Friends applauds Gov. Kate Brown’s November 2015 decision to request that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) withdraw its “cross-transfer” water rights proposal and instead go through the appropriate water rights exchange process and a required public interest test.
Status Update: May 2016In early 2016, Hood River County officials approved for the May 2016 primary election a ballot initiative filed by the Local Water Alliance. The initiative sought to ban new commercial bottled water operations in the county, which would stop Nestlé from bottling and selling water from Oxbow Springs. On May 17, Hood River County voters approved ballot measure 14-55 by a more than 2-to-1 margin.
The voters of Hood River County have spoken out overwhelmingly against the Nestlé plan and other large-scale bottling operations. Post-election, Friends encourages community leaders from Cascade Locks and throughout the county to collaborate and identify a vision for economic development in Cascade Locks that has broad public support and is consistent with responsible stewardship of natural resources in the Columbia River Gorge.
BackgroundFor several years the transnational food and beverage company Nestlé has been working to develop a water bottling plant in Cascade Locks, OR. However, in order to market its product as genuine spring water, Nestlé needs water from Oxbow Springs that currently feeds Herman Creek. The catch has been that the ODFW owns the right to use water from Oxbow Springs and currently uses that water to operate the Oxbow fish hatchery, which produces spring chinook salmon, Coho salmon, Sockeye salmon and winter steelhead.
The City of Cascade Locks, which supports the project on economic grounds, has tried to acquire ODFW’s water right so that the City could sell Oxbow Spring water to Nestlé. Cascade Locks and ODFW originally proposed to exchange ODFW’s rights to Oxbow Springs for a City-owned groundwater right. Under state law, the exchange of water must be approved by the Oregon Water Resources Department, which must determine whether the exchange is in the public interest.
Cascade Locks and ODFW previously applied for a water rights exchange, but in the face of substantial public opposition changed course and submitted two separate applications to transfer their respective water rights. The proposed “cross-transfer” would have avoided the public interest test required for a water rights exchange. Friends opposed the cross-transfer applications and encouraged ODFW and Cascade Locks to apply for an exchange to ensure review of whether the proposal is in the public interest.
Friends’ Position on the Nestlé Water Bottling Plant ProposalFriends opposes the proposed “cross-transfer” of water rights because it avoids the required public interest test. Friends does not support the project and looks forward to a robust public process for reviewing the facts to determine whether bottling water from Oxbow Springs is in the best interest of the citizens of Oregon. Friends recognizes that need for economic development in Cascade Locks, but has concerns that bottling Gorge spring-water will harm Gorge resources and not provide a sustainable economic foundation for Cascade Locks.
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