As of last week, the City of Goldendale is in the-according to Mayor Mike Canon-"very early stage" of considering bringing a Nestlé bottling plant to Goldendale.
Years ago, the same company looked to buy and bottle water from the local Bloodgood Springs, but in the end decided against it. Recently, local business owner Ty Ross notified the city that the company's interest had sprung anew, and so far it is unknown what water source they will pursue if they are invited to set up shop.
According to Canon, the intended business would be a $50 million plant and create around 40-50 jobs for the community.
"That's a really big project for Goldendale," Canon explains. "But it's kind of the right size as far as it's not too big for Goldendale. It's big enough to make a really good impact on jobs for people, possibilities for new careers and new possibilities for businesses and all. So we look at it as a very, very positive economic development possibility."
At this point in the process, no decisions have been set in stone. Due to previous problems, Nestlé has had with establishing plants in locations such as Cascade Locks, they are-as Canon says-"a little gun shy;" they will not come to town to pursue the venture unless they are invited by the city.
In Cascade Locks, the city leaders were ready to welcome Nestlé with open arms as a play to help their local economy, but many community members feared consequences from the plant using the city's Oxbow Springs for both ethical and personal reasons.
Some cited moral issues around bottling water in plastic bottles and/or for profit and others were afraid the act of the plant drawing on their spring would create a shortage in resources available to residents.
The dispute lasted about five years and eventually resulted in a county-wide vote via what was referred to as Measure 14-55. This measure appeared on the Hood River County primary ballot in May of this year and, according to an article by the Hood River News, "block[ed] large-scale bottling companies like Nestlé from tapping into county water sources" and was passed with a 69 percent vote.
Bringing the focus back home, Canon has said that he believes a plant of the proposed size should not affect the availability of water to local residents.
""I think if we're open enough, clear enough, and people understand the benefits-they would be buying the water, not just taking it-but that would part of it," Canon said. "One of the things that we have wanted to do more than anything else was to make sure if they're wanting a certain volume of water that that water is replaced in our water rights and in the water sources we have so that Goldendale's volume doesn't change-we have the same amount. We have a very good water supply to start with, so there's room for this type of project but we don't want suddenly to have less water than we had before this ever started being discussed."
Canon wants to work through this process in a completely "open, transparent, and business-like" way.
The next step will be to present the idea to the city council and gain their approval; he cannot continue without such approval.
He also made clear that even if the council were to approve and the city did invite Nestle representatives in to test the local water, that invitation does not commit the city to hosting the proposed plant.
"We hope we can get something like this, but it's going to depend on whether they are interested in the water we have and if we are interested in what they require," Canon has said.
The next city council meeting is set to take place next Monday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. It is open to the public, so anyone interested in hearing more about this project is invited to attend and ask questions.