Coalition Protests Decision to Transfer Public Water to Nestlé Waters North America
Portland, Ore. – At a press conference today, Bark and Food & Water Watch, members of the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition, announced that they are appealing the Oregon Water Resources Department’s (OWRD) approval of permit applications that move Nestlé one key step closer to bottling Oregon’s water. The two permits must be approved by OWRD before a water exchange application can be considered that would lead to a giveaway of Oregon’s public water resources for Nestlé’s profit. The coalition, representing labor, religious, environmental, public health and consumer advocacy groups, maintains that this water exchange is not in the public interest.
“It is the State’s job to safeguard Oregon’s public resources, especially our precious water resources for the benefit of all Oregonians, not multinational corporations. Allowing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to move forward with this water rights exchange would permit a state-owned resource to be used for a private business model that is unsustainable,” said Jackie Dingfelder, Oregon State Senator for District 23. Concurring with Senator Dingfelder, Ken Allen, executive director of Oregon AFSCME doesn’t believe giving away Oregon’s most precious resource is worth the small number of non-union jobs that Nestlé is offering to bring to the state.
In February the OWRD approved the permits that cleared the way for Nestlé to secure the spring water that it wants to bottle and sell. The spring is on state property and is currently being used by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) for a hatchery for threatened salmon. In order for Nestlé to bottle spring water in Cascade Locks, OWRD must ultimately approve a third application that would allow ODFW to exchange water with the town so it can, in turn, sell the spring water to Nestlé.
“At a time when local governments in Oregon are discouraging wasteful plastic bottles, why are our state agencies encouraging Nestlé to develop a plant that could produce over 200 million plastic bottles every year? We should know better,” said Barbara Willer, former Multnomah County Commissioner.
The coalition has been calling on Governor John Kitzhaber to stop the controversial water exchange by advising ODFW to pull out of the water exchange process. Kitzhaber has heard from over 10,000 Oregonians urging him to stop the exchange and his Natural Resources Department staff has met with the coalition to get the facts on this controversial issue. Additionally, the governor has received Ecotrust’s economic study that outlines why extractive industries like water bottling are not the best path forward for economic development in Oregon.
Food & Water Watch has been tracking Nestlé in other rural communities across America. “Nestlé’s search for water has stirred up controversy in California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states,” said Julia DeGraw, Food & Water Watch’s Northwest Organizer. “Time and time again, Nestlé has demonstrated that it does not have the communities’ best interest in mind when it comes to bottling public water resources.”
Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge will continue the fight – including working with Crag Law Center to stop the progress of the water exchange proposal and ramping up efforts to gain Governor Kitzhaber’s support in protecting Oregon water resources from Nestlé.
“State agencies are carving up the water rights for a publicly owned fish hatchery to facilitate Nestlé’s plans to bottle and sell Oregonians’ public water for private gain,” said Courtney Johnson, Staff Attorney at Crag Law Center, the firm representing Bark and Food & Water Watch. Crag is donating its services to protest OWRD’s decision on behalf of the thousands of Oregonians who are committed to protecting their natural resources.
The Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition formed over two years ago in response to the bottled water proposal and includes Food & Water Watch, Oregon AFSCME, Bark, Oregon Mission Centres of the Sisters of the Holy Names, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environment Oregon, Alliance for Democracy, and Sierra Club.
Contact: Anna Ghosh, 415-293-9905, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org