Nestlé Waters and the privatization of public resources
We live in an area with beautiful forests, lots of streams and rivers, and abundant rainfall. If a company we all grew up with (Nestlé–the chocolate people!) wants to open a bottling plant in the Colombia Gorge, what’s the big deal? The people in Cascade Locks need jobs! If that was the only thing to know about this, it seems like a no brainer. There’s a lot more to know, however, about Nestlé’s seven year effort in Cascade Locks to open a bottling plant there.
It’s very helpful to have some background on Nestlé’s worldwide activities in opening bottling plants and pushing to privatize public water supplies. There is a YouTube video of former CEO Peter Brabeck of Nestle saying that corporations have an entrepreneurial right to own ALL the water in the world and it should be a commodity like food that is sold to the public. At the same time, he proudly shows one of their automated plants with no workers in sight.
Nestlé’ is bottling water in the Great Lakes region, in the arid southwest, and continues to bottle water in California despite the drought and with an expired permit. In many places both here and in other countries, they are taking more water than the aquifers can refill. When a water table is depleted, they move somewhere else. The jobs they promise do not happen. They say they’ll give 50 jobs in Cascade Locks; what they don’t say is that most of those jobs will be given to their own teams coming in from out of state. There may be 20 or so permanent jobs, but their goal is automation, so there may be much less than that! What’s real is the harm of drawing water from Oxbow Springs, which currently helps keep temperatures cooler for Columbia River salmon.
Nestlé wants to take over 100 million gallons of water per year from Oxbow Springs, a publicly-owned water source in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. They want local taxpayers to foot the bill for upgrading the transportation infrastructure they would need to have 200 semi-truck trips passing through Cascade Locks every day. Since Oxbow Springs is owned by the public (you and I), Nestlé has been trying to work out a “water swap” deal with the Fish and Wildlife people so they could take Oxbow Spring water and the city of Cascade Locks would sell it to them at a price lower than their own residents pay for city water. By purchasing water from Cascade Locks, the city would be liable for any damages done by Nestlé.
Governor Brown ordered Fish and Wildlife to conduct an environmental impact review in response to concerns of the Native tribes in the area and local Hood River residents. Local tribes weighed in, as the proposal by Nestlé violates treaty rights and the salmon health would be impacted greatly in drought years by the taking of so much water from Oxbow Springs.
Local Hood River and Cascade Locks residents, becoming increasingly skeptical of the PR snow job that Nestlé has been doing there, organized a ballot measure which passed in the recent primary. It prohibits commercial bottled water production in Hood River County. Despite the passage of the ballot measure, the Cascade Locks City Council directed the city administrator to press on with the Nestle proposal.
Why should this concern us locals? Because Nestlé wants to win this fight and open other plants in Oregon. They have a big goal, lots of money, and every time they convince another town to give away their water rights to them, we all lose.
I hope that you all had a relaxing Thanksgiving. Since OTD is my tribe, I wanted thank you all for the support you provided me through the current election for CC Chair and of course, for that other run in 2012. I know many of you voted for me and some did not, but we […]