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News ::
Water is the Oil of the 21 Century
24 Dec 2004
Water is the Oil of the 21 Century...let's do something to protect our water supply! On December 21, 2004, Save Our Groundwater recieved notification of a public hearing scheduled on December 28, 2004 regarding USA Springs' wetlands applications to build a water bottling plant in Nottingham and Barrington, NH. SOG vigorously protests the lack of notice for these hearings and contends that it is a continuation of DES’ attempts to subvert due process and public participation in this case.
NOTE: PLEASE FORWARD or distribute this material

SOG received a copy of a letter on December 21, 2004, sent by the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) to Francesco Rotondo, owner of USA Springs, Inc. notifying him that the agency has scheduled two public hearings regarding two wetlands applications by USA Springs, Inc. for December 28, 2004 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Health and Human Services Building located at 29 Hazen Drive, Concord.

SOG vigorously protests the lack of notice for these hearings and contends that it is a continuation of DES’ attempts to subvert due process and public participation in this case. DES generally holds public hearings in the communities involved; all past DES hearings in this case have been held in the towns of Nottingham or Barrington.

Please consider attending these important hearings:

When: Tuesday, December 28, 2004 at 7 p.m.
What: Wetland Application Hearing regarding USA Springs proposal to build a water bottling plant in Nottingham. The hearing is open to the public.
Where: Auditorium at the Health and Human Services Building located at 29 Hazen Drive in Concord, NH.

NH DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES PULLS A FAST ONE IN THE USA SPRINGS, INC. WETLANDS CASE; SCHEDULES HEARINGS FOR DEC. 28

BARRINGTON, NH—This year, Save Our Groundwater received an early Christmas “present” from the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES): a letter notifying the water advocacy group that the state intends to conduct two public hearings concerning wetlands applications filed by USA Springs, Inc. in Concord Dec. 28.

“We are astounded by DES’ latest travesty of due process in this case,” said Denise Hart, SOG board member. “To schedule public hearings in Concord, in the evening, three days after Christmas appears to be a deliberate attempt to bypass public participation in the process. The company wants to get bricks on the ground before court appeals have been heard and it appears that DES is working hand in glove to assist them.”

The two hearings are scheduled for Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Health and Human Services Building located at 29 Hazen Drive in Concord. The water company, through its consultant NH Soil Consultants, Inc., filed for two wetlands permits. The hearings relate to these applications by USA Springs, Inc./Garrison Place Real Estate Investment Trust for wetlands permits to:

1) retain 6 monitoring structures that have been installed in and adjacent to Barrington Prime Wetland #40;

and

2) to impact a total of 15,796 SF of wetlands to widen Route 4, install a waterline, and construct a road crossing and water bottling plant. The DES letter received by SOG was addressed to Francesco Rotondo, the owner of USA Springs, Inc. and the trustee of Garrison Place.

Since 2001, DES has scheduled all prior hearings regarding this case in either the towns of Nottingham or Barrington. However, in September 2004 both towns and SOG filed a NH Supreme Court appeal of DES’ July 2004 decision to grant a large groundwater withdrawal permit to USA Springs, Inc. for more than 300,000 gal/day. The appeals were accepted by the court in October and are in process.

USA Springs, Inc. has a site plan application before the Nottingham Planning Board to build its bottling plant; a public hearing is scheduled at the Nottingham Town Offices for January 19, 2005.

“The town of Barrington had specifically requested that this hearing be held in the town, as this is where the prime wetlands are located,” notes Hart. “It is the wrong time of year to assess wetlands impacts with snow and frozen ground, and in failing to give adequate notice of the hearing and to make it accessible to local residents, DES fails the citizens of NH and the environment it is legislated to protect.”

DES would give no reasons as to why the hearing was scheduled on such short notice for three days after the Christmas holiday, when many people are away or busy with family activities.

SOG believes that USA Springs, Inc. is applying a commonly used strategy of attempting to build its water bottling plant even as appeals to the NH
Supreme Court go forward. Once the company gets bricks on the ground it is that much harder to dislodge them.

It appears that the company is trying to get all its ducks in a row with the state prior to the January 19 site plan review public hearing before the Nottingham Planning Board, one of the steps needed in the quest to build its water bottling plant. And--surprise, surprise--our state guardians of the environment--paid for with our tax dollars--are helping them right along.

All past public hearings in this case held by DES were either in the towns of Nottingham or Barrington. It appears that DES is determined to minimize public participation by holding the hearings in Concord without giving adequate notice.

File reviews usually require a minimum of five days notice with DES and state offices will be closed this Friday, Dec. 24 for the Christmas holiday, thus making it likely Mon., the 27th before one could gain access to the Wetlands Bureau file.

Here's what you can do:

1) CALL your state legislators and tell them you want DES to postpone these hearings for at least a month and to hold them in either Barrington or
Nottingham, the two towns where the USA Springs, Inc. site lies. Don't know who they are?
Check out: http://www.saveourgroundwater.org/contact_reps.html

2) SEND AN EMAIL requesting a file review as soon as possible for the DES Wetlands file in this case to: filereview (at) des.nh.state.us

The two file numbers are: 2004-02817 Barrington Prime Wetland #40 and 2001-00716 Nottingham

Please send SOG the dates when you are granted a file review.

3) READ THE FILES; come to the hearing--make a statement about what DES is doing.

4) SHARE THIS EMAIL with a neighbor.

5) COME TO THE SOG MEETING on Jan. 13, 7p.m. at the Sugar Shack on Route 4--and bring that neighbor you spoke to!

SAVE THESE DATES:

What: Save Our Groundwater Meeting
When:THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, 2004 @ 7PM
Where: Sugar Shack, Route 4, Lee, NH

What: Planning Board Meeting
When: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2004 @ 7:30PM
Where: Nottingham Town Offices, Route 152, 139 Stage Road, Nottingham
Questions: Call Planning Board at (603) 679-9597

For more information on Save Our Groundwater, visit http://www.saveourgroundwater.org

Save Our Groundwater­­­­­­
P.O. Box 182
Barrington, NH 03825

Contact: Olivia Zink
603-661-8621

As seen in the Boston Globe, December 12, 2004

BOSTON GLOBE
Wide Effects Seen in Water Rights Case

By Clare Kittredge, Globe Correspondent December 12, 2004

Activists in New Hampshire say a court dispute over water withdrawal will have repercussions for the Seacoast and the entire state.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has given the state until tomorrow to present a full record of the case, which fills more than 16,000 pages.

At issue is a bottling company's right to mine water from its own land for resale, and the state's duty to protect water as a public trust and limit its extraction to reasonable amounts, observers say.

The Department of Environmental Services granted a water withdrawal permit to USA Springs Inc. in the summer. In October, the Supreme Court accepted
appeals challenging the permit.

The towns of Nottingham and Barrington filed the appeal, along with the environmental group Save Our Groundwater, which says several Seacoast towns
will be affected by the outcome.

"I think this case will have repercussions for every large groundwater permit anyone is going to apply for in the state -- not your run-of-the-mill
residential well -- but for any commercial well," said Joshua L. Gordon, attorney for Save Our Groundwater.

Pat Newhall, a member of the group and an abutter, said the permit will directly affect the headwaters of several Seacoast rivers and therefore the water supply for a dozen Seacoast communities, including Portsmouth, Stratham, and Newmarket.

"This is not just Barrington's concern. It is for the whole Seacoast, because the aquifer is a potential water supply for all the Seacoast and its wetlands," said Newhall. "Water is a public trust and is supposed to be protected for the people. At the rate Rockingham and Strafford counties are growing, it does not seem possible there will be ample water for everybody if this much water is taken out of the ground every day and shipped overseas."

Wilfred Hamel, chairman of the Newmarket Conservation Commission, said, "I'm against what's going on with these people who want to draw off so much water."

But Warner Knowles, Seabrook water and sewer superintendent, said people should be able to pump water from their own land.

"We do 365 million gallons a year. It's all groundwater, and all our wells are on our border with other towns," said Knowles. "I think they [the state] made the right decision. You can't assume there won't be enough water."

In May 2001, USA Springs filed an application for a large groundwater withdrawal permit to pump 439,200 gallons a day from the aquifer under 100
acres in Barrington and Nottingham, for bottling and sale domestically and overseas.

In August 2003 the state denied the permit, citing the expected impact on nearby wells and contaminants found in the company's pump tests. The state then denied the company's appeal.

The company says it filed a new application -- a claim opponents dispute -- and the state in July granted the company permission to pump 307,528 gallons a day, and denied opponents' appeals a month later.

Opponents appealed the state approval to the New Hampshire Water Council. The 16-member state board is charged with advising state officials on water issues and with hearing appeals of decisions made by the Department of Environmental Services, according to Jim Martin, a department spokesman. In October, the council decided not to hear the appeal, Martin said.

"We feel the state very carefully protected and balanced all the appropriate interests, and conducted a rigorous process in evaluating all the factors," said Armand Hyatt, an attorney for USA Springs. "I think the Supreme Court will determine whether or not DES had a reasonable basis for its decision and acted properly. I think they're going to decide the permit was correctly and legally issued."

In the appeal to the Supreme Court, Gordon said the state violated the New Hampshire Groundwater Protection Act, which calls for "groundwater
management in the public trust" and gives landowners the right to "reasonable" water uses on their land.

Martin said his agency prepared a docket of files on the case for the attorney general's office and the high court to review. "The docket is a
list of files," said Martin. "But there are boxes of files."

"Based on the scientific data and evidence presented to them, DES believes they made a decision based on the facts, science, and law pertaining to the permit application," said Richard Head, senior assistant attorney general.

Glenn Greenwood, assistant director of the Rockingham Planning Commission, said the impact of large groundwater withdrawals goes "far beyond where that straw is put in the ground." Local communities should make the state follow
its own rules, he said.

But state law is based on property rights, he said, and "it isn't universally accepted that water is a finite resource on the Seacoast."

© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
See also:
http://www.saveourgroundwater.org
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