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Opposition Grows to Nestle Project in Chaffee County Colorado – But Is It Too Late?

At first, there was little organized opposition to Nestle’s water pumping project in Chaffee County, CO (the local online news site has assembled a project crib sheet).

Now, as residents focus on the lack of economic benefits – and start to recognize the traffic and environmental impacts – organized opposition is growing.

In an area where residents remember wells and springs drying up during the last drought, we’re seeing Nestle portray their project as wholly sustainable – while ignoring questions raised by professionals less convinced of their science (sadly, citizens now suggest the critical report wasn’t made easily available to the public, a troubling development).

While Nestle’s predictably rosy surveys are widely available, the consultant (mentioned above) was hired by the county, and they’re far less sanguine.

In several cases, the consultant raises the specter of future droughts and climate change, and Nestle’s response revolves around the following concept: we’re not required to consider that.

The consultant also questions Nestle’s short-term pumping surveys – especially given Nestle’s desire to pump more water in the summer months, when impacts to wetlands and coldwater species can be significant.

As in other rural areas, Nestle stands to profit handsomely (one estimate suggests $60+ million from this project), yet Chaffee County receives only a trickle of revenue – and all the negative impacts.

Even residents outside the county are recognizing they will suffer impacts from Nestle’s project without benefiting.

There is even an allegation of Nestle-friendly reporting in a local newspaper – a commonly heard complaint in rural communities split by Nestle, where publishers may be reluctant to anger citizens or a potential advertiser.

After reading the submitted application and Nestle’s response to criticism, it’s clear that the issues are similar to those experienced in other rural communities; regardless of community feelings about a project, Nestle’s focus remains on completing application requirements, and those are the only criteria they use to justify their actions.

In Fryeburg, Nestle’s project received approval not because it was a low-impact project suited for placement in a rural residentially zoned area, but because Fryeburg’s zoning laws weren’t specific enough to

In the case of Chaffee County, there’s no provision in the 1041 permitting process for citizens who simply don’t want to suffer the impacts of a pumping project – even when the benefits are so few.