Funding for sustainability plan added to draft BlueTriton permit

An updated draft of the proposed BlueTriton Brands 1041 permit includes $30,000 for “development and implementation” of a comprehensive county sustainability plan. Once fully approved, the permit would allow BlueTriton to continue using Ruby Mountain Springs groundwater for its Arrowhead bottled water operations.

Notable changes between the first and second drafts of the permit are in Section 4.15, Endowment and Annual Programmatic Contributions; Section 4.25, Augmentation Water Delivery Restrictions; and Section 4.33, Project Infrastructure.

If approved as written, Section 4.15 would require BlueTriton to provide $90,000 “to address affordable housing,” $90,000 to the National Forest Foundation in support of the Upper Arkansas Forest Fund, and $90,000 “to a fund to be overseen by Chaffee County Common Ground to be used for grants towards progams developing data on ground water supply and sustainability efforts for the benefit of Chaffee County.”

During the July 20 permit hearing, Commissioner Keith Baker requested funding for a sustainability plan, and the revised Section 4.15 would provide that funding by reducing funds for affordable housing, forest health and water projects by $10,000 each.

Section 4.15 would also require BlueTriton to continue to contribute at least $2,500 per year to each of the permanent education endowments – one for the Salida School District and one for the Buena Vista School District.

The latest draft of the 1041 permit would also change the augmentation water delivery restrictions described in Section 4.25.

The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District supplies augmentation water to replace depletions caused by BlueTriton’s operations. The District would still have to release augmentation water into the Arkansas River upstream of Ruby Mountain Springs, where the depletions occur.

However, in addition to sources currently allowed for augmentation releases – Twin Lakes Reservoir, Turquoise Reservoir and Clear Creek Reservoir – the current draft of the 1041 permit would allow the District to use West Slope water stored in the Pinedale alluvial aquifer to replace water used by BlueTriton.

The latest draft of the permit also includes a new Section 4.33, Project Infrastructure.

Section 4.33 would require BlueTriton to “use its best efforts to work with the Permitting Authority regarding disposal of Project infrastructure before removing the Project infrastructure,” including “wells, pumps, measuring devices and pipelines” that “could be of benefit to constituents of the Permit Authority.”

Section 4.33 also states, “Permittee shall advise the Permitting Authority of the potential sale or transfer (of project infrastructure) and use its best efforts to negotiate a possible transfer of the Project infrastructure to the Permitting Authority (or its designee) for subsequent use by constituents of the Permitting Authority.”

County Commissioners will continue deliberations of the draft permit at 1 p.m. Tuesday, August 3. The public hearing will be held via Zoom, and members of the public can join the meeting here using Meeting ID 109 079 543.

The agenda and supporting documents for the August 3 meeting are available at the Chaffee County Civic Clerk webpage.

Joe Stone