Opinion: Constellation Brands Bad for Mexicali?

Opinion: Constellation Brands Bad for Mexicali?

By Mario Conde

The future of Constellation Brands is in question due to its possible negative effects to the Mexicali Valley.

On October of last year, Constellation Brands, a leading international producer and marketer of beer, wine and spirits with operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and Italy, recently announced details about construction of a new a brewery in Mexicali. The new facility, slated to open in five years has a $1.5 million dollar price tag. More than 18,000 global companies chose to locate their manufacturing operations in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. That was the big announcement made last year that was received with a lot of fanfare from the business community on the Imperial Valley and Mexicali area that celebrated the coming of a big investment project coming to our area. However, Constellation Brands suddenly became a topic of conversation among Mexicali residents that have expressed their concern about how the company’s water use would impact the Mexicali Valley farms.

Mexicali Valley landowners filed a petition last week to temporarily suspend the Villahermosa-Mexicali aqueduct, which, to a greater extent, will distribute water to Constellation Brands. The complaint that was filed to an Mexican environmental protection agency is for damages to the environment and the natural resources of the Mexicali Valley, since an overexploitation of the aquifer would have consequences in the reduction of the static level favoring the saline intrusion, (which) degrades the structure of the earth and generates problems of contamination of groundwater, causing damage to the ecosystem.

The problem of this project is water. Baja California officials say that while other companies in Mexicali represent three percent of national suppliers, this new plant will reach 0.23 percent, in millions of cubic meters of water this is equivalent to 1.75 million. The amount Constellation Brands contemplates is seven million cubic meters per year, in the final stage of the brewery, which is below the 850 million cubic meters per year that the region receives.

The recent massive protest in Baja California started because of the increase of gas prices popularly known as El Gazolinazo but also it has been used to protest investment projects such as Constellation Brands and Ecozone, a project that has created controversy as well. Baja California Governor held a public meeting with producers of the Mexicali Valley and had a dialogued about the viability of Constellation Brands. Baja California Economic Development Secretary, Carlos Bonfante, said that the decision of keeping of stopping the construction of the brewing company will be in the hands of consultants that will do a review of the water issue.

As stated in my column last month, people in Baja California finally woke up and marched to demand for a better government and end corruption. So far, their movement has been successful. The government is listening and is aware that people will no longer tolerate incompetence and are being watch. Constellation Brands looks like an excellent project on paper but the integrity of the Mexicali Valley and its producers need to remain intact and not allow a huge company takes needed water resources for the valley and the rest of Baja California. Job creation and economic development opportunities don’t come to this area that often so there needs to be certainty and proof beyond reasonable doubt about the viability of this project that shows that this will benefit the people of Baja California. If it turns out that land use will be affected, people in government should be held accountable for approving a project that will hurt the people. I have sent several interview requests to Constellation Brands to know more about their position about the protest and how they are working with the State of Baja to write a more in-depth article on this topic but haven’t got back to me. I’m still waiting.

Before I end this column, I would like to congratulate my good friend Stella Jimenez who this week started working as the new field representative for Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia. Stella is a professional who in just two years had amazing professional growth as a journalist and her work covering the Imperial Valley was excellent even when journalism was the last career line she though she will be involved in a few years ago. She will be missed on the reporting field but rest assured that Garcia has an excellent community liaison in her.