Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Defending Water for Life Campaign weighs in on the Cascade Locks project

Here's our letter, sent September 28, to Oregon's Water Resources Department, commenting on Nestlé's proposed water swap in Cascade Locks, Oregon. You can read more about the project at this post on our blog.

Dear Sirs:

We are writing with regard to the request from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to exchange water rights with the City of Cascade Locks for 0.5 CFS between water from the city’s well and water from Oxbow Springs currently used by ODFW for the state’s fish hatchery. It is quite astounding to us that nowhere in the application is there any mention of the real reason for this exchange. The fact that the spring water would then be made available by the city to Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) is never mentioned. Yet we know that indeed Nestlé intends to bottle the spring water, in addition to the town’s well water, and sell it to consumers in the Pacific Northwest.

The application states: “this exchange would result in a benefit to the hatchery, the environment and the people of the State of Oregon because the exchange as envisioned will allow better utilization of the hatchery facilities while enhancing stream flows.”

This dissimulation is indeed shocking.

We do note that in the letter from the City of Cascade Locks to Oregon Water Resources Department attached to the application there is mention that “the acquisition of a small amount of ODFW’s spring water right would allow the city to potentially attract a new large commercial customer with a significant benefit to our town.” We also note that the letter is cc’d to Nestlé’s representative, David Palais.

This application must not be considered without simultaneously examining the impact of Nestlé’s intended use of the spring water and of the town’s well water.

Furthermore, Nestlé’s study of the impact of the well water on the fish in the state hatchery is a diversion from the real issue of whether the state should protect the spring water for the benefit of the ecosystem and the people of the state.

We are further shocked by the regulatory dissimulation.

We have reviewed the application from ODFW. The application masks the fundamental issues at stake by making it seem like all ODFW has to do is to fill in the blanks and then the unnamed party, Nestlé, can get a green light from the state. Is the map properly drawn with the correct arrows? Nestlé doesn’t even have to do anything, just sit back and let the state do the work for them! Nestlé doesn’t even have to pay the $1600 fee.

ODFW’s statement that the exchange of spring water from Oxbow Hatchery for well water from the City of Cascade Locks “would result in a benefit to the hatchery, the environment, and the people of the State of Oregon because the exchange as envisioned will allow better utilization of the hatchery facilities while enhancing stream flows” frankly does not even pass the smell test. First they are actually talking about eight months from April through November. Second, there are other ways the hatchery can supplement its water supply, e.g., by digging its own well or by paying the town of Cascade Locks for some of its municipal water which would keep the water in the watershed. Most important, if there is already so much concern about the adequacy of the spring for the hatchery, what will happen if Nestlé begins bottling and exporting large quantities of spring and well water?

Further let us be clear that Nestlé does not want to set up a bottling operation in Cascade Locks for a “small amount of ODFW’s spring water.” Something on the order of 100 million gallons a year is not a small amount by any stretch of the imagination.

If the purpose of this swap of water rights is really to enhance environmental protection as the application proclaims, then it should include a clear ban on Nestlé or any other bottled water company mining the water for export from the watershed.

The time has long past when groundwater flow was a mystery. It is now well known that groundwater and surface water are interconnected. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that the groundwater source for the wells in Cascade Locks is separate from the groundwater feeding the spring. In fact the TEC map clearly shows the town well pump station within the Herman Creek watershed which is also the source for Oxbow Spring.

We know what has happened in Fryeburg Maine. Lovewell Pond (really a lake) is no longer fed by cold spring water due to Nestlé’s pumping from the spring feeding the lake and the lake is becoming seriously degraded. Nestlé adamantly denies the degradation which riparian landowners have observed. They will likewise deny that pumping large quantities from the spring will have any impact whatsoever on Herman Creek which is fed by the spring or on any other part of the watershed.

There is also an underlying issue of how the state should act to serve as a steward of the water which is fundamental to all life. Six towns in New Hampshire and Maine have responded to the threat from the bottled water industry by passing local ordinances which establish rights for people and ecosystems. The Constitution of Ecuador now recognizes such rights. Throughout the Andes, people understand that nature has inherent fundamental rights which must be respected if life is to continue. This water flowing from Mt. Hood National Forest should be respected as well. The state should not act as Nestlé’s proxy, but instead should protect water for people and nature and oppose the privatization and commodification of water.

This application should be rejected for the reasons set forth above.


Ruth N. Caplan
National Coordinator
Defending Water for Life
Alliance for Democracy

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