PORTLAND, Ore. – A Native American woman who lives in Cascade Locks is fasting for five days outside of the state capitol to protest a proposed Nestle bottled water plant in the Columbia River Gorge.
Anna Mae Leonard, who is a member of a Columbia River Treaty Tribe, is wearing traditional Native American dress during her fast. Dozens of supporters also joined her at the entrance of the state senate chambers in Salem during the fast, which began Sept. 19 and will end Sept. 23.
Leonard is protesting a proposed Nestle bottling plant in Cascade Locks. The international corporation wants to bottle water from Oxbow Springs, facilitated through a water rights transfer from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Background: Videos promote, criticize proposed Nestle plant
She also said she timed the fast to coincide with the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in North Dakota.
“Just as the Federal government failed to adequately consult with Tribes on the destructive North Dakota pipeline project, the State government and Governor Brown, have also failed to adequately consult with Tribes on the Nestle bottling proposal,” Leonard and local water advocates said in a statement.
Cascade Locks continues to move forward with the plan to welcome a Nestle bottling plant, despite the county voting against it.
Hood River County voted in May to impose a ban on commercial water bottling.
But the fight isn’t over. The town of Cascade Locks voted in favor of the project, despite opposition from every other precinct in the county.
“The citizens of Cascade Locks still want the bottling plant to come,” said city administrator Gordon Zimmerman.
A few things still need to happen before the city can sell Oxbow Springs water to Nestle, and the vote throws an obstacle in that path but doesn’t block it entirely.
First, the city needs to get control of Oxbow Springs water. A water transfer from Little Herman Creek to Oxbow Springs is nearing the end of a four-year process. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is expected to complete that transfer by the end of October.
Then the actual water exchange needs to be approved by the Oregon Water Resources Department. That process could take two years, Zimmerman said.
After that, Cascade Locks will have the authority to sell water to Nestle.
Once that groundwork has been laid, the city will see if it can override the county charter that blocks the plant. Zimmerman said the city may take legal action at that point.
Nestle continues to show interest in bottling Oxbow Springs water. Zimmerman said the company visits Cascade Locks for a couple of days every month.