Marathon Meeting in Chaffee County Leaves Nestle Issue Unresolved: Public Comments Overwhelmingly Negative

A large number of residents attended a 7.5 hour special meeting in Chaffee County, and the comments – both from the citizens and the independent consultants hired to review the project – were overwhelmingly negative.

From the Mountain Mail newspaper: More negative Nestlé comments offered

Attendance at the 7½-hour special meeting fluctuated between 100 and 300 residents. The meeting began at 1 p.m. and commissioners adjourned to executive session about 9:30 p.m. so they could receive legal advice regarding procedural processes.

By press time it was unknown when the special meeting will reconvene although commissioners earlier said they will accept written comment until May 12.

Nestlé needs the land use permit to develop the water supply from two springs near Nathrop. The company needs the 1041 permit to identify and mitigate any potential adverse impacts from the proposed project.

Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, expressed concern about potential impact of the Nestlé proposed augmentation plan.

The plan relies on water leased from Aurora and could trigger the loss of 1,000 acre-feet of Arkansas River water during a drought.

Scanga revealed that the conservancy district and City of Salida offered Nestlé an augmentation plan that would have cost $500,000 a year, while Aurora is asking about $180,000 a year for augmentation water.

Colorado School of Mines professor John Emerick spoke on behalf of Chaffee County Citizens for Sustainability. Emerick raised issues about a lack of information regarding hydrology, plant and bird species, and ability of the ecosystem to respond to water table fluctuations.

So let’s tote up the talking points fromt this story alone:

  • Residents are overwhelmingly against Nestle’s water extraction plan (which returns almost nothing to the county in economic terms).
  • Nestle’s application suggests economic benefits which are largely illusory (or outright fabrications in the event of the gas tax claim)
  • Nestle’s test pumping took place in one of the wettest years on record 2007, which belies the area’s drying trend
  • Nestle repeatedly said it would do what was best for Salida, then sent the “agumentation” money out of the area because it was cheaper
  • Non-Nestle funded consultants have shot Nestle’s supposedly bulletproof studies full of holes

And yes, it gets worse for Nestle:

Lauerman indicated Nestlé has begun installing small monitoring wells to better understand groundwater characteristics at the site.

Jane Browning, a former fisheries biologist living in Howard, noted major gaps in Nestlé information and echoed Emerick’s concerns.

“Without baseline studies,” Browning said, “it’s almost impossible to prove damage.”

Note Nestle’s sudden interesting in “better understanding” the site’s groundwater characteristics.

This my friends, is vintage Nestle: they make claims about protecting the watershed and tout their extensive studies, but only get down the real monitoring efforts when their project appears to be in jeopardy (witness the fire drill monitoring problem that started in McCloud – years after the after original contract was signed).

Look for more to come on Nestle’s near-death water extraction experience in Chaffee County.

It’s a hot-button subject, and yet another example of the difficulties Nestle’s suffering across North America.

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