The city of Cascade Locks is hosting a town hall meeting Thursday, facilitated by a neutral party, to hear questions and comments from the public regarding Nestlé’s proposed water bottling plant.
The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the gym of City Hall at 140 SE WaNaPa St. in Cascade Locks.
Nestlé’s proposed plant would bottle 100 million gallons of spring water annually from Oxbow Springs, east of Cascade Locks, and sell it around the Northwest.
To make the deal possible, Cascade Locks and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife filed a cross water rights transfer with the Oregon Water Resources Department in mid-April. If approved and finalized by the department, the city would transfer 0.5 cubic feet per second (cfs) — 225 gallons per minute — of its municipal ground water right in exchange for 0.5 cfs of ODFW’s water right to Oxbow Spring, located near Oxbow Hatchery on the east side of Cascade Locks.
The city would then sell the spring water to Nestlé for bottling in its bottling facility.
For the town hall discussion, Barbara Briggs will be the facilitator. Briggs, a longtime Hood River business consultant and former Hood River County commissioner, will lead the public comment portion of the evening.
“This is a listening session for the (City) Council and Port Commission to hear what the concerns are,” said Gordon Zimmerman, Cascade Locks City Administrator. “There will be other town halls as we try to answer those concerns.”
The cross water rights transfer and proposed plant have drawn concerns from environmental groups across Oregon. Members of local environmental groups, including the “No Nestlé in Cascades Locks” coalition and the Local Water Alliance, are planning to attend the Thursday meeting, according to their public Facebook pages.
The groups have argued that state water resources should not be sold into corporate ownership, and that the plant could increase truck traffic and pollution from discarded plastic bottles in Cascade Locks.
The first item of discussion Thursday will be the city’s current Water System Improvement Project. Zimmerman said the project involves building a new water storage reservoir on Moody Street and installing a main 12-inch water passage throughout downtown and down a portion of Forest Lane.
“We will also put in a 12-inch main into the industrial park for future growth there,” said Zimmerman.
The industrial park is where Nestlé hopes to set up shop.
After reviewing the water project, Zimmerman will give a presentation about the City’s status regarding the Nestlé project, and lay out “what we know at this point.”
Briggs will then open the floor for questions. Attendees will be encouraged to write down their questions and post them on a series of posters about the different topics.
For years, City and Port leaders in Cascade Locks have attempted bring the Nestlé plant to town in order to boost the local economy with a fresh source of jobs and tax income. Nestlé has said that the deal would create up to 50 jobs, and boost the city’s total tax revenue by 67 percent. The city’s unemployment rate is nearly 19 percent.