When Chaffee County approved the original 1041 permit for Nestlé Waters North American to remove water to be bottled and sold in 2009, they set specific conditions which Nestlé was required to meet.
Some of the items included in the conditions included set up land management areas for Bighorn Springs and Ruby Mountain, and the removal and rehabilitation of an old fish hatchery.
When asked if Nestlé had met all of the conditions from the original permit, Jon Roorda, the county project manager who has been working on the new 1041, said that they had met all of the requirements, save one, which Nestlé brought to the attention of the county.
One of the requirements was a requirement to hire 50 percent of their drivers locally, which Nestlé was struggling to do over the last few years.
In a recent technical review, when Nestlé requested to add concrete to their site and landscaping, the county included a clause that Roorda said, requires them to engage in best business practices such as benefits, a sign-on bonus and a relocation bonus to encourage local drivers to work for them, but were not relieved of that condition.
Another condition was a donation of $500,000 to be used to help the Salida and Buena Vista school districts, along with other local foundations and non-profits.
Roorda said that fund was set up and the interest from it has been being paid out, and is reported in the yearly reports the county receives from Nestlé.
Those reports, along with the old resolution granting the permit, the new permit, and public correspondence regarding the application can be found on the county’s website at http://www.chaffeecounty.org/Public-Notices.
In the original permit, Nestlé was purchasing their water rights from the City of Aurora.
Roorda said that was changed by permit with the county and Nestlé now purchases their water rights from the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.
“Personally, I see that as a benefit to our local economy,” Roorda said. “The money is staying in Chaffee instead of going to Aurora.”
Roorda said they have received hundreds of letters from the public, ranging from requests not to renew the permit to suggestions for new conditions.
He said that the commissioners are reviewing all the correspondence, but haven’t decided on what, if any, new conditions they will place on the permit renewal.
The Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited sent a letter to the Chaffee County Commissioners, signed by chapter president Keith Krebs, outlining why they support the renewal of the Nestlé Waters North America 1041 permit and what conditions they think should be met for the approval.
In the letter Krebs wrote that the annual consumption of spring water has been almost 50 percent less then the amount allowed under the original permit.
Nestlé is in process of creating a large conservation easement for the vast majority of the site, Krebs wrote.
“Such a conservation easement would preserve open space, maintain wildlife habitat and movement corridors and provide wildlife (Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep) viewing opportunities near the entrance to Browns Canyon National Monument.”
Some of the conditions TU recommended the commissioners consider include:
• Completion of the educational component of the original development plan, including educational/interpretive signs on local flora and fauna and signs describing the habitat improvements Nestlé has made for wildlife.
• Additional reclamation/reconstruction of the area to the south and southwest of the pump houses, turning old ditches into streams to hold fish and create potential spawning habitat.
• Reconfiguration of a steep slope near the river to a walkable path for use by anglers and birders.
• Nestlé should work with the county road and bridge department on the reconstruction of CR 300.
• Nestlé must establish a conservation easement of the area not later then three years after the date of the permit renewal.
• Nestlé must continue to pursue implementation of the Closed Loop funding used to find solutions to plastic recycling and demonstrate positive impacts on the upper Arkanas River Valley to mitigate recycling challenges.
• Limitation of the annual consumption of spring water to the current level of approximate consumption during the last ten years.
• Explore moving funds held for the school districts from the Denver Foundation to the Chaffee County Community Foundation.
The county will hold the initial meeting at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds Oct. 20. Nestlé will present their permit application and Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water, LLC will be allowed one hour to speak. Public input will not be taken during this meeting.
The county will host two meetings at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Oct. 22 to allow for public input.
Residents are encouraged to give input via the Zoom meeting, however, the county is working to find a way for face-to-face public input as well.
Nestlé Waters North America and Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water, LLC were not immediately available for comment as of press time.