by D.J. DeJong

Mail Staff Writer

Jon Roorda, Chaffee County planning manager, said Tuesday that during his five-year tenure, Nestlé has been exceedingly responsive to the county.

He said the company has been in compliance with its permits during its operation years. The only concern has been the company’s ability to hire at least 50 percent of its drivers locally Roorda said.

He said despite efforts, including incentive bonuses and relocation stipends, the company has had trouble attracting local drivers and has been sitting right at the edge of that 50 percent.

Since 2018, the county requires Nestlé to follow best-business practices in their hiring of local drivers, Roorda said.

Nestlé also contributes to the local community with education endowments that benefit Buena Vista and Salida.

Since inception of the Chaffee County operation, Buena Vista Education Assistance Fund has received more than $119,000 and Support Our Salida Schools has received $137,000. The funds have been used to support scholarships and science, math and technology grants.

A Chaffee County Commissioners’ hearing to assess whether to renew Nestlé Water’s permit will be held April 21. Because of their role in that process, all three commissioners declined to comment.

Nestlé Waters began operations in Chaffee County 10 years ago. Since then, the company has made an impact on Chaffee County not only in terms of business but also in habitat rehabilitation and local education.

Nestlé Waters takes spring water from bore holes at the Ruby Mountain site near the Arkansas River and delivers it to a bottling plant in Denver.

The project began in 2009 with monitoring of the Ruby Mountain spring that used to feed a now-defunct trout farm at the site. When Nestlé purchased the property, the site was not rehabilitated.

After building a pipeline along the railroad easement from the bore hole site to Johnson Village, pumping and transportation operations began in 2010.

Nestlé is permitted to take 1.8 percent of the spring’s overall flow, about 65 million gallons a year. The company takes on average about 21 million gallons a year. The most water used in a year thus far has been 36 million gallons.

Larry Lawrence, natural resource manager for Nestlé Waters, said projected growth stays within those numbers.

Two production bore holes and a monitoring station are at the site. Production bore holes are used one at a time and are housed in buildings.

The average natural flow of the spring itself is about 4,800 acre-feet per year.

At the spring site, the water is pumped at 110 pounds per square inch (psi) to a loading station in Johnson Village.

With the static pressure of elevation to the loading site, by the time water gets to Johnson Village it is flowing at about 30 psi.

The pipeline feeds the loading station water silo at about 100 gallons per minute.

A truckload of water bound for the Nestlé Waters bottling plant in Denver holds about 8,100 gallons.

A full three-axle truck weighs about 97,000 pounds gross weight, which is too heavy for the interstate system, which has a limit of 80,000 pounds.

Instead, Nestlé has state permits to transport on U.S. 285 north to Denver, east on 56th Street and east to the Nestlé Waters bottling plant at 11700 E. 47th Ave.

Depending on the bottling plant schedule, nine to 11 trucks a day leave Johnson Village five days a week. The company tries to use local contractors and local truckers to haul water.

At the Denver plant, Ruby Mountain water is bottled as Arrowhead water in two sizes, 8 ounces and a 700-millimeter bottle with a flip top.

Lawrence said Nestlé has rehabbed the Ruby Mountain site, and after 10 years, it looks natural.

Lawrence said the company wants the people of Chaffee County to be proud of the Ruby Mountain site.

A recent land swap with neighbors gave the site unbroken river frontage, and Nestlé is working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to create a conservation easement with public access.

The new addition to the property needs to be rehabilitated back to a more natural landscape, Lawrence said, and the company is working with local entities such as Trout Unlimited, CPW and the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association to accomplish that.

He said that while wading access is available to anglers, they’re hoping to create a walking path to the fishing easement as well.

The site is accredited by Alliance for Water Stewardship, whose goals include sustainable water management and shared water security.

Lawrence said they plan to make improvements on CR 300, the access road, which has some dangerous turns. They’re committed to working with the county to make that road safer, he said.

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