The city of Cascade Locks and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have filed paperwork for a water rights swap. The move would allow Nestle to bottle spring water in the Columbia Gorge.
Under the proposed transfer, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would permanently give up 225 gallons per minute of spring water. That water would go to the city Of Cascade Locks.
That sounds like a lot, but it is a small fraction of the water the state controls to supply the Oxbow Fish Hatchery, located in Cascade Locks.
In exchange, the city would give the fish hatchery the right to some water from its wells. Cascade Locks wants to sell the spring water to Nestle, which has proposed building a bottling plant for its Arrowhead brand.
Environmental groups and consumer groups object to the water rights transfer. They say the city and the company are trying to sidestep a public review process. And they argue Nestle won’t pay enough for the water, given how much they sell it for.
The City Administrator of Cascade Locks said the bottling plant will create 50 jobs. The city’s unemployment rate is close to 19 percent.
The public comment period on the water swap begins next week.