Nestle’s Chaffee County (CO) extraction project has continued to make the news, only as of late, it’s been because Nestle hasn’t yet paid the invoices sent to it by the county. As a result, the county has refused to begin deliberations on the project, leaving the bitterly fought contest in limbo for a little longer.
Local journalist Lee Hart has covered the Nestle project from the beginning, and her latest offers yet another perspective on the issue: Just say no: Potential longterm losses should sink Nestle water proposal
Ecologist Delia Malone of Colorado Natural Heritage Program came under fire for recommending exactly such consideration in her review for the county of potential natural resources impacts from the Nestle project. Nestle vehemently objected to numerous findings in Malone’s first draft report in which she devoted a section to climate change including this statement: “Climate trends will alter stream flows and aquifer recharge rendering (Nestle) predictions about pumping sustainability unsupported and inconclusive.”
Nestle consultants argued that “given the current state of knowledge, it seems tenuous and illogical to base project approvals on climatalogical conditions (with considerable uncertainty) to occur many years in the future.”
But Malone, whose draft report had referenced scientific opinions included reference to climate change predictions for Colorado from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fired back saying, “given the current state of knowledge regarding the impact of climate change on water resources in the West, I strongly recommend erring on the side of caution by conserving the water resources that are predicted to be impacted by our changing climate.”
Given the volume of concern over reports pointing to the certainty that climate change will impact to water resources here and throughout the West, we agree with Malone that the county should err on the side of caution.
Nestle has not conclusively demonstrated that benefits accruing to the county from its operations will “outweigh the losses of any natural, agricultural and recreational resources with the county or losses of opportunities to develop such resources,” a basic tenet of the 1041 regulations. Therefore, we urge the commissioners to live up to their campaign promises and other public pronouncements about keeping water in the valley and that green, as in sustainability, is the future for the county, and say no to Nestle.
For those with an aversion to corporate doublespeak, Nestle’s argument against considering climate change essentially devolves into “no one can predict the future, so let us have what we want now.”
That’s convenient for Nestle’s stakeholders, but not exactly the kind of thinking that benefits Chaffee County, who stand to gain little from the Nestle project – except perhaps future limits on growth due to water shortages.