Environmentalists and one of Oregon’s public sector unions are challenging the recent approval of new water permits in Cascade Locks, but controversy surrounds a proposal to bottle water in the Columbia Gorge.
The appeal comes from the “Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge” coalition. It includes environmental groups Food and Water Watch and Bark!, as well as the state and local employee union, Oregon AFSCME.
The permits they are challenging are a prerequisite to a potential water exchange between the city of Cascade Locks and the state of Oregon, meant to facilitate a Nestle bottling plant.
Oregon’s Water Resources Department says the challenge has to focus narrowly on harm to other water rights’ holders. But opponents, like former Multnomah County commissioner Barbara Willer, have broader objections.
“It is basically a privatization of a public natural resource –- one that humans and other species need to survive.
It sets a horrible precedent that our resources are up for sale,” Willer says.
Officials in Cascade Locks defend the proposal, saying Nestle would be just another water customer -– and would bring jobs, and property tax revenue to the city.