More on Nestle’s Chaffee County Project: The Numbers Just Don’t Add Up

Nestle Water’s Chaffee County water extraction project – which once saw smooth sailing ahead – now may be heading for the rocks (via the Salida Citizen online site):

During public hearing earlier this week, findings by the county’s
economic impact consultant, Jean Townsend of Coley/Forrest differed
dramatically from those presented by Nestle consultant THK Associates
as the county tries to determine what economic impacts the Nestle
project would have.

Nestle hopes to receive county approval for a special use permit and
1041 regulations to pipe spring water from the mouth of Brown’s Canyon
in Nathrop to Johnson Village. There, the water would be loaded onto
trucks for transport to a Denver bottling plant to become Nestle’s
Arrowhead brand of bottled water.

Demonstrating economic benefit is a condition of the 1041
regulations. Townsend found fault with Nestle’s portrayal of those
benefits on several significant fronts including the following:

– Though benefits were calculated on a 30-year term, Nestle has not
confirmed the duration of its water extraction plan that could be more
or less than 30 years.

– Local government property tax revenues are 61 percent less than Nestle estimates

– There will be no sales tax revenue to the county from the sale of
diesel fuel to Nestle trucks as well as electric utility use as THK
purported. This is an error THK admitted to in subsequent testimony.

– Local government expenditures would be higher than Nestle
estimated in part, because the county would have to hire ongoing
technical expertise to monitor Nestle pumping operations and any
subsequent mitigation

– The Nestle application did not address, quantify or provide for
the mitigation of the economic benefits lost due to the permanent
removal of spring water other than mentions of educational projects and
restoration work to the fish hatchery site on the property.

Townsend suggested the county work with Nestle to establish a
mitigation fund specifically earmarked for the project and funded by
Nestle that would help prevent against the county incurring negative
financial impacts.

THK’s Peter Elzi questioned Townsend’s math with respect to property
tax calculations and pipeline valuation. Townsend, bristling, defended
her math on property tax calculations and explained that she used state
mandated guidelines for assessing the value of the privately owned
water pipeline.

The Salida Citizen’s well-written story also cited overwhelming citizen resistance against the project, with most objecting to the loss of a natural resource with no real benefit to the area:

Avid fly-fisherman David Moore, spoke of the “myth of economic benefit”
saying Nestle is acting like it’s doing the county a huge favor by
“taking our natural resources.”

Businesswoman Colleen Kunkel told
commissioners that in her review of the Nestle 1041 application, she
found “no evidence that Nestle is a sustainable business of value to
this (Chaffee) county”

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