Opponents that include organized labor, local forest advocates, a physicians group and the Sierra Club are calling on Gov. John Kitzhaber to wade into a controversial plan for a bottled water plant in the Columbia Gorge.
Multinational food corporation Nestle recently won approval from the state’s notoriously lax Department of Water Resources for a bottling plant in Cascade Locks that the company has sold as an economic boon to the small community. (It's worth noting that it was Kitzhaber who thwarted Cascade Locks attempt to build an off-reservation casino in cooperation with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.)
According to The Oregonian, Nestle is promising to create 50 permanent jobs at the roughly 25-acre bottling plant that is expected to double the small town’s property tax base.
Critics, including the D.C.-based Food and Water Watch and the Sierra Club say that’s a poor trade off when considering a permanent surrender of a finite resource like the state’s water. They have successfully defeated similar proposals by Nestle in California and Washington.
Critics have also raised concerns about creating more plastic bottle waste in Oregon where the state just recently weighed a ban on plastic bags because of concerns about litter and pollution. Organized labor is opposing the plant because of Nestle’s plan to use non-union workers at the site.
Not surprisingly Cascade Locks officials are frustrated by the notion of loosing another economic development project. As the excellently named mayor, Lance Masters, told The Oregonian in Thursday’s paper, “they could be dealing a death blow to a town that’s really struggling for its survival.”
A Kitzhaber aide told the paper that the governor has not taken a position on the plant and has not yet given direction to the state agencies reviewing the proposal.
In the meantime, Food and Water Watch’s appeal is set to go before an administrative law judge sometime this spring or early summer.