The Op-ed A bottling facility at Cascade Locks? Let the locals decide, written in April of 2010 by Tim Lee, president of the Port of Cascade Locks Commission, argues that the decision of whether or not to establish a Nestle bottling plant at Oxbow Springs should be left up to the residents of Cascade Locks and that other Oregonians should stay out of it. Lee’s argument is half correct. The problem is, he left out a large number of “locals” who would be affected by the bottling plant: the rest of the state of Oregon.
Lee begins by discussing the lack of jobs and tax revenue in Cascade Locks and the assumed positive effects of a Nestle bottling plant in town:
Rural Oregon is hurting. Even before the recession that’s affecting the entire state, Cascade Locks has been working for decades to make up for lost timber jobs… Without a strong tax base, our community has been struggling each year to fund such essential services as police and the volunteer fire department, services necessary to our community’s ongoing viability. Last year, our high school was closed for lack of enrollment, and residents have had to move out of town to find employment… One of our most promising opportunities right now envisions building a water bottling facility.
The need for job creation and economic growth cannot be ignored since this affects Oregonians on a daily basis. But there’s a misconception here that people who oppose the construction of the Nestle bottling plant are somehow also opposed to jobs and economic growth for the City of Cascade Locks and the State of Oregon. This could not be further from the truth. The real issue is that a Swiss-based corporation wants to establish a facility that will extract Oregon water, put that water in an energy-intensive plastic bottle, and ship it out of the Gorge in the back of a semi truck. The vast majority of profits from this operation would leave, not only the state, but the U.S., as well, providing little in the way of large-scale economic benefit for more than a handful of Oregonians. Additionally, many viable alternatives exist for growing Cascade Locks’ economy, including tourism and small-scale development that will yield greater long-term effects. Economic arguments aside, the Oregon spring water that Nestle wants to bottle is a public resource that belongs to all Oregonians and should therefore not be sold off to increase a foreign corporation’s profits.