Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners hear more testimony

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Here’s a recap of today’s proceedings with the Chaffee County Commissioners, from Lee Hart writing for the Salida Citizen. From the post:

For the first time in four months of public hearings, Nestle was obviously on the warpath as first Nestle project manager Bruce Lauerman, then Nestle lawyer Holly Strablizky took aim at Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga…

Lauerman called Scanga’s testimony “fuzzy math.”

Buena Vista resident John Cogswell also cross-examined Scanga challenging the veteran water manager’s assertion that the Aurora-Nestle lease would have a significant adverse net affect. “(UAWCD’s) water argument doesn’t hold water,” Cogswell told the Salida Citizen.

Cogswell tried to get Scanga to agree that Nestle’s lease with Aurora would be no more impactful to water in the basin than irrigating 100 acres of agricultural land. Scanga agreed that while the depletion is the same, the beneficial use of the water is not. A local rancher’s use of the water creates beneficial use within the county while Nestle’s bottled water project creates beneficial use outside the county, Scanga said.

During questioning from Commissioner Tim Glenn, Scanga said the Nestle-Aurora lease compounds the impact to the Upper basin in ways that would not occur if Nestle secured its leased water from another in-basin entity such as Pueblo Board of Water Works or the joint Salida-UAWCD proposal.

On that last point, longtime resident and local Realtor Karin Adams brought more math to light. The Aurora lease will cost Nestle approximately $200,000 for 200 acre feet of water for each of ten years, with an option to renew for another 10-year term. Aurora’s lease to Nestle could be interrupted in the event of a severe drought. Nestle rejected a joint offer from Salida and the UAWCD that would have cost $500,000 but would have provided an in-basin, uninterruptable supply of water that would have protected Nestle and other water rights users in the event of a drought. Scanga said if Nestle had agreed to the Salida-UAWCD proposal, the UAWCD would have re-invested the money to enhance the county’s water portfolio.

On another point, despite Scanga’s assertion to the contrary, Lauerman told the commissioners unequivocably that UAWCD has expressed interest in participating with Aurora in Aurora’s lease to Nestle.

Even if the Chaffee County commissioners approve Nestle’s Special Land Use Permit, Nestle still has to get water court approval for its augmentation plan. The stage has been set for a battle of the titans in water court. Based on Scanga’s predications, there will likely be at least two if not more objectors to the Nestle-Aurroa lease when it goes before the water court in a process that typically takes at least two years.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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