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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.

September 3, 2009   Comments Off

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.

August 27, 2009   Comments Off

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.

And…

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.

And…

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.

August 25, 2009   Comments Off

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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July 1, 2009   2 Comments

Solid Piece About Nestle’s Extraction Proposal in Chaffee County, CO in Salida Citizen

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.

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June 23, 2009   Comments Off

Citizen-Run Salida Citizen Offering Excellent Coverage of Nestle Water Extraction Plan

The Salida Citizen is an interesting experiment in online community news, and it’s generated a great deal of good, solid coverage of Chaffee County’s Nestle water-extraction controversey.

The Salida Citizen is a manifestation of the changing media world

The Salida Citizen is a manifestation of the changing media world

To gain a sense of the arc of the Nestle story in Chaffee County, you can see a list of all the Salida Citizen’s Nestle-related stories here.

While the outcome of Nestle’s water grab in Chaffee County remains in doubt, the Salida Citizen is a good example of a community-driven news site that’s serving an increasingly important purpose.

Activists facing Nestle in their small town sometimes write and bemoan the slanted coverage provided by their local newspapers, which (like larger newspapers) are suffering the effects of the economy and increased reliance on the Internet for news.

Nestle buys ads in local papers (often large ads), promises more in the future, and it’s difficult for publishers to ignore that reality. In some cases, that bias plays out in an uncritical acceptance of Nestle’s PR spin as news – or an under-representation of opposing viewpoints at public meetings.

In others, the bias is more pronounced, extending outward from the editorial pages.

Even in the best of circumstances, Nestle’s fulltime on-the-ground operatives simply have more access to media.

With residents already running headlong into Nestle’s PR legions and their fulltime on-the-ground operatives, dealing with an unfriendly media is simply one more indignity.

May 8, 2009   Comments Off

More On Nestle’s Chaffee County Water Extraction

Chaffee County’s fifth public meeting over Nestle’s water extraction project ran from 1pm to 11pm, and while Nestle imported some seriously expensive legal talent, the news for the world’s largest food & beverage multinational isn’t all that good.

While Nestle desperately tries to put the wheels back on their Chaffee County extraction project (they seemed to fly off a couple weeks ago when independent consultants started shooting factual holes in Nestle’s proposals), the comment count from residents – and the number of documents submitted – temporarily overwhelmed the county’s computers.

The Salida Citizen’s Lee Hart wrote a comprehensive article detailing the issues facing the project, focusing on eight key issues still in contention.

Two of the issues fall in familiar territory to those who follow’s Nestle’s extraction efforts – the lack of real baseline water data, which could presumably be used to force Nestle to curtail their pumping activities.

Frankly, it’s classic Nestle, who make a lot of noises about stewardship of the resource, but – as we saw in Mecosta County – have to be forced to stop pumping.

From the Salida Citizen story:

Bighorn Springs exclusion. Citing a lack of adequate baseline data, County water counsel Jim Culichia said he recommends excluding the Bighorn Springs from the project. Culichia explained that Nestle is required to “demonstrate no impact” but can’t do so because of a lack of baseline data, which Culichia said is a problem that can’t be remedied by simply monitoring after the  start of the project. Pumping will have some impact on the springs, Culichia said. Without adequate baseline data, when changes to the spring do occur, Nestle could argue that the change was natural rather than a result of Nestle operations which would mean Nestle could avoid mitigating the impacts. Resolution: Unresolved.

Ruby Mountain Springs additional data. Culichia concurred with hydrology consultants Geomega that additional tests would be needed to provide the county with a better idea of the impact to the aquifer under conditions that more closely resemble Nestle’s proposed operational plan. To date, Nestle pump tests have only been performed on one test well while the operational plan indicates two wells will be pumping at the same time. Culichia said Nestle did note it had recently performed a pump test of that well at higher rates but had not shared the data with the county. Importantly, Culichia said the other proposed well that has not undergone tests is closer to the river and the aquifer could, and likely will, react differently when both wells are pumping. Resolution: Unknown at press time.

More importantly, it’s now clear that Nestle’s initial promises of economic benefits to Chaffee County were at best smoke and mirrors – and at worst, the kind of outright fabrication that has dogged the company’s projects in the past.

A sterling example? Nestle initially claimed their project would generate $80,000 in property tax revenue. The real number? Less than $17,000 annually.

It would add $2.4 million in assessed property value, generating more than $18,000 in property taxes for 2010 and more than $500,000 during the next 30 years. [ED: That's less than $17,000 per year]

Nestle clearly expected an easy ride in Chaffee County, and with multiple extraction projects already in the planning stages for Colorado, they simply can’t afford to lose in Chaffee County. Accordingly, their original promises of “support” to the community were limited to donating cases of bottled water to worthy causes (uhh, gifting the community its own water?).

Now – in the corporate equivalent of a gunslinger’s quickdraw – they’re reaching for their wallet (a good lesson for those communities who are only starting to talk with Nestle; their first offer to you is a sucker deal):

In addition to a $500,000 community endowment, Nestlé committed to an annual giving program and reimbursement of extraordinary county expenditures not covered by tax payments.

Gone completely is the “economic benefit” whereby Nestle’s trucks would buy diesel in the county, supporting the area with fuel taxes. As a consultant pointed out, the county doesn’t receive direct fuel tax payments.

Oops.

Nestle can still pull this project out of the fire – small rural communities simply lack the kind of regulation needed to say “no” to a multinational with Nestle’s legal firepower – but it’s instructive to look how far the county’s residents have come from the initial stages, which were characterized more by misinformation than real facts.

Given the minimal economic benefits to the area (most of which are fairly short lived) and Nestle’s newly exposed lack of veracity, it’s clear that the company is in the midst of creating yet another PR mess for itself (Fryeburg, ME ring any bells?).

We leave you with an insightful comparison of Nestle’s legal team and Chaffee County residents (from the Salida Citizen):

Nestle SA: $16.61 billion in net profits in 2008; 265,000 employees worldwide.

Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck (Nestle legal counsel): 245
attorneys, 450 employees in 12 offices around the US. Billing rates for
legal counsel range from $275 – $750 per hour; average hourly rate
$340, median $325.

Chaffee County: 2009 budget, $22 million; 186 full-time equivalent employees, mean salary, $39,000.

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May 7, 2009   Comments Off

Chaffee Resident Points Out Nestle’s “Consumptive” Use of Water Double That of ALL Residential Wells in County

A letter to the editor in the Salida Citizen fires up some interesting facts surrounding the Nestle Water Extraction project. It suggests Nestle’s water extraction project – despite repeated denials from the company’s operative – will have a significant effect on the area’s ability to grow. How?

Essentially, household use of water returns about 90% to the aquifer. By contrast, Nestle’s use removes all the water from the area, so even though there’s a downstream “augmentation,” the lack of groundwater in the area could dramatically limit growth.

Read all about it here:

Nestlé withdrawal greater than consumptive use | Salida Citizen

Dear Commissioners Holman, Glenn, and Guise,

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss publicly, during the hearing on April 29th, the fact that the consumptive use of the Nestle Waters spring project is almost double the 2003 consumptive use of all of the residential wells in Chaffee County combined, based on a hydrological report that was one of Nestle Water’s submittals on the chaffeecounty.org website. “Hydrogeology and Quality of Ground Water in the Upper Arkansas River Basin from Buena Vista to Salida, Colorado, 2000-2003”, by Kenneth R. Watts.

The report cites “An estimated 3,443 wells pumped about 690 to 1,240 acre feet for domestic and household use in Chaffee County during 2003.” “Most augmentation plans are based on a consumptive use for domestic-household supply of 10 percent of withdrawal. The remaining 90 percent of domestic-household withdrawals are assumed to be returned to the aquifer through septic systems.” ”If consumptive use is 10 percent of domestic-household withdrawals, then current (2003) consumptive use for domestic-household use is about 69-124 acre feet/yr…” and …”projected 2030 consumptive use would be about 149-304 acre feet/yr.”

Therefore, the Nestle Waters extraction of 200 acre feet/year of 100 percent consumptive use is about double the average of 69-124 acre feet/year of the 2003 combined residential consumptive well use in the county.

This places the project in a different perspective of water use from what the Nestle team has been asserting. Bruce Lauerman keeps insisting that the amount withdrawn of .3 cfs of water is insignificant. I heard Mr. Lauerman say yesterday, almost under his breath, that it is so minimal, it shouldn’t even warrant needing augmentation. This information of actual well use helps highlight the Nestle approach of minimizing the impacts to allay concerns over the water extraction project.

Does this withdrawal from the basin displace future growth in the county, either residential or business? Sustainable growth contributes to commerce and supports infrastructure. Water for growth seems crucial to the future of the valley. Under the permit process, to approve the Nestle Waters project for what would seem to be a “nonessential” use, would be regrettable if it did indeed restrict future opportunities, especially if those involved food production.

Thank you very much,
Jane Browning
Howard

Ouch, Nestle. Another hole just appeared in Nestle’s formerly “bulletproof” case.

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May 1, 2009   Comments Off

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.

March 23, 2009   Comments Off

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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March 11, 2009   Comments Off