of Mount Shasta and stewarding them responsibly.
“Cloud seeding hasn’t been proven effective, and it’s unclear what its effects are. This is an issue that needs to be looked into further... [this ordinance] gives the community a way to say we don’t want cloud seeding,” Diakoff said.
“I live in McCloud, but I consider myself to be a citizen of the mountain,” said Angelina Cook. “I have always regarded myself and my species as a strand in the intricate web of life... the headwaters of the Sacramento River is what I consider to be the aorta of California.”
Cook expressed concern that cloud seeding would pollute the Sacramento River, which provides water to the entire state.
Cook gave the meeting a moment of levity by urging councilors to support the Ordinance, and telling them, “just remember, we are your bosses.”
“The water means more to the people who live here than money or gold,” said Sara Wellborn, a two year resident of the area.
Mark Gibson compared the evening’s community involvement to a discussion during a Mount Shasta City Council meeting about 15 years ago, during which opposition was expressed for constructing a prison in Siskiyou County.
At that time, so many residents flooded the meeting to speak against the idea, the council agreed unanimously that they would not be in support of a prison anywhere in Siskiyou County, Gibson said.
“Self governance feels really key in this,” said Jennifer Matthews in expressing her hope that the ordinance would require multinational companies take responsibility for the many kinds of pollution they cause in small communities.
“I’m glad to have this open dialogue and a respectful debate on this topic, because this is something that goes beyond the political spectrum.”
“We’re gathering our power,” said Ana Holub. “We need the safety of our earth and environment back.”
The only person to speak against the ordinance was Dan Dorsey, a 25 year resident of the area. He said in his opinion, the Ordinance would discourage business. He also said he strongly disagreed with many of the audience’s comments.
“Where are the jobs?” he asked empathetically. “We need anything, we’re losing jobs right and left... right now I wouldn’t mind looking at an ‘ugly, large facility’ as long as it’s creating jobs... I hope [the council] will make sound decisions based on fact.”
After everyone was given an opportunity to speak, Mayor Murray closed public comment and turned the meeting over to the councilors.
Sandra Spelliscy thanked everyone present for their interest.
Ned Boss indicated that he had taken several pages of notes and said he would be reviewing them and perhaps contacting some of the speakers for further information.
“I love your passion,” said Russ Porterfield. He commented that the strength of the evening’s participation showed a lot.
“You might be surprised at what I think about this whole issue,” he said.
Tim Stearns said the strength of the grass root movement within the community was exciting.
He said he’d read over the Ordinance “several times,” and brought forward some concerns he had about how it was worded.
“I’d like to adopt a legally enforcable document that gives power to the community to control our water and air without unintended consequences,” said Stearns.
Stearns said he believes the Ordinance defines chemical trespass too broadly and spoke about possible costs it could incur. He suggested the document be studied more over a period of 30 days, during which time some modifications could be made before its placed on the November ballot.
Boss then moved to have the report conducted and to put the Ordinance up to vote.
With the modification that council share information with the proponents and contact other cities that have enacted similar ordinances, the council unanimously agreed.