It is now official: the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition will appeal the Oregon Water Resources Department’s (OWRD) approval of permit applications that inch Nestlé closer to bottling Oregon’s water. The coalition, representing labor, religious, environmental, public health and consumer advocacy groups, maintains that this water exchange is not in the public’s best interest. This is a stance they have steadfastly maintained over the last two years in their opposition of the Nestlé water bottling plant.
“It is the State’s job to safeguard Oregon’s public resources, especially our precious water resources for the benefit of all Oregonians, not multinational corporations. Allowing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to move forward with this water rights exchange would permit a state-owned resource to be used for a private business model that is unsustainable,” said, Jackie Dingfelder, Oregon State Senator for District 23.
Kitzhaber is the one person that could advise the ODFW to pull out of the water exchange process. The coalition has been calling on Governor Kitzhaber to stop the controversial water exchange. Kitzhaber has heard from over 10,000 Oregonians urging him to stop the exchange and his Natural Resources Department staff has met with the coalition to get the facts on this controversial issue. Additionally, the governor has received Ecotrust’s economic study that outlines why extractive industries like water bottling are not the best path forward for economic development in Oregon. Even with all of the calls and letters from Oregonians desiring protection of their water and his Natural Resources Department meeting with the coalition to discuss the issue, Kitzhaber remains quiet.
The Nestlé water bottling plant proposal is, as stated earlier, not in the best interest of the public or for Oregon. In fact, it is in direct opposition of Kitzhaber’s desire for a greener and more sustainable Oregon. “At a time when local governments in Oregon are discouraging wasteful plastic bottles, why are our state agencies encouraging Nestlé to develop a plant that could produce over 200 million plastic bottles every year? We should know better,” said Barbara Willer, former Multnomah County Commissioner. Allowing the transfer applications to go through and the bottling plant to be build would make a mockery of the state’s pledge to discourage wasteful practices (i.e. use of plastic water bottles).
Lastly, Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge will continue to oppose the water exchange proposal in conjunction with Crag Law Center, and also ramp up efforts to gain Governor Kitzhaber’s support in protecting Oregon water resources from Nestlé. Said Julia DeGraw, Food and Water Watch’s Northwest Organizer: “Nestlé’s search for water has stirred up controversy in California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states… [T]ime and time again, Nestlé has demonstrated that it does not have the communities’ best interest in mind when it comes to bottling public water resources.” It is now time to show once again that Nestlé and their water bottling plant is not in the best interests of Oregonians and not in the best interest of the state of Oregon.