In a two-to-one split vote, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) formally approved, with as yet to be determined conditions, the 1041 permit application for Nestlé Waters North America/BlueTriton during their Tuesday, July 6 regular meeting. Commissioner Rusty Granzella made the motion, with Chair Greg Felt seconding the motion. Granzella and Felt voted in favor of the renewal, with Commissioner Keith Baker registering a ‘no’ vote.
The company had sought a ten-year renewal of their existing 1041 Permit for a spring water production process, and associated transmission pipeline and loading facility. Adjusting the length of the permit renewal timeframe may be among the many conditions of approval yet to be finalized.
Between the June 24 BoCC session and the Tuesday morning session, Blue Triton came back with an additional commitment to a $100,000 initial fund, and a $10,000 annual amount, to be available to the county to conduct additional water sustainability funding, to be used for agency or governmental studies.
The public hearing, which has been continued multiple times since Dec. 20 (the first hearing on the 1041 permit request was Oct. 2020), has been continued again to 1:00 p.m. July 20, where commissioners will review the first draft of proposed permit conditions. The current 1041 permit extension under which BlueTriton Brands has been operating expires Aug. 4, 2021.
They decided on an approach to first vote on their decision to approve or reject, based upon how well Nestlé Waters North America has met the established standards. Then based upon that decision either develop a list of conditions for approval, or a set of standards deficits if the decision was to reject the 1041 application.
In making the motion to approve the permit, Granzella made a statement, saying in part:
“I do feel that according to our Land Use Code and our 1041 standards that BlueTriton can be approved with conditions. I feel that Nestlé in the past has done an excellent job with the hydrological efforts and a good job with the environmental aspects of this – that is not approval of plastic bottles – the concerns come in with the county’s limited capacity to track or audit the numbers that we get from Nestlé – that has to be tightened up … Item K of the standards is the economic benefit to Chaffee County as a whole … Nestlé is invested in our county, they did it during hard times, now we possibly have too many jobs! We can’t chase individual property rights away. Those who want to shut down Nestlé, I don’t agree with them. I think this is a good offer.”
Baker reiterated his concerns, saying in part: “This is water we’re talking about – an essential requirement of life … it can be used for a lot of other things, but it is essential for life … just as we’ve seen with many other laws in my lifetime and the history of our country, laws can be changed or amended. But the highest natural law of the necessity for water can’t be changed. There are accumulating signs that climate change and persistent drought are putting water at a premium.”
He went on to add that transmountain diversions between river basins could stop at some point.
“It isn’t in the long-term interest of doing this agreement with BlueTriton or for that matter Pepsi, or Coke or anyone else. This is water – if we are going to take care of our people, we must husband our water for our citizens. I appreciate the offer, but there are people who know corporate finance characterizing this as less than generous … That is the essence of the reason that I can’t with good conscience vote to approve this. If the board does vote to approve it, I will constructively engage … I’ll work to make it the best agreement we can, but can’t in good conscience vote for it.
Felt spoke last saying that he wanted to first acknowledge the work put in place by the Chaffee BoCC in 2009 to create an agreement filled with necessary conditions and that subsequent years had seen amendments added to the agreement offering further protection for Chaffee residents’ rights. “They addressed unknowns then, we have a track record to address these…the unknowns now have more to do with how this brand will move forward and it is incumbent on us, frankly to honor the efforts of those who are opposed to renewing this [contract] – to make sure we have a good legal agreement.”
He went on to mention several areas of the contract that in his view should be clarified or strengthened, saying he has several questions that he hopes will go into the development of contract including:
- Specifying annual due diligence
- What constitutes a finding of good standing?
- What levels of degraded standing the permit could operate under
- What is the life of the permit period
- What parameters should be set for suspension of pumping if they fail to comply
He stressed that the conservation easement has to be put in place immediately and that annual due diligence is going to be required, not all of it specific to 1041 permits, saying “It’s been mentioned that these are elements not tied to 1041 standards, but critical for our county to get right.”
Granzella raised the issue of resources, saying the county is going to need outside monitoring assistance.
The county attorney’s office will begin work immediately on the first draft of a 1041 permit agreement, incorporating the extensive comments from the BoCC during the many prior public hearings. Commissioners pressed them to speed the process along, requesting the first draft by July 20, so that the BoCC has time to review and fine-tune it prior to their Aug. 3 meeting. The current 1041 permit extension expires Aug. 4, 2021.
Felt ended the public hearing with a thank you to the public and to the county residents who had organized in opposition to the permit renewal. “I don’t want to end today without thanking the people who organized themselves as opposition – I’m sure they are upset and angry today on the outcome of this vote. I do want you to know that your comments are being incorporated into our work. I especially want to call out Mr. John McCowan, for his comments and input on corporate America.”
All documents regarding this hearing may be found on the Chaffee County Public Notice website at http://www.chaffeecounty.org/Public-