Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioner’s hearing recap

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Here’s a recap of last week’s Chaffee County Commissioner’s hearing on Nestlé Waters proposal to move water out of basin. From the post:

In what appeared to be a move aimed at countering last week’s testimony by Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga, Nestle brought Colorado water law heavyweight Steve Sims to town.

Sims served as senior water counsel under former Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar. Named one of the state’s 2009 Super Lawyers, late last year Sims was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority. Sims and Nestle lead counsel Holly Strablizky, both of whom hail from Denver-based Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck. Last summer, an article in the New York Times named the firm “one of the most powerful legal firms in the West.”

Sims took direct aim at Scanga’s testimony that alleges that because of a prior existing intergovernmental agreement between UAWCD, Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District and Aurora, Nestlé’s proposed water lease with Aurora could have a “deleterious effect” on water in the Upper Arkansas River Basin, particularly in the event of a severe Stage III drought. State water law requires Nestle to replace the spring water it hopes to harvest in Nathrop with a court-approved augmentation plan.

To that end, in late March, Aurora City Council approved leasing Nestle 200-acre-feet of water annually for approximately $200,000 per year. The lease has a renewal option for an additional 10 years, at Aurora’s discretion. Aurora also reserves the right to interrupt its supply to Nestle in the event of a severe Stage III drought. In such a scenario, Nestle would be obliged to stop pumping unless it has an additional augmentation source that is not subject to the same drought restrictions.

Sims said that while he appreciates Scanga for “always looking out for the Upper Ark,” he also said it was “very very doubtful” that the Nestle-Aurora lease would change any legal dynamic on the river. Sims said the 200-acre-feet per year Nestle-Aurora lease is a fraction of Aurora’s 52.000-acre-foot portfolio on the Upper Arkansas Basin. Translating what the Nestle-Aurora water lease means in terms of the standard unit of river flow, Sims said it’s “unlikely a half cfs (cubic feet per second) per day would change anything.”

Commenting on the worst case drought scenario Scanga painted for the county, Sims said “it’s just not going to happen,” especially in light of Aurora’s Prairie Waters project which Sims said will double or triple Aurora’s water portfolio, buffering it against enacting the type of Stage III drought triggers that Scanga warned the county about. Sims is also Aurora’s legal counsel for the $800 million Prairie Waters project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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