Here’s the release from Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water (Jennifer Swacina):
Nestlé, the world’s largest corporate water bottler, agreed to sell its North American bulk bottled water business (including the Arrowhead brand) to private equity firms One Rock Capital and Metropoulous. This $4.3 billion dollar sale is an especially ominous development in light of Wall Street’s accelerating interest in water trading.
The sale announcement raises many questions about what this means for communities currently entangled in legal hearings and permit negotiations with Nestle Waters. Will Nestle remain a part-owner of the company? In Chaffee County, specifically, will new owners follow through on permit commitments that Nestle has previously made – yet failed to complete – such as a conservation land easement? Are the buyers aware that Nestle failed to meet the required quota for hiring Chaffee County truck drivers, and that Nestle’s latest proposal includes investing in a truck driver training program through Colorado Mountain College?
“Nestle has not proven to be a good neighbor, and the only thing worse than Nestle, is Nestle operating undercover,” said Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water co-founder, Jennifer Swacina. “Our commissioners can, at their discretion, simply vote to deny this permit extension. They have all the ammunition they need.”
“Nestlé’s motivation is clear: to shed itself of its responsibility for the plastic pollution and environmental degradation its water extraction and bottling has caused and the damage these scandals have done to their brand and bottom line. It is also clear that a private equity firm, freed of Nestlé’s reputational responsibilities, will seek to cut expenses at the cost of the limited promises its predecessor made regarding environmental sustainability and community benefit. We call on elected leaders, regulators, advocacy groups and the media in Canada and the US to ‘follow the money’ and expose this deal to the highest levels of public scrutiny.”
The Chaffee County Commissioners approved a contract for Denver-based Harvey Economics to conduct an economic impact study of Nestlé Waters North America’s local operations.
In corresponding moves, the Commissioners voted to extend Nestlé’s existing 1041 permit to Aug. 4, 2021, and voted to continue the permit hearing to Jan. 19, 2021.
The existing permit allows Nestlé to pump up to 196 acre-feet of water per year at Ruby Mountain Spring, and Nestlé has applied for a 10-year permit extension.
The Commissioners have temporarily extended the original permit by more than a year, and this most recent extension will allow Nestlé to continue its operations while the economic study is conducted.
The extension also allows time for county officials, Nestlé and members of the public to review and comment on the economic study.
In discussing the timeline for the ongoing 1041 hearing, the Commissioners indicated they expect Harvey Economics to complete the study in approximately 3 months, after which Nestlé will have the study reviewed by a consultant.
Members of the public will have an opportunity to review the study, review Nestlé’s response, and comment on both documents, with Commissioners expecting to render a decision on Nestlé’s permit application by early June.
If the Commissioners deny the permit extension, Nestlé would have until Aug. 4, 2021, to phase out its Chaffee County operations.
Commissioners Chairman Greg Felt raised the issue of plastic bottles and asked Nestlé Natural Resource Manager Larry Lawrence about the feasibility of converting an existing bottling plant to use biodegradable bottles.
Commissioners want to measure the potential impact of Nestlé’s proposal to pump, truck and bottle up to 65 million gallons of water a year.
After several meetings in the last two months featuring hours of public input — virtually all of it opposing the plan — and executive session discussions with attorneys, the county’s three-member board of commissioners on Tuesday announced a plan to hire an economic analysis firm to study the economic impacts of the water-pumping proposal.
“I want to make the best decision I can with just three people here trying,” Commissioner Greg Felt said on Nov. 10 as he floated the idea of hiring an economist to study Nestlé’s request for a 10-year permit to pump and bottle water from a network of wells on the Arkansas River.
Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, began drawing water from the valley in 2009 as part of a 10-year permit. That permit allowed the company to drill wells, build a pipeline and truck water to Denver for bottling under the Arrowhead brand. The company acquires water from the Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District every year to augment flows in the river and replace its removal of groundwater.
Last year the company asked for a permit renewal and, after pandemic delays, the county began studying the request in October. Chaffee County’s commissioners have heard from dozens of residents that a lot has changed in the decade since Nestlé first arrived…
Nestlé earlier this year announced a plan to replenish all the water it sucks from watersheds and offset the carbon impact of bottling and transporting water. That “zero environmental impact” sustainability plan was followed by news that the international conglomerate was exploring the sale of bottling operations in the U.S. and Canada. The possibility of a sale troubled Chaffee County commissioners. The board drafted new permit rules that, if approved, would require local approval of a new owner to operate under the Nestlé permit.
Nestlé Waters North America was amenable to the new requirement. And the company earlier this month, in response to local input, crafted new conditions for the permit that would direct more Nestlé money into the local community…
The new conditions divide the company’s contributions to the county into two tiers based on how much water is extracted for bottling.
When the company pumps less than 125 acre-feet, or roughly 41 million gallons a year, the school districts in Buena Vista and Salida would get $15,000 a year for the length of the 10-year contract and up to $10,000 more a year for each school district depending on matching funds…
The commissioners will meet again on Dec. 8 to discuss a contract with an economic advisory group — the cost of which will be covered by Nestlé Waters North America — as well as the possible extension of the company’s permit during the analysis.
Editors note: This is the second of a three-part series examining the proposal to renew the county 1041 permit for Nestlé Waters North America.
With public hearings upcoming on whether Chaffee County should grant a 10-year extension with Nestle Waters North America (NWNA) of its 1041 permit to pump water from a local aquifer to truck to Denver for bottling as Arrowhead Spring Water, a review of the agreement’s history is informative.
The initial 1041 permit approved in 2009 was new legal ground for the county at the time.
Nestlé purchased more than 100 acres of land from the late Frank McMurray, the Big Horn Springs, in 2007; reportedly for more than $850,000. Nestlé had planned to pull water from that spring, but NWNA Natural Resources Manager Larry Lawrence said the company decided against using that spring over environmental concerns. A promised conservation easement on that property at the time has yet to be completed.
Nestlé also purchased the onetime fish hatchery property from Harold and Mary Hagen on the site of the Ruby Mountain Spring. This is the spring that Nestlé now taps for the water it takes from Chaffee County. The 11 acres reportedly sold for more than $2,800,000.
Nestlé established a pumping station at Johnson Village after buying about 1.4 acres of land and the liquor store owned by Steve Hansen for $1,125,000. The store was torn down at the site and the pumping station with large storage tanks built on the site, connected by miles of pipeline from the Ruby Mountain Springs pump house.
State water law requires use permits to include replacement (augmentation) of the water they extract, under complex rules mindful of numerous water rights, especially of those with senior water rights downstream on the Arkansas River.
Terry Scanga, head of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, explained that while the district didn’t agree then to lease the company water for its replacement, it was able to strike an agreement for the water with the City of Aurora. That agreement ended at some point; the district now does leave the replacement water to Nestlé, contingent on it being placed into the river upstream of its spring site.
The district received more than $152,000 last year from Nestlé for that replacement water.
The original 1041 pact would allow Nestlé to pump as much as 65 million gallons annually from the spring. But local officials say that currently, the amounts pumped never approaches that limit.
At the pumping station, 25 large tanker trucks per day fill up with the water collected in a 30,000-gallon storage tank on-site, and then drive up U.S. Hwy 285 about 130 miles to the Denver bottling plant, where it is treated and packaged in plastic bottles for sale in hundreds of stores around the state.
Lawrence said each of those trucks weighs about 87,000 pounds fully loaded, so drivers take their time getting to their destination. The firm doing the hauling, D.G. Coleman, has a good safety record.
Scanga, who has dealt with water law and water issues for decades, said from his perspective Nestlé has met the requirements of their 1041 permit regarding the water regulations.
Opposition groups, including Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water and the long-established environmental group 350 Central Colorado disagree and point to other permit conditions such as hiring local truck drivers, they say have not been met.
They are also critical of what they term is a lack of real oversight of the operation by the county.
Nestlé, portraying itself as a ‘good neighbor,’ has financially supported community causes and provided funds for educational programs.
These include paying a half-million dollars into two education endowments for Salida and Buena Vista schools. It has made $20,000 in one-time donations; including $10,000 to the Chaffee County Community Foundation, as well as contributions to the Boys and Girls Club; local Trout Unlimited chapter, and others.
Thousands of cases of Nestlé Water were also donated to Food Bank of the Rockies and other entities.
Critics often say while commendable, those community benefits are relatively minor in comparison to the profits the company garners from its bottled water sales and the loss of county water as a resource.
We’ll explore more specifics of the pros and cons of this contentious issue in our next report.
Public hearings on the proposed permit renewal are scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Oct. 20 and 9:00 a.m. Oct. 22 at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds. Attendance has to be limited due to COVID-19 concerns, but the hearings will also be available for viewing online.
Bottled water company Nestlé is seeking permission to extend its operations in Colorado’s Chaffee County, a move that is generating significant community opposition.
Nestlé Waters North America first won permission to export spring water from Chaffee County in 2009, building a pipeline and trucking the water to Denver where it is packaged.
The company hopes to renew its original 10-year permit to tap Ruby Mountain Springs near Buena Vista, which expired last fall. The water is sold under the Arrowhead brand.
Chaffee County Commissioners are expected to take up the matter at an Oct. 20 hearing.
Nestlé Natural Resources Manager Larry Lawrence declined an interview request, but in an email said the company strives to maintain environmentally sensitive operations and that extending the permit would create no new stress on the springs.
Separately company officials have said repeatedly that preserving water resources is key to their ability to continue selling water. The beverage maker has 25 plants in the United States, including the one in Colorado.
In the meantime, local activists have collected more than 1,200 signatures on Change.org opposing the permit extension.
Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water, with 300-plus members, said the permit renewal poses an ongoing threat to local water supplies due to chronic drought and climate change. Activists also say that Nestlé donations of bottled water to local nonprofits increases the county’s recycling costs, and that Nestlé has not followed through on some of the commitments it made to the county, including taking steps to preserve important property along the Arkansas River near the springs.
“We believe we are an environmentally sensitive county,” said Francie Bomer, one of the activists leading the effort to cancel the permit.
“We don’t like plastic and we don’t believe the benefit to the county is equal to the value of the water Nestlé is taking out,” Bomer said.
The conflict comes as bottled water manufacturers across the U.S and Canada face mounting criticism over their use of groundwater. Five states, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, are moving to ban or sharply limit the industry.
Earlier this year Nestlé opted to sell its Canadian operations, exiting a country in which local opposition had grown strong, according to published reports.
Under its Chaffee County permit, Nestlé is required to monitor water levels in the Ruby Mountain Springs and to replace any water it takes under a replacement plan overseen by the Salida-based Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.
Such plans are often required under state law, and are designed to ensure water users downstream of diversion sites with more senior water rights aren’t harmed by upstream diversions.
Manager of the Upper Arkansas Water District, Terry Scanga, said the replacement plan relies on water from Turquoise Lake in Leadville, which fully covers any water removed from Chaffee County by Nestlé. Scanga said the district has no plans to contest the permit renewal.
Nestlé is required to monitor water levels and habitat conditions as part of its agreement with the county. In its 2019 annual report, the company said it extracted 89 acre-feet of spring water, 5.6 percent of the 1,573 acre-feet of overall flow measured. An acre-foot is equal to nearly 326,000 gallons.
If its permit is renewed, the company estimates annual production would grow at 2 percent annually, but would still be well below the amount to which it is legally entitled.
In addition, ongoing monitoring by the company shows that the spring recovers quickly as water is extracted and that no harm to habitat has been noted since 2010.
“To date, spring water production has been well below the permit limitations and at no time over the last decade of monitoring has stress to the spring system resulted in conditions where pumping was required to be reduced, either to meet criteria under the permit or due to observations that indicated operations were negatively impacting upstream or downstream users or the ecological and biological systems,” the report states.
Bomer is skeptical of those reports because they have not been independently verified by outside experts.
Earlier this year, in advance of the permit renewal effort, the county hired experts to evaluate Nestlé monitoring data, according to Chaffee County Attorney Jennifer Davis.
Whether Chaffee County will become another bottled water hot spot in the international battle isn’t clear yet.
“We are a tiny county. Are we part of that bigger effort? No. We’re just trying to protect our resources so they will be here when we need them,” Bomer said. “But if we contribute to to that effort, that would be okay.”
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jerd_smith.
In a decision reflecting the complicated process of renewing a Colorado 1041 Permit, the Board of Chaffee County Commissioners moved to direct staff to extend the Nestlé Water (NWNA) permit and set a hearing six months down the road, due to the need for proper public notification. The six month time frame was requested by Nestlé to prepare for the required public hearing.
The hearing to consider renewal of the permit under which Nestlé has operated since 2009 had been initially scheduled based on the county’s standard 15 day public hearing notice requirements. But the process of renewing a Colorado 1041 permit requires at least a 30 day notice of public hearing, which did not occur in this case. Nestlé is requesting a 10-year extension.
“The extension is the simplest for us and the county,”said Nestlé Western U.S. Director Larry Lawrence, who attended the Oct. 15 meeting. “ We have been in good standing for the past ten years. When we reviewed our 1041 permit we had a couple different methods we could do: modify it [the agreement], or extend for 10 years. The process as I understood it was simply, all we had to do was file a formal written request, which we did on Sept. 16. We’re happy to work on other modifications as allowed.”
In 2009, after a comprehensive two-year permitting process that included significant stakeholder input, Nestlé was given unanimous approval by the Board of Chaffee County Commissioners to operate and source water from the Ruby Mountain Springs site in Chaffee County. At that time, the county required two permits in order for NWNA to operate in Chaffee County:
a Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) to develop a water supply in an area currently zoned as rural or commercial and,
a 1041 Permit to identify and mitigate any potential impacts from the proposed project.
The last-minute discovery that the scheduling of the Nestlé 1041 permit process was made in error, required formal action. While the BoCC initially discussed continuing the matter to its Nov. 19 regular meeting, “This does require notice to the public and public comment,” said Tom…
A motion was made by Commissioner Keith Baker to extend the current Nestlé permit for six months, to the time of the public hearing regarding the 1041 permit, which should occur in April, 2020. Commissioner Rusty Granzella seconded and it passed unanimously.
Trucking the water to Arrowhead Water’s Denver bottling plant began Aug. 17, [Arrowhead Water natural resource manager Bobbi McClead] said…
The spring water for Arrowhead is piped from Ruby Mountain Springs near Nathrop to Nestlé Waters’ truck loading facility. The water line for piping the water and the water line crossing on the Arkansas River were completed in late spring. During the installation of the water line crossing, Nestlé installed and paid for a second line for future use by the Town of Buena Vista…
Nestlé has ongoing projects in Chaffee County. One is the installation of a second well at Ruby Mountain Springs. That well will become the primary well, McClead said.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
Bobbi McClead, natural resource manager of Arrowhead Water, a subsidiary of Nestlé Waters, will provide the Rotary Club of Buena Vista with an update on the status of Nestlé Waters construction at Johnson Village on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 a.m. at Eddyline Restaurant, 926 South Main St. in Buena Vista. McClead will report on the completion of the storage and loading facilities as well as the commencement of trucking water from the Arkansas Valley to Denver.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
The Colorado Independent’s Scot Kergaard details some of the money trail for Nestlé’s project to move 200 acre-feet or so of water from the Arkansas Basin to the company’s Denver bottled water facility. From the article:
Early to cash in was Frank McMurry, who back in May 2007 sold Nestle 111 acres for $860,000, even though the land, known as Big Horn Springs, is not being used by Nestle. The company had originally planned to bottle some water from this site but environmental concerns ultimately convinced the company to withdraw this site from their permit. The company has made a verbal promise to place a conservation easement on the property.
McMurry is a former Chaffee County Commissioner, a member of the committee that OKd the Nestle deal.
In December 2009, Steve Hansen, owner of Gunsmoke Liquor, sold his store and 1.41 acres in Johnson Village to Nestle for $1,120,000. Nestle tore down the store to build its loading station, where it will fill trucks bound for Denver. Hansen retains the liquor license and is expected to rebuild.
A day after Hansen sold to Nestle, Harold and Mary Hagen hit the jackpot, selling 11 acres to the company for $2,850,000. The former Hagen property is the site of the springs that Nestle is tapping– the Ruby Mountain Spring and onetime Hagen Fish Hatchery. Since the Hagens were unable to sell Nestle sufficient water rights for its purposes, Nestle had to look elsewhere to augment its source…
Aurora took up the deal, agreeing to lease the company 65 million gallons of water per year for 10 years, with an optional 10-year renewal. The first year payment is $160,000. The price will rise 5 percent a year. Aurora can cut the deal off in any year that it needs the water for its own purposes.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
This evening, Nestle can turn the spigot and begin filling its fleet of twenty-five 8,000 gallon trucks each day. Many consider a drop in the bucket the 65 million gallons of water Nestle has the rights to bottle and sell every year, at least in terms of the impact on the Arkansas River and its aquifers.
Others look at it differently. The deal has riled up local environmentalists who cringe at the very idea of siphoning off the precious cargo to pour into environment-straining plastic bottles and burning up gasoline to ship it throughout the West. John Graham, president of one of the local advocacy groups opposed to Nestle, shakes his head at the very idea. He says water as clean as the water Nestle is bottling is available to almost everyone with a tap for a fraction of the price and with none of the environmental impact of an operation that will log more than 6,000 miles a day at least on the road between Johnson Village and Denver…
Chaffee county’s permitting process produced a document listing 44 conditions Nestle had to meet before it pumped a drop and that it must continue to meet as pumping continues. County Development Director Don Reimer, who today issued the notice to proceed, is tasked with monitoring the operation on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance. Conditions include such things as monitoring the condition of wetlands and groundwater to ensure that the pumping operation does not have a negative effect. It also includes a stipulation that at least half the truck drivers have primary residency in Chaffee County and that Nestle attempt to hire 100 percent of the drivers from Chaffee County.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here.
Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, a key Aurora water partner and one angered by the deal, told the Colorado Independent it’s not clear Aurora has the right to lease water to Nestle. “Water is decreed for specific uses in specific areas. Aurora’s water rights in the Arkansas Basin were decreed for their use in their municipality,” he said…
Greg Baker, manager of public relations for Aurora Water, told the Independent that, in fact, the city is leasing only a small percentage of excess capacity to Nestle and that if a situation arises where Aurora needs the water for its own uses, it can temporarily shut down the Nestle operation. Baker said that Aurora has storage capacity of 155,000 acre-feet of water in various reservoirs, so 200 acre-feet may not matter one way or another to the city.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
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.”
More Nestlé Waters North America’s Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
Nestlé Waters North America announced last year that they had struck a deal for augmentation water from Aurora via Twin Lakes for the bottled water giant’s Chaffee County Project. Nestlé Waters’ plan is to truck 200 acre-feet or so out of basin to Denver for bottling. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is spreading the word in the valley, according to a report from Scott Condon writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:
A plan by a subsidiary of Nestlé to bottle water near Buena Vista could have implications for the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers, the Roaring Fork Conservancy warned this week. It also signals that the beverage industry is on the prowl for high mountain spring sites in Colorado’s mountains — another potential threat to limited water supply of the Roaring Fork watershed, said Tim O’Keefe, education director for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based nonprofit focused on water quality and quantity issues. “We’re trying to use what’s happening in [Buena Vista] to sound the alarm,” O’Keefe said…
Aurora diverts water from Grizzly Reservoir, about 10 miles east of Aspen. That water is piped via the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion Project to the east side of the Continental Divide, dumped into Lake Creek and stored in Twin Lakes Reservoir. Aurora also diverts water from the upper Fryingpan basin through the Busk-Ivanhoe Project to Turquoise Reservoir, which also feeds Twin Lakes. Numerous documents tied to the Nestlé plan indicate that Twin Lakes is among the sources Aurora can use to sell water to Nestlé to augment the Arkansas River, according to G. Moss Driscoll, an attorney who recently interned with the Roaring Fork Conservancy and helped with the position paper on bottled water. “There’s no doubt it will involve transbasin water,” Driscoll said.
[Aurora] intends to use water purchased from Lake County ranches and the Columbine Ditch to feed the Arkansas River directly and fulfill its augmentation contract. Water from Twin Lakes is listed as a possible source for augmentation, but is unlikely to be used, Baker said. Even if it is, very little comes from the upper Fryingpan and Roaring Fork drainages. The vast majority of Aurora’s water diverted from the mountains comes from Homestake Reservoir, another source that leads to Twin Lakes. In a strict accounting sense, some Roaring Fork water could be used to augment the Arkansas River, Baker said, but it would be a rare occasion and a small amount.
The Roaring Fork Conservancy counters that Nestlé’s bottling scheme is just another way, however small, that the Roaring Fork watershed is being tapped. “The two springs Nestlé is proposing to draw water from are fed directly by the Arkansas River, the flows of which are bolstered by transmountain diversions from the Roaring Fork Watershed,” the conservancy’s paper said. “On average each year, 37 percent of the runoff in the Upper Roaring Fork Subwatershed and 41 percent of the runoff in the Upper Fryingpan Subwatershed is diverted to the Arkansas River Basin.”
The conservancy is sponsoring the screening of a film called “Tapped” to educate people about the broader issues surrounding bottled water. The documentary is a “behind-the-scenes look into the unregulated and unseen world” of an industry that is trying to turn water into a commodity. It’s from the producers of “Who Killed the Electric Car” and “I.O.U.S.A.” The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. on March 31 at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen and at 7 p.m. on April 6 at the Church at Carbondale. Tickets are $9.
Town engineer Rachel Friedman will work with Nestlé during the construction. After the water pipeline is completed, Nestlé will convey the pipeline to the town. The agreement with Chaffee County grants an easement on its property on the Arkansas River. Also approved was an agreement with Paul and Rohnda Moltz for an easement on their property underneath the river. As of this meeting, the town had not heard from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding an application for a permit for the construction of a pipeline under the river.
According to Friedman, the town’s water master plan documents the need for additional water for future annexations anticipated within the town’s three-mile planning area, including Johnson Village.
More Nestlé Waters North America Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
The recommendation by Chaffee County Planning Commissioners to amend the special land use permit application includes installation of two pipelines in the trench – one for the company and one in partnership with the Town of Buena Vista…
Nestlé earlier received approval to drill a directional bore under the river, but elected to revise plans for an open cut to accommodate a request made in January by Buena Vista officials who want to install an additional pipeline for future use by the town. The Nestlé company agreed to install a 16-inch pipeline for Buena Vista, at no cost to the town, while they install their 6-inch pipeline within a 16-inch casing. The construction site is south of the U.S. 24 bridge across the river at Johnson Village between CRs 301 and 312. Don Reimer, Chaffee County planner, said his staff personnel considered 15 criteria including noise and geologic and wildfire hazards, before announcing they were agreeable to amending the special use permit. Holly Strablizky, land use counsel for Nestlé, said, “To minimize impact, we thought it was a good thing to team with Buena Vista as long as we can complete the work by March 15 as stipulated by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “If county commissioners don’t approve the amendment or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot issue the permit in time, we will go back to our original plan.”[…]
Bobbi McClead, natural resource officer with Nestlé, explained new technology would employ an aqua barrier cofferdam – inflatable plastic structures – in the river to dewater a portion of the stream at a time to allow trenching. Pipelines will be placed 8 feet beneath the river bed. “The plan uses the best available technology in construction to prevent erosion, sedimentation in the river and is protective of wildlife and wildlife habitat during construction,” McClead said. When construction is completed, Nestlé will revegetate the disturbed area with native plants and seed-mixes to leave the area “in original or better” condition, she said.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
Bottled water and newfound caution approaching all things water is the subject of this article from Moises Velasquez-Manoff writing for the Christian Science Monitor. He ties his story to Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project. From the article:
Citing myriad concerns, a group of [Chaffee County] residents has objected vigorously. They worry about impacts to the watershed and to nearby wetlands. They say that climate change, predicted to further dry Colorado and the Southwest, warrants a precautionary approach to all things water-related. And, pointing to fights other communities have had with the company, they say they simply don’t want Nestlé as a neighbor. Nestlé counters that these concerns are overblown. The company says: The amount of water it plans to withdraw is negligible; the project will bring many benefits – economic and otherwise – to the community; and the company, the largest water bottler in North America, is an upstanding corporate citizen…
But many say the greater story – about a growing world population of more than 6.5 billion faced with a limited supply of fresh water – is, in fact, just beginning. Experts not directly involved in the Chaffee County situation point to it as evidence of rising sensitivity to water issues everywhere. They cite a growing number of disagreements between communities and bottled-water firms around the US – in Maine, California, Florida, and Michigan, among other places – as evidence. “There is a growing interest in water as a whole [and] growing scarcity in the Western United States,” says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif., a nonprofit that does research and policy analysis in the areas of environment and sustainable development. “And when people pay more attention, it sort of makes it harder to do the things [bottled water companies] used to do without any opposition.”
These companies have now become the focus of campaigns against bottled water in general. Organizations like Corporate Accountability International and the Environmental Working Group rail against bottled water for a number of reasons, the environmental impact of plastics among them. (Lauerman points to Nestlé’s new ecoshape bottles, which, he says, use 30 percent less plastic than most.) The groups also argue that consumption of bottled water – paying for something that’s already cheaply available – leads to neglect of municipal water infrastructure, to everyone’s detriment. The US Conference of Mayors has urged cities to stop buying water and has called for an investigation into how much the industry costs taxpayers. (By one estimate, 40 percent of bottled water comes from municipal sources, not springs.)…
But the assumption underlying these laws – that water is in limited supply – is the correct one, says Robert Glennon, author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It.” Other states often allow “a limitless number of straws in the glass,” he says. But in Colorado, if you can’t replace it, you can’t take it. “That’s exactly what I think we should do,” he says.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
Resolutions had been tabled at the Aug. 19 meeting at which commissioners approved the project, pending county staff developing appropriate language. Commissioners also approved the Chaffee County cost reimbursement fund, into which Nestlé will make payments from which the county can draw to offset costs related to the project. A portion of the project related to an easement along CR 301 was tabled pending commissioners receiving appraisal information. The easement will be included on a regular business agenda for commissioners…
[Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability board member Lee Hart] mentioned 20 standards not met by Nestlé’s initial application and questioned whether county-imposed conditions would ensure Nestlé’s compliance since they use the word “should” instead of “will.” Commissioners charged us with being the watchdogs-we’ll show them what a watchdog is like,” she said.
Here’s Lee Hart’s report from the Salida Citizen. From the article:
Of the dozen or fewer people who testified in favor of Nestle over the course of its public review, almost without exception, all stood to enjoy direct financial benefit from approval of the project. I hope these good, hard-working folks and neighbors understand that the opposition to Nestle was never about them. Like any private property owner in this country, the ranchers can sell their land to whoever they believe gives them a fair price for it. What happens after the sale is no longer the seller’s responsibility. However, when the new landowner proposes to change the existing uses on the land, in particular in this case when the property is deemed to be “an area of state interest,” then the matter must be considered by elected officials during a public process in which the public has a chance to air their concerns about how that new land use designation may impact them, for better or worse.
Over nine months of public hearings, hundreds of citizens passionately voiced their unambiguous opposition to Nestle. This, in the face of a hearing format that seemed biased in favor of giving Nestle every courtesy and consideration while on more than a few occasions showing visible irritation at testimony by local residents. In packed meeting rooms in Buena Vista and Salida, taxpaying voters waited patiently through inhumanely long meetings for their turn to speak out. The commissioners allowed Nestle to run beyond their allotted agenda time by – on some nights – hours, yet when citizens went a few seconds over their 3-minute allotment of time at the microphone, Commission Chair Holman threatened to forcibly remove the speakers. The bias was apparent again today when in the waning moments before they unanimously agreed to approve Nestle, the commissioners haggled over language pertaining to a Nestle-funded community endowment. In refusing the quantify – at all – Nestle’s annual programmatic contributions to the fund, the commissioners left it to Nestle – rather than the community – to define the dollar amount of philanthropic giving that constitutes being a “good neighbor.”
Face to face with a cadre of Nestle lawyers and high-priced experts, campaign promises by Giese and Holman, made less than a year ago, melted away as quickly as butter in August. Holman pledged that on his watch, no more water would leave this valley. How then could he sign a resolution permitting 65 million gallons to be sucked and trucked beyond county lines? Giese famously said that green is the color of the future of this valley. How could Giese possibly interpret as good for green all the warnings thrown up by the county’s own consultants and referral agencies warning that Nestle could have negative impacts to surface water quantity and quality, groundwater quantity, air quality, wetlands and the plants and critters that depend on the riparian habitat.
Public opposition to Nestle boiled down to several key themes: Incontrovertible evidence prior to their arrival in Chaffee County and even during the public hearing process made it hard to believe Nestle could, without very specific legally binding stipulations, be the “good neighbor” they purport to be; the intentionally weak and sugar-coated science Nestle presented during its testimony belies lurking danger to surface and groundwater resources as well as riparian habitat that is bad for the longterm sustainability of the environment, as well as future economic development prospects for the valley. Even the county knows this as implied in the Special Land Use Permit where the county writes “Future development outside the subject parcels may impact the quality or quantity of spring water related to the Project.” It would be naive to think Nestle won’t assign some of its vast resources to block any future housing or commercial development upgradient of its Bighorn and Ruby Mountain springs. It’s hard to imagine any small developer or business person being able to prevail against a fight waged by the world’s largest food and beverage maker.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
Jay Hake of Hake, Heart and Lintzenich, who advises the organization, said there are four options. One is do nothing, second is a recall, third is a process review and fourth is going to water court. Hake said the first option would accept the project as proposed after changes and conditions were met. All those changes and conditions came from community input, he noted. A recall doesn’t provide much satisfaction, Hake said, because it wouldn’t change anything or stop Nestlé from pumping water. The last two options could become long, expensive legal battles, Hake said – requesting review of the commissioners’ approval of the 1041 permit or going to water court with Nestlé…
A review request must be filed within 30 days of the resolution signing date. Hake said commissioners will host a special meeting at 10 a.m. Sept. 23 in the courthouse to review the staff-written resolution and may approve it then. Review would raise questions about the process. He said the 1041 has been in effect since 1973. The question to ask, is if officials correctly followed the process, he said.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
Hello Friends, CCFS has scheduled a meeting to discuss the status of the Nestle Waters project. The date is Wednesday September 16, 7pm at the Salida Community Center (3rd & G St.) At this meeting we will present some background, talk about the current standing of the permit application, discuss the permit resolution, and explore some of the options that the public has to resist the project. If you can be present we encourage and invite your participation.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
Click here to read Lee Hart’s analysis of last moment tactics from Nestlé Waters before the Chaffee County Commissioners approved the 1041 permit.
Here’s a release from Nestlé Waters via PRNewswire.com:
On August 19, Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners unanimously directed County legal counsel to prepare resolutions of approval for Nestle Waters North America to produce spring water for its Arrowhead Spring Water Brand.
Nestle Waters has been actively engaged in Chaffee County since 2007. In November 2008, the company applied for a Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) and 1041 Permit. The process has included numerous public hearings, extensive community dialogue, thousands of pages of scientific, economic, and ecological and environmental data collection and research. The process is thorough, comprehensive, and involves the review of a number of different independent consultants and agencies with diverse areas of expertise, and the review and approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of County Commissioners.
“Chaffee County is a special place, we appreciate the many community members we’ve had the privilege to meet who have provided valuable advice and helped to shape our project to better fit this community,” said Bruce Lauerman, Nestle Waters North America’s Natural Resource Manager in Colorado. “We have a unique opportunity to protect a natural water resource, preserve beautiful open space, create local jobs and provide additional funds for education and other needs in the local community.”
For nearly two years, Nestle Waters has been working together with local residents, conducting site tours, and reaching out to local agencies and businesses to tailor this project to best fit the needs and desires of Chaffee County citizens. Included as part of its permit application, Nestle Waters voluntarily added a comprehensive community giving effort that will provide: a $500,000 endowment for local education initiatives; a permanent conservation easement to protect Nestle’s 115 acres along the Arkansas River; in-stream fishing access at the Ruby Mountain and Bighorn Spring Sites; multi-million dollar local contracts to Chaffee County construction companies to construct the five-mile pipeline; programmatic annual giving to locally identified needs in the community; opportunities for environmentally-focused field work with local college and high school students; a comprehensive, wildlife-habitat restoration project of the old Ruby Mountain fish hatchery (which will incorporate a number of local agencies and interested groups); and a commitment to hire at least 50% of its truck drivers from the local area.
As part of the conditions of its 1041 and SLUP permits, Nestle Waters will be required to provide a comprehensive land management plan of the spring sites, to include the hatchery restoration, surface water and groundwater monitoring and mitigation plans, protection of bighorn sheep habitat, streambank and wildlife friendly fencing, and other environmental, construction, and land use conditions. Long-term hydrologic monitoring, initiated in 2007 will continue throughout the life of the project.
“We appreciate the efforts made by the County Commissioners, Planning Commission, and Staff during this lengthy and complex permitting process,” said Lauerman. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with this community and working together to benefit the Arkansas River Valley for years to come.”
The approval includes 40 conditions, totaling 11 pages and addressing what the commissioners considered some of the most controversial aspects of the proposal, namely water and economics.
However, it was a seemingly minor issue that proved to be the day’s most contentious. Citing private property rights and potential adverse impact to wildlife, Commission Chair Frank Holman adamantly objected to requiring Nestle to provide overland fishing access to the Arkansas River. Commissioner Tim Glenn was just as adamant that the easement was “not overly burdensome” to Nestle and provided very desirable public shoreline fishing access in a county where recreation is such an important part of the economy. Commissioner Dennis Giese was on the fence. In the end, the commissioners agreed to let the local Division of Wildlife determine if and where overland fishing access would be appropriate on the Nestle property.
Nestle had hoped to have the overland fishing access condition deleted from the final list of conditions writing in a memo to county staff that to do so would “unacceptably increase risk to security and spring water quality” and created an “unwarranted and significant business risk” to the company…
Sam Schabacker of the national non-profit Food and Water Watch said Colorado’s battle with Nestle is being closely watched around the country and is considered pivotal to the nationwide fight against the privatization of water. “This is the first battleground in the Rocky Mountain West – the arid West – and CCFS has shown great leadership in this national struggle.” Schabacker said the intelligence and dedication CCFS has shown through the application review process puts the organization in a good position to recalibrate and take the fight to the next level, joining the ranks of citizens in Maine, California, Michigan and Flagstaff, AZ.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County project coverage here and here.
Nestle will be able to pump a maximum of 200 acre-feet of water annually from one spring source at the 16-acre Ruby Mountain Spring site of Nathrop between Salida and Buena Vista…
The commission on Wednesday finalized a list of nearly 50 conditions that deal with environmental, economic-development and water issues. Nestle will be required to establish a $500,000 endowment to fund science, environmental or Chaffee County school projects, plus establish and perpetually replenish a $200,000 mitigation fund to cover the county’s administrative costs for overseeing the permit condition reviews and other unforeseen expenses. In addition, Nestle will be required to hire local contractors, buy supplies locally and employ at least 50 percent of its truck drivers from Chaffee County. Nestle also has pledged to obtain a conservation easement for the property so it will remain open space and can never be developed.
“One area I really struggle with is the project benefits. Do they outweigh future development of that property or those resources?” Commissioner Tim Glenn said. “The alternatives of what might happen, I can see, will be 2-acre subdivisions with wells and septic tanks. “Is that going to be a benefit to the area? In some regards, yes; in some regards, no,” Glenn said…
“My issue was water and long-term water loss. With augmentation, there is no doubt the water is being replenished in time, place and amount. I believe all the conditions satisfy my concerns; we’ve worked hard for the citizens,” Commissioner Dennis Giese said…
“I am pleased with a unanimous vote for approval with the conditions. We will bring a very good project to Chaffee County that will improve the economy, provide open space preservation and restore the (old private) fish hatchery,” said Bruce Lauerman of Nestle.
More coverage from The Mountain Mail (Jennifer Denevan):
County staff members were directed to write separate resolutions – one for the 1041 permit and another for the special land use permit. The resolutions will be considered during a future regular business meeting. Some changes were made to the conditions considered by commissioners during the special meeting Wednesday and must be rewritten, but will be included in both resolutions…
Commissioners discussed conditions with which they had issues and determined how they needed to be rewritten. They wanted to ensure wording fits needs and intent. Commissioners requested clarification of the cost reimbursement fund and the fishing access stipulation. The cost reimbursement fund is money Nestlé would put aside for three types of project-related costs including anticipated and unanticipated – such as lawsuits. Commissioners also discussed the fishing access condition. Holman and Tim Glenn disagreed about access being allowed in the Bighorn Springs area. After rewording the condition, commissioners agreed if Colorado Division of Wildlife personnel don’t find it suitable, Nestlé won’t be required to create a river access point.
Forty-seven conditions on the 1041 permit application filed by Nestlé North American Waters were reviewed by board members Wednesday. Commissioner Tim Glenn said he felt the county has given Nestle plenty of time to review the conditions formed, in part, using public comment and that portion of the process is closed. Board members indicated they wanted to continue movement and review stipulations individually, ensuring they all understand what is meant and the language is what they want. Barbara Green, county 1041 special legal council, said there are different types of conditions – one of which is to hold Nestlé to promises the company has already made.
After discussion Wednesday, commissioners set the next deliberation meeting for 9 a.m. Aug. 19…
The 47 conditions reviewed Wednesday were within categories including general, water and wildlife habitat; access, easements and exception, construction, economy, project water supply, water rights, augmentation, traffic and air quality and mitigation fund. Jim Culichia of Felt, Monson and Culichia, LLC., discussed water rights and supply conditions with commissioners. He drafted those conditions and serves as water counsel to Chaffee County. Some conditions, such as the mitigation fund, were rephrased to reflect what commissioners want to accomplish with the conditions. Green noted having two funds might be a possibility to solve mitigation issues. One fund could be for on-going expenses, she said, and the second would be for unexpected expenses including litigation.
More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):
To try to assuage the commission’s fears about impact to the watershed, water attorney Jim Culichia of Colorado Springs drafted 10 of the conditions. The complexity of the task, he said, was making conditions that would be enforceable through Nestle when it is the city of Aurora that plans to lease Nestle the 200 acre-feet of augmentation water annually. “We don’t have any control over what Aurora does, but we do have some control over what Nestle does. They (Aurora) have created a demand they did not have before this lease (with Nestle),” Culichia said. Specifically, Culichia drafted a condition that would require Nestle to temporarily stop pumping if water is in such short supply that Aurora has to use exchange water downstream of Pueblo. The idea, he said, is to have the augmentation water flow through Chaffee County to offset what is being pulled from the Arkansas basin in Chaffee County by Nestle. “We also would require (that) Nestle provide detailed accountings to prove water provided meets the agreement,” Culichia said.
In the event that Nestle continued to pump during lean water times, Culichia said he sought to make the condition enforceable by having a penalty associated with it. “For each acre-foot of water pumped during those times, they would have to give up two additional acre-feet,” Culichia said. For example, if Nestle pumped 10 acre-feet when prohibited, it would therefore be giving up 30 acre-feet of pumping rights, Culichia said.
Conditions also would limit the number of wells at two and limit pumping to 200 gallons per minute or 16.66 acre-feet per month…
In terms of economic impact, commissioners mulled permit conditions that would require local construction jobs be given first to Chaffee County residents or, if not possible, expanded to contractors within 25 miles of the county. The board also is considering requiring Nestle to purchase materials and supplies locally as well as hire no less than 50 percent of its water-truck drivers from Chaffee County.
Other conditions getting fine-tuning Wednesday dealt with limiting truck traffic to one truck per hour between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day, fishing access, a conservation easement, groundwater and wetlands monitoring and much more. The commission also directed county staff to revamp a condition dealing with a mitigation fund. The draft condition sets the fund at $50,000 but Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese said he thought that was not enough.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County project coverage here and here.
Update: Here’s a recap of the meeting from the Ark Valley Voice (Sterling R. Quinton). From the article:
[Nestlé Waters North America] submitted a request to put off a decision by the Commissioners until such time as the contractual conditions for the permit could be “word-smithed” with input from NWNA. To some, such overtures appeared to be the company angling for negotiations. Possibly anticipating such an accusation, NWNA Regional Manager Bruce Lauerman stated that, “We’re not writing these conditions, but we have some suggestions.”
Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability’s John Graham requested that any potential decision be held off until a public-comment period could be held for community input on the contract conditions. Graham suggested that the public and various consulting firms should be able to offer input on conditions of such magnitude. The Commissioners denied both requests.
Chaffee County commissioners spent hours Wednesday deliberating a proposal by Nestle Waters to ship Arkansas River Valley spring water to Denver for bottling…The commissioners will take up the Nestle plan again Aug. 19.
More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):
Since last fall, Chaffee County commissioners have been wrestling with the project and harsh public reaction to it. On Wednesday, they went over a long list of conditions under which they would approve Nestle’s plan. But the board, which held a half-dozen marathon public hearings in the spring and has debated it twice in meetings since, again balked at taking a vote on a land-use plan. Commissioners set Aug. 19 for the next meeting, at which county staff will present refined conditions…
The commissioners denied requests by Nestle to delay the discussion and by opponents to reopen public comment.
“We have worked a long time reaching this point where we have these conditions,” said Commissioner Frank Holman, “Even though I believe we need to go through them and ask a number of questions and clarify and perhaps request staff do some more work on them, I, for one, believe we have the input we need.”
Among the 47 conditions are the hiring of local workers, limitations on the number of trucks per day on U.S. Highway 285, requirements for monitoring ground water in the area and stipulations that the city of Aurora, from whom Nestle is buying replacement water, release water upstream from the springs. The wells would have to be shut off in years when extreme drought compels Aurora to lease water from downriver farmers.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County project coverage here.
Lee Hart continues her coverage in the Salida Citizen of the Chaffee County Commissioners deliberations over Nestlé Water’s Chaffee County Project 1041 permit.
First up is a long post about the lack of discussion about climate change in the debate over Nestlé’s plans to truck 200 acre-feet or so of water out of basin to Denver for bottling. Read the whole article, here are a couple of excerpts:
Yet here in Chaffee County, conservation and climate change didn’t merit so much as a passing mention as the Board of County Commissioners began deliberations on a multi-decade commercial water harvesting proposal, even as an overwhelming majority of scientific studies anticipate a reduction of total water supply by the mid-21st century is likely to exacerbate competition for over-allocated water resources especially in the fast-growing West. The county’s own consultants, Colorado National Heritage Progam, cautioned commissioners: “In the interest of maintaining the wetland plant communities, any proposed development plan that impacts water resources should take into consideration global climate change.” Yesterday, CNHP ecologist Delia Malone, writing as a private citizen, spoke out on what she called the commissioners’ “short-sightedness” in dismissing climate change from deliberations on the water harvesting project proposed by Nestle Waters North America. Without a trace of ambiguity, a 2008 report by Western Water Assessment asserts, “Climate change will affect Colorado’s use and distribution of water.” The report notes that “changes in long-term precipitation and soil moisture can affect groundwater recharge rates; coupled with demand issues this may mean greater pressure on groundwater resources.”[…]
As inextricably as hyrdrogen is linked to oxygen at water’s most basic level, so too it seems the scientific community believes climate change must be factored into any decision-making that impacts natural resources. “Basically anybody in 2009 who is thinking about water resources, water planning, water supply . . . if they’re not thinking about climate change, they’re missing the mark,” explained scientist John Katzenberger, executive director of the Aspen Global Change Institute. Katzenberger was also a contributor to a 2008 report published by the National Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization entitled, “Hotter and Drier, The West’s Changed Climate.”
Hart and the Salida Citizen are running a letter sent to the Chaffee County Commissioners from Ecologist Delia Malone. From the article:
Regardless of all the good, hard data out there, Malone lamented the commissioners dismissing the role of climate change in their deliberations about Nestle. Indeed, countless scientific books and research papers from all corners of the globe have written about the certainty of impending water shortages due to climate change that is already measurable…“Accessible water is rare and for Chaffee County to just give it away is really short-sighted,” Malone said. “You can’t get it back and when you really need it, it will be too late.”
In the remote picturesque Southern Highlands of Australia, a small town leads by water example. The citizens of Bundanoon in New South Wales voted by a significant majority to ban the use of bottled water, making Bundanoon the first bottled water-free town in the country, The Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.
Circle of Blue is also pointing to two studies of the bottled water industry. The GAO, “released a report that concluded that FDA consumer safety rules are less strict than the comparable EPA protections required for tap water,” according to Connor Boals writing on the website.
The other group concluded that bottled water is no safer than most municipal supplies and there is no way to know because the EPA rules for water providers do not apply to bottled water.
And then they’re running this article recapping yesterday’s House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing about labels on bottled water.
Here’s the next part of Lee Hart’s recap of the July 1 meeting of the Chaffee County Commissioners working meeting for Nestlé’s Chaffee County Project. She writes:
Commissioner Tim Glenn tried to explain the gravity of Scanga’s testimony to fellow commissioners who either didn’t seem to understand the intricacies of water law and prior appropriation or simply did not share Glenn’s concerns. Glenn noted it was Scanga’s role to go “to bat for every water right and ag producer” in the valley and that he found Scanga’s testimony “fairly compelling.”[…]
“If you have a senior water right (as Aurora does), you can take it unless something in writing says you can’t take it,” Glenn explained to his fellow commissioners. Glenn said he’d feel better if Nestle’s augmentation came from a local entity that would probably care more about protecting local water resources than Aurora. Alternatively, Glenn suggested getting an agreement in writing that Aurora won’t draw down depletions and invoke its ability to exchange in a drought year and will only use water sources outside the Arkansas River Valley to supplement any municipal shortfalls created by the Nestle lease. But Glenn, always the pragmatist, said, “I seriously doubt that could happen.”
It’s really pretty simple. Aurora is leasing Twin Lakes water to Nestlé. The Twin Lakes decrees are pretty senior in priority. In times of low water — say, a drought — the river is governed by calls in any given stretch. Calls are made when someone with a decreed water right asks for their water. If current demand in that stretch exceeds the volume of water called for, water is doled out in order of priority, oldest first. So, again in a given stretch, a decreed party might just fall out of priority. This is determined by the decree and ditch company or project rules. Ditch companies generally allocate water equally — so much water per share.
The water that Aurora is leasing to Nestlé is for augmentation. The water will be released from storage at Twin Lakes to the Arkansas mainstem to pay the river for the water that Nestlé plans to pump at Hagen Spring. They’ll always pay this water to the river unless they fall out of priority which has been rare. Remember, Twin Lakes water comes from the rainy side of Colorado. The folks that will be effected in a drought are those junior to Aurora’s Twin Lakes rights.
Nestlé plans to truck 200 acre-feet or so of spring water per year to Denver for bottling.
After about 3½ hours of discussion among themselves, Chaffee County Commissioners Wednesday directed Barbara Green, county 1041 attorney, and other experts to draft stipulations to satisfy county issues. The commissioners’ meeting chamber was filled to capacity with people wanting to hear the discussion…
To allow time for drafting stipulations, commissioners set a tentative date for continued deliberation at 9 a.m. Aug. 5 if the commissioners receive the documents in time. Bruce Lauerman, Nestlé natural resources manager, asked for a late-July date to avoid more project delay. Green asked for a mid-August date to allow ample time for her to “wordsmith” the conditions. After the meeting, Lauerman told The Mail he appreciates the commissioners’ “thoughtful” deliberation.
Among sticking points is specific treatment of water rights and drought scenarios that might injure agriculture or deplete storage. Commissioner Tim Glenn said he “struggled” with the efficient use of water and water rights. He said he is worried about a drought scenario such as one included in earlier public testimony by district manager Terry Scanga of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. Glenn said there is potential for water storage depletion during a prolonged drought.
Economic loss is another sticking point. Glenn said the Nestlé Ice Mountain Bottling Plant in Michigan has an annual payroll of $16 million. In Chaffee County, Ruby Mountain spring has enough water to run a bottling plant in Denver, but Nestlé has no plans to build a bottling plant in Chaffee County…
Other stipulations to 1041 standards include:
• A time line for wetland restoration former hatchery area and a guarantee of continued well monitoring at the Big Horn Spring site.
• A limit on Nestlé truck traffic on Trout Creek Pass during holidays and peak hours.
• Defining possible uses by the county for mitigation fund money agreed to by Nestlé.
• Improved Arkansas River fishing access at Ruby Mountain spring.
In a meeting that seemed focused more on how, rather than if, to approve Nestle’s proposal, the three-man board of commissioners spent the bulk of their time today debating proposed conditions of approval for the project that seeks to extract 65 million gallons of spring water from Chaffee County for transport to Denver where it will be bottled and sold under Nestle’s Arrowhead water brand. In the end, the hearing was continued to Aug. 5 to give staff time to draft legally enforceable conditions addressing key concerns commissioners have with the proposal. The draft proposed conditions are scheduled to be presented to the Commissioners on Aug. 3 for consideration at a public hearing two days later. The week of July 27, staff will provide an update on its progress and if it needs more time, the commissioners’ meeting may be pushed back to Aug. 19, the date staff originally proposed but which was objected to by Nestle project manager Bruce Lauerman.
Commissioners debated everything from water rights to economic impact and traffic and wildlife concerns before deciding they need staff, especially a water attorney, to set out a list of conditions to consider before they can vote on the proposal.
Nestle’s proposes to augment the water it uses by purchasing water from the city of Aurora. And it is that proposal, that drew the biggest amount of concert from at least one of the three com- missioners. “I really struggle on this whole deal,” said Tim Glenn, commissioner. “The general manager (Terry Scanga) of an agency (Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District) charged with protecting the water of not only Chaffee but also Fremont and Custer counties raised a significant concern. “He is going to bat for every water right and every ag producer in the valley and I felt his testimony was compelling along those lines,” Glenn said. Scanga raised concern about the potential harm to the valley should Aurora evoke senior water rights during a drought year and cause problems with ag producers with more junior water rights. Glenn said 200 acre feet is “perhaps not a huge amount of water but when you get the compounded effect in a drought year when there is storage depletion” then the net effect could be as much as a 2,000 acre feet deficit…
Glenn suggested one possible solution could be persuading Nestle to use local entities to augment their water because they would be more sensitive to local ag producers. “I suspect Aurora really doesn’t care about Chaffee County,” Glenn said. Another solution, Glenn said, is to get Aurora to agree not to evoke its ability to use exchange water and cause more damage in a cycle of drought years, but “I seriously doubt that would happen.”
The commission will meet again Aug. 5 to continue deliberating the issue. At that meeting they will have a list of conditions they can impose which will help them with a decision.
From the Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):
County commissioners will discuss, and possibly vote on, the permit today.
A Nestle official says foes’ complaints are with bottled water as a whole. “Most of it has nothing to do with the 1041 or the science. It’s their opinions about the end use of the water,” said Bruce Lauerman, Nestle’s natural-resources manager, a hydrogeologist who travels the West, looking for natural springs the company can tap so it can call its product spring water.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, plastic accounts for 16.9 percent of trash in America, up from 2.6 percent in 1970. Yet just 6.8 percent of the plastic made each year is recycled, the lowest of any commodity. About 80 percent of plastic water bottles end up in the trash…
The concern is that new bottles aren’t made from recycled materials, and even those dropped in recycling bins don’t get made into bottles because it is difficult to remake the plastic and not enough are recycled to meet manufacturers’ needs. Most water bottles dropped into recycling bins in Colorado Springs are bundled and sent to China, where they are made into jackets, park benches, plastic lumber and other products. Waste Management sends 375 tons a month of plastic beverage bottles dropped in Colorado recycling bins to China, said company spokeswoman Melissa Kolwaite. And that is actually much better than Colorado used to do in recycling. In a state where 12.5 percent of waste is recycled – less than half the national average of 28.5 percent – things are improving. Last year, single-stream recycling, in which all materials can be dropped in the same bin, came to Colorado Springs. According to a legislative report on recycling, 89.7 percent of the state’s residents have access to curbside recycling, while 7.76 percent have drop-off recycling.
Chaffee County Attorney Jennifer Davis told the commission that county code indicates that when fees exceed a deposit, the applicant has 10 days to submit certified funds which are the full difference between the deposit and the balance. According to a seven-page spreadsheet obtained by The Pueblo Chieftain, Nestle made $33,320 in deposits and still owes $122,890 of the total $156,210 application fee bill. The spreadsheet, which was submitted to Nestle on May 21, gives a detailed description of the date and types of charges ranging from postage fees to legal ad costs.
It also includes billings for the time county staff have spent working on the proposal and consultant fees. Chaffee County Planning Engineer Don Reimer, for example, spent 640 hours on the proposal through April 30 at a cost of $28,800 to the county. However, Nestle Waters North America representative Bruce Lauerman said, “The spreadsheet was not very clear – this is just poor accounting and I cannot express it any other way.” At his request, county representatives sent another invoice June 2. Lauerman said that invoice also was inadequate. Lauerman said he did not find out until Monday that failure to pay all the expenses incurred by the county could stall a decision. “We would like to pay our bill but this (invoice) will not get past Kentucky (Nestle officials),” Lauerman said. “I don’t think the county followed their own code here.”
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.”
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.
Here’s a recap of this week’s meeting of the Chaffee County Board of Commissioners regarding Nestlé Waters North America’s Chaffee County Project, from Joe Stone writing for The Mountain Mail):
The fifth marathon hearing regarding permit requests from Nestlé Waters recessed at 11 p.m. Tuesday with participants setting 1 p.m. May 21 for continuation in a location to be determined…
After future hearings are officially closed, commissioners will have 60 days to reach a decision regarding issuance of the Nestlé permits…
Consultants for Nestlé and Chaffee County attended the meeting and addressed eight areas of concern regarding the special land use and 1041 permit applications: economic impacts, groundwater impacts, water rights, wetland impacts, traffic concerns, air quality impacts, visual impacts and planning document consistencies. Analysis provided Tuesday by THK Associates of Aurora clarified economic impacts of the project, indicating several benefits to the county, including $2.3 million in total wages for project labor and $4.8 million for materials. The only items contracted outside the county would be specialized work, such as directional drilling to route a pipeline under the Arkansas River. It would add $2.4 million in assessed property value, generating more than $18,000 in property taxes for 2010 and more than $500,000 during the next 30 years. THK analysis projected annual tax payments of more than $8,000 for Chaffee County Fire Protection District, $5,000 for Northern Chaffee County Library District, $2,500 for Salida Hospital District and about $1,000 for Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. In addition to a $500,000 community endowment, Nestlé committed to an annual giving program and reimbursement of extraordinary county expenditures not covered by tax payments.
Representing Nestlé, Steve Sims, former senior water counsel for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, clarified questions associated with Nestlé’ proposed lease of Aurora water for augmentation. Sims stressed the Aurora water would come from the Colorado River Basin and would be augmented upstream from the Nestlé project site. A plan proposed by Salida and Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District would have relied upon augmenting water downstream from the site, creating in-stream flow issues and other concerns. Sims reported, “Aurora’s water portfolio includes 52,000 acre-feet and will increase to 100,000 acre-feet in 2010 when their Prairie Waters project comes online.” Given the small percentage of Aurora water leased by Nestlé, Sims said drought-year worries are unfounded and emphasized the plan would be strictly controlled by Colorado Water Court. Sims noted Chaffee County agricultural rights are senior to the Aurora rights and could not be affected by the augmentation plan.
Martina Wilkinson explained the Nestlé traffic study in detail indicating uphill truck traffic isn’t associated with wrecks between Johnson Village and Trout Creek Pass summit. In fact, she said, wildlife and excessive downhill speed create most crashes in the corridor.
Here’s an update on the opposition to Nestlé Waters North America’s Chaffee County Project, from R. Scott Rappold writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article
Tempers have flared and barbs have been traded at three marathon public hearings as county officials wrestle over whether to issue a land-use permit to Nestle Waters North America. The company owns the land and water rights near Nathrop and says it is investing $15 million in its effort to withdraw 65 million gallons a year. It has an agreement with Aurora for that city to release 200 acre-feet a year from an upper reservoir to compensate for the water Nestle would remove from the Arkansas basin.
At the heart of the debate is whether a community benefits when a company takes water from its springs to sell on grocery store shelves. Some communities have fought such efforts – with mixed results – and the conflict in Salida could presage fights elsewhere in Colorado. Nestle has plans to tap springs in three or four more locations in the state. “I think they could buy and dry our valley,” said Vicki Klein, a board member of Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability, a group formed to fight the project. “Two hundred acre-feet might not be a huge amount initially, but where they can go from there is frightening…
Nestle says it will draw 10 percent of the springs’ flow, and the impact to the Arkansas River “will not be measurable, even in low-flow conditions.” The company touts the benefits to the county: temporary construction jobs for the pipeline and related facilities; increased tax revenue for the county; removal of a dilapidated trout hatchery along the Arkansas; and preservation of the area as open space…
At a hearing Wednesday, Terry Scanga, manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, said it could be “very injurious” to the Arkansas basin. Aurora doesn’t take all the water it owns from the mountains, and in a drought that city could draw more to make up for what it releases for Nestle, he said. “I think it’s kind of ironic that an out-of-basin entity would be leasing water to another entity who will be taking it out of the basin,” Scanga said…
It was many newcomers – retirees and others – who want to see the mountain splendor preserved, versus old-timers who say the county needs economic development…
Some of its legal difficulties with host communities, usually small, rural towns, include: a four-year legal battle with Fryeburg, Maine, to build a pumping station; a lawsuit by citizens in McCloud, Calif., who oppose a plan by the company to tap springs and build a bottling plant; and a public outcry in Enumclaw, Wash, about proposed wells and a bottling plant that led Nestle to abandon the plan…
Nestle’s Lauerman said the opposition “has very little to do with the specifics of the project itself, the viability of the project…It’s more people with a distrust for corporations, people who are anti-growth no matter what the project is. It’s people who have a philosophical bent against bottled water,” he said.
Jeanine Zeman, spokeswoman for the opposition group, admits she doesn’t like bottled water. She also believes Nestle has a poor record of working with communities where it sinks wells. With the arguments impassioned on both sides, county commissioners are in no rush to make a decision. The hearing resumes Tuesday.
More coverage from Joe Stone writing for The Mountain Mail:
The public hearing conducted by Chaffee County commissioners will continue at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Salida Steam Plant Theater regarding two separate permit applications by Nestlé Waters. County consultants and staff members will discuss the extent to which new information from Nestlé satisfies 1041 permit application criteria. Commissioners will continue to hear public comments, but only regarding new information and unresolved 1041 permit requirements. Written comments must be received by noon Monday for consideration at the meeting Tuesday, county officials said…
The 1041 permit process requires county commissioners to approve or deny the permit by May 15 unless the applicant requests an extension, Don Reimer, county development director said…
Lauerman’s points included:
• Nestlé modified the project to address local concerns.
• Shallow nature of the wells will eliminate possibility of over-pumping the aquifer.
• The 50,000-acre aquifer recharge area indicates a sustainable source for water harvest.
• Nestlé’s annual 200-acre-foot extraction represents 2 percent of annual aquifer recharge and 1.5 percent of water available in the aquifer.
• In addition to a $500,000 local trust fund, Nestlé would provide educational opportunities and annual contributions of $25,000 to $30,000 to local organizations and events.
• Nestlé has invested more than $2 million in the project and would be investing $15 million in Chaffee County. The investment will take years to recoup at the 6-7 percent company operating profit.
• The project would provide protection for the environment that other types of development cannot offer.
• By collecting water in Chaffee County and bottling it in Denver, the company would reduce trucking by 5 million miles a year.
• A 72-hour pumping test in January revealed no effects to the water table beyond 200 yards.
• Colorado Department of Transportation found no significant traffic concerns when issuing an access permit on U.S. 24/285 at Johnson Village.
• Colorado Division of Wildlife found no significant adverse impacts.
• Colorado Trout Unlimited expressed no concerns.
Here are some comments offered up by John Emerick, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the Colorado School of Mines, Division of Environmental Science and Engineering at Wednesday’s public meeting, from the Salida Citizen.
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.
From the Chaffee County website. “The Board of Commissioners continued the April 21st hearing to April 29, 2009, to be held at the Salida Steam Plant, 220 W Sackett starting at 1:00 p.m. This hearing will be for public comment only beginning at 1:00 p.m. A break will be taken from 5:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.”
The Salida Citizen is also running a piece from Linda Erickson with recommendations from representatives of the Sierra Club. From the post:
Suggestions from Steve Glazer and the Sierra Club:
– postpone any decision until a new hydrology study has been completed;
– that report should contain an inventory of all wetlands that could be impacted by the pumping or pipeline construction, a monitoring plan to reveal any changes impacting the wetlands, and most importantly–a mitigation plan to remediate identified impacts;
– set up a strategy to deal with potential injury to any other water users (that would be better than having to go to water court to address that potential injury);
– and require financial surety to pay for any impacts from the development and operation of the project.
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.
The Chaffee County commissioners will take up Nestlé Waters’ 1041 application on April 21. Here’s a report from Paul Goetz writing for The Mountain Mail. From the article:
Comments were based on staff recommendations, rhetoric and evidence provided by consultants from Nestlé and Chaffee County, as well as other review agencies. Nestlé has provided a “substantial” list of 22 different documents since the March 10 planning commissioners 1041 application special meeting, Don Reimer, county planning director said. A complete application review will be placed on the county Web site, http://www.chaffeecounty.org, within the next few days, Reimer said…
The 1041 application was found to need further investigation with experts in wetlands hydrology and economic impacts. The county retained consultants for this purpose on April 7. Information from both consultants are expected April 17. Included in the draft application review, planners said Nestlé’s need to show the proposed project can be substantiated is not applicable. The application does not meet economic diversity and economic development standards, planners said…
Bruce Lauerman, Nestlé natural resources manager, announced a $500,000 endowment would be established and used for grants to local non-profits who facilitate the values of the Nestlé project. An ad will be placed in The Mountain Mail within the next week which will search for local truck drivers to work with Nestlé’s contracted trucking company, Lauerman said. The company plans to research whether or not it can draw 50 percent of its drivers from Chaffee County…
Planners said they agreed with county staff and found several items in the comprehensive plan need to be addressed including: protecting the scenic and visual quality of the valley and providing access to public lands and river and stream corridors. Efficient use of water including the recycling and reuse of water is satisfactory, planners said.
Nestlé is currently considering Chaffee County water counsel comments and proposed a condition of approval to address concerns. County staff and planners agreed Nestlé comply with water counsel, which will be addressed by a separate report. Planners said further information from the wetlands consultant is needed to determine whether the proposed project and diversion of water shall not decrease the quality and total maximum daily load of peripheral or downstream surface water resources. In reference to not significantly degrading groundwater quality, Sig Jaastad, planning commissioner, said he had concerns if the project would adversely affect upstream users. Planners agreed the standard would be satisfied if a ground water monitoring plan is established.
In addition, planning commissioners gave the following comments on recommended conditions:
•Develop land management plan with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, National Resource Conservation Service, Colorado State University extension and county staff.
•Obtain approval for land management plan from county.
•Plan should include a time line for implementation of practices and annual reports.
The Salida Citizen (Lee Hart) has the lowdown on Nestlé’s lease for Twin Lakes water from Aurora for augmentation. From the article:
Minutes from the council hearing show interest in the deal as a way to keep water rates low to Aurora citizens outweighed concerns that the price was too low, or sent the wrong message about Aurora’s water resource availability to third parties, or that in so doing, Aurora would become part of the controversy between Nestle and Chaffee County citizens opposed to the project. Aurora Water Director Mark Pifner noted there was little public input during the negotiations with Nestle.
Here’s a look at Chaffee County’s fact finding around the economic impacts and site restoration from Lee Hart writing for the Salida Citizen. Read the whole thing, there is a lot of details. Here’s an excerpt:
Denver-based Coley-Forrest Inc. has been hired at an estimated cost of $4,500 to $8,000 to further study the economic impacts of the Nestle project within Chaffee County. Hydrologic Systems Analysis LLC of Golden has been charged with a closer examination of the interaction of groundwater and the aquifer on wetlands as a result of Nestle pumping hundreds of gallons per day from springs in Nathrop for transport to Denver where it will be bottled and distributed under Nestle’s Arrowhead brand. That report is expected to cost no more than $8,000. Nestle is required to reimburse the county for all the expenses, including consultants, necessary to process its applications.
FromThe Mountain Mail (Paul Goetz): “Working strictly as a referral agency, Chaffee County planning commissioners will meet at 3 p.m. April 14 to develop possible comment or referrals to county commissioners regarding the Nestlé Waters 1041 permit. Planners agreed to continue the process Tuesday night during their regular meeting. Planner Fred Rasmussen recused himself from that portion of the meeting. Bruce Lauerman, Nestlé western division natural resources manager, said Nestlé supports the decision. ‘We recognize the process should proceed in a fashion that allows proper time to review and analyze,’ Lauerman said.”
Meanwhile, Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability are requesting information from the county commissioners, according to a report from Kathy Davis writing for The Chaffee County Times. From the article:
The goal of the CCFS meeting March 30 was to collect information on feelings of people in Buena Vista and then to get the BOCC to postpone decisions on the Nestlé applications for 60 days in order collect more information and to digest it all, said CCFS member Carlo Boyd. According to the meeting notice distributed by CCFS, the Nestlé permit application is to harvest spring water from Chaffee County for bottling in Denver.
About 35 people attended the meeting at the community center. They wanted more information about:
• impacts of the Nestlé truck traffic on Trout Creek Pass;
• impacts on water and the aquifer;
• making sure “all the bases are covered for water and traffic” (in BOCC approvals);
• Nestlé being a “good neighbor” and Nestlé’s history with other communities across the country in terms of how Nestlé treats the communities;
• impacts on bio-region “all the way to the Gulf of Mexico;”
• impacts on neighboring wells;
• impacts on water needed for agriculture;
• impacts on tourism and the possibility that tourists who encounter “unbearable” traffic on Trout Creek Pass won’t come to the county; and
• re-measurements of the amount of the spring water available during a dry year rather than a wet year.
Salida Citizen: “The newly formed Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability (CCFS) announced that its first fundraiser is scheduled on Saturday, April 4, from 5:00-9:00 p.m., at the Victoria Tavern in downtown Salida.”
Ed Quillen weighs in on Nestlé Waters North America’s plans for the Hagen Spring, in his column in today’s Denver Post. He writes:
It’s pretty hard to portray Nestle as a benevolent force — do you recall its efforts to promote its baby formula in the Third World? — so I won’t even try. Nor is it easy to defend bottled water in general. I buy Hershey’s chocolate and drink tap water from an expensive but useful CamelBak “portable personal hydration system” that doesn’t spill when I accidentally tip it while reaching for the telephone. Those are personal decisions, although if everyone made the same ones, there wouldn’t be a Nestle controversy here or anywhere else. But bottled water is a legitimate business, whether I like it or not. Nestle plans to take about 200 acre-feet a year (about 125 gallons a minute) from the Arkansas River’s flow. That’s not enough to notice for floating or fishing purposes or any other perceptible environmental effect.
In Colorado water jargon, Nestle is a “consumptive use” from a “junior right.” Nestle will have to make that up so that downstream users with senior water rights are not injured — a process called augmentation…
…it now appears that Nestle is working on a deal with the city of Aurora, which also seems to have acquired more water than it needs, now that home construction is a dormant industry. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like “what’s best for Chaffee County” for Nestle to be cutting checks to Aurora to replace water it’s taking out of Chaffee County. But then again, every tanker truck of water that leaves is that much less for a developer here. And maybe that’s what is best for Chaffee County.
The city of Aurora has approved a 10 year lease with Nestlé Waters North America for the company’s Chaffee County Project, according to a report from Adam Goldstein writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:
Council also lent its approval to a lease agreement with Nestle Waters North America, Inc., a pact that would see Aurora lease up to 200 acre-feet of water in the Arkansas Basin to Nestle Waters North America Inc. for $800 per acre-foot. The agreement passed by a 7-4 vote; councilmembers Renie Peterson, Bob FitzGerald, Larry Beer and Ryan Frazier voted no. Before the measure passed, Councilman Steve Hogan successfully added an amendment that would steer revenue specifically toward lessening water rates and the early redemption of bonds. “I’d like to offer an amendment that indicates that the first use of the proceeds of this agreement … must be used and analyzed for mitigation of rate increases or early bond redemption as a first purpose use.” The council approved the amendment unanimously.
The agreement would be renewed annually for a period of 10 years, and would be contingent on available supply. The water leased from Aurora would go to replace water taken from the Arkansas Valley to bottle and sell. It’s a potential deal that’s spurred outcry from residents in Chaffee County, who have raised protests about the impact of the extraction on the local supply. But Aurora Water officials said the conflict would not play into Aurora’s role in the deal. “We’re aware of the fact that you need some pubic permits and approvals from Chaffee County,” said Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher. “We weren’t trying to interject ourselves into the process.”
From the Denver Post (Jason Blevins): “Nestle has promised to replace all the water it takes from the valley and spend $1 million to restore riverside habitat where a dilapidated fishery sits. It has installed 10 monitoring wells to gauge the health of the underground aquifer that supplies the springs and will monitor wetlands near them. Nestle hydrogeologist Bruce Lauerman calls the plan a “sustainable, surgical extraction” of water and describes preserving the pristine water supply by taking only a fraction of its flows. “We are one of the best things that could happen to these springs,” he said. “Our involvement affords a level of protection that other owners and users of this property could never offer.'”
“We have to take everything they are promising on faith,” said Michele Riggio, who last week helped found the anti-Nestle group Chaffee County Citizens for Sustainability. “The risks are too great, and there are not enough proven benefits, so why try?” To help change that attitude, Nestle is working with county residents to start a community foundation. There is also the lure of jobs and tax money. Construction of the $4 million underground pipeline from the springs to proposed water silos at a truck stop on U.S. 285 would require about 50 workers. County officials also envision millions of dollars from property taxes and from the taxes truckers pay as they gas up…
Last April, residents of Enumclaw, Wash., rallied to repel Nestle’s plan to annually bottle 100 million gallons of local spring water. Residents of McCloud, Calif., are in a five-year legal battle to stop Nestle’s plans for a water-bottling plant. Residents in Maine, Michigan and New Hampshire also are challenging Nestle’s plans to bottle their spring water.
“It’s hard to anticipate all the scenarios, and Nestle has the ability to fight something for 20 years,” said Jane Browning, who lives in Howard, southeast of Salida. “We don’t have that ability.”[…]
How it would work:
•Nestle Waters North America, a subsidiary of the Switzerland-based conglomerate, will replace water it draws from the Chaffee County aquifer below the springs with water it plans to lease from the city of Aurora.
•Aurora owns senior water rights near the headwaters of the Arkansas River and is negotiating a 10-year deal with Nestle.
•Nestle’s studies of the springs and aquifers show it would need to put about 0.3 cubic feet per second back into the river.
•If the county approves the plan, Nestle will build production wells on land it owns near two springs and draw a year-round average of 125 gallons per minute.
•Nestle’s research shows that its withdrawal amounts to 10 percent of the springs’ capacity. The company says its tests show the aquifer recharging in a few hours after heavy test pumping.
Update:FromSalidaCitizen.com: “The Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA), a local non-profit membership-based organization, has been following the proposed Nestle project. We previously submitted a letter of concern to Don Reimer, Chaffee County Engineer and Development Services Director for the Planning Commission Meeting held on March 4, 2009 for the purpose of reviewing the Nestle Special Land Use Permit and 1041 Application. Since that time, extensive additional information has been publicly circulated from the County’s consultants hired to review the Nestle applications. In light of these reports and serious discrepancies in the findings, the GARNA Board of Directors has voted to rescind the letter dated March 3, 2009. We now have grave concerns and are here this evening to state our opposition to the project.”
The Chaffee County Commissioners have postponed deliberations on Nestlé Waters North America’s plans to move water out of the Arkansas River Basin to a bottling plant in Denver until April 21st to make sure that they have enough time to review all public comments and submitted site plans and other material. Organized opposition to the project — while coming in a bit late in the process — is growing by leaps and bounds. Here’s a report from Jennifer Denevan writing for The Mountain Mail:
Additional information for the 1041 application deals with site plans for Bighorn and Ruby Mountain springs, the Colorado Division of Wildlife plan, weed management and more. It was requested for use by planning commission members, but will also be distributed to commissioners, county staff members and county consultants for review. It’s unclear when county planners will meet regarding the 1041 application, but their next regular meeting is March 31 and they may set a date then. County commissioners will reopen the continued public hearing at 1 p.m. April 21 in the Buena Vista American Legion Hall for more public comment and possibly a decision regarding the permit applications. Commissioners extended hearings because they have massive amounts of information – including public comments – to sift through.
About 30 speakers, mostly in opposition, addressed commissioners Wednesday night. Comments against approval included lack of economic development for the county, potential environmental harm, traffic issues and the Nestlé company history with similar projects in other states. Several residents said they believe Nestlé will benefit from the project more than Chaffee County.
More coverage of Wednesday’s meeting from Jennifer Denevan writing for The Mountain Mail:
After hearing from about 30 residents during a 3½ hour public hearing Wednesday night, Chaffee County Commissioners unanimously approved continuing the event to 1 p.m. April 21 for additional comments. Commissioners said they would try to hold the hearing in Buena Vista to allow easier access by residents there if a large enough venue can be found. Several comments Wednesday indicated need for a hearing in the northern end of the county. Continuing the hearing, commissioners said, would allow time to get necessary information from Nestlé and understand information offered so far. It also allows time for county personnel and planning and zoning members to review information and comment…
Several comments were offered supporting the Nestlé application. Reasons ranged from educational opportunities for students to Nestlé giving a good report and fulfilling application requirements. Frank McMurry of Nathrop said although he typically resists change in the county, as do many residents, the project – done correctly – may be an open invitation to others which could attract more industry.
Opposing comments focused on negative environmental impact from the project, negative publicity regarding similar Nestlé projects in other locations and potential safety hazards on U.S. 285 caused by increased truck traffic and inclement weather. Other opposition focused on conflicting information between studies completed by Nestlé and reports from county consultants regarding environmental impact.
Here’s an update on Nestlé’s application for a special use permit to develop water in Chaffee County, from Paul Goetz writing for The Mountain Meal. From the article:
Planners agreed unanimously on their recommendation, pending 10 stipulations. Stipulations include, but are not limited to: traffic analysis for U.S. 24/285, detailed site plans, ditch crossing agreements and rights-of-way, weed management plan and traffic management plans…
Information for the 1041 requested includes a site plan, Colorado Division of Wildlife plan, wetlands, land management, public access, bighorn sheep, weed management, updated consultant reports and public letters. Continuation of the 1041 referral meetings will be scheduled on March 31 during the regular planning meeting. There are no changes to the March 18 county commissioner scheduled meeting with Nestlé. Planners and Nestlé officials said they will ask commissioners to table decisions at that meeting…
During an earlier presentation, Nestlé officials explained as many as 25 trucks per day will be loaded for transport on U.S. 285/24 over Trout Creek Pass to a Denver bottling plant. Nestlé officials said the project includes environmental restoration, protection and monitoring. Ruby Mountain Springs site will be restored to its natural riparian condition. The Bighorn Springs site will be managed holistically for continued cattle grazing and protection of bighorn sheep habitat, Nestlé officials said.
In reference to questions about access, Lauerman said the first Nestlé consideration is the water. “We are a natural spring water company. That means we have to find somewhere remote. We are concerned about protecting safe, sustainable withdrawal of a quality water supply.” Purpose of the 1041 process is to mitigate impacts, Lauerman said. Historically there has been no public access to the property.