Dear Editor:

In a March 4 article, Jon Roorda, county planning manager, said Nestlé Waters has been in compliance with their permit for the last ten years, except for the condition that the company hire 50 percent of their truck drivers locally. 

Within one year of their permit approval, Nestlé asked if the local hiring criteria could be changed to be based on payroll instead of actual numbers of drivers. 

The county approved the alternate methodology--. Nestlé relocated drivers to the county and counted them as local hires, yet they still --did not meet the quota. Nestlé asked for and Roorda granted relief from the condition in 2018.

It seems Roorda has been the only one reviewing Nestlé’s reports since 2015, despite his lack of water expertise. He did not produce reports for 2018 or 2019. 

In his 2017 report, Roorda noted Nestlé would need a conservation land easement to be in compliance with their land management plans. 

He also noted that a conservation easement would not be established unless a certain boundary line adjustment was completed first.

The boundary line adjustment was approved by the board of county commissioners on April 16, 2019. 

Then, on Sept. 24, 2019 the county planning commission approved a residential development (Rio Frio Minor) with maximized river frontage made possible by the boundary line adjustment. 

Nestlé swapped river frontage for land alongside the road where their pipe is located. 

Mike Allen, who worked for Nestlé while simultaneously serving as the county planning commission chairman, voted to approve the subdivision, while Bruce Cogan recused himself because the applicant is a member of his family.

Back on June 30, 2008, Bruce Lauerman, Nestlé’s Natural Resource Manager at the time, wrote a letter to The Mountain Mail promising that their land including “nearly a mile of frontage on either side of the river” would be saved from residential development. 

Lauerman wrote, “If our project continues, Nestlé Waters will keep the land essentially undeveloped, preserved as open space, to protect the watershed of the springs.”

I don’t trust Nestlé to do what they promise, nor do I trust the county to provide oversight to this multi-national, multibillion-dollar corporation.

Allen, representing Nestlé, together with the current Natural Resources Manager, Larry Lawrence, submitted a letter to Roorda on Sept. 3, 2019 requesting a 10-year permit extension. 

The letter attempts at length to justify why a formal application was not submitted. Roorda replied that he understood their approach and  the permit can be renewed now and modified at a later date.

A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20. County attorneys say they are hiring a third-party consultant in preparation (costs should be covered by Nestlé). A staff report regarding Nestlé’s 10-year compliance should be publicly available at least 30 days prior.

Complicated water laws attempt to mitigate the loss caused by Nestlé sucking and trucking water out of the valley to be packaged and sold in single-use plastic water bottles. But let’s just leave the water, and instead tell Nestlé to leave.

Jen Swacina