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Lake Association Files Suit Over Proposed Carlin Club Water Use

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An attorney for the Carlin Lake Association, Inc. is mounting a legal fight to stop a water bottling company from drawing water from a private well on the Carlin Club property in Presque Isle.

Attorney Daniel Bach of the Jefferson law firm Lawton and Cates filed a request for declaratory judgment Friday, Nov. 4 in Vilas County Circuit Court against Carlin Club Properties, LLC, of Middleton, which at one time operated as a restaurant, lodge and bar at the Presque Isle site. The legal filing says the plaintiffs “may file suit and seek injunctional relief to enforce compliance with the (county zoning) ordinance.”

“The use of the defendant’s Carlin Club property to pump and transport well water, for transport to a facility at a different site for bottling and commercial sale, constitutes a new and different use of that property that is illegal under the Ordinance,” the legal filing claims.

No hearing date has been set yet.

The plaintiffs also include seven association officers and members of its ad hoc water committee. Steven Kosnick, owner of Carlin Club Properties, is an investor in the water bottling enterprise (formerly known as Carlin Water Company) now known as Superior Springs, LLC. Well-known grocer Trygve (Trig’s) Solberg is a major investor in Superior Springs. A phone call to Solberg’s attorney was not returned in time for this story.

Association members at their annual meeting voted unanimously to pursue legal action on the matter, according to board member Carmen Farwell. The lake association and other community members oppose use of the well water by Superior Springs for fear it will draw down the aquifer that feeds the lake and negatively affect its water qualify. There are concerns also about increased traffic from water tankers.

Robert Nauta, a hydrogeologist hired by the lake association, agrees excessive pumping of the Carlin Club well could reduce the lake level and harm its water quality. The suit alleges Kosnick, of Fitchburg, would violate the Vilas County General Zoning Ordinance if he allows water to be pumped from the property and transported to Marenisco, where Superior Springs plans to open a water bottling plant. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says the company does not need a state permit as long as the total pumping is less than 100,000 gallons per day. Company representatives say they don’t plan to bottle more than 6,000 gallons of water per eight-hour shift.

Last July, Vilas County Corporation Martha Milanowski issued an opinion that Carlin Club Properties was within its rights to pump and transport water from its well, as it doesn’t constitute a new use under its grandfathered, non-conforming, use. The Carlin Club Properties and surrounding property are zoned R-1, a residential zoning classification. Vilas County Zoning Administrator Dawn Schmidt at first (by letter dated May 2015) said Carlin Club Properties would have to get a variance to pump and transport the water for commercial use. However, she now says she will follow the corporation counsel’s opinion.

A representative of the water bottling plant is optimistic that the plant will be in limited operation by mid December with full-scale production and sales to the public a month later. They will use water pumped from the Carlin Club well initially for their bottling purposes, said Jim Luedtke, one of the developers. The Carlin Club well can pump about 70 gallons per minute. Luedtke said they missed their start-up date due to weather-caused delays, exacerbated when contractors had to then go to other projects they had under contract. There were delays too in acquiring equipment, he continued, but that resulted in better machinery. For instance, the bottling equipment is now all electronically controlled, versus hydraulic operated as originally planned. “A lot of good came out of it,” he said of the new equipment. “It’s more environmentally friendly than before” and will also boost production. The equipment should be delivered to the plant by Thanksgiving, he said.

The plant now has sewer and water service, with 3-phase electrical power to be hooked up soon. In the meantime, they are drilling test wells at the Marenisco site to find “the best of source of water, with the most gallons.” It will be a high capacity well, able to pump over 100,000 gallons per day. Eventually, they will use the Marenisco well water for their bottling operation, but not entirely. The Carlin Club well water is “special,” he said of what’s being billed as natural mineral artesian spring water. “We do not want to give that up.” At an earlier public meeting in Presque Isle, Solberg had compared the Carlin water to that of the Fuji brand water noted for its high water quality. “Quite a few people,” including foreign buyers, are potential Superior Springs water buyers, Luedtke said. The plant will brand the water as Carlin Club and Superior water.

Luedtke refutes the claim of increased truck traffic being harmful. The 6,000 gallons per day from the Carlin Club site equates to one tanker truck trip per 8-hour shift, he says, noting that local logging and gravel pit operations put more trucks on the same roads. Contacted Friday, Luedtke had not yet heard about the court filing by the lake association. While the plaintiffs have “a right to do what they want,” his hopes are that the suit will be deemed to be frivolous. They have yet to hire the 6-8 production and clerical workers they need, but that process should start around Thanksgiving, he added.

More workers will be added later as production ramps up. “A lot of people in the UP are extremely happy with this operation, not only for the jobs but for the environmentally friendly operation,” he said. “It’s a ray of hope that this operation can turn around (the local economy), not only for Marenisco but also for Presque Isle, and others.” “We want to make sure that we are going to be good player for the local community. We will put back into the community what we can. Trig is a huge benefactor for this area and I hope our company will be a benefactor also in the long run.”

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