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Another Voice: Nestlé’s water bottling plant would hurt Cascade Locks

Besides being an elected member of Cascade Locks City Council, I own and operate a business here. I write on my own behalf and that of my constituents who support Measure 14-55. We believe it is important that people understand some of the reasons that many, many Cascade Locks residents support a yes vote on Water Protection Measure 14-55 and why we oppose Nestlé’s proposed water bottling plant.

We support Measure 14-55 because selling precious natural resources is no longer an appropriate economic development plan. Nestlé’s plant would also result in at least 200 new large truck trips a day through the same downtown area many us want to see improved as a vibrant hub that attracts visitors and new businesses. Becoming an industrial water exporter is more likely to hurt our city’s economic development efforts in the long term.

We strongly oppose the proposed resolution that will be considered by Cascade Locks City Council on Monday, April 11. The resolution strenuously opposes Measure 14-55 and endorses the view that selling a precious natural resource for a wasteful manufactured demand is a good idea. We all want to see more jobs in Cascade Locks, but not every job is good for the community. The resolution is also another betrayal of the tribes with treaties on these traditional fishing grounds.

Even here, our city asked all water users to conserve during last year’s drought. Forecasts from presentations I attended suggest that drought and water limitations will be more common in the Northwest, even in places that have never had water worries before. Responsible cities should be doing everything possible to wisely plan for their future water security rather than fall prey to empty promises from a disreputable multinational corporation.

Political claims attempting to frame Measure 14-55 as an issue pitting Cascade Locks’ interests against those of Hood River County ignore the very real impacts that a large-scale water bottling plant would have — not only to Cascade Locks, but the future of the whole county’s water supply.

If commercial water bottling is allowed in Cascade Locks, it sends the message that we as a county are willing to trade away our water supply for a small number of generally low-paying jobs. Many big water bottling companies are scrambling for new sources of water and if we let Nestlé in, then others will certainly try to follow their lead. Do we want to set that precedent?

The notion that a bottled water plant in Cascade Locks should not be a concern to the rest of Hood River County is undermined by the fact that Nestlé plants commonly use large tanker trucks to increase water supplies to their plants. Nothing would keep Nestlé from trucking water from the Hood River Valley or anywhere else in the region to a Cascade Locks plant.

It’s no surprise that Nestlé, one of the world’s largest corporations, would be able to use its resources to generate support with the city and port for its planned water bottling operation. But drive through Cascade Locks today and you will see the same “Yes on 14-55” lawn signs that cover Hood River because many of us realize that putting our water security at risk is a poor long term economic plan.

Nestlé claims its plant would create 50 local jobs, but they will not commit to provide even a single job to a Cascade Locks resident. What we need are new local businesses that will support local jobs.

Although they have dangled the prospect of new city tax revenues, Nestlé and the city have always planned to take advantage of the county’s five-year exemption from property taxes. This means Nestlé’s trucks will use city roads and be served by city police and fire protection, but existing tax payers will foot the bill for that and up to 20 years.

To us it is clear that Measure 14-55 is not only good for Cascade Locks, but all of Hood River County. Cascade Locks City Council surely has the votes to take the opposition, but no one should mistake that as representing all Cascade Locks voters.

We can do better!



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