Opposition stirring against plans for big bottling plant in Anacortes

Apr 9, 2013

In the city of Anacortes, plans are underway to build what might become the biggest beverage bottling plant in the country.

Some residents are worried the scale of the operation will ruin their quality of life and put undue strain on the area’s water supply. Skagit County is considering a zoning change tonight to make room for the plant - and activists are planning to turn out against it.

A new company called Tethys Enterprises has an agreement from the city of Anacortes for the use of up to five million gallons of water a day for the massive plant. It would cover a million square feet. That's about the size of twenty football fields and about four times larger than most beverage companies operating today.

The plan is to take advantage of Anacortes’ proximity to rail lines to move the beverages to market. And it has some residents very worried.

“It’s going to be a huge impact on this area,” says Sandra Spargo, who founded a group called Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin when she learned about the city’s agreement with Tethys.

Over the past two and a half years, she’s pushed for public hearings and put on public forums to spread the word about it. And right now, she’s most focused on the traffic that’s likely, if the plant is built on Fidalgo Island, as proposed.

She says Anacortes already has several massive trains a day carrying oil shale to its refineries.  And there’s the possibility of proposed coal trains coming through the area soon as well.

“And so we add these water trains on top of this, that is a lot of train traffic off and on this island. And we have one highway going to I-5 out here and it’s across a bridge.”

She’ll be attending a hearing tonight to testify against a proposal to add 11 acres to the light industrial zone, near the site of the proposed beverage plant.

The city council has already approved the change, but they say it’s not necessarily for Tethys. Council member Eric Johnson says there are still discussions to be had about whether this huge beverage plant with a big rail yard actually fits the light industrial zoning.

“Does the concept of light manufacturing include a water bottling plant? That is a question we have yet to answer on the city council. Does light manufacturing, which is the area we’re in, include rail? Typically that’s a heavy manufacturing concept,” Johnson says.

Like many people in the area, he still has lots of questions about the proposal and also qualms about all the plastic bottles it would create. But he likes the idea of the jobs it would bring to Anacortes. He says the real opportunities for scrutiny will come later, if and when Tethys files for permits to build.