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E-M:/ Activists blockade Ice Mountain plant in Michigan

Enviro-Mich message from Frank Ambrose <snakeman1549@yahoo.com>

> Water Rights Activists Blockade Ice Mountain
> Bottling
> Plant
> by Cyclone - Department of Down-Home Security 		24
> Jul 2002	from www.waterissweet.org or
> Water rights activists blockaded the Ice Mountain
> bottling plant in Stanwood, Michigan Monday, July 22
> shutting
> down truck traffic to and from the plant for over
> seven hours. At around 6:30 a.m. a group of seven
> protestors locked themselves together in the plant's
> shipping entrance, holding the position until
> mid-afternoon. A support rally numbering 60 joined
> the
> blockade group at around 8 a.m., staging pickets at
> the east and west entrances. The blockade is the
> latest in a series of actions by citizens looking to
> defend the state's water resources from an attempted
> takeover by the Ice Mountain Spring Water Company, a
> subsidiary of Nestle Waters North America. In May
> 2002
> the company began production at its new $100 million
> bottling facility, pumping at rates which could top
> 200 million gallons in water withdrawals per year. 
Protesters see the project as a dangerous step
> toward
> privatization of the world's water resources and a
> serious threat to "water democracy". 
> "This project flies in the face of almost every
> legal
> and social standard that we have regarding water
> use,"
> said Louis Blouin, one of the blockaders.
> "Historically and globally, water has been viewed as
> a
> sacred resource, common to all, and something
> which--because of its essential nature--everyone is
> entitled to." 
> "Now because water has become such a scarce resource
> globally, corporations are actually trying to profit
> off one of the most basic of human needs," Blouin
> said. "If we fail to act now, we are not far from a
> world in which the rich have a right to clean water
> and the poor do not." 
> The state's permitting process has also drawn
> protests. In August 2001, upper level officials in
> the
> Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
> sanctioned the project after at least one DEQ agent
> refused to sign the permit "on principle". 
> On another occasion, County officials changed zoning
> regulations in order to illegally maneuver around a
> referendum vote on the project. At public hearings,
> citizens of the affected counties voiced opposition
> to
> the project by a margin of nearly 9 to 1. A new
> referendum is now scheduled for August 6. 
> State tax abatements to Ice Mountain, totaling
> almost
> $10 million over the next decade, have also raised
> eyebrows. 
> "Thanks to the state's handling of this issue, we
> are
> now in a position where we'll actually be paying a
> corporation to take our water away," Blouin said.
> "No
> citizen has a right to take and sell millions of
> gallons of water from shared, public waterways. But
> the state is trying to tell us that a corporation
> does. It's simply absurd." 
> Legal battles are raging as well. In August 2001, a
> separate citizen group filed a lawsuit against Ice
> Mountain in circuit court, contending the project
> violates Michigan's public trust principles
> governing
> the use of water from the Great Lakes Basin. 
> "Under public trust principles of Michigan law, the
> citizens of Michigan--not corporations--have the
> primary right to use the water of Michigan's lakes
> and
> streams," said Terry Swier, president of Michigan
> Citizens for Water Conservation, the group bringing
> the suit. 
> "Public trust protects the citizens' rights in these
> waters for fishing, boating, swimming, and survival.
> Pure water for pure profit violates the public trust
> and robs Michigan of its most vital heritage." 
> "We firmly believe that Michigan and its citizens
> have
> a distinct say in who can take the waters of the
> State
> and divert them for sale for private convenience,"
> Swier said. 
> In addition to its significance for state law, the
> case may have huge implications for how water is
> defined in international trade agreements. 
> "Water is already officially designated as a
> commodity
> according to the rules of the World Trade
> Organization
> (WTO) and North American Free Trade Agreement
> (NAFTA)," said Holly Wren Spaulding, an independent
> journalist and organizer with the Sweetwater
> Alliance.
> Spaulding says that a sanctioning of the Ice
> Mountain
> proposal by the State would amount to another step
> in
> the direction toward defining water--both legally
> and
> culturally--as a commodity rather than a public
> good. 
> According to Spaulding, the Ice Mountain situation
> in
> Mecosta County could also be one of the first real
> tests of whether a state law guaranteeing public
> ownership of resources can be challenged by an
> international trade body inclined to view resources
> as
> private. 
> Spaulding also points out that NAFTA and WTO rules
> could prevent Michigan from denying other bottling
> corporations access to water once Ice Mountain has
> its
> foot in the door. 
> "So-called 'Preferential Treatment' guidelines in
> these trade agreements basically say that if one
> corporation--whether indigenous or foreign--gains
> access to an area to extract a resource, no
> restrictions can be made on anyone else who might
> wish
> to do the same because it would not be fair,"
> Spaulding said. 
> "If future investors in the region were to be turned
> away for some reason, the state, and in some cases
> the
> federal government, would be liable for fines to be
> paid to the corporation for its 'loss of potential
> profits'." 
> Direct actions like Monday's are now being viewed as
> key tools for beating back Ice Mountain and
> restoring
> public control of the State's water resources. 
> "We have the laws on the books now that would have
> stopped this project long ago. What we don't have is
> a
> government with the will to enforce them," said
> Blouin. "Stopping this water privatization scheme
> and
> restoring water democracy will now require action by
> citizens themselves." 
> Protestors also stressed the global significance of
> their actions. 
> "Today we are here in solidarity with all those
> around
> the world who have fought and won struggles for
> water
> democracy," Blouin said. "We put our bodies on the
> line today, but in Cochabamba, Bolivia, people
> actually gave their lives defeating one of the
> harshest water privatization schemes ever." 
> Following the implementation of a project engineered
> by the World Bank and Bechtel Corporation, water
> bills
> for people in Cochabamba soared over 40 percent and
> citizens were actually outlawed from collecting
> rainwater. After days of protests and direct
> actions,
> the Bolivian government terminated the contract and
> Bechtel was forced to leave the country. 
> "We cannot let this happen in North America knowing
> the sacrifice others have made elsewhere." Blouin
> said. "As guardians of the Great Lakes Basin--one
> fifth of the world's fresh water--we must think
> about
> strengthening both our commitment and our resolve,"
> he
> said. "The consequences for us not doing so are
> almost
> too grave to imagine." 
> To read more about the struggle against Ice Mountain
> in Michigan, visit the Sweetwater Alliance website
> at
> www.waterissweet.org or Michigan Citizens for Water
> Conservation at www.savemiwater.org.  
> PHOTOS:  [1] [2] [3]
> See also:
> http://www.waterissweet.org
> http://www.savemiwater.org

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