Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Chaffee County closes of public comments

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Here’s a recap of this week’s Chaffee County Commissioner’s hearing on Nestlé Waters North America proposed Chaffee County Project, from Christopher Kolomitz writing for The Mountain Mail. From the article:

Submission of written comment ended earlier this month and the public’s chance to comment ended Thursday. “I think it’s a violation of the process,” Jay Hake, a Salida lawyer said. “When people haven’t had a chance to review (newly submitted Nestlé documents), I think it’s a serious problem.” He also pointed to new information county officials provide and the lack of public opportunity to comment and review. More criticism was aimed at multiple changes made in the Nestlé project since it was first submitted in November…

Additional arrows were aimed at the company, its testing, officials and the plan. Chip Cutler, a lawyer who lives in Howard, said the Nestlé’ pump testing should have been done at high levels replicating proposed pumping. Howard resident Alan Rule said he feared the burden of monitoring the Nestlé project would fall upon Chaffee County officials, something for which the county may not be prepared. Michele Riggo, member of a Salida sustainability group, asked if Nestlé’s commitment to a $500,000 endowment was in writing…

Daniel Zetler, another local lawyer, said he felt Nestlé tactics have been to offer as little information as possible and “throw bones” to the county when opposition arises. He said Nestlé has misled commissioners about property tax revenue generated by the project and had a goal of draining the local aquifer.

More coverage from The Mountain Mail (Paul Goetz):

Public testimony closed at 11:35 p.m. Thursday and Chaffee County Commissioners set a June 16 date to deliberate whether Nestlé’s 1041 application and special land use permit will be approved. Closing the comment period ended the seventh public meeting held on the issue which began at 1 p.m.

At the meeting Nestlé officials said the Bighorn Spring would be withdrawn from proposed development. Bruce Lauerman, natural resource manager for Nestlé Waters North America, Inc. western division, made the announcement to an audience of more than 150 at the Salida Steam Plant Theater. Lauerman said Nestlé remains committed to the Bighorn site, but water production would be from the Ruby Mountain Spring at about 124 gallons per minute. Lauerman said Nestlé will place both spring sites into a conservation easement. “Easements are not part of getting the permits,” he said, or that would negate the charitable act and spirit of an easement. In addition, Lauerman said Nestlé would allow in-stream fishing access only at both sites. However, “If it becomes problematic, we will reserve the right to shut it down.”

Don Reimer, county engineer and planning director, spoke about outstanding issues. Economic and water issues remained at the forefront of discussion. County economic impact consultant Jean Townsend of Coley Forrest told commissioners additional information provided by Lauerman early in the meeting will cause reduction of the assessed value. She said the assessed property is $6,300 for property tax and $10,500 for school tax. Nestlé consultants THK Associates estimate the county would receive about $375 per year for the highway users tax fund, and would receive $8,200 in property tax…

Commissioner Tim Glenn asked about the strength of the trucking company commitments to hire 50 percent locally. Lauerman said advertisements in the local newspaper were successful. He said if the company was to hire today, they would be able to hire seven local drivers. “Logistics people tell me we need about 15 drivers,” Lauerman said.

Glenn later questioned Jon Hollenbeck of ACA Products about the number of employees and duration they would be working on the project. Hollenbeck said the jobs would be temporary, and 10-12 people would be working…

County water consultant Jim Culichia of Felt, Monson and Culichia, said Nestlé will be subject to the same scrutiny as Coors. Nestlé will file in water court which will take about six months. It will take water court about five years to finish the application. In the interim, Nestlé will be allowed to transport water. Fairchild asked about exporting water outside Colorado before going to water court. She asked if the public trust doctrine mattered. Steve Sims, water attorney for Nestlé said there is no “public trust doctrine in Colorado.” Sims said, “If water court didn’t approve, Nestlé would not be able to pump.”

Several people asked about the cone of depression – whether the well (used to pump water from the spring source) would take water from the river. Lauerman said Nestlé specifically does not want river water, adding, “These springs are buffered, protected sites.”

Nestlé officials have collected data from a downstream weir for the past year, and were agreeable to adding a second weir and drilling a monitoring well if the trench were ever reclaimed to the wetland project. Lauerman was opposed to gathering more data, and said, “We have collected the data. I will strongly object for our project to be postponed while we collect more data.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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