Grand Traverse Band Of Ottawa And Chippewa Indians Says Nestle's Plans For Michigan Water Ignore Treaty Rights

Hundreds showed up to a public meeting to discuss Nestle's plans to increase its well water withdrawal to 400 gallons per minute from a well in Osceola County, Michigan. Nestle Waters North America, the world's largest bottled water company, had already increased the water it was taking from the well from 150 gallons per minute to 250 gallons per minute from White Pine Springs Well. The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB) claims that removing that much water from the area will harm nearby Michigan wetlands, fish, and other aquatic life.

Nestle wants more water from Michigan, but will it harm wetlands?
The tribe believes that Nestle may harm wetlands if the company increases the amount of water they remove from the Michigan well. [Image by Couleur/Pixabay/cropped and resized/CC0 Public Domain]

A GTB press release states that "Nestle's application for massive groundwater withdrawal does not take into consideration the existence of GTB's treaty rights," which they say were confirmed in a November 2, 2007, consent decree. The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians reports that the well is located on land that was ceded to the United States in the March 28, 1836, Treaty of Washington. GTB reserves inland usufructuary rights to ceded land in Michigan. The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians' Natural Resources Department is reportedly coordinating efforts with other tribes in order to demonstrate the potential adverse impact that Nestle's plans would create.

"Great Lakes Indian people retained certain usufructuary rights over ceded lands and waters to hunt and fish for sustenance and commerce," according to the Michigan State Law Review website.

The Tribal Council encouraged its tribal citizens to submit written statements objecting to the increase in water removed for the Ice Mountain bottled water to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), citing that a citizens' group proved that a similar proposal for water removal would negatively impact nearby wetlands and aquatic life.

Nestle increase water removal in application.
Nestle's water deal in Michigan will affect wetlands, according to GTB Tribe. [Image by InspiredImages/Pixabay/cropped and resized/CC0 Public Domain]

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians says that the consent decree confirmed the existence of the tribe's off-reservation treaty rights pertaining to the area where the well at the center of the Ice Mountain debate is located. The GTB Tribe prepared a letter for its members to send to the Michigan DEQ which included the following impact statement.

"Not only is the State of Michigan required to protect this public trust resource on behalf of all citizens, but you have a special obligation under the March 28, 1836 Treaty of Washington to protect Treaty-reserved fauna and flora resources dependent upon the Muskegon River tributaries and related wetlands from being adversely impacted by the proposed increase in water withdrawal. Please honor our Treaty and deny Nestlé's permit application."
Kevin Gilbert wrote on the Facebook event page called "Notice of Public Hearing for Water Permit for Nestle" that in 2016, thousands of Detroit residents had their water shut off over an average debt of $627, while, according to Gilbert, "Nestle pay $200 for up to 400 Gallons a minute." Ferris State University's Torch reported that the company actually pays $200 to withdraw millions of gallons of water.
The Detroit Free Press reported that hundreds showed up to the public hearing at Ferris State University in Big Rapids after learning that the company's request is pending with state regulators. It also reported that public comments are being accepted by the state regulators through April 21, 2017.
The Inquisitr reported on another controversial situation involving Nestle water. The company easily outbid a group of small towns for rights to a local well. The Township of Central Wellington relies entirely on its own groundwater to supply water to its residents. The residents often faced water rationing, the Inquisitr reported, but Nestle was able to pull water from the community's water supply.

Tens of thousands of Michigan residents have signed a petition opposing Nestle Waters North America's plans to increase the amount of water withdrawn from the Michigan well, according to Ferris State University's Torch.

[Featured Image by Hans/Pixabay]