Tag Archives: chaffee county

Nestle’s Chaffee County Water Extraction Project Represents Bad Public Process

Everywhere Nestle’s water bottling operations go, bad public process seems to follow – as evidenced by this brilliant summation of the damaged approval process just concluded in Chaffee County, CO (found in the Salida Citizen news site, written by Lee Hart).

This excerpt from her lengthy post details the travails of citizens who waited hours to speak while Nestle received preferential treatment, broken promises, and a willingness to accept the unwritten promises of a multinational with a demonstrated inability to keep its good neighbor promises:

Over nine months of public hearings, hundreds of citizens passionately voiced their unambiguous opposition to Nestle. This, in the face of a hearing format that seemed biased in favor of giving Nestle every courtesy and consideration while on more than a few occasions showing visible irritation at testimony by local residents. In packed meeting rooms in Buena Vista and Salida, taxpaying voters waited patiently through inhumanely long meetings for their turn to speak out.

The commissioners allowed Nestle to run beyond their allotted agenda time by – on some nights – hours, yet when citizens went a few seconds over their 3-minute allotment of time at the microphone, Commission Chair Holman threatened to forcibly remove the speakers. The bias was apparent again today when in the waning moments before they unanimously agreed to approve Nestle, the commissioners haggled over language pertaining to a Nestle-funded community endowment.

In refusing the quantify – at all – Nestle’s annual programmatic contributions to the fund, the commissioners left it to Nestle – rather than the community – to define the dollar amount of philanthropic giving that constitutes being a “good neighbor.”

Face to face with a cadre of Nestle lawyers and high-priced experts, campaign promises by Giese and Holman, made less than a year ago, melted away as quickly as butter in August. Holman pledged that on his watch, no more water would leave this valley. How then could he sign a resolution permitting 65 million gallons to be sucked and trucked beyond county lines?

Giese famously said that green is the color of the future of this valley. How could Giese possibly interpret as good for green all the warnings thrown up by the county’s own consultants and referral agencies warning that Nestle could have negative impacts to surface water quantity and quality, groundwater quantity, air quality, wetlands and the plants and critters that depend on the riparian habitat.

Public opposition to Nestle boiled down to several key themes: Incontrovertible evidence prior to their arrival in Chaffee County and even during the public hearing process made it hard to believe Nestle could, without very specific legally binding stipulations, be the “good neighbor” they purport to be; the intentionally weak and sugar-coated science Nestle presented during its testimony belies lurking danger to surface and groundwater resources as well as riparian habitat that is bad for the longterm sustainability of the environment, as well as future economic development prospects for the valley. Even the county knows this as implied in the Special Land Use Permit where the county writes “Future development outside the subject parcels may impact the quality or quantity of spring water related to the Project.”

It would be naive to think Nestle won’t assign some of its vast resources to block any future housing or commercial development upgradient of its Bighorn and Ruby Mountain springs. It’s hard to imagine any small developer or business person being able to prevail against a fight waged by the world’s largest food and beverage maker.

You can read the rest of Hart’s original post here: Nestle in Chaffee County: Goliath 1, David 0; end or extra innings?.

What’s Next for Nestle in Chaffee County? Perhaps Not What It Expects…

Now that Nestle’s Chaffee County water extraction project has been permitted – despite the opposition of an overwhelming majority of the citizenry – we have to ask: What’s next?

Salida Citizen reporter Lee Hart – who provided detailed coverage of the entire saga – pens a thoughtful opinion piece about what’s next for the community:

Last week, the commissioner voted unanimously to support conditional approval of Nestle’s operations in this county. The permit approval contains 44 conditions totaling 11 pages which County Commissioner Chair Frank Holman said he trusts the world’s largest food and beverage company will abide by, adding that he also calls on local citizens to serve as watchdogs of the project. A final, formal resolution on the project is expected to be reviewed for adoption before Oct. 18.

Nestle assured the Citizen it would abide by the conditions and be a “good neighbor.” Yet nothing about Nestle’s actions throughout the public review process lead me to share in Holman’s naïve optimism and Nestle’s verbal assurances that Nestle will be a good neighbor and happily comply with all 44 conditions of approval of their permit.

At best this project will be an ongoing series of unwieldy hassles for county staff; at worst, a complete environmental disaster.

I sincerely hope the citizens of Chaffee County don’t experience the environmental and legal nightmares visited upon residents of places like Fryeburg (ME), Mecosta County (MI), McCloud (CA) and a bundle of others.

Yet it’s clear that where Nestle goes, lawsuits and environmental damage often follow – as do Nestle’s corporate spinmeisters, who say one thing while the Swiss multinational does another.

Hart alludes to this sad tendency. And offers a glimpse into the future of the county commissioners who campaigned on water issues, then folded like a cheap tent in a hurricane – even after Nestle’s application and analysis were found badly lacking:

From all appearances, only public pressure and opposing county consultant analysis moved Nestle to make major concessions like the removal of the Bighorn Springs parcel and promise of a permanent conservation easements. There are clear indications Nestle spun facts and the truth in its pursuit of county approval, most notably in a tense debate with Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District General Manager Terry Scanga.

But it  also seems like an unfair fight when a giant multinational corporation picked as its first target in Colorado, a small rural community of limited financial resources, dearth of technical expertise and glaring voids in regulations at the local and state level to definitively protect it against such commercial water grabs. And there’s no question Nestle can and still may well overpower this community with its vast resources in order to win any future argument about any aspect of the project.

While the commissioners had the opportunity to reject the proposal, thereby concurring with public and staff testimony that the application did not satisfy all the terms of the 1041 permit process, they chose instead to approve the project with a lengthy list of conditions they felt addressed the public’s concerns and brought the project into 1041 compliance. In so doing they also reneged on campaign assurances and stump speeches about green being the color of the future here and vowing to keep water in the valley.

You can read Hart’s piece in its entirety at Nestle saga moves toward next chapter.

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 Contradicts Own Testimony in Eight Page Memo to Chaffee County Commissioners

Once again, Nestle Waters tried to bypass good public process when it submitted an eight-page memo to Chaffee County’s commissioners… the day prior to their decision.

While the Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability also attempted to add comments to the record, Nestle’s memo apparently contradicts the testimony given by its own (paid) experts during the public testimony – and sheds new light on just how far Nestle’s willing to go in order to subvert the public process.

From another insightful Lee Hart article in the Salida Citizen:

The day before it was granted conditional approval to proceed with its proposed water harvesting project in Chaffee County, Nestle Waters North America submitted an eight-page memo to the Board of County Commissioners asking for reconsideration of draft conditions in several of the most hotly contested aspects of its proposal.

Perhaps most significantly, a review of Nestle’s eight-page memo appears to show Nestle directly contradicting earlier testimony by its own legal team aimed at discrediting and downplaying testimony by Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District General Manager Terry Scanga,

Earlier in the public review process, Scanga provided written and oral testimony warning Commissioners that Nestle project depletions could cause an increase in exchanges by Aurora on the Arkansas that could have a “deleterious effect” on the basin. Aurora has signed a 10-year lease with Nestle to provide augmentation water for the project.

In direct counterpoint to Scanga, Nestle water counsel Steve Sims told Commissioners that while he appreciates Scanga for “always looking out for the Upper Ark,” he also said it was “very very doubtful” that the Nestle-Aurora lease would change any legal dynamic on the river.

At the time, Sims said the 200-acre-feet per year Nestle-Aurora lease is a fraction of Aurora’s 52.000-acre-foot portfolio on the Upper Arkansas Basin.

Commenting on the drought scenario Scanga painted for the county, Sims flatly assured the Commissioners “it’s just not going to happen,” especially in light of Aurora’s Prairie Waters project that Sims said will double or triple Aurora’s water portfolio, buffering it against enacting the type of drought triggers Scanga envisioned.

Now three months later, Nestle appears to refute its own earlier testimony. It recaps Scanga’s argument that Aurora will need Nestle lease water to serve its customers in the future and they should not be allowed to replace that water with new Arkansas exchanges. Nestle now agrees that this is a “legitimate concern” that will be mitigated by draft county condition 32a requiring Nestle to suspend pumping project wells if Aurora exercises its right to exchange any Category 2 leased water.

The question you have to ask  yourself is did Nestle know it wasn’t telling the truth when its expert testified originally, or is this an attempt to avoid halts to pumping later (should the Aurora mitigation water become unavailable)?

Nestle Double-Dips on Monitoring, Overland Access

The Nestle memo is also remarkable for its contradictory nature; in a self-congratulatory letter to the editor of the Salida Citizen, Nestle repeatedly pats itself on the back for the mandated extensive wetlands monitoring program and sportsmen’s access to the river through their property.

Yet in their memo, Nestle argues that their monitoring program should be dramatically scaled back, and that the overland sportsmen’s access should not be required.

In other words – and in typical Nestle fashion – they’re arguing against the very programs their PR staff use to promote the project.

In one sense, this is par for Nestle, though familiarity with the tactic doesn’t render it less despicable – or revealing as to the Swiss multinational’s character.

Nestle has repeatedly touted its long-term monitoring program on McCloud’s Squaw Creek as proof of its stewardship – conveniently forgetting there was no monitoring program of any kind in place until it was forced on them by opponents of the McCloud project.

In truth, Nestle only implemented a monitoring program after nullifying their original contract with McCloud – and only after the PR burden of not having a program in place outpaced even Nestle’s PR legions to counter.

Read Ms. Hart’s complete story: Nestle, CCFS sought last-minute concessions from county on six hot topics.

Citizen Outrage Builds Over Chaffee County Decision to Issue Nestle Waters Permit

Now that Chaffee County’s commissioners have approved Nestle Waters of North America’s water extraction deal – even in the face of numerous questions about the project’s economic benefits to the area – citizen outrage seems to be building.

For example, the reader comments beneath the Salida Citizen’s story are overwhelmingly negative; people want to know why their elected commissioners ignored so many questions and seemingly bent over backwards to permit the Nestle project – even as they said Nestle’s application didn’t make the grade.

And yes, there have been numerous suggestions of a recall.

Simply put, citizens apparently know what the commissioners were unwilling to admit; Nestle’s water extraction project isn’t going to benefit the area, and Nestle’s abysmal record in other rural areas

A few excerpts:

The Commissioners, along with Mr. Jackson, appeared to have missed the point when voting in support of Nestle. Whether they were well-meaning (as a way to preserve the land through a conservation easement) or afraid of lawsuits as many people have speculated; if our political leaders don’t embrace responsibility for sustainability (there’s that word) in all of their decisions, than we are lost. The future must embrace new and green opportunities, the world demands it. A corporation with a history of corruption, exploitation and ugly propaganda hardly seems like the neighbors we hoped to attract to Chaffee county.


I was terribly disappointed in this decision, even though it was expected. Nestle’s has a history of being a bad neighbor, not a good neighbor as they claim. Every person I have spoken to in the community during these past months has agreed we should not allow this to happen. I, also, do not and will not buy any product put out by Nestle’s, and, of course, I do not buy ANY brand of bottled water! Water should not be a marketable, profit-making commodity!!! I hope all the locals who felt this was wrong, but did nothing about it, will now write letters to let the Commissioners know how they feel.


What a travesty! The majority of voters and residents of Chaffee County have been disregarded by our elected officials to favor a big corporation with big profits to be made over a precious natural resource-water. It is totally ridiculous that this decision was made by four people instead of it going before voters to decide. This decision was not about private property rights; it’s about owning a resource in this valley that fuels our economy and sustains the living quality for humans and wildlife. Nestle, I can assure you, is laughing at the stupidity and the so called “economic benefits” they will be providing to our community. Multi billion dollar corporations can tie up legal battles in court for years without missing a beat; how far will the litagation fund go to enforce violations? Our commissioners have done us all a great disservice; I’m ashamed of their shortsightedness and “selling out” of this valley’s limited and precious water.

The comments go one for quite a ways; almost all decry the issuance of a Nestle permit, including one which correctly predicted Nestle’s coming “good neighbor” morality play:

Nestle Waters will eventually come to town with full pockets, ready to distribute money “benevolently,” all the while believing this gesture will bring them good will in Chaffee County.

We’ve all gotten along without Nestle’s blood money thus far. Will it be easy to turn down gifts from the controversial corporation in a downturned economy? I think not. But when Nestle begins passing out hundred dollar bills, for Chaffee County non-profits to “just say ‘no thanks,’” would make a significant statement.

And for God’s sake, don’t drink the bottled water they will undoubtedly leave on many of those doorsteps.

You can read all the comments here.

Clearly, Nestle isn’t loved in the community, and that also plays out in the Letters to the Editor in the local newspapers, where Michelle Riggio lands a few body blows:

At the last commissioners’ meeting to deliberate the Nestlé 1041 application, county 1041 attorney Barbara Green made an important clarification. Commissioners cannot approve the application unless it satisfies all criteria.

If the permit does not meet all the criteria, then it shall be denied unless conditions enable compliance. She stressed it was at the discretion of the board if members want to “deny” or “approve with conditions.”

Among conditions being considered is a mitigation fund to cover potential legal costs. The original suggestion from county personnel was $50,000 be kept in a fund and replenished in a timely manner as needed.

Commissioner Giese asked that it be $200,000. Why not make it $2 million just to be sure?

Furthermore, if we already anticipate a litigious relationship with Nestlé, why not flat out deny it because they obviously haven’t met all the standards?

And later in her letter:

Finally, I found it disturbing that Nestlé project manager Bruce Lauermann suggested rather than have the commissioners deliberate about the newly crafted conditions, the county staff and the Nestlé team could all sit down together and hash out the conditions instead.

Did he forget the hearing was closed to public comment – including Nestlé comments – weeks ago?

Listening to all the conditions created to ensure that Nestlé doesn’t harm the environment and/or bankrupt the county, it reinforced in me the belief that with this corporate giant, no amount of conditions could adequately protect us.

The questions from citizens just keep rolling in, and – with several more water extraction projects on the line in Colorado – expect Nestle to throw a few dollars at the community to quiet opposition.

Chaffee County Commissioners Approve Nestle Water Extraction Project… With 40 Stipulations Attached

Despite overwhelming citizen opposition; despite the county commissioners’s admission that Nestle’s application was lacking; despite the numerous flaws in Nestle’s “analysis” exposed by independent consultants; and despite the utter absence of real baseline water data (Nestle’s pumping tests lasted only three days), Chaffee County (CO) approved Nestle’s 65 million gallons a year water extraction project 3-0.

From the Salida Citizen online news site (which has provided excellent coverage of the entire process):

SALIDA, CO – The biggest land use case in Chaffee County history essentially came to a close today when the Chaffee County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a commercial water harvesting project in this rural river community in the mountains of south central Colorado.nestle

Members of both sides of the debate were reserved in their reaction to the decision granting Nestle Waters North America conditional approval to extract 65 million gallons of springwater annually from an aquifer at the mouth of the renowned Brown’s Canyon stretch of the Arkansas River. The water will be piped four miles to a truck loading station where it will then be transported two hours to Denver for bottling then sold to consumers as Nestle’s Arrowhead brand of bottled water.

The approval includes 40 conditions, totaling 11 pages and addressing what the commissioners considered some of the most controversial aspects of the proposal, namely water and economics.

Make no mistake – Nestle prevailed in this case not because their permit met the letter of the law or because of the economic benefits to the area (there simply aren’t many).

Instead, Nestle rolled quietly into town and recruited key political figures to their cause – long before citizens were even aware a project was planned.

It’s a recurring theme for the Swiss multinational – one that allows them to pull off projects even in the face of overwhelming citizen opposition.

In this case, the County Commissioners bent over backwards to accommodate the multinational – even after it was revealed (by the county’s own independently hired consultants) that Nestle’s economic analysis was wrong (or intentionally biased); its baseline environmental data was absent; and its record elsewhere was awful.

Instead of kicking Nestle’s water extraction project to the curb, the commissioners sat down and created 40 conditions (11 pages of them) Nestle would have to meet before approving Nestle’s permit.

Commissioner Frank Holman – a stanch Nestle project supporter from the start – lead the Nestle charge (this from the Salida Citizen’s story):

“Holman concluded that the county had imposed some “strict conditions” that addressed those areas of the application that were “nonconforming.”

Astonishingly, Holman later seemingly laid the burden of monitoring the project on Nestle and the county’s citizens – apparently not recognizing that’s his job:

Shortly before the vote, Holman looked directly at Nestle representatives and said that the county will “rely on the permittee to follow the conditions and we believe you will.” He said the county would also rely on the citizens to help monitor the project and thought that, overall, the project would be a benefit to the county.

It’s hard to imagine Chaffee County’s citizens feeling comforted by a statement that odd – especially after they’d made their opposition to the Nestle project heard in public meeting after meeting.

Early Warning

In this case, it wasn’t the job of the commissioners to bring Nestle’s application into compliance, yet the 11 pages of stipulations seems to have done exactly that.

This is how it happens; Nestle’s on-the-ground operative shows up early, identifying and courting those amenable to their project. After that’s done, Nestle’s projects enjoy considerable momentum, even after revelations of wrongdoing elsewhere appear.

As far as Nestle is concerned, the process worked, but that’s because they front-loaded it in their favor.

What’s also true is that Nestle didn’t expect to face this kind of citizen opposition, and – with several other water extraction projects looming in other parts of the state – couldn’t afford to lose this fight.

That’s why rolled out the big guns at a couple of meetings, bringing in high-dollar attorneys and water “experts” to bolster their case.

Ultimately, those high-dollar experts were needed after an economist and ecologist – independently hired by the county to review Nestle’s application – revealed significant problems with Nestle’s application.

Then there was the sudden scramble to “support the community” with a $500,000 endowment. Originally, Nestle’s “support” for the community wasn’t going to extend beyond free bottled water for high school events, but after citizen opposition arose, Nestle’s checkbook appeared quickly (and often).

The Errors (Always Favorable to Nestle) Accumulate

In one instance, Nestle suggested a gas tax benefit would accrue to the county, yet the independent economist pointed out there was no county gas tax. In another instance, Nestle overestimated the property tax benefit to the county by 61%.

An independent ecologist suggested that Nestle’s baseline data on the springs and accompanying wetlands was so lacking that they could never be held accountable for damage due to pumping; they could blithely assert their pumping wasn’t the cause, and just keep going.

This is precisely what happened in Mecosta County (MI) – and it took a citizen’s group lawsuit (to the tune of $1 million over six years) to force Nestle to behave.

Clearly, the county commissioners were afraid that would happen here; opponents of the project successfully forced the commissioners to add a stipulation to the permit which created a mitigation fund designed to compensate the county for expenses related to this project – including legal expenses stemming from lawsuits.

It’s an astonishing condition to attach to a project – and a sign that Nestle’s predatory history in rural towns is finally starting to catch up to it.

In fact, Nestle opponent Jim Ruggles focused on Nestle’s willingness to use legal means to protect its pumping operations:

“I don’t believe the commissioners are representing the best interests of Chaffee County,” said longtime resident and staunch Nestle opponent Jim Ruggles. “My main concern is that (Nestle) will dry out the aquifer and that the county will wind up in litigation sooner or later with Nestle. I believe the commissioners fairly ignored their own consultants and favored Nestle’s presentation of the facts.”

With more extraction deals planned in other communities, Nestle will no doubt fall all over themselves to spread a few dollars around Chaffee County (I’m sure it’s already happening), hoping to bolster their “good neighbor” image.

Still, even as Nestle’s project gets underway, the multinational has to be wondering what bus almost hit them.

They wandered into a sleepy rural town and expected to truck the are’as water back to Denver without so much as a peep of protest.

Instead, they found themselves squeaking by – even as the factual errors and flaws in their incomplete 1041 permit application were exposed.

Nestle’s willingness to put an operative on the ground in a town long before projects become public has paid off again, yet next time, they may not be so lucky:

Sam Schabacker of the national non-profit Food and Water Watch said Colorado’s battle with Nestle is being closely watched around the country and is considered pivotal to the nationwide fight against the privatization of water. “This is the first battleground in the Rocky Mountain West – the arid West – and CCFS has shown great leadership in this national struggle.” Schabacker said the intelligence and dedication CCFS has shown through the application review process puts the organization in a good position to recalibrate and take the fight to the next level, joining the ranks of citizens in Maine, California, Michigan and Flagstaff, AZ.

Read the draft conditions of approval here.
Read the cost mitigations fund report here.

Still no vote on Nestle bid to tap Chaffee County Water

Once again, Nestle Waters of North America’s plan to extract 65 million gallons of water from Chaffee County (CO) springs has hit another snag, a decision being delayed again until August 19.

Typically, Nestle sought to move the discussion from the public arena to a private one, though the County Commissioners denied Nestle’s request to discuss project stipulations with staff instead of hearing them exposed to the public in the meeting.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Since last fall, Chaffee County commissioners have been wrestling with the project and harsh public reaction to it. On Wednesday, they went over a long list of conditions under which they would approve Nestle’s plan.

But the board, which held a half-dozen marathon public hearings in the spring and has debated it twice in meetings since, again balked at taking a vote on a land-use plan. Commissioners set Aug. 19 for the next meeting, at which county staff will present refined conditions.

The company wants to withdraw 65 million gallons of spring water a year for its Arrowhead brand of bottled water. Many residents view it as a water grab and say it could deplete area water supplies with no economic benefit to the community.

Much of the Front Range’s water, including Colorado Springs’ Otero Pump Station and Homestake pipeline, passes through Chaffee County, either in pipelines or in the Arkansas River, and the project has touched a nerve.

The commissioners denied requests by Nestle to delay the discussion and by opponents to reopen public comment.

The project – which Nestle surely thought was a slam-dunk in formerly Nestle-friendly Colorado – has been besieged by unexpectedly vigorous opposition from residents.

The realization that the county stood to gain almost nothing of long-term value from the project has galvanized opponents – and the fact that Nestle’s permits included economic “benefits” information that was shown to be false by an independent economist and ecologists hired by the county.

Nestle – which plans to tap other springs in Colorado – is undoubtedly worried about the precedent this project sets – both in terms bad publicity and setting a standard for opposition no matter where they go.

via Still no vote on Nestle bid to tap Chaffee County water | tap, bid, vote – Top Stories – Colorado Springs Gazette, CO.

More Reaction to Nestle’s Sacramento Water Bottling Plant (Hint: It’s Not Pretty)

Cosmo Garvin of the Sacramento News & Review has been monitoring the Nestle water bottling issue in McCloud, and – given the company’s track record elsewhere – didn’t exactly extend the welcome mat to the news that Nestle’s building a water bottling plant in Sacramento.

Here are a few choice breaks from his article:

And what an international company it is!

Nestlé has a track record of pissing people off wherever it chooses to stick its great big water-sucking straw. For years the company was involved in a nasty fight 230 miles north of here, in McCloud, Calif., where residents worried the company would suck their aquifer dry for a fraction of a cent per gallon. And Nestlé has been heavily criticized for privatizing water supplies in the developing world.

What do we get? Forty jobs and $14 million invested in the new plant. And why wouldn’t Nestlé think Sacramento is desirable? After all, they’re going to buy our tap water for cheap and sell it back to us in plastic bottles for 1,000 times what they paid for it. Why wouldn’t they love us?

The company is going to bottle about 150 acre-feet of water every year at its south Sac “microfactory.” If you’re not sure how much an acre-foot is, imagine a high-school football field in Natomas, under a foot of water. Some of that water will be trucked in from springs in the Sierra foothills, to be bottled and sold under the Arrowhead brand. But most of it, about 90 acre-feet, or 30 million gallons, will be bottled and sold under Nestlé’s Pure Life brand.

Nestlé will pay the city’s industrial rates for water: $.9854 for every 748 gallons, according to Kemp. Down at the local Safeway, a 24-pack of half-liter bottles of their water-flavored water fetches $3.99. That works out to about $38 million paid by consumers for about $37,000 worth of tap water, with some packaging, shipping and press releases thrown in.

Nestle is encountering stiff opposition in almost every new water bottling and extraction venue it’s in right now (witness the unexpectedly fierce opposition they encountered in Chaffee County, which discovered Nestle was offering up wholly misleading economic analysis alongside its permit).

Are they now due for a beating in Sacramento? Does this signal a retrenchment from the company regarding its rural bottling activities?

via SN&R > Columns > Bites > Something in the water > 07.30.09.

Climate Change Questions Go Unanswered in Nestle’s Chaffee County Water Extraction Project

With questions looming about the effects of climate change on local water supplies, you’d think Chaffee County’s Commissioners would give climate change more than a cursory glance during Nestle’s water extraction project permitting process – especially given the arid nature of Colorado’s climate.

Sadly, that didn’t happen (from the Salida Citizen: Science, commissioners at odds over climate change in Nestle deliberations):

“Conservation has to become an ethic in the West,” said Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, adding the region needs to do more to protect the water that’s already available.

Yet here in Chaffee County, conservation and climate change didn’t merit so much as a passing mention as the Board of County Commissioners began deliberations on a multi-decade commercial water harvesting proposal, even as an overwhelming majority of scientific studies anticipate a reduction of total water supply by the mid-21st century is likely to exacerbate competition for over-allocated water resources especially in the fast-growing West. The county’s own consultants, Colorado National Heritage Progam, cautioned commissioners: “In the interest of maintaining the wetland plant communities, any proposed development plan that impacts water resources should take into consideration global climate change.” Yesterday, CNHP ecologist Delia Malone, writing as a private citizen, spoke out on what she called the commissioners’ “short-sightedness” in dismissing climate change from deliberations on the water harvesting project proposed by Nestle Waters North America.

Two long-term questions need to be answered by every small, rural community facing a Nestle project.

First, with bottled water on the environmental hot seat – and the bottled water market in Europe and USA actually declining – what kind of future does Nestle’s plant really have?

And second – given Nestle’s unwillingness to compromise its pumping rates even when faced with evidence of the damage it’s doing (and its unwillingness to conduct long-term studies or generate useful baseline data) – what kind of legal fund will your town need to establish to protect the aquifer?

No Decision On Nestle Extraction Project in Chaffee County

The first afternoon of deliberations on Nestle’s proposed water extraction project seemed to produce little headway, though quotes in the Colorado Springs Gazette suggest the commissioners are split 2-1 on the issue (perhaps leaning towards acceptance).

The commissioners told county staff to come up with possible conditions for approval of a 1041 land-use permit, but the board appeared divided on the controversial project.

“Nestle has made a decision not to create a lot of economic benefit in Chaffee county,” said Commissioner Tim Glenn. “They are coming in. They are taking a valuable resource out of the system and they are giving very little back in the way of utilizing that resource. That’s a concern of mine.”

The company wants to withdraw 65 million gallons of spring water a year for its Arrowhead brand of bottled water from springs a few miles south of Johnson Village. The company operates 27 bottling plants and taps 50 springs around the country. The water would be trucked to a plant in Denver.

You can read the Gazette story here: No decision yet on Nestle bid to tap spring water | county, nestle, commissioners – Colorado Springs Gazette, CO.

Chaffee County Vote on Nestle Water Extraction Nears, Nestle Pretends It’s Not About Them (It Is)

The Colorado Springs Gazette notes that 80% of bottled water’s plastic bottles don’t make it to the recycling bin, highlighting that fact as one of the reasons why Chaffee County residents are opposed to Nestle’s jproposed bottled water extraction project (click here to see all our stories on the Chaffee County).

Frankly, we disagree. It’s terrible that a huge majority of Nestle’s plastic bottles end up on our lands and waterways, but the Chaffee County project was more than a referendum on bottled water. From the Gazette: Local debate spotlights fact: 80% of water’s packaging isn’t recycled:

A water fight is on in Chaffee County, one that shows how far the esteem of bottled water has fallen.

Nestle Waters North America wants to withdraw 65 million gallons of spring water a year for its Arrowhead brand of bottled water from springs near the Arkansas River, a few miles south of Buena Vista. Some in Chaffee County see it as a water grab with no benefit to the community, and hundreds packed several long and contentious public hearings held by the county this spring on Nestle’s 1041 land-use permit request. Foes worry the plan could deplete water supplies and increase truck traffic.

County commissioners will discuss, and possibly vote on, the permit today.

StopNestleWaters participated in the Chaffee County debate, and I’d suggest it was about far more than water supplies and truck traffic.

The county would enjoy almost no real economic benefit from the project (a fact that Nestle initially tried to hide using grossly inflated economic forecasts), and Nestle’s own reputation as something of a predator in small towns clearly came into play.

Nestle, of course, ignores that which it doesn’t want to hear:

A Nestle official says foes’ complaints are with bottled water as a whole.

“Most of it has nothing to do with the 1041 or the science. It’s their opinions about the end use of the water,” said Bruce Lauerman, Nestle’s natural-resources manager…


It’s also about Nestle – a multinational that small communities are increasingly realizing they can’t trust.

It’s a common tactic for Nestle to paint their foes as hysterical, emotional types who are being misled by the big, bad anti-water conspiracy, but the citizens in Chaffee County were treated to an eyeful of reasons why the Nestle project wasn’t a good fit:

  • The lack of economic benefit to Chaffee County, which Nestle’s desperate “promise” of a community endowment did little to assuage
  • Nestle’s distressing actions elsewhere, where it’s placed its own bottom line far above the needs of the community or watershed
  • Nestle’s willingness to wholly ignore impacts like climate change on the watershed
  • Nestle’s willingness to resort to legal means to bludgeon opponents – essentially bankrupting its opponents

And for a long list of reasons why the Nestle project should be denied by the commissioners (almost all of which are well within the scope of the 1041 process), read this thoughtful piece by the Salida Citizen’s Lee Hart.

In other words, given the lack of economic benefits to the area and a Pikes Peak-sized list of reasons Nestle’s extraction project could hurt the area, why exactly would anyone say yes?

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Chaffee County Delays Nestle Extraction Decision (Now Nestle’s Not Paying its Bills)

Nestle’s water extraction plan in Chaffee County (CO) ran into a buzzsaw of local opposition – including a couple of county-hired consultants who shot Nestle’s proposals full of holes (especially the economic “benefits” to the area, which were shown to be hugely overstated (if nonexistent).

The County Commissioners were supposed to hold a vote on the Nestle permit process, but delayed because the huge Swiss multinational – a hugely profitable company – hasn’t yet paid its bills to the county (specifically, the cost of hiring consultants to debunk its “erroneous” permit application):

County delays vote on Nestle’s plan to tap springs – Examiner.com

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Map, News) –
Chaffee County commissioners have delayed voting on Nestle’s plan to draw and ship water from along the Arkansas River because the food and beverage giant hasn’t paid its bills.

The commissioners said Tuesday that they’ve spent $140,000 to review the company’s application to draw the water from area springs, but Nestle Waters North America has paid only $33,000 so far.

No doubt Nestle will eventually pay the money it owes the county, but this delay can’t help their cause in Chaffee County, where Nestle’s questionable conduct in other small towns quickly became an albatross around the company’s neck.

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