Keep Nestlé out of the Columbia Gorge, protect coldwater steelhead and salmon habitat

From Russell Bassett’s Native Fish Society Blog: Nestlé, the world’s largest producer of bottled water, wants to manufacture their Arrowhead Brand in Cascade Locks. In order to do this, Nestlé needs access to spring water so they can sell it to consumers with that description. Cascade Locks, however, does not have rights to the water from Oxbow Springs, a Herman Creek tributary. In order for the town to sell spring water to Nestlé, Cascade Locks seeks to obtain water rights from ODFW, which currently uses the spring water to support a hatchery for coho salmon, Idaho sockeye and Grande Ronde spring chinook. In return, Cascade Locks would provide water from their aquifer to the hatchery.

What’s the problem with this plan? Well, the bottling plant could adversely affect migratory fish. Salmon and steelhead passing through the Lower Columbia to points and tributaries upriver often have to deal with high temperatures, and Herman Creek provides a cold water thermal refuge. Food and Water Watch and a coalition of others petitioned ODFW this week not to approve the deal, and OPB said any decision is one year away.

We talked to Tom Chandler of Trout Underground who battled Nestlé on California’s McCloud River last year. Here is Tom’s summary of the process:

* The original negotiations with the McCloud Services District were undertaken in secret
* Public review of the contract was limited to one meeting – at the conclusion of which the Services District voted to accept the contract (to the stunned amazement of the attendees)
* The contract essentially handed over control of McCloud’s water supply – for up to 100 years
* Nestle was paying $26.40 per acre foot for water (a small fraction of the market price), and the fees paid for the water itself weren’t going to increase over the 100 year life of the contract
* While Nestle enjoyed the first rights to the water (ahead of the town’s own residents), they also offloaded most infrastructure costs onto the town
* 250-300 trucks per day would roll into town (24/7/365), creating a level of noise and air pollution the town had never seen
* Nestle had never conducted any environmental review of the impacts of water removal on the watershed, so their claims of “no harm to the environment” were widely derided

“Nestlé will say that they’ve never harmed a watershed. That’s a lie. A court in Michigan clearly decided that Nestlé’s pumping activities there were damaging a wetlands and a river. Nestlé only agreed to negotiate reduced pumping after the judge got fed up and threatened them with a restraining order,” Chandler said. “Small communities that get involved with Nestlé often find themselves on the wrong end of Nestlé’s considerable legal firepower, and most lack the resources to fight.This is exactly what happened in Fryeburg (ME), where Nestlé filed a lawsuit and four appeals, finally overturning the decision of the local planning commission – largely on a technicality.”

This is not the kind of predatory corporation we want controlling our public water resources.

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2 Responses to Keep Nestlé out of the Columbia Gorge, protect coldwater steelhead and salmon habitat

  1. Rob R says:

    Bottling clean spring water into plastic is criminally insane behavior. It has got to stop.

  2. David Jensen says:

    Meanwhile, closer to home…. One mile below the town of Blue River, on the North side of the highway, is McKenzie Mist. They bottle spring water in an amount unknown to me. What I do know is their truck passes my place at Brown’s Hole every weekday, and maybe Saturdays too, about 8:30 delivering water to their Springfield warehouse and retail location. If I remember tonight, I’ll post more information about where the creek drains into the McKenzie, and the name of the creek.

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