Nestle Proposes Cascade Locks Water Bottling Plant

Andrew DeMonico, News Editor

Food distribution giant Nestle Waters North America has proposed a plan to purchase lands adjacent to Oxbow Springs in Cascade Locks, located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
Water from the Mt. Hood watershed would be made available for Nestle to bottle, package and sell nationwide for a profit. The business proposal calls for 9 million gallons of water to be extracted per month and designates 100 semi trucks per day for transportation. This would allocate 200 trips per day through the town of Cascade Locks.
The proposal also creates an estimated 50 jobs for Cascade Locks, which is equivalent to the employment of three Starbucks coffee shops, or one local pizza restaurant. The plant would generate $18,000 in monthly revenue for the town and could boost property values an estimated 67 percent.
Mt. Hood and Columbia Gorge conservation agency Bark has voiced the loudest dissent over the Oxbow Springs proposal. Bark and other conservationists have brought up concerns such as the loss of water to a Columbia River salmon hatchery and potentially losing the watershed entirely as a renewable resource.
The Oxbow Spring is accountable for over 400 small streams and tributaries that flow to the Columbia River. With a significant amount of water detracted from the flow, local ecosystems could be significantly impacted.
Chemistry teacher Jesse Elizondo feels the same way.
“I’m not huge on Nestle buying rights to municipalities only to sell it back to the people. Water is a human right and should be available for everybody,” said Elizondo.
“Having said that, this plant is a pretty small plant, we’re not talking about Bull Run. I don’t think this will have a huge impact on the environment,” he went on to add.
Nestle Waters North America has come under criticism in the past for its ability to appeal to the economic needs of a small town such as Cascade Locks, while their larger impact on the environment ends up affecting millions.
This isn’t the first small-town water source that Nestle has tried to access. In the towns of McCloud, California and Fryeburg, Maine, Nestle has convinced local municipalities to allow them bottling access. Nestle currently has a one-million sq. ft. bottling plant in McCloud which allows them to resell the water at above-gasoline price to the public.
Local organizations in both small towns have attempted to fight Nestle’s bottling plants, only to be shot down in court. According to Food & Water, Nestle prioritizes finding legal security for their plants before physically establishing them. The result is that local populations have their hands tied when trying to oust the plants, as their legality has already been approved by local jurisdiction.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as the Water Resources Department will have to review the proposal thoroughly before it is to put in front of local Cascade Locks legislators. The proposal would mean swapping rights of the Oxbow Spring from city jurisdiction to state jurisdiction.
Cascade Locks is a launching ground for Nestle Waters North America and its increased interest in the Willamette Valley water tributaries. Conservationists consider the Oxbow Springs ground zero in defense of Oregon’s natural water systems.