Just days after the Umatilla tribe came out in opposition to Nestlé’s water bottling plans for the Columbia River Gorge and a week after citizens of Hood River County began gathering signatures to qualify a water protection measure to protect county water from water bottlers, Governor Kate Brown changes her tune on Nestlé.
Upon hearing that Governor Brown sent a letter to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife asking that the agency pull out of the current water rights swap and go back to a process that at least requires a public interest review the Local Water Alliance (LWA) a citizen group based in Hood River County applauded her decision. Because adding a public interest review back into the ODFW process being used to consider whether to allow state-owned spring water to be used for a bottled water plant being proposed by Nestlé in Cascade Locks, OR is a huge step in the right direction.
According to the LWA and other groups opposing Nestlé’s water grab, there is no credible way the Nestlé project could be found to be in the public interest. The LWA is calling on Nestlé to abandon plans to export water from Hood River County, which has been under a formal drought declaration since summer. The LWA objects to the Nestlé project, saying that allowing Nestlé to export water from a county with a formal drought declaration would set a dangerous precedent that threatens the long-term water security of Hood River County.
LWA is currently collecting signatures on a county ballot measure that would block Nestlé’s plans for a bottle water plant and prohibit commercial water bottling in the county all together.
“We appreciate the governor’s action and we understand why Nestlé wants to avoid a public interest review,” says Aurora del Val, Campaign Director for the Local Water Alliance, “it is obviously not in the public interest to export over a hundred million gallons of water a year from a county with a formal drought designation.”
Del Val further explained that, “While the return of a public interest review is positive, we do wish Governor Brown would halt the State’s negotiations with Nestle and come out in favor of protecting counties in drought from plans by Nestle and other corporations to take our limited water supply out of our county in plastic bottles on the backs of trucks.”
“A state public interest review is good, but come election day Hood River voters are looking forward to giving Nestle a public interest test of our own,” adds del Val.
Members of the Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge Coalition including Food & Water Watch and Bark support the Local Water Alliance‘s ballot measure that would protect the entirety of Hood River County not just from Nestlé but from all potential water bottlers. This action from the governor’s office clearly shows us that this is an issue that warrants leadership from the top and it’s heartening to see the governor finally take at least some ownership over the issue of how this increasingly scarce public resource, water, should be used in the state of Oregon.