**HUGE WIN** for the Egan Slough Community!
On March 20, 2018, Montana 11th District Court Judge Robert Allison ruled in favor of Egan Slough area property owners, granting them summary judgment against the Board of Flathead County Commissioners. The lawsuit was prompted by the Commissioners' failure to implement citizen-initiated zoning intended to protect the Egan Slough area.
In the decision, the Court chastised the Commissioners for siding with the owner of a proposed water bottling plant, Lew Weaver, to the exclusion of other interests. “The public’s comments, which were overwhelmingly in favor of the petition, addressed many different topics including preservation of agricultural land, water quality and quantity, open space, wildlife, general environmental concerns, tourism, Flathead County’s Growth Policy, and property values. Some members of the public attempted to address why they believed the Weavers’ water bottling plant would be detrimental to the area and why the Egan Slough Zoning District should be expanded to protect the area from industrial uses. However, the Board cut off many of these comments. Yet, the Board then used the property rights of the Weavers to use their land as they see fit as part of the basis for their rationale…It is an abuse of discretion to consider the property rights of one landowner to the exclusion of other landowners and the county overall.”
The Court also faulted the Commissioners for failing to evaluate the evidence put in front of them by members of the public. “In addition, the Board dismissed expert reports provided by the public regarding some issues, property values for example, without providing any factual basis for doing so. At least one member of the Board seemed to dismiss the reports simply because he did not believe them; yet there is no evidence in the record to dispute the reports’ findings or to provide any evidence whatsoever to the contrary. While the Board has discretion to weigh the comments and evidence before them, complete dismissal of expert reports without any evidence to dispute those reports lacks fact and foundation, is unreasonable, and is an abuse of discretion.”
The Court remanded the matter to the Board for reconsideration, with strict instructions that the Board must review all public comments as well as the Flathead County Growth Policy, and address the issues the public raised in its decision.
The proposed water bottling plant recently obtained a permit from Montana DNRC to bottle 1.22 Billion bottles of water annually, operating 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The issuance of that permit is currently under litigation.
Egan Slough Community member Amy Waller said “This is a great day for farms and water in the Flathead. We are very pleased with the Court’s decision and thankful for and inspired by the continuing support of residents across the Flathead as we focus on the June 5th election. It is more important than ever that Flathead County voters vote 'yes' for initiative 17-01, to expand the Egan Slough zoning district."
The Egan Slough community and farmers thank Judge Allison for his decision, and is grateful for all of the supporters who wrote letters and showed up at the public hearings.
What more can you do to help?
1) Share this post
2) Donate $5 to the cause athttp://www.waterforflatheadsfuture.org/help-us-now/#top - the community has spent more than $250,000 on legal and hydrology bills and now needs more funding to move forward with the lawsuit.
3) Write letters to your local papers and lawmakers - the plant will dump its wastewater into Flathead River, which is a national navigable waterway and therefore is of national concern.
4) Give Governor Bullock shit. Here's his contact page:https://governor.mt.gov/Home/Contact/shareopinion
5) Give the Flathead county commissioners shit
6) Turn up for the June 5th vote to support the Egan Slough Zoning District
7) Vow never to buy MAWC's water, under any circumstances, if it comes out on top.
Here's the link to the article in the Daily Interlake "DNRC Faces Tough Questions at DNRC Bottling-Plant Hearing"
Here's the link to the a blip in MPR: "Hearings Begin on Proposed Creston Water Bottling Plant"
find out more at: Water for Flathead's Future
P.S. Did you hear esteemed Commissioner Phil Mitchell has been accused of a felony? Click here.
(That being said, there's still time to contact Governor Steve Bullock. As a reminder, he has nothing. Zero. Nada. Tell him to do his frickin' job and issue an Environmental Impact Statement. Click 'Take Action' below.)