Tag Archives: lee hart

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.

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.

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…

Wrong.

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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