Work Continues to Protect Hood River County’s Water From Corporate Water Bottlers

Spring is upon us and we all feel the effects of a long soggy winter. All that liquid sunshine might bring relief to those of us who worry about drought conditions but recall that less than six months ago more than 2/3 of Oregon counties were declared as drought emergencies. Sure, the rain and snowpack helps but let me put a fine point on it – this is what Oregon drought conditions looked like a couple of months ago after all that rain.

Yet there are still over 400,000 Oregonians living in drought areas according to the United States Drought Monitor (data represented in image below). While 2016 snowpack levels are higher than average in some parts of the state they are still lower than average in others. You may be optimistic for good summer water conditions and might even believe that drought emergencies are a thing of the past. You might even think that Oregon has enough water now, right? No. It doesn’t.

Drought pic

Recall what Oregon Governor Kate Brown said just last year. “Water is the foundation for our economies, communities, ecosystems, and quality of life,” Brown said. “State government’s efforts to address climate change must include the reduced consumption and other conservation measures as water shortages become the new normal.

We know that water is the new gold and this is what has motivated groups like the Local Water Alliance and groups in the Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge Coalition to keep up the work of not only keeping Nestlé out of Oregon, but of permanently protecting Hood River County water from any commercial water bottling.

All this work has gotten us some great attention. In fact The Story of Stuff is making a film to help us tell the story of what Nestle wants to do with water that belongs to Oregonians. The film will be available to the pubic starting on World Water Day, March 22nd 2016. It will show you that Nestlé’s business practices are greed-based and environmentally negligent, and it will also show you what communities can do to stop multinational corporations from abusing common public resources, like water. Perhaps the thing that is most exciting is that this film is optimistic. Oregonians are not alone in the fight to save our water, we stand by fellow defenders of water in communities throughout the country as far away as Maine and as close as our California neighbors.

Winter also provided many opportunities to make things happen locally too. The enthusiasm from Hood River County residents has been overwhelming and we look forward to a successful ballot measure passing in May of this year. The May ballot measure to Protect Hood River County’s Water will not only Stop Nestlé’s bottling proposal in its tracks it will also prohibit any commercial water bottling in Hood River County. Between then and now, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done as the Local Water Alliance continues to lead that effort. With the passage of that measure, Hood River will have made history and set a model to be used by other communities to help protect their resources too. But what’s next for Oregon, you ask?

Groups involved in the Keep Nestlé out of the Gorge Coalition are communicating with both Governor Brown’s staff and the head of her Water Resources Department to ensure that the state develop sensible policies on how public water resources should be managed moving forward. After the governor’s request to the Water Resources Department to develop a policy to better handle private companies or individuals requests to access state held water rights; we will work hard to make sure the public’s interest trumps private corporate greed in the development of that policy.

In the mean time what you can do to continue to support these efforts ranges from contacting the Water Resources Department and Governor Kate Brown’s office encouraging them to make state water resources off limits to corporate water bottling. If you want to get further involved in the ballot measure campaign you can make a donation to the Local Water Alliance. The Local Water Alliance and citizens of Hood River County are taking on one of the wealthiest most powerful multinational corporations in the world; they will need financial support to win. If you are interested in doing more than just writing a check you can also sign up to host a house party. The campaign will help you set it up and will send someone to speak at your event.

That’s all for now! Til next time—

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Campaign Submits Triple the Signatures Needed to Qualify Hood River County Ballot Measure Targeting Nestlé Project & Commercial Water Bottling

Petition delivery hallway

Pamela Larsen, one of the three chief petitions carried the box of some 1,600 petition signatures to the County Elections office today to qualify the Hood River Water Protection Measure for the ballot in 2016. Local Water Alliance (LWA) Director Aurora del Val (middle) and campaign organizer Molly Kissinger (left) along with a dozen Hood River County citizens participated in today’s historic delivery. The LWA is running this precedent setting ballot initiative campaign.

The precedent-setting citizen ballot measure that would block Nestlé’s proposed water bottling plant in the Columbia River Gorge and prohibit commercial water bottling in Hood River County took a major step forward today as campaign backers turned in over three times the 497 signatures needed to qualify the measure.

Local Water Alliance (LWA), which is spearheading the campaign, collected more than 1,600 signatures in just over a month, making it virtually certain that the county will qualify the Hood River County Water Protection Measure to go to county voters. Campaign backers argue that it does not make sense to send more than 200 million gallons of water each year out of a county that has been in a serious drought.

“It has been fantastic to see all the support for this measure from people across the political spectrum,” says Aurora del Val, Campaign Director for the Local Water Alliance, “We considered gathering even more signatures, but we think voters want to make their opinions known as soon as possible.”

“This project would set a dangerous precedent that Hood River County is a county willing to give away the future of our water security,” adds del Val who lives in Cascade Locks. “That precedent puts at risk our entire economy, which heavily relies on water, and it is not worth the small number of jobs Nestlé could create at a highly automated bottling plant.”

Hood River business owner Michael Barthmus agrees. “It was an easy petition to get people to sign because most people understand that water is a resource and basic human need, and not a commodity to be exploited. Shipping water outside of our county seems like poor stewardship, especially during a time of shortage and droughts. Our families, farms and the fish in our rivers should be our top priority.”

Julia DeGraw, Northwest organizer for Food & Water Watch says the citizen ballot measure is being watched around the country. “What’s happening in Hood River County, Oregon, is being watched closely by communities we work with across the country that are fighting to protect their water supplies from becoming commodities for profit-driven corporations like Nestlé. It’s really impressive to see the public energy behind this precedent-setting campaign.”

Want to support the campaign? Make a donation and get a perk from their Indiegogo fundraiser. 

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Governor Kate Brown Takes Action To Change Course on Nestlé Water Bottling Plan

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.

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Hood River County Water Protection Measure Launched Today!

Today the Local Water Alliance, a group of residents from Hood River County’s have made history — a citizen ballot measure has been filed for the people to decide on the proposed Nestlé bottling plant. Members of the Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge coalition including Food & Water Watch and Bark stand with the people of Cascade Locks and Hood River County as they determine their community’s future.

Oxbow Springs, the public water Nestle wishes to bottle from Hood River County.

Oxbow Springs, the public water Nestle wishes to bottle from Hood River County.

Please join this historic campaign with a donation to the Local Water Alliance today.

Environmental groups like Bark and Food & Water Watch have been appealing to our state agencies and governors for over seven years to stop this horrible public water grab for private profit. So far, we’ve successfully stopped the project from moving forward. A lot has changed in the community of Cascade Locks since Nestlé first came around in 2008 and residents of the Columbia Gorge have united to protect Hood River County water not just from Nestle but from any future water bottlers.

We are deeply inspired by the local groups for taking this brave step to defend their community against a multinational corporation. Support their efforts by making a donation to ensure their success.

Facing the worst drought in years, residents in Hood River County, Oregon have filed a ballot referendum that would legally prohibit commercial bottled water operations in their county. The measure, which appears to be the first such measure ever initiated in the United States, was filed by three chief petitioners including a local mom, community college instructor, and farmer. The effort is backed by the Local Water Alliance, a local Hood River County group that has been fighting Nestlé’s plans to build a new water bottling plant.

We’ll keep you posted on this exciting development. You can also follow the Local Water Alliance on their Facebook page.

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Columbia River Tribes Rally at Oregon Capitol to Protest Nestlé Water Grab

Some 100 tribal fishing people and Oregon residents gathered yesterday on the

120 tribal member, Gorge residents, and concerned citizens rallied in Salem calling on Gov. Kate Brown to protect Oregon's water from Nestlé.

120 tribal member, Gorge residents, and concerned citizens rallied in Salem calling on Gov. Kate Brown to protect Oregon’s water from Nestlé.

State Capitol steps to urge Governor Kate Brown to protect Oregon’s water, fish and communities from a water grab that would allow Nestlé to profit from bottling the public’s water in the Columbia River Gorge.

Last month, a five-day fast by Anna Mae Leonard helped galvanize a movement within the Warms Springs and three other Columbia River tribes. Leonard organized the rally as a platform for tribal members who depend on the Columbia River for sustenance fishing of wild salmon. Together, the tribes are taking a stand and demanding that the State of Oregon respect tribal fishing rights and put a stop to a Nestlé’s water grab in the Gorge.

“The Cascade Mountains have always been our home; we are still here,” said Warm Springs Chief Johnny Jackson. “Most importantly, is that spring: we were always taught, when we were young, to have great respect and care of our springs of the mountains. It is a part of us and we are a part of it. It is not for us to give away. It’s spiritual and sacred to our people. The White man calls it a usable resource and that’s all it is to them.”

The rally and Leonard’s fasting protest in August came after the Warm Springs Tribal Council sent a letter to Governor Kate Brown expressing their concern over both the idea of Nestlé bottling Columbia Gorge spring water, and the process the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has undertaken to make that water available to the multinational corporation. Warms Springs Tribal Council member Carlos Smith said “the Tribal Council unanimously voted yes to send a letter to both Governor Kate Brown and the City of Cascade Locks opposing to the water rights swap for Nestlé’s water bottling proposal.” The letter stated that the Tribe was not adequately involved in the process and that they view the State-led water rights swap as a threat to a water source sacred to their people.

Hundreds of tribal members agree with Leonard’s sentiments that, “The Transfer of water rights, inherently violates the Treaty of 1855 between the United States and the Four Columbia River Tribes.” The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s application to swap water rights with the City of Cascade Locks would make public and tribal water resources available to Nestlé; it sets a dangerous precedent for future water resources in Hood River County and the state. “The tribes are supposed to have Senior Water Rights,” said Skeweacuks a Warm Springs tribal member. “We have to have enough water to sustain the fish species; the salmon runs.”

Fed up with the State’s process to make public water resources available to a multinational corporation, Wilbur Slockish, a Klickitat Chief said, “The People, the salmon and our natural food supply – we are trying to survive your economic policies. We are tired of being the invisible people.”

Alongside the dozens of tribal fishing people, local residents and representatives of local and statewide groups spoke and delivered over quarter million petitions to Governor Kate Brown’s office. The Local Water Alliance, Food & Water Watch and Bark, a watchdog group for the Mt. Hood National Forest, delivered some 4,000 petitions and letters to the Governor while the SumOfUs campaign delivered 251,963 petitions signatures from across the globe calling on Governor Kate Brown to protect Oregon’s water from Nestlé.

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Courageous Native American Woman Goes on 5-Day Fast to Protest Nestlé’s Water Bottling Proposal

Starting last Monday, August 17th, Anna Mae Leonard started a grueling 5 day

Anna Mae Leonard's 5-day fast ends today, Aug. 21st. She is protesting Cascade Locks plan to sell Oxbow Spring water to Nestlé.

Anna Mae Leonard’s 5-day fast ends today, Aug. 21st. She is protesting Cascade Locks plan to sell Oxbow Spring water to Nestlé.

fast without water or food in front of Cascade Locks City Hall to protest the city’s plan to sell public water to Nestlé for a proposed water bottling facility. Leonard is a Cascade Locks resident and her tribal ancestors have been fishing on the Columbia for hundreds of years. She represents the Unchee Wana Fisher People Against Nestlé: a group of tribal fishing people who strongly oppose Nestlé’s intent to bottle Oxbow Spring water – the spring is a culturally significant and sacred site to tribal members in the Columbia River Gorge. Leonard along with hundreds of Native Americans in the Gorge think the water rights swap is a violation of the 1855 Treaty.

On Wednesday this week dozens of Native American fisher people and Gorge residents joined Leonard in an evening of solidarity. Local opposition to Nestlé’s water grab is mounting in the face of drought conditions, rampant wildfires, and a clear need to protect public water for people and wildlife, not to sell off to private corporations who intend to make this precious resource into a commodity. Leonard has told the press that she and many tribal members are fed up with the lack of action from top leaders in the state like Governor Brown and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Leonard’s powerful fasting protest ends today, but throughout the week she has been visited by supporters from the Gorge and has received positive feedback from the locals and tourists passing her by on Wa Na Pa Avenue with thumbs ups, waves, and affirmative honking of car horns.  Leonard has expressed surprise (as heard on KPAM’s Mark and Dave Show August 20, 14 minute mark) at all the support she has been receiving.

After learning about the water bottling proposal only a few months ago she started asking around to see if other native fisher people had heard about the proposal and if they were doing anything to stop it. She found out that most had no idea Nestle intended to bottled Oxbow Springs and those that did know thought there was nothing they could do about it. One thing they all had in common was strong opposition to the city of Cascade Locks obtaining rights to Oxbow Spring water so they can sell it off to Nestlé.

Ever since Leonard found out that Warm Springs tribal leadership had submitted a letter to Governor Brown expressing opposition to the state’s role in making Oxbow Springs water available to Nestlé she’s been using it as a rallying tool. She has gathered hundreds of signatures from native fisher people calling on the governor and state agencies to stop the water rights transfer deal that would let Nestle open up shop in the Gorge. To ramp up support of her efforts she decided to perform a 5-day spiritual fast in full view of Cascade Locks city leaders, to both pressure them to do the right thing and to raise awareness to her people and the world that sacred water resources should not be for sale.

Solidarity action on Wednesday the 19th. Here Anna Mae stands with fellow fisher people demanding a stop to Nestlé in the Gorge.

Solidarity action on Wednesday the 19th. Here Anna Mae stands with fellow fisher people demanding a stop to Nestlé in the Gorge.

Leonard told the Oregonian reporter: “I want the [Cascade Locks city] council to think about what a world would be like without water…I want them to look at me suffer and think about how the fish will suffer without that cold spring water.” Lets honor her suffering by keeping up the fight to protect the Gorge and this sacred water from Nestlé.

If you are a Cascade Locks resident you can call your city council here: 541-374-8484. If you want to express your support of city council member Deana Busdieker’s opposition to Nestlé please email her.

To contact the Governor to express your concern about her lack of action to protect this public water from Nestlé, please call or email her at 503-378-4582 or on her share your opinion page.
You can keep close track of this issue by joining the Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge Facebook group.

You can check out all the press Anna Mae Leonard’s protest has received by clicking on our “In The Press” tab.

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Water Awareness Month, eh?

Have you heard? Governor Kate Brown has announced July 2015 is

Will Governor Brown do her part to protect this spring water from Nestlé?

Will Governor Brown do her part to protect this spring water from Nestlé?

“Water Awareness Month.” She even issued a press release about it. According to a July 6 Statesman Journal article, “Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will order all state agencies to review their water usage and implement conservation plans in the face of the state’s growing drought.” She also urges individuals to do what they can to conserve this precious resource.

It is hard to take this proclamation too seriously, though, and here’s why:

In letter responding to nine Oregon State Legislators who expressed concerns over Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s (ODFW) role in Nestlé’s water bottling proposal in Oregon, Gov. Brown makes clear that she doesn’t think the Governor’s office has any role to play in the matter. Strange, since ODFW’s initial consideration of the proposal six years ago was at the direction of Governor Kulongoski. Clearly there’s a role for the governor to play in preventing a state agency tasked with protecting fish and wildlife resources from making public water available to a multi-national water bottling company.

Even ODFW is waiting on leadership from Governor Kate Brown; according to a May 13 article in the Oregonian, “In pursuing the deal, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials have said they are following the orders of former Gov. Ted Kulongoski and will continue to do so in the absence of further direction from the state’s leadership.”
Call the deal a water exchange or call it a water rights swap; no matter how you slice it Governor Brown’s state agency, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – if Brown allows it to proceed – would set a dangerous precedent by voluntarily initiating a complicated process to make public water available to Nestlé. Currently not one of the 33 water bottlers in the state of Oregon procures that water through a public state agency; why should the State allow Nestlé to do so?

The deal has never made sense for Oregon, but now that Cascade Locks has new economic development options, Hood River County is seeking drought emergency status, and public concern is mounting both in the community and across the state, it’s clearer than ever that Nestlé is a raw deal for Oregonians. Nestlé’s water bottling plant has no place in Oregon and state agencies should play no role in opening up the door to a company that continues to pump millions of gallons of water out of California during a historic drought. And, Nestlé’s CEO publicly stated he would pump even more water out of California right now if he could.

Governor Brown understands climate change; it’s one of her main reasons for proclaiming July Water Awareness Month. She knows water scarcity is in our future. No matter how you look at this, the deal will lead to 118 million gallons of water per year being removed from a watershed in a drought-stricken county. The math is simple: if Governor Brown is serious about state agencies conserving water the only thing to do is tell ODFW to stop any and all water transfer applications pertaining to Nestlé’s water bottling proposal.

If you agree that Nestlé is a raw deal for Oregon contact the governor today:

Here is Governor Brown’s number: 503-378-4582, you can send her a message here: http://www.oregon.gov/gov/Pages/share-your-opinion.aspx, or best yet a letter:

Office of the Governor
160 State Capitol
900 Court Street
Salem, OR 97301-4047

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