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It went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 4. After nearly two years, and 19 continuations of Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) public hearings, hundreds of documents, thousands of consumer comments, the BoCC reached an agreement late Tuesday afternoon for a new, ten-year 1041 permit for BlueTriton brands to continue pumping water from the Ruby Mountain Spring just south of Johnson Village.

BlueTriton logo

“We are pleased that the Chaffee County Board of Commissioners’ decision will give us the opportunity to continue operating in Chaffee County,” said Blue Triton Natural Resource Manager, Western Region Larry Lawrence. “We are committed to helping maintain the long-term sustainability of Ruby Mountain Springs and look forward to furthering our support of and partnerships in the community over the next ten years.”

” I want to thank the staff for the hard work, my colleagues for hanging in there, and thank the applicant for hanging in there on this long process,” said BoCC Chair Greg Felt. “We thank everyone from the community on all sides of the issue, and the many experts who helped us have a clear idea of the issue. I know this is controversial and it will remain controversial. Now we have a very enforceable permit. We’ll be doing our due diligence to make sure this whole project is conducted in a manner to help our community.”
The initial decision made in July to approve the permit and work toward a final 1041 permit requirements was two to one — with Commissioners Greg Felt and Rusty Granzella voting for the permit renewal, and Commissioner  Keith Baker voting against it. But Baker committed to working toward the best permit conditions that could be achieved and in the end, the vote for the final document, achieved through extensive discussion and compromise, was unanimous.
It has taken enormous effort to reach that agreement. Among the multiple issues raised, and an enduring issue for the county, are the many facets of sustainability: related to water resources, economic growth, and the overall related problems of economic growth, managing county population growth, and development. One of the funds will indeed be dedicated to water resource sustainability studies.
The BoCC spent most of its discussion on Tuesday afternoon on section 7.15 of the permit regarding donations; how much, for what, and who’s in charge of each donation bucket. The resulting chart (now identified as 7.18 as some later portions of the permit were moved into this section). The chart recaps the initial Year I contribution from BlueTriton, the amount that will be contributed annually, and the total 10-year donations by BlueTriton to Chaffee County during the duration of the 1041 permit:

Year I contribution:                                    $430,000

Annual contribution for years 2-10:        $92,500

10 year total contribution:                    $1,262,500

The overall donation amounts are broken out below:

Donation distributions for BlueTriton 1041 permit hearing Aug. 03, 2021. Data subject to final verification. Image courtesy Board of Chaffee County Commissioners.

There was some disagreement over who should be in charge of some of the funds, specifically a portion of funds that the BoCC might consider managing directly, versus designate to be managed for them by the Chaffee County Community Foundation.

“Part of the idea behind having a community foundation is to get the BoCC out of that [donation management] business,” said Baker. “The municipal approach has been to put their philanthropic work at the CCCF, it gets them out of the business of doling out micro-loans. It’s the same reason individuals donate to a community foundation. We’ve finally got one, we have it, it’s successful, it gives the nonprofits in the county equal access to that funding… it would be less susceptible to politicization.”

“But I don’t want to turn this all over to a board that hasn’t been involved,” said Commissioner Rusty Granzella. “As the BoCC we represent all of Chaffee County. There are substantially different areas that the CCCF doesn’t represent. They’re trying but they’re not there yet. We do represent the unincorporated areas.”

The 1041 permit hearing began with the Chaffee County legal team making a formal statement regarding the charges of conflict of interest made against Chair Greg Felt that has hovered over the hearing since the beginning. Felt serves on the board of the Upper Ark Conservancy and is a co-owner of Ark Anglers. The charges alleged that he somehow benefited from the 1041 permit, and therefore could not be acting impartially.

” This was disclosed in early Oct. 2020, and legal did not find a conflict of interest then,” said Asst. Attorney Daniel Tom. “A month ago this was raised and again legal addressed this and did not find a conflict of interest. It has come up again– and again our statement is, based on what was disclosed in the past there was not and is not a conflict of interest.”

He cited two sources for the county attorneys’ office conclusion:

1. The county’s ethics policy

2. CRS 24-18-109 – rules of conduct for local government officials and employees…

Attorney Tom added, “There is no economic benefit [to Felt] from these nonprofits, and you went on record that you could be fair and impartial; based on that, the statute and our local code of conduct legal indicate you have no conflict.”