Here is a brief explanation on where Nestlé stands in the permitting process, what the applications and permits mean, and how the public can stop Nestlé from taking and bottling our public water:
On February 29th, the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) approved two of the three necessary OWRD permits for the Nestlé Water Bottling Plant. These two “housekeeping permits” are one step in a process for Nestlé approval and have initiated a 30-day protest period for public appeal of the permits. Bark and the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition plan to protest the decision.
The clearest way of understanding the recent approval by OWRD for the first two permits is to think of the permits as “housekeeping measures.” In 2010, when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) applied to exchange its water with the City of Cascade Locks so that the city could then sell that water to Nestlé, the OWRD discovered that ODFW had unknowingly been drawing its water from the wrong source for many years. OWRD couldn’t rightfully approve an application to transfer water being withdrawn from a location not indicated in ODFW’s original water right, so it required ODFW to apply for a change to the Point of Diversion (POD) for the hatchery so that the current operations by ODFW would match the design listed in its water permits. In other words, before ODFW could transfer its water right to Cascade Locks, it needed to have its paperwork in order. Housekeeping was required.
The permits granted by the OWRD in February were the conclusion of the housekeeping process. Transfer applications T-11108 and T-11249 changed the current water permit for ODFW to reflect where water is actually being withdrawn from Oxbow Spring for the agency’s fish hatchery. Why would the agency need two permits instead of just one to address this problem?
The answer is simple: The application was divided into two to make it even easier for Nestlé to get its hands on the water down the road. Instead of filing one housekeeping application to reflect where ODFW takes its water, it split the application into two separate quantities: one for 9.5 cubic feet per second (CFS) of water and another for 0.5 CFS. This separation will make it easier for the planned water exchange with Cascade Locks as it will allow for only the 0.5 CFS to be exchanged – the exact amount requested by Nestlé.
What Comes Next
The approval of the two permits by OWRD in February initiated a 30-day protest period during which the public has the right to challenge the approvals within OWRD. While any member of the public can protest the permit, many individuals have identified that the fees for filing such appeals are prohibitive, with each of the two permits requiring a $600 filing fee and additional hidden costs associated with seeing the protest through. Food & Water Watch and the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition will file a protest before the March 29th deadline. The process for resolving that appeal may take anywhere from two to five months and will include a contested case hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. After that point, Bark and our coalition partners have the option of appealing the decision by that judge. Subsequent permits, specifically the water exchange between ODFW and Cascade Locks cannot move forward until that protest is settled. Once the protest is resolved, the next application will be processed by OWRD. That application is for the exchange of water between ODFW and Cascade Locks with the intent of selling the water to Nestlé for their proposed bottling plant.
What you can do
• While the protest is in the process of resolution, members of the public can be contacting Governor Kitzhaber to urge his administration to take a stand against the commodification of our water by Nestlé (click here handout on how to contact Governor Kitzhaber).
• Support Food & Water Watch with a donation.
• Spread the word to your friends about this proposal! Contact Food & Water Watch with questions or offers to help.