Water is something none of us can live without. It can be easy to take for granted, but we can’t prosper as a community, or even make it though the day without it.
For family farmers like myself, our business is completely dependent on water. Having your water shut off or being forced into water rationing can be more than a small farm can survive.
Last summer’s drought was a wake-up call that we need to be smart about how we manage our water.
This is why I’m one of the chief petitioners for Measure 14-55 and why over 60 local farmers and orchardists and Hood River’s Rockford Grange endorsed a yes vote on 14-55. It would have been better if our politicians had done what was needed to protect our water supply, but we as voters now have this opportunity.
For years I didn’t think much about Nestlé’s proposed bottled water plant. But after last year’s drought I looked into it and learned two important things.
First, Nestlé uses large water tanker trucks to increase water supplies at their plants. In Denver, Nestlé trucks in 65 million gallons a year from a water supply almost 100 miles away. In Fryeburg, Maine, they truck almost 100 tanker trucks a day to a nearby bottling plant. In Kunkletown, Pa., Nestlé is attempting to extract water from a private well to truck to a plant 20 miles away. A city engineering report shows that Nestlé’s extraction would reduce groundwater quantity in the area by 39 percent and impact neighboring wells.
If Nestlé puts a plant in Cascade Locks, all of Hood River County is in range of their tanker trucks. Any family farm could have a reliable water source one day, and wake up the next to find Nestlé started a pumping and trucking operation next door that would radically reduce available water supplies.
Second, I gave a hard thought to the precedent. If our county lets Nestlé or any other corporation pile their trucks with over a billion plastic bottles a year filled with our water, and gives them a big property tax break along with it, it would establish a dangerous precedent. If our county becomes one of the very few communities willing to welcome the water bottlers, the Nestlé plant could be just the first in line.
Whether we become home to the biggest bottled water export operation in Oregon is a decision that impacts our entire county, regardless of whether a plant is located in Cascade Locks, Parkdale or Odell. We all deserve a say on this issue.
Nestlé’s political hype that Measure 14-55 would “hurt Cascade Locks” was the result of its political polling — which not surprisingly showed people do not want to hurt Cascade Locks. But the effort to exploit this concern is pure politics that cannot stand up to some pretty basic facts.
Measure 14-55 was proposed by Cascade Locks residents, and both Local Water Alliance’s campaign director and one of my fellow chief petitioners are from Cascade Locks. Many in Cascade Locks strongly oppose handing over their water to Nestlé and if you drive through Cascade Locks today and you see the same Yes on 14-55 lawn signs you see across the rest of the county.
This is no surprise, as Nestlé claims that at best its plant would support “nearly 50 jobs.” When even Nestlé’s CEO says that Nestlé’s “robotized” plants contained “almost no people” it’s a safe bet even 50 jobs is a serious exaggeration. (See video at vimeo.com/165326599.)
Consider also that these are low-pay cleaning or security jobs and it’s safe to assume the jobs effect would not even be close to the new brew pub in Cascade Locks that employs close to 30 people.
Nestlé’s argument it would provide tax revenue for local services is even less credible. Even the report touting the Nestlé project admits Nestlé would qualify for up to a 15-year tax loophole. For years, local taxpayers would fund the roads, police and fire service Nestlé would use.
I encourage all voters to read your voters’ pamphlet, research on your own, and then join me in proudly voting yes on the Water Protection Measure 14-55.
Moria Reynolds is a chief petitioner of Measure 14-55 who lives in Hood River.