Transfer or Exchange, Nestlé is Still a Bad Deal for Oregon

Oxbow Spring 1

Oxbow Springs on Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife land in Cascade Locks, Oregon. This is the spring water Nestlé wants to bottle under its Arrowhead Brand.

Since our last post there’s been a lot of buzz around the controversial issue of Nestlé bottling our public water resources in the Columbia River Gorge. And there have been big changes. First, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), has a new director, Curt Melcher. And right after he was hired, Melcher got a new boss – former Secretary of State, Kate Brown, who became Governor when John Kitzhaber resigned last month. With ODFW considering a questionable water deal that could permanently affect water supply in Gorge communities, let’s just say there’s a lot to talk about.

The media is paying attention, too, with stories in the Oregonian on January 23rd, and March 6th, an opinion editorial on February 14, a segment on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud, and a radio segment on KBOO. People are on alert because ODFW could proceed with a water rights transfer that would throw out the public interest review process.

Since 2008 ODFW has been considering a water exchange application with the city of Cascade Locks to allow Nestlé to bottle water. An exchange – while not desirable – at least requires the Water Resources Department to do a formal public interest review. This means the agency must look at the broader effects of the proposal to determine if a Nestlé water bottling plant is the best and highest use of Oregon’s pubic water resource. During the comment period after the proposal was filed, thousands of Oregonians filed public comments with the Water Resources Department opposing the exchange.

Meanwhile, in late 2014, Nestlé approached ODFW about considering another way to give Nestlé access to this public water: a water rights transfer. In contrast to the water exchange proposal, a water rights transfer does not require a formal public interest review by the Water Resources Department (WRD). A transfer application does require a public comment period, but comments carry less weight in this process because WRD is not required to consider any comments that raise concerns about how the proposal will impact the public interest. Essentially, by pushing ODFW to do a water rights transfer, proponents of a Nestle bottling plant get around the public interest review red tape (last time we checked, this was called democracy) associated with the exchange proposal on file.

Needless to say the idea that ODFW officials are even considering this water rights transfer proposal is offensive to the tens of thousands of Oregonians who oppose a Nestlé bottling plant in the Gorge, including those who submitted comments to the initial water exchange proposal; if ODFW proceeds with a transfer, the exchange application will be moot, along with the thousands of comments submitted for public review.

Wonky corporate and bureaucratic maneuverings aside – water transfer or water exchange – opening the door to a multinational corporation with a nasty track record is a bad deal for Oregon. Our state agencies are tasked with protecting the people and resources of Oregon; a clean and accessible water supply is the most basic essential resource of all. Therefore, ODFW should reject the deal altogether. If it must consider creating a mechanism whereby Nestlé can bottle our water for profit, certainly that proposal deserves the most rigorous scrutiny possible, not a cursory look through the narrowest scope.

The most important thing you can do to protect our water is contact Governor Brown and ask her to direct ODFW to stop reject the water transfer proposal and to reject the water exchange as well – the water in the Columbia River Gorge is there to benefit Oregonians, not to hand over to an multinational corporation like Nestlé to make profits. The most recent Oregonian article made clear that ODFW leadership needs to hear from the Governor’s office on this issue. We need to make sure that Governor Brown knows that Oregonians don’t want to set the dangerous precedent of using state agencies to welcome Nestlé into the state.

Contact Governor Brown to encourage her to put a stop to the Nestlé water bottling proposal in the Gorge:

Phone: 503-378-3111
Written Comments:

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After Meeting with State Officials Fast-Tracking Nestlé is Still on the Table

Will Governor Kate Brown, sworn in earlier this week, allow the State-Nestlé partnership to continue? Or worse, will Governor Brown allow the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to apply for a “water rights cross transfer” and fast-track the giveaway of our water to Nestlé? Click for explanation of “cross transfer” versus “exchange.”  kate-brown-headshot-2012-color-275x347

We are cautiously optimistic that Governor Brown will protect our public water resources but we don’t actually know–that’s why we need to act now.

Please welcome Governor Kate Brown to her new post and remind her that you oppose Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife facilitating a proposed Nestlé water-bottling plant in the Columbia River Gorge.

Here’s how:

  1. Click here to send a welcome message to Governor Brown, educating her on the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s misguided plans to facilitate Nestlé’s first Pacific NW water-bottling plant;
  2. Call Governor Brown’s public comment line at (503) 378-4582; and
  3. Help us add organizations/businesses to a sign-on letter opposing the proposal. This letter to ODFW, cc’d to Governor Brown, is needed to demonstrate that this is an issue that all Oregonians care about. Simply visit the Take Action page or click on the “Sign your organization…” to find the letter. You can send this link to groups you think should sign on.

Update on the Proposed Water Rights Transfer:

On Tuesday, Bark, Food and Water Watch and Crag Law Center met with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss its current transfer and exchange applications.

When we asked them about this new proposed “water rights cross-transfer,” they stated that they are looking into it and that they will check in with the Governor’s office before proceeding.

Governor Brown is new to this issue, so our action page provides a template that assumes she does not want to set a precedent by allowing State-facilitated water bottling. But let’s not leave anything to chance.

Please, send Governor Brown your message today to welcoming her to her new position and ask her to protect the Columbia River Gorge and Oregon from Nestlé.

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Nestlé’s Next Big Move

Bark Hike April 2012

Concerned citizens at a Bark hike to Oxbow Springs and Herman Creek. What will Governor Kitzhaber’s legacy be?

You might have noticed that Nestlé is in the news again in Oregon. They are proposing a new scheme to gain access to the coveted Oxbow Spring water in the Columbia River Gorge. Because of Nestlé meddling our own Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, with support from Governor Kitzhaber, is considering a new transfer of its water right to support a Nestlé water-bottling plant in the Columbia Gorge–a slap in the face to the over 65,000 Oregonians who have been waiting for a promised public interest review of the currently proposed water “exchange.”

Thankfully there is something we can all do about this:

  1. Click here to act now and send Governor Kitzhaber and Interim ODFW Director Curt Melcher your objections;
  2. Call the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Director’s Office at (503)-947-6044; and
  3. Call Governor Kitzhaber’s public comment line at (503) 378-4582

Leave a message, or if you talk to someone tell them that you “oppose the Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) supporting a Nestlé bottling plant, especially the new scheme to transfer water right and avoid a public interest review.”

The Oregonian’s front-page story provides great information on this latest move.

A water “exchange” is a process where two parties (in this case ODFW and the City of Cascade Locks) maintain their respective water rights but agree to exchange water. The Oregon Water Resources Department, when reviewing such a proposal, considers whether the water exchange will be “detrimental to the public interest.” (See paragraph 8 of the Oregon Revised Statute here.)

Bark and Food & Water Watch has helped Oregonians submit over 75,000 comments to our state’s leaders and agencies opposing the current water “exchange.”

Shockingly, the proposed water right transfer does not include a public interest review.

We must stop the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from pursuing a transfer of its water rights and knowingly avoiding a public interest review.

Please, click here to take action today.

We will share more information as we get it, including more ways for you to help.

In the meantime, tune into OPB’s Think Out Loud program at noon today, as the Nestle water bottling proposal and this new water rights transfer scheme will be featured on live on air.

Remember, together we have protected our public water resources from Nestlé for five years now. Thanks to your actions, and your financial support. We are proud to say that Nestlé’s proposed bottling plant in the Columbia River Gorge is still unpermitted!

Let’s make this the year that Governor Kitzhaber, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife say “yes” to protecting our water, and “no” to Nestlé!


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A decision is near on the first Nestlé court challenge

Initially posted on on 12/12/2013

The proposed Nestlé water exchange by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has been tied up in court for many months, thanks to a legal challenge initiated by Bark and Food & Water Watch, with representation by Crag Law Center. We received the draft decision on this first legal challenge earlier this week. Unfortunately, it is not in our favor.
What happened?

On December 10, 2013, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a proposed order that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) should not lose any portion of its water right at Oxbow Springs Hatchery. In doing so, the judge ruled against Bark and Food & Water Watch, who had challenged the ODFW’s use of its water right at Oxbow Springs. We allege that the agency is not using the full amount of its water right and is therefore subject to losing it under a ‘use it or lose it’ component of Oregon Water Law.

Why are we challenging the hatchery’s water right?

The water right in question is the spring water that would be transferred to the City of Cascade Locks with its final destination being plastic water bottles at the proposed Nestlé bottling plant in Cascade Locks. If ODFW can’t use it, then they cannot trade it to Cascade Locks.

Challenging ODWF’s water use is just one small step in a set of many legal actions we are prepared to take in order to prevent the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from facilitating a water transfer that would allow for the infamously bad actor Nestlé to profit from an Oregon public water resource. The judge’s proposed order is essentially a draft decision and the final order will come from the Water Resources Department Director following several procedural steps.

When will the final decision be made?

Following the proposed order, we have 30 days to file exceptions to the ruling. Exceptions are legal or factual arguments to illustrate errors in the proposed order. The court or any other parties involved in the case have 10 days to respond to our exceptions before the Director issues the final order. We therefore expect a final order to be issued in January or February of 2014. If the Director’s final order is substantially the same as the proposed order, we may decide to appeal this decision.

Can Nestlé start bottling spring water after the final order is decided?
The short answer: no.

The long answer: The legal challenge to the ODFW’s water right is the first part of a long series of legal steps that we are committed to take to ensure that Nestlé never gets Mt. Hood spring water into plastic bottles. After this first step has concluded, there are still two more permitting decisions we can challenge. The first permit is the ODFW’s Water Transfer application, which the Water Resources Department approved back in February of 2012, but which has not proceeded. If and when this case is resolved, the Water Resources Department can issue a decision on the ODFW’s last necessary permit, its Water Exchange application. This permit would actually create a swap of water rights from the state of Oregon to the city of Cascade Locks, in order to be sold to Nestlé.

We intend to challenge all decisions as necessary to stop this proposal, and will continue to pressure the Governor as well as our state agencies that can put an end to Nestlé’s proposal.

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December 16, 2013 · 8:04 pm

The Time is NOW to Stop Nestlé in Oregon

The pressure is on and the time is NOW.
We can stop Nestlé Waters from locating here in Oregon.

The battle to keep Nestlé out of the Gorge is at a turning point. We have known from the beginning of this fight—four long years ago—that there is no good reason for Oregon to hand over public water to one of the world’s most disreputable corporations, but now the state knows it too.

Oregonians have consistently pressured Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW)—the state agency that would facilitate a Nestlé bottling plant—to withdraw its permits, and our pressure is working! ODFW is feeling the heat, but needs to know right now that we will never back down.  Contact ODFW now!

Unless ODFW withdraws its permits, next week they will begin costly legal proceedings, using taxpayer money to defend its role in helping Nestlé commodify Oregon’s public water. ODFW Director Roy Elicker can save the state of Oregon time, money and face if he pulls ODFW’s water exchange permit. It is urgent that Mr. Elicker hear from his superiors on the ODFW Commission that there is nothing the state can gain from this water exchange but there is a lot for it to lose. The more he hears from his commission, along with the voices of Oregonians, the more likely he is to stop the Nestlé project in its tracks. Contact ODFW now and urge them to take this last, easy way out.

A minute of your time could deal the final blow against Nestlé. Take action now!

Bark and Food & Water Watch, with representation from Crag Law Center, filed a protest against ODFW’s Water Transfer permits over a year ago after the Oregon Water Resources Department approved the permits in February of 2012. Meanwhile, the Keep Nestlé out of the Gorge Coalition ramped up the pressure against the state decision-makers responsible for this unprecedented proposal. Hundreds rallied in downtown Portland, participated in an amazing aerial photo shoot, and sent thousands of letters and phone calls to Governor Kitzhaber and ODFW.

If ODFW does not pull out of this process, legal proceedings could extend well into 2015. Visit Bark’s website for more information on this issue and Bark and Food & Waterwatch’s legal challenge to stop this outrageous plan.

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July 8, 2013 · 4:20 pm

Stand Against Nestle Day-of-Action a success!

No Nestle People

On the afternoon of Friday, February 8th nearly 200 Oregonians put on their finest red clothing and joined Bark and the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition in Lower MacLeay Park to take a stand against Nestlé’s grab at public water resources in the Columbia River Gorge. After laying giant letters across the soggy grass to spell the word ‘Nestlé,’ the crowd came together to create a red circle around it. Then a line of people situated themselves across the circle, creating a clear message: “No Nestle!” Photographers were stationed on the bridge above the park to capture the image of this one of a kind, 60 foot diameter anti-Nestlé symbol.

The state of Oregon is responsible for processing the permits Nestlé needs to establish its proposed bottling plant in the Columbia River Gorge. Friday’s community action serves as a powerful message to state decision makers that the public is NOT in support of giving public water from Mt. Hood to Nestlé. Plus, we had a blast, and took some really amazing photos!

In addition to this ‘aerial art mob’ action in the park, Friday’s Day of KNOG group on the bridgeAction also saw dozens brave the morning cold to hold signs along the Hawthorne Bridge and raise awareness among morning commuters. And hundreds of you sent messages to your legislators and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to explain your opposition to Nestlé’s  proposal. If you missed the fun on Friday, you can still take action here.

Thank you to the Portland Raging Grannies for providing us with musical entertainment, Kelli Pennington for her photography, and everyone who helped out by spreading the word, calling the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, holding signs on the bridge, bringing red clothing to share, or just taking the time out of your busy day to show up! You rock!

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Call ODFW to Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge

Can’t make it to the Aerial Art Mob today at noon?

Make A Quick Phone Call to Stop Nestlé from Taking Our Water
Make the Call Now: 866-942-5138

Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge!

Call ODFW:

One state agency can keep Nestlé from potentially bottling and selling our water but up until now, it has shut out Oregonians’ voices. Enough is enough.

Please call the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) at 866-942-5138 right now and demand that it protects Oregon’s water from Nestlé?

Making the call is easy: simply dial 866-942-5138 to hear a short message from Food and Water Watch. Then, you will be connected to the ODFW main desk and you can share your version of the following message:

“As an Oregonian, I am very troubled by the lack of public comment you have attempted to seek on the Nestlé issue. I am deeply opposed to the water exchange that could allow Nestlé to bottle and sell our state’s water and I urge you to stop the water exchange process today.”

We know that ODFW has the power to keep Nestlé’s out of Oregon. We have been asking the agency to put the issue up for public discussion, but rather than hear from us, ODFW has canceled the past two opportunities for the public to weigh in. Will you join hundreds of Oregonians in calling ODFW at 866-942-5138 today to tell the agency to say no to the Nestlé water exchange?

Make the call to protect your water from Nestlé today: 866-942-5138

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