Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners continue hearing to April 29

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From The Mountain Mail (Jennifer Denevan):

A final decision on the fate of Nestlé Waters North America’s special land use permit and 1041 application is on hold after Chaffee County Commissioners continued a special meeting until 1 p.m. April 29 at the Salida Steam Plant. During the Tuesday meeting in Buena Vista, which lasted a little more than seven hours in a standing room only American Legion Hall, commissioners heard comments from more than 20 people. Many more people were prepared to comment before commissioners decided to continue the meeting. Tuesday’s meeting was the third time residents had the chance to weigh in on the issue, and county officials said they have received more than 160 written comments.

More coverage from Jennifer Denevan writing for The Mountain Mail:

Consultants for the county and Nestlé each explained their stances on the application after Reimer gave his report. Ken Kohm, Ph.D., and Paul K.M. Van der Heijde of Geomega, a Boulder-based environmental consultant company working for the county, gave feedback of their review of Nestlé’s proposed groundwater and wetland development plan. Kohm and Van der Hejide expressed concerns about the site. The individual wetland structure and function were not identified by Nestlé, they said. There isn’t a history of the hydrology, Kohm said, so it’s difficult to fully understand what the impacts might be if previous patterns are unknown. Both consultants said correct monitoring is needed to get better data and recommended a complete monitoring and mitigation plan.

Bruce Lauerman, Nestlé natural resource manager, said he felt the testing done by Nestlé was sufficient, but he did agree with the consultants about having a monitoring plan.

Jean Coley Townsend of Coley/Forrest Inc., explained her concerns about the proposed positive economic impacts. She said she felt Nestlé overestimated revenues the county would receive, suggesting the amount would be 61 percent less than estimated by Nestlé due to Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights constraints. Townsend also said there were miscalculations regarding how the project is beneficial in terms of diesel fuel purchased, adding that there isn’t a local sales tax on diesel,. Townsend also feels the costs to the county were underestimated and said the real question is “What is the net fiscal impact?” She suggested the creation of a mitigation fund from which the county could pull money to offset costs.

Peter Elzi of THK Associates said the estimated costs of the project are now about $8.2 million instead of $4 million, which translates into more money into the county. He said he didn’t understand where the 61 percent reduction due to TABOR was coming from, and Townsend did not provide the basis for that number. Elzi admitted there was an error in calculating the income from diesel fuel but pointed to the Highway User Fund, through which $0.205 per gallon is given back to the county. Elzi said if Townsend was willing to show how she came up with her numbers, he’d review his information to determine what errors might exist and work to reconcile the differences…

Terry Scanga of the water conservancy district arrived late to give a copy of the letter as evidence. He said the district has concerns about the permit because of how Nestlé plans to augment the water. Nestlé would get the water from the city of Aurora, who in turn has an agreement with the district to lease water in a drought year, he said. Aurora may currently have plenty of water to lease, but that “savings account” is being drained, which would mean greater demand on the Arkansas Basin in a drought year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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