SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — A local tribe member is going without food or water for five days in front of the Oregon State Capitol to protest Nestle’s continued plans to bottle and sell water from Oxbow Spring near Cascade Locks.
Anna Mae Leonard, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, is asking Gov. Kate Brown to halt all applications in the Nestle bottling proposal. The company wants to bottle and sell 118 million gallons of water a year out of Oxbow Springs. Leonard said the springs are a “culturally significant” site to the fishing tribes of the Columbia River Gorge.
In May, voters in Hood River County passed a ballot measure to ban all future commercial water bottling operations in the region. It passed with 68% of the vote.
Despite the vote, the Cascade Locks City Council directed its city administrator to press on with the Nestle proposal. The town has an unemployment rate over 18%, and the bottling plant would generate more tax revenue and add 50 jobs to the tourist-dependent down.
Leonard started her fast on Monday and is set to continue through Friday. She similarly fasted in 2015 at Cascade Locks City Hall. Others are involved in the protest, including members of the Keep Nestle out of the Gorge coalition.
Protesters are upset that the state is still in talks with Nestle about the water exchange plan. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is continuing to work with Nestle, which wants to use state-owned spring water in the gorge.
Leonard and other protesters said they want Brown to direct the state to reject the water exchange application.
Nestle has been trying to tap into Oregon water for several years unsuccessfully. It doesn’t have a water source in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s not giving up.