Tag Archives: ark valley voice

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.

Nestle’s Project in Chaffee County Heading for Final Decision, But Water Bottler Forced to React to Citizens

It’s been a surprisingly long road for Nestle Waters of North America’s Chaffee County water extraction project; an easy approval seemed to be in cards for the multinational before citizen opposition appeared seemingly out of nowhere (as did a local blog dedicated to the issue).

At the urging of residents, the county hired their own independent consultants to look at the project, and – unsurprisingly – discovered many instances where Nestle’s stated economic benefits to the community were wrong or grossly overstated (we’re shocked, shocked!).

Now, with the last marathon public meeting fading away into history, it’s up to the County Commissioners to decide the fate of the project – even though many of the questions about the project remain unanswered:

Chaffee County Commissioners Head to Deliberations in Nestlé Applications | Ark Valley Voice

On Thursday, May 21, The Chaffee County Commissioners endured the fourth and last round of marathon hearings on the Nestlé Waters North America applications for a 1041 and Special Land Use Permits. The eleven-hour meeting was peppered with the now commonplace disputes between Nestlé Water’s Regional Manager, Bruce Lauerman, and the County’s Staff, Consultants, and residents.

Nestlé did make a move to soothe widespread outcry over the project by voluntarily agreeing to remove the Bighorn site and its proposed operations from the permit (as Special Water Council, Jim Culichia, previously recommended) as well as a written guarantee of their willingness to place a conservation easement on parts of the project.

Many residents have expressed distrust over Nestlé’s unwillingness to guarantee project incentives on paper, in addition to what many perceive as a lack of transparency on behalf of the Swiss-based company.

Lauerman’s team of well-dressed and well-spoken attorneys, consultants, and public relations representatives, were by turn, respectful, direct, aggressive, and dismissive at Thursday’s meeting. One Nestlé attorney, Steve Simms, spoke with a tempered belligerence regarding a recommendation by the Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District Manager (UAWCD) Terry Scanga.

This might have been the first Nestle project where Nestle’s conduct in other small towns became an issue right at the start, and remained in the forefront throughout the process. In fact, it was enough of an issue that the normally unflappable Nestle – which usually ignores that which it finds inconvenient to acknowledge – was forced to confront the issue head on.

Unfortunately for Nestle, citizen journalism seems to have taken root in the area, with the Salida Citizen and the Ark Valley Voice (online, citizen-run news sites) providing running commentary and reportage that simply wasn’t available in the local newspaper.

Nestle was even forced to quickdraw their checkbook when it became apparent there were few lasting economic benefits to the county, making noises about ponying up an additional $500,000 “endownment” which would benefit local nonprofits.

It’s not unusual for Nestle to throw a few thousand dollars around a small community in an attempt to silence criticism; it’s quite another for them to be forced to do so by a citizenry that suddenly realizes Nestle isn’t doing anyone in the county any favors.

Still, the endowment would leave town when Nestle did, and the “benefits’ to the area’s nonprofits are put into perspective in an article from the Ark Valley Voice, which includes the following point/counterpoint:

Nestlé: Chaffee County would be the beneficiary of an endowment in the amount of $500,000. This fund would promote educational opportunities, and give $25,000-$30,000 to local organizations and events.

Opposition: This is just a gimmick. While $500,000 may sound like a lot, the benefits accrued don’t really add up. Minus costs, the annual payout would be closer to 12,000-$15,000. Locally based charities have raised significantly more in a single year and will continue to do so. Additionally, the fund will leave with Nestlé.

It’s true that the simplest explanation is usually the best; in Chaffee County, the simple explanation was that Nestle was forced to react to citizen opposition to their plans in ways they never had before.

Whether that’s a function of the Internet’s ability to network people in rural areas or simply the new reality facing Nestle Waters’ water bottling efforts isn’t clear.

What is clear is that the company’s less savory acts elsewhere – its lawsuits against Fryeburg, the citizens of Michigan, or opposition in McCloud (CA) – are suddenly becoming fodder even in the small rural towns where the company formerly faced little opposition.

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