From the Colorado Independent (Scot Kersgaard):
Not everyone is happy about this. Buena Vista and Salida have birthed a protest movement that has been more noisy than effective. By some estimates, 80 percent of the roughly 17,000 people in Chaffee County are opposed to this diversion of water. Still, when it came time to issue permits, the three-member Board of County Commissioners was unanimous in approving Nestle’s plans. In the end, it was probably a combination of fear and Old-West style property rights values that carried the day for Nestle.
Commissioner Tim Glenn, the lone Democrat on the board, told a local reporter “Out and out denial of the permit… well you know what would’ve happened… we would have been sued.”
Commission Chair Frank Holman, on the other hand, thinks the Nestle deal is good for the county. “It is a good thing,” he said. “The county will get 12 to 15 new full-time truck driver jobs out of this. And those jobs are sorely needed,” he said…
Holman plays down concerns. He said that most of the water Nestle will be draining away would have flowed directly into the Arkansas, so the Aurora augmentation water more than makes up for what will be piped to Johnson Village and poured into trucks. He adds that the deal is now a matter of private property rights. Nestle now owns the land where the water originates, he said, and the company has leased the augmentation water to replace the water its carting away, so Nestle is well within its rights. “Nestle is a good neighbor,” he said. “They are giving us money to help with schools. They are creating a conservation easement on their land. And they are creating river access for fishermen.” Nestle has given $500,000 to two local school districts as an endowment from which the districts can spend the interest or earnings. The company has verbally promised to create a conservation easement on most of the land it has purchased, but no easement has yet been recorded…
Nestle is paying Aurora $160,000 a year for the water. The amount paid increases 5 percent a year for the first 10 years of the lease. After 10 years, Nestle has the option of requesting a second 10-year term. If Aurora agrees, the price will increase 3 percent a year for the final 10 years. Nestle can break the agreement at any time. Aurora can only break the deal if it can demonstrate that it needs the water for its own uses. The Aurora City Council voted 7 to 4 to approve this deal last year.
“The thing that gets me most fired up,” said Graham, “is how illogical it is to take our water, pipe it five miles to a truck plant, send 25 trucks of it to Denver every day, and then put it in plastic bottles. Considering that anyone can just turn a tap in their home and get the same water. It is just absurd.”