Category Archives: Colorado

Why is Nestle Waters Pursuing Chaffee County Project First?

Nestle Waters of North America’s hotly contested water extraction project in Chaffee County (CO) bears all the indications of being the first of many, and in fact, Nestle’s operative admits Nestle will soon be looking for additional spring sites around the state.

This perceptive letter in the SalidaCitizen.com site asks the simple question: Why us?

Why did Nestle come to Chaffee County first? I think it was not just for the water. I think Nestle wanted a small rural community with very limited resources to address their first 1041 permit application in the state.

Nestle’s stated intentions are to satisfy their market in the Rocky Mountain region. Bruce Lauerman, at the Board of Commissioners meeting in Buena Vista last Tuesday April 21, spoke of looking for additional spring sites throughout the state, with the help of the State’s Engineer’s Office. By setting a precedent with this first application approval, it will make it more difficult to deny the next permit in the next county.

I feel this is just the beginning of NWNA’s extended efforts to develop industrial water extraction projects statewide. This project has been presented as small and benign. NWNA is a subsidiary of the Nestle Corporation, a foreign company.

Swiss owned, it has been engaged in monopolization of water resources globally. I am concerned about the long term implications of Nestle engaging in “Buy and Dry” land purchases and/or other spring site developments, when it is yet to be established if the State of Colorado has capacity to support industrial extraction of water for profit.

This is the first project of its kind in Colorado, and a responsible approach would be to place a moratorium on projects of this kind until the issue can be studied, and determined if this type of enterprise is appropriate for our state. In this case, the concept is being hurried, without asking or answering important questions.

Nestle’s Chaffee County Extraction Project Faces Stiff Citizen Oppostion: Decision Delayed to Accommodate Comments

Via the Salida Citizen online news site, we discovered the reception “enjoyed” by Nestle at the Chaffee County Commissioners meeting wasn’t as friendly as they could have hoped.

After seven hours of discussion on technical data from a mounting pile of consultant reports and impassioned pubic testimony on Nestle Waters North America proposed water harvesting project, Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Frank Holman halted the proceedings. With more than 20 people still interested in commenting on the application, the commissioners agreed to continue public testimony on Wednesday, April 29, starting at 1 p.m. at the Salida SteamPlant Theater and Event Center.

The bulk of yesterday’s hearing before an overflow, standing room only crowd at the cramped American Legion Hall in Buena Vista focused on the two newest consultant reports reviewing the hydrology and economic impacts of Nestle’s plans to harvest water in Nathrop. Nestle’s plans call for piping spring water from the mouth of Brown’s Canyon to Johnson Village where it will be loaded onto trucks bound for Denver for bottling and distribution under Nestle’s Arrowhead brand.

A bad sound system and horrible acoustics of the hall added an extra challenge as the audience that reached nearly 200 at its peak, strained to hear testimony from a parade of Nestle and county consultants as well as comments from citizens, the vast majority of whom voiced opposition to Nestle’s plans.

This is just an excerpt; the whole story is definitely worth a read, and interestingly – and despite repeated statements from Nestle suggesting there will be no negative environmental impacts from their projects – several new consultant reports and citizens groups disagree.

Will the citizens of Chaffee County – despite a late start – still pull this one out? Stay tuned.

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In Salida, Nestle Whitewashes (Again) Adversarial Relationships With Rural Communities

It’s corporate spin day in Salida, Colorado, where Nestle’s traditionally heavy-handed approach to local media was played out in a long, unchallenged, extremely friendly interview with a local paper.

Rather than bore you with the details (read it yourself here), I’ll jump right to one favorite bit of rhetoric from Nestle Operative Bruce Lauerman:

Another public question was on Nestlé’s alleged bad relations in other communities. Lauerman said that it was “unfair to characterize Nestlé” by looking at two to three communities out of dozens around the country.

People need to dig deeper than the rhetoric that was showcased, he said. A list of contacts was given to BOCC, he said. The decision makers can have one-on-one contact, he said.

It’s always frustrating to witness the reception afforded to Nestle’s by an often uncritical local media. Given our lack of fulltime PR personnel, activists must often resort to simple activities like Letters to the Editor, and my response to the newspaper is below:

Editor:

In a recent Chaffe County Times article, Nestle representative Bruce Lauermann said it was “unfair to characterize Nestlé” by looking at two to three communities out of dozens around the country, and that people needed to “dig deeper than the rhetoric.”

I couldn’t agree more.

To refresh Mr. Lauermann’s memory, I’d like to point out Nestle’s in trouble with far more than 2-3 small rural communities around the country. A few highlights?

They just sued the tiny town of Fryeburg (ME) five times – losing the first four suits but finally finding the legal loophole they needed to force the town to permit a 24/7 truck loading station in a residentially zoned area.

In Mecosta County (MI), Nestle’s pumping damaged a wetlands, and Nestle refused to do anything about it until a citizens group filed suit – and won. Under threat of an injunction, Nestle finally halved its pumping, then immediately filed a suit challenging the right of Michigan citizens to bring the lawsuit in the first place.

In McCloud (CA), citizens who challenged Nestle’s negotiated-behind-closed-doors contract with the city’s Services District found themselves on the receiving end of a Nestle subpoena seeking access to their private financial records – an attempt to intimidate opposition through legal means.

I could go on and on (and I do on the StopNestleWaters.org Web site, where I also cover Nestle’s legal difficulties in Shapleigh (ME), Wells (ME), Newfield (ME), Guelph (Canada), Napa (CA), Kennebunk (ME), Florida, Mecan Springs (WI), and many others) but suffice it to say Nestle is not a multinational corporation that plays well with small towns when it doesn’t get what it wants.

What happens if Salida is stricken by a drought? Nestle’s already proven its reluctance to stop pumping once the profits are flowing (see Mecosta County above). What happens when Nestle wants to tap yet another source, and Salida decides it doesn’t want the noise or pollution of more truck traffic? (Hint: ask Fryeburg)

Is adaptive management in place to protect wells and wetlands? Are you willing to face the wrath of Nestle’s considerable legal department?

Are you really sure you want a Swiss multinational tapping your water when water issues are hampering agriculture and growth all over the state?

I agree with Lauerman in one instance: It’s important to look beyond Nestle’s rhetoric and (usually) empty promises of community support (free water for the school?).

Nestle’s have proven themselves a poor corporate neighbor in many other small rural communities.

Tom Chandler
StopNestleWaters.org

Nestle’s continued whitewashing of the benefits provided in return for the loss of local control over resources, traffic, zoning and others requires a lot of vigilance – often from unpaid volunteers.

Today’s thought? Send a letter to your editor today.

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Another Nestle Waters Blog Joins the Intertubes: Nestle in Chaffee County

The Internet remains a growing media channel by which under-funded, parttime activists can challenge the might of Nestle Water’s in their own community.

Today, we welcome Nestle in Chaffee County to the fold.


As we noted in our most-recent newsletter, citizen opposition to Nestle’s water extraction proposal in Chaffee County (CO) has materialized out of nowhere as of late, and Nestle’s formerly safe haven of Colorado no longer seems to peaceful.

We’ve added them to the blog feeds in our right sidebar, so check back often.

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Denver Post Opinion Piece Ignores Real Costs of Nestle’s Salida Project

Freelance writer Ed Quillen posted an opinion piece to the Denver Post about the Nestle’s proposed water extraction project in Chaffee County, suggesting he’d stayed out of the Salida project fight simply because it wasn’t a “big deal.”

“Almost daily I get a call from somebody in town, asking me if I will join the local Davids in their struggle against the Nestle Goliath. To date I have resisted, because as nearly as I can tell, it’s not that big a deal.”

The response in the “comments” section below the post was largely negative to Quillen’s position, and I get the distinct impression Quillen’s perception of a “big deal” is different from that of many of his fellow citizens.

And yes, he seems to have bought into the Nestle PR surrounding the “no negative impacts” of the project, despite the fact a consultant (hired by the county instead of Nestle) suggests the impacts could be substantial – especially in the face of a drought or climate change.

Colorado’s Eastern Slope isn’t – for the most part – all that wet, and Quillen’s logic strikes an odd note; he suggests it might be better for that water to leave the basin in a tanker truck than remain available for a developer to use.

Losing control over a significant local resource is rarely a good thing – especially when the economic benefits to the county are insignificant.

Quillen also overlook’s Nestle’s rather unsavory history in small towns, where local control of resources, zoning and traffic seem to evaporate when Nestle arrives in town.

What’s becoming clear is that Nestle’s water extraction projects are becoming increasingly unattractive to small rural towns, and what was formerly a slam-dunk for Nestle is fast becoming a contentious use of resources. Without even the prospect of local jobs to dangle, Nestle’s water extraction projects may increasingly resemble the lawsuit-fest we saw in Fryeburg.

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Chaffee County Radio Show Delves Into Nestle Extraction Project

Nestle’s proposed water extraction project in Salida, Colorado (Chaffee County) may have coasted along under the radar for a while, but recently became the focus of intense citizen scrutiny.

The initial blush of excitement has worn off; what’s left are a lot of questions about the minimal benefits of Nestle’s water extraction scheme to the town and county – and how they balance the negative impacts.

The local community radio station dedicated an hour to the subject (KEHN 106.9 FM in Salida, CO), and asked me to provide what I’ll call the 10,000′ overview of Nestle’s activities in other rural areas.

Live radio is nerve-wracking stuff, and I guess I’m fortunate there’s an ample supply of unsavory Nestle stories to draw on, though I suppose the residents of Mecosta, Fryeburg, and McCloud (to name but a few) might disagree.

Nestle’s abuses in other small rural communities – sadly – aren’t a part of the permitting process, though hopefully their dismal record will help citizens make informed decisions about inviting the world’s biggest food & beverage company into their community.

In this case, Nestle can’t even dangle the “jobs” carrot in front of Salida’s citizens; the water – and the profits from the sale of it – will be headed straight out of town in a steady stream of big rigs traveling a narrow two-lane highway.

Salida’s citizens are beginning to question why they’d put up with 50 truck trips a day – and the very real danger that once Nestle moves into town, their control of local resources will evaporate like so much spilled water – in return for a marginal increase in property taxes.

If the podcast of the broadcast becomes available, I’ll let you know.

Nestle Water Extraction Project in Chaffee County Generates More Ink

Nestle Waters’ Chaffee County water extraction project has generated a lot of ink in a short time; citizens of the area got a late start, but they’re making headway against a Nestle water extraction project that offers little long-term economic benefit to the area.

The Salida Citizen online news site has run several articles; local papers are running somewhat vanilla pieces, and the Denver Post ran a Jason Blevins story about the situation.

Now New West – a fast-growing regional online news site – offered up a critical story (that included a mention of StopNestleWaters.org):

Bottled Water Plan Could Leave Colorado Thirsty

Even for those inclined to side with hard science, one side’s expert says one thing and the opposing group’s expert says something different. It appears that the residents of Chaffee County are rightly suspicious of Nestle’s claims.

This isn’t the first time Nestle has felt residents’ ire in a location where it wanted to bottle water. The blog, StopNestlewaters.org educated me about tax breaks available in Florida that make it one of the most bottled-water industry friendly states in the country (why am I not surprised here)? Inevitably, the battle becomes one of an underfunded citizenry against experienced, expensive lawyers and consultants.

The last sentence is perceptive; in small rural towns, Nestle’s legal firepower, fulltime operatives, and PR legions are typically facing a rag-tag group of volunteers, often utilizing paid or pro-bono legal help.

Worse, the Chaffee County project reveals a larger regulatory problem. When confronted by a consultant questions about the long-term viability of the project in the face of climate change or drought, the Nestle response was “we’re not required to study that.”

No they’re not. And no, they won’t.

UPDATE: This excellent article in the Salida Citizen illustrates what the local papers seemed to have not noticed – the county is under no obligation to issue a permit to Nestle, and that the 1041 permitting process includes consideration of impacts like increased truck traffic.

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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.

Letter to Chaffee County: Impacts Not Only Consideration Surrounding Nestle Project

I wrote and submitted this to the SalidaCitizen.com site, which published it yesterday. Chaffee county is the site of yet another Nestle pumping project, and citizens are organizing against the plan, though – per usual – it’s coming late in the process.

Editor;

The questions being asked by Chaffee County citizens about the impacts and sustainability of the Nestle pumping project clearly need to be answered.

Weighing the somewhat sparse economic benefits of the Nestle pumping project against the environmental, noise, pollution and safety impacts is vital. Yet what’s missing is a discussion of the nature of doing business with Nestle itself, and what it means to invite the world’s largest food & beverage multinational into your community.

The news, sadly, isn’t all that good.

The recent triumph of Nestle’s legal team in Fryeburg (ME) underscores the dangers of dealing with a company armed with almost unlimited legal resources. There, a group of citizens appealed a planning commission approval of a 24/7 truck loading station in an area zoned “rural residential.”

The original permit was overturned on citizen appeal, but Nestle – not content with the outcome – filed a lawsuit (which they lost) and four subsequent appeals (they lost all but the last). Their high-powered legal team finally found the loophole they wanted, and won.

In Mecosta County (MI), a citizen’s group sued Nestle (and won) over the obvious damage being done to a wetlands by Nestle’s pumping (damage which Nestle’s original data should have predicted). Stung by the loss and unable to win in court, Nestle only reduced pumping after a judge issued an injunction, and then filed a lawsuit challenging the rights of Michigan citizens to file enviornmental lawsuits to begin with.

In McCloud (CA), opponents of Nestle’s proposed water bottling plant won a lawsuit challenging the original contract, but found themselves staring down the barrel of a Nestle-generated subpoena which granted the company access to their private financial records.

That was quashed by the court, but the message had been sent to opponents, and the town of McCloud – like so many others – has been plagued by a painful factionalism of its residents ever since (a trait shared in many towns).

In Florida, Nestle heavily lobbied state officials to allow them to pump 3x the recommended amount of water from a drought-stricken spring, overruling the opinions of local water agency people concerned for the area’s water table.

Other examples abound, but the tendency is clear; despite heavy doses of “good corporate neighbor” spin, local control often disappears when Nestle arrives.

When questioned about their issues in other rural towns, Nestle’s representatives generally offer a non-responsive “we’re doing fine in many places.”

What’s fine for Nestle isn’t necessarily fine for rural communities who’d like to retain local control over their roads, water, lifestyle and economic choices.

What happens when Nestle decides to tap another water source in the county, and the county’s residents decide the impacts of the additional truck traffic aren’t wanted? Will Nestle quietly accept a no?

Evidence suggests they won’t.

Chaffee County’s residents clearly have many questions to ponder – one of which remains the legal risks of involving themselves with a multinational that has never hesitated to use extraordinary legal means to get what it wants in other rural areas.

Salida Residents Join Forces to Oppose Nestle Pumping Operation in Chaffee County, Colorado

To feed Nestle’s bottling operation in Denver, Nestle Waters wants to locate a water pumping operation in Chaffee County, Colorado.

A quick glance suggests the operation is vintage Nestle; little benefit accrues to the rural community, yet there are (as usual) downsides.

  • 50 truck trips per day on county roads (around the clock)
  • No permenant local jobs will be created – it’s a straight resource grab
  • Colorado is facing chronic (and worsening) water shortages
  • Nestle’s representative makes noises about “contributing” to the community and public access to the site, but never a firm commitment
  • Nestle profits handsomely from the area’s water, in return for which the residents receive… a small increase in property taxes

Residents are just now trying to bring some sanity back to the permitting process, and the Salida Citizen site has carried several stories about the project, including the latest: Citizens Join Forces to Block Nestle:

Nestle is more than halfway through Chaffee County’s
requisite land use application review process. Chaffee County Planning
Commission hearings on the case were expected to conclude earlier
today. Planning Commission recommendations are forwarded to the Board
of County Commissioners for final consideration. The Board of County
Commissioners public hearing is set for next Wednesday, March 18, at 1
p.m. at the Salida SteamPlant Theater and Conference Center on the
riverwalk in downtown Salida.

Salida resident Denise Ackert got lots of nods of approval when she
told the group that until the county has a clear plan for sustainable
water, energy and food security for 20 years down the road, she’s not
comfortable with a plan that exploits the county’s water resources.

A key speaker at tonight’s meeting was Jay Hake, of the law firm
Hake, Hart & Lintzenich, who agreed to provide pro bono legal aide
and guidance to the group that has just one week to develop a plan and
tactics to try to block county approval of the Nestle project.

Nestle’s history sadly suggests local control disappears the day the first Nestle truck rolls into town, and that their “good neighbor” promises often result in little more than empty air, subjects briefly addressed in the Salida Citizen piece “Is Nestle a Good Neighbor?“:

As it stands now, Nestle touts that it will pay a US $80 thousand
dollar windfall annually in the form of property taxes to Chaffee
County, but it is not clear that this is a total increase due to the
fact that taxes are already paid on many of the land parcels in
question. They also promise a one time expenditure of US $1.9 million
dollars in construction costs.

Again it is unclear how much of this
will benefit Chaffee County citizens or even Chaffee County. Then there
is promise of buying diesel fuel in Chaffee County and the tax on that
fuel being a benefit to Chaffee County. Again Nestlé offers a promise,
but without commitment or validation. Finally, Nestlé has promised to
be a “GOOD NEIGHBOR” with arm waving promises of help to schools,
sports teams, and charities. When questioned as to what this good
neighbor help might be, Nestlé stated this help would consist of
supplying bottled water to the above mentioned entities.
(ed: emphasis added)

Oh. Nestle’s bottling the area’s water, and in a gesture of goodwill (for which it expects to be lauded), gives it back.

So far, this project has been smooth sailing for Nestle Waters, and in fact, Colorado as a whole – despite a looming water problem – remains a largely Nestle-friendly zone. Is that reality about to change?

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Nestle Moving Forward with Water Extraction Plans in Chaffee County, CO

We’ve commented on Nestle’s plans to pump water from a spring in Chaffee County, CO, then truck it to its plant in Colorado.

According to a pair of newspaper stories, that project seems to be moving forward, though clearly not without enduring some questions from locals.

The League of Women Voters is hosting a pair of screenings of the movie FLOW (which won’t make Nestle’s representatives happy). From the Chaffee County Times:

On Jan. 5 and Jan. 12, the documentary movie “The Flow” will be screened. On Jan. 14 and Jan. 15, a representative of the Nestlé Corporation will discuss Nestlé’s proposed water development in Chaffee County. These events will provide some perspectives on privatizing water resources not only in Chaffee County but worldwide.

“The Flow” is Irena Salina’s award-winning documentary investigation into what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st century – the world water crisis. It will be shown on Jan. 5 at 10 a.m. at Sangre de Cristo Electric Association, 29780 Hwy. 24 N., in Buena Vista. On Jan. 9, the documentary can be seen at 6 p.m. downstairs at the Salida Regional Library, 405 E St., in Salida.

Bruce Lauerman, Natural Resource Manager, Western Division, Nestlé Waters, will speak about the proposed Nestlé development on Thursday, Jan. 15. This presentation will begin at noon at the First Methodist Church in Salida, at 4th and D Streets. Trout Unlimited is co-sponsoring the same presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 14, at the Buena Vista Community Center, 715 East Main St. The presentation will begin after a brief business meeting that begins at 7 p.m.

FLOW is a documentary that was critical of Nestle’s operation in Mecosta County, MI, and it tweaked Nestle enough that the corporation produced a rebuttal video (one that seems to ignore the fact that Nestle was ordered to stop pumping by a judge because they were damaging the watershed).

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Nestle Manuevering for Chaffee County, Colorado Water: Is Opposition Mounting?

This comment from a StopNestleWaters.org reader is referring (I think) to the same extraction site we wrote about here on StopNestleWaters:

Nestle is currently contracting with a local rancher in a rural county in Colorado for the rights to bottle the water from a high yielding spring. This greatly affects the recharge into the Arkansas river as well as the underlying aquifer which is already being innundated with wells.

The folks at Nestle are at least being candid about job creation in the County (none) and because they are simply taking the water out they are avoiding county taxes while their trucks would tear up county roads and create a dust problem where local livestock is raised. Water is like gold in Colorado because there is a very finite supply and I could see this causing issues for many years to come.

As the reader pointed out, Nestle has got to be crossing their fingers on this one; with no promise of local economic benefit to hold over the heads of the community, a little opposition to the truck traffic, pollution, noise and related issues would probably go a long ways.

You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to realize this is the worst kind of economic development for a rural area; a precious resource is extracted and leaves the area – along with any potential profits or benefits from the sale of the resource.

Thus, while the area suffers the indignity of truck traffic (noise, safety issue, pollution, unrecompensed wear & tear on roads), there is economic benefit, except to the one person selling the water (and that’s probably being sold too cheaply).

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