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Dear Editor,

As a river outfitter for 25 years and a Trout Unlimited (TU) member, I have worked with Nestlé Waters North America, Inc. prior to their 1041 permit because we had concerns about depletion of the quantity and quality of water. I listened to the six-hour hearing Tuesday and my husband [Reed Dil] listened Thursday.

As he said, “Next to Terry Scanga and Greg Felt, I probably know more about water than most anybody in the county, having been on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Southeast Water Conservancy District board, Arkansas Basin Roundtable and currently serve on the Buena Vista Water Board.”

Protestors in front of the Chaffee Administration Building protest renewal of the Nestle 1041 permit. hoto by Brooke Gilmore.

I applaud the research Tom Bomer and Jennifer Swacina did. Their emphasis was on how poorly the previous county commissioners did the agreement rather than about Nestlé. Most people objecting on the Zoom calls didn’t understand water law and what the commissioners can legally do.

I’ve met with every manager they have had and toured the site as a representative of TU, who has submitted a letter of support with conditions similar to GARNA’s. However, I am speaking on my own now.

This land was previously privately owned as a fish hatchery. The fish were artificially fed and the return water contained excess nutrients and fish excrement. They packaged their fish in plastic.

As for benefits to the county:

  • No net loss of water in the river
  • Improved wildlife habitat in their ponds and available use for educational purposes
  • Signage developed, so folks can learn more about the springs and water diversions
  • Plans for an improved river trail and more public access
  • Property taxes to county and payments are made to Upper Ark instead of Aurora for augmented water
  • Decent paying jobs for some residents
  • Much needed donated funds to schools and nonprofits
  • Proposed Conservation easement
  • Collaboration for an improved road into Ruby Mt. and the national monument

Nestlé has community-giving in its budget and has never turned down a local request. I do not consider their investments in our community “token.” Donations are larger than any business has ever given.

There have been NO losses to Chaffee County, no evidence of increased plastics due to Nestlé’s presence.

The conservation easement has been worked on since BEFORE the permit. Just ask the Conservancy district or Cattleman’s Association how long it can take to put an easement in place.

  • The property trade was per the Colorado Parks and Wildlife request for the easement to have contiguous land.
  • The trade allows members of the revered Cogan family to have building sites for grandkids.
  • It gave Nestlé better access to rehabilitate a ditch that feeds their ponds which are utilized by wildlife and additional public access to the river.

As for sustainability, our local breweries use water that is NOT replaced through augmentation and produce a variety of beers, just like water, and transfer it to Denver.

There is a market for spring water in addition to purified water. If Arrowhead Water didn’t exist, consumers would purchase another brand. If we stop buying bottled water, Nestlé won’t reach its maximum capacity.

The county has in place language that requires any transfer of the permit to abide by the conditions of Nestlé ’s permit. Should this permit be denied:

  •  Nestlé could sell the land to a developer who could put 40 houses on it, which was a previous owner’s plan. That would have a far greater impact on the aquifer with no replacement water, additional septic issues, impact to viewsheds and county services.
  • They could sell it to the Front Range who could dewater the river by the amount they can take below Homestake (because it would go through the pipeline).
  • They could sell it to another company, but during the potential sale process with no permit, they might put their local drivers out of business, in addition, to probably all the employees at the Denver bottling plant.
  • We probably wouldn’t get the increased safety on the Ruby Mountain Rd. into the Browns Canyon National Monument for a much longer time.
  • The public would not gain a watchable wildlife area, more river access, nor a conservation easement.

As for the need for Nestlé:

  • We need every job available. We are using county tax dollars not just to fund an Economic Development group, but to recruit employers — and then want to turn away this one?
  • We need their collaboration with the county to make the road to Ruby Mountain safer. I’ve driven that road on a bus and know the danger.
  • Our nonprofits NEED corporate investment.
  • We NEED Nestlé to keep investing in recycling technology for ALL bottle makers and continue their contributions to the nationwide Closed Loop Fund.

Most companies, governments, and people make mistakes, but progress is learning from them and moving forward. We should do our individual part rather than focusing on one corporation. This permit has little to do with plastic and according to the county attorney, Nestlé has fulfilled permit conditions and deserves renewal.

Karen Dils

Buena Vista