It’s not typical for a regularly scheduled meeting between the Lewis County Board of Commissioners and the prosecutor’s office to draw much of a crowd — but the dozen or so citizens sitting in on Tuesday’s meeting were enough for the assembly to be moved from its normal spot to one accommodating of more people.
The reason for the crowd was the agenda item reading “Crystal Geyser” on the lineup of topics of discussion — in reference to a proposed bottling plant on the Cowlitz River downstream from Randle that has drawn ire from area residents, tribal representatives and environmental organizations.
“I have been talking with citizens and the people of Lewis County — especially at the east end — for virtually every day, every day I’m talking to someone about it,” said Lewis County Commissioner Gary Stamper, whose commission district encompasses the property at 807 Peters Road, which was purchased by the company.
At the heart of the daily conversations, he said, are a consistent series of concerns — what a 100,000 square-foot facility would do to area traffic and noise, how the bottling plant would affect local wildlife and ecosystems.
Stamper, who attended the meeting telephonically — and who spoke with The Chronicle by phone following the meeting — said he wanted to address the prosecutor’s office, given the office’s personnel are the county’s legal representation. He wanted them to know that constituents have raised concerns with the prospect of the facility, in case an attorney’s input becomes necessary.
County Manager Erik Martin said he was contacted by Crystal Geyser via email the day before. He read the email and distributed copies to the crowd.
In the message, Page Beykpour, chief operations officer for CG Roxane LLC (another moniker of the Crystal Geyser company) highlighted that the project is far from set in stone and referenced a recent Chronicle article highlighting citizens’ concerns.
It reads in part: “We are aware of the recent Chronicle article and the growing excitement over this proposed project in Randle. While we have been trying to get the correct information out there even by speaking with the Chronicle, only partial information is being disseminated which has caused things to have gotten ahead of themselves.
“I wanted to let you know firsthand where we are on this project so that you can communicate status with County officials and staff. As you know, we have not submitted any building applications for this or any other site in the County and presently have no intention to do so. We have, and continue to, explore options both in the region and out of state.
“We purchased the parcel on Peters Road because our due diligence period had expired, but if it ‘s not the chosen site, we’ll sell it or convert it into another non-bottled water use.”
Stamper said that when news of the project broke, he heard some raise concerns, incorrectly, that construction had started and that the permitting process had been completed without any notification.
“I think that’s been pretty much dispelled,” he said. “I’ve been trying to communicate with (constituents) and I know the other commissioners have been sending the same message out.”