More Local Reaction to Chaffee County Nestle Decision: “Nestlé Fight Is Not Finished”

It’s interesting to note that the much comprehensive, critical coverage of the Nestle water extraction project in Chaffee County originated from online local news sites.

In the rare instances that larger media outlets (like the LA Times’ Denver bureau) got involved, they often deferred to Nestle’s corporate spokesman, and offered little in the way of real analysis.

One local Chaffe County news site offering coverage was the Ark Valley Voice (whose masthead includes the famous Joseph Pulitzer quote: “Newspapers should have no friends”).

They published an editorial suggesting the Nestle fight wasn’t over, citing a screening of the new bottled water documentary “Tapped” and a visit from Michigan environmental attorney Jim Olson, who helped fight Nestle to a standstill in Mecosta County.

From the Ark Valley Voice:

The second part of the evening featured a presentation by Jim Olson, the Michigan based attorney who fought Nestlé for nine years with some significant victories. He spoke at Thursday evening’s event thanks to efforts by Nestlé’s formal, local opposition, Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability (CCFS). Olson’s message was simple and optimistic: Nestlé can still be turned back, Chaffee County can do it.

But he also warned that the stakes are high, urging people to remember that, “This is not a dead issue. It’s just been born. Their (the Commissioners) vote gave birth to the issue of beneficial use in Colorado.” Nestlé’s move to Chaffee County, he warned, could set a dangerous and unanticipated precedent.

The precedent Olson refers to is the jurisdiction of the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. Olson indicated that supporters of Nestlé might consider that NAFTA currently holds no power over Colorado’s Public Water systems. But, with the slow creep of water from a publicly held right to a privately held commodity, Chaffee County’s children could someday compete with Canada and Mexico for access at the kitchen faucet.

County Commissioners who ran for election based on keeping water in the Valley along with speeches regarding green as the color of the future, may have reneged on their promises in more ways than they understand. That’s because once water is privatized, it is very difficult to fend off international intervention.

Olson encouraged folks, however, not to get bogged down with what has passed, but rather to look forward to what can be done. He reminded the large SteamPlant crowd that the Commissioners’ approval is only one minor gateway on the path to Nestlé’s pumping operations. For example, Nestlé still needs to get past State water engineers and have its plans approved by the State Water Court, which can be a lengthy process.

While the word “recall” was heard in association with the current Commissioners, the focus was largely on defeating Nestlé rather than punishing elected officials. In that vein, Olson says there is plenty to do, including:

1. Funds must be raised to combat the bottler in the Water Court.

2. Local opposition must get vocal and energized. Olson reminded people that this campaign is not to be short lived. Nestlé is not defeated overnight, but in the long run.

3. Records should be scoured via the Freedom of Information act in order to examine every interaction Nestlé has with public officials.

4. Send letters to the governor and legislators and let them know that Colorado wants to keep its water public.

5. Join forces with CCFS to help create a long-range plan to combat not only the current erroneous use of Colorado’s water, but also any future incursions. You can donate time, money, or any other skill you have.

Olson also reminded everyone with a stake in the future of the area’s water resources that, “You in Colorado have a chance to draw the line on beneficial water use and use your constitution to say that water is for the people.”

He concluded, “You can define this popularly. It’s the public that has to say, ‘this water is ours and this use of it is wrong.’”

You can read the rest of this opinion piece here: EDITORIAL: Nestlé Fight Is Not Finished | Ark Valley Voice.