Meeting With Governor Kitzhaber

On November 8th, 2011, Food & Water Watch and a coalition of groups met with the governor’s Department of Natural Resources staff to discuss Nestlé’s intention to build a water bottling plant in the Columbia River Gorge town of Cascade Locks and to unveil the findings of the economic study on the issue. Food & Water Watch commissioned Ecotrust to conduct an economic study on the potential impacts from Nestlé’s proposal to build a water bottling plant in the Columbia Gorge. In the meeting, Food & Water Watch and our allies succeeded in setting a deadline of the end of the year for Governor Kitzhaber to stop Nestlé. Armed with the new information from the study, along with massive grassroots support on our side, we hope that is enough to convince the governor to say no to Nestlé.

The findings of the economic study include that water bottling, especially in an area as scenic as the Gorge, is not good long term or sustainable development for Oregon – furthermore it doesn’t fit in Governor Kitzhaber’s green jobs vision for Oregon.

Throughout the economic study, Ecotrust’s Kristen A. Sheeran and Ohio State University’s Feng Zhou state that while building and running the proposed Nestlé plant may create a few jobs (an estimated 48 jobs) and contribute to Cascade Locks’ tax base, the amount of investments from the state of Oregon and the potential damage to local tourism, ecosystems, and community water resources outweigh the returns of the proposal. It needs to be said first and foremost: the state of Oregon would receive no (zero!) compensation for giving its water away so that Nestlé can bottled and sell it. While the state stands to gain little from this proposal it stands to lose much more. You may access the economic study here.

Here are some basic findings from the study:

1). Columbia Gorge, a National Scenic Area, is one of the most iconic treasures in the Northwest – or the whole country for that matter. Having a massive water bottling plant with perpetual truck traffic would scar such a special area and does not embody the spirit of preserving the scenic value of the Gorge.

2). Oregon taxpayers will be left with the bill when it comes to upgrading and maintaining Cascade Locks’ roads in order to handle the 200 truck trips a day that would be hauling through town during the peak water bottling season (summer). Though the road upgrades will only be necessary because of Nestlé’s truck traffic the company has stated that it will not pay for the upgrades.

Food & Water Watch and our allies have given Governor Kitzhaber a deadline of the end of the year to make a decision. It is our hope that with the support of thousands of Oregonians that Governor Kitzhaber will stop Nestlé this year. All he has to do is make a decision to tell the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to pull out of a water exchange process that would open up the doors to bottling Oregon’s water. The Oregon Water Resources Department will start processing that application as early as the end of January – which is why now is the time for the Governor to act, before the Water Resources Department invests any more resources into considering this nefarious water exchange. A decision from the governor before the end of the year allows us at Food & Water Watch (and our allies) to:

  1. Praise Kitzhaber in the new year if he says no to Nestlé and to thank him for stopping the water exchange before any more state resources are wasted in the process
  2. Organize demonstrations and publicize, through the media, Kitzhaber’s ostensible support of Nestlé if he makes the wrong choice. We will have time to campaign against and criticize his decision to allow a dubious precedent to be set in which a state agency will be allowed to give away a state resource that belongs to all Oregonians so that Nestlé can make it a commodity and profit from it.

Food & Water Watch has leveled a powerful statewide campaign including tens of thousands of Oregonians from all over the state and including a coalition of conservation, religious, labor, public health, and consumer advocacy groups to demand that the Governor use his power to stop this damaging water bottling proposal from moving forward. Join us in this last big push to win this campaign at the state-wide level by writing a letter to Governor Kitzhaber to protect Oregon’s water from Nestlé. You can call his office and tell him what you think: 503-378-4582.

Now is the time to take action to make sure Governor Kitzhaber says NO to the Nestlé water bottling plant in the Gorge!

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