Niagara Bottling’s Executive Vice President of Legal Brian Hess speaks to Seguin City Council on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the City of Seguin's Facebook page.
Niagara Bottling’s Executive Vice President of Legal Brian Hess speaks to Seguin City Council on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the City of Seguin's Facebook page.

Weeks after Niagara Bottling‘s interest in building a water bottling plant at Brooks City Base was swatted down by San Antonio City Council and environmentalists, the City of Seguin has announced the California-based company will soon break ground on an $85 million, 557,000 sq. ft. plant several miles north of downtown Seguin.

Seguin City Council unanimously approved the deal on Tuesday.

Brooks City Base’s fast-tracked zoning request drew scrutiny from environmental groups, media and City Council after the City’s Zoning Commission approved the change on June 2. The item was scheduled for City Council approval on June 4, but was pulled for further review. It then became clear that City Council would not approve it.

“We serve whatever customers the City of San Antonio attracts, we don’t discriminate,” said SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente afterwards. “But, I guess it’s a relief.”

A relief to many.

“The water bottling plant opportunity was not thoroughly vetted by Council, so I am thankful we put the brakes on it,” Councilmember Ron Nirenberg (D8) said in June. “On the surface, it’s inconsistent with the conversation we are having with citizens about conservation and doing everything we can to ensure long-term water security for the city.”

Some officials estimate the bottling plant would have used as much as 1% of all the water SAWS pumps from the Edwards Aquifer.

Niagara Bottling's product on display. From the City of Seguin's Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/SeguinTX/photos/pb.279758608868108.-2207520000.1435781643./487241278119839/?type=3&theater
Niagara Bottling’s product on display. From the City of Seguin’s Facebook page.

In a news release, City of Seguin officials lauded the deal that includes an incentive package for Niagara: a $985,900 land grant from the Seguin Economic Development Corporation and a five-year partial property tax abatement valued at $485,000 from Guadalupe County. In return the City, Guadalupe County, and the Seguin Independent School District stand to receive $6 million in property tax revenue, according to the City. The first phase of the project will create 75 jobs. Most are expected to low hourly wage jobs.

“We are very fortunate in Seguin to have companies such as Niagara Bottling, LLC recognize what a great town and community we have and that Seguin is the best choice when considering locating a business,” stated Mayor Don Keil in the release. “Our dedicated workforce and forward thinking government continues to allow us to be a competitor in location decisions.”

Several sources said Niagara also was considering the City of Schertz as possible location for what will be its 20th plant. The Seguin plant is expected to be completed in less than a year.

According to the Seguin Gazette, “Family values and community were the words that seemed to be a constant during a presentation from Niagara Bottling, LLC’s Vice President Brian Hess at a special City Council meeting (after the deal was approved) on Tuesday.”

Seguin gets water from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which is also the largest non-Edwards Aquifer water supply for San Antonio via water pumped south of San Antonio and the $149 million Regional Carrizo pipeline and pumping station completed in 2014.

“We knew from our initial visit that Seguin is a special place,” stated Brian Hess, Executive Vice President of Legal for Niagara Bottling (see top image). “Meeting the City leadership only solidified our belief.  Niagara looks forward to a long partnership with Seguin.”

The company’s interest in moving to San Antonio comes eight months after City Council approved the 30-year, $3.4 billion Vista Ridge water pipeline project that will bring 50,000 acre-feet a year from Burleson County to San Antonio via a 142-mile pipeline. It’s an expensive project that, according to SAWS, will shore up San Antonio’s future supplies, but will also have the opportunity to sell the water it doesn’t need in the meantime.

The Vista Ridge pipeline also will draw from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.

The Rivard Report previously asked: Could Schertz or Seguin purchase Vista Ridge water from SAWS and then turn around and make it available to Niagara Bottling?

“They could do that, but we would have the opportunity to say no,” Puente said.

“That’s not something the council has considered, we haven’t gotten that far yet in our conversations,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said.

*Featured/top image: Niagara Bottling’s Executive Vice President of Legal Brian Hess speaks to Seguin City Council on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the City of Seguin’s Facebook page.

Related Stories:

Sierra Club: San Antonio Doesn’t Need Vista Ridge Pipeline

City Says No Thanks to Niagara Water Bottling Deal

Zoning Change for Water Bottling Plant Paused for a Second Look

Proposed SAWS Rate Structure to Promote Conservation

Council Approves Two Year SAWS Rate Increase

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org