Nov 02, 2021

The Dalles, Oregon, Sues The Oregonian/OregonLive to Keep Google’s Water Use Private

The Oregonian/OregonLive appealed the city’s decision to withhold the records on Google’s water use, arguing that the city’s nondisclosure agreement specifically exempted information like water use which is collected by the city

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The city of The Dalles, Oregon, filed suit in state court to keep Google’s water use a secret. This is ahead of a city council vote on a $28.5 million water pact with Google.

The city is seeking to overturn a ruling from Wasco County’s district attorney, who found Google’s water use is a public record and ordered The Dalles to provide that information to The Oregonian/OregonLive, reported The Oregonian. 

The city sued the news organization and asked a judge to intervene.

This comes after Google’s completion of two new server farms on the site of a former aluminum smelter in The Dalles. Google already has a large campus of data centers on its property along the Columbia River on this site.

According to Google, it needs more water to cool its data centers, and Google nor the city will say how much more water it needs, reported The Oregonian. The Dalles will only be able to meet Google’s needs by expanding its water system, and the deal calls upon Google to pay for the upgrade.

Residents and farmers are concerned about the city's long-term water supply as the drought conditions worsen. Resultantly, the city is filing suit in state court to keep information under wraps by asserting that it is Google’s “trade secret” and therefore exempt from disclosure under Oregon law.

The city council must vote on Google’s water deal on Nov. 8, reported The Oregonian. The Dalles and Wasco County also both signed off on a new package of property tax breaks for Google. 

The Dalles and Google created a plan for Google to spend $28.5 million to expand the city’s water capacity. The pact calls for transferring some of Google’s water rights to the city and to replenish the large aquifer under the city with treated water during wet-weather months. According to the Dalles, Google would use just a portion of the additional water capacity, giving the city more water for its residents and industry.

“Under Oregon state law what Google has submitted and has asked the city to keep in confidence is a valid trade secret and so we are obligated to keep it confidential,” said Jonathan Kara, attorney for The Dalles, at a city council meeting in October, reported The Oregonian. 

The Oregonian/OregonLive appealed the city’s decision to withhold the records on Google’s water use, arguing that the city’s nondisclosure agreement specifically exempted information like water use which is collected by the city.

Wasco County District Attorney Matthew Ellis ruled in the news organization’s favor on Oct. 15, ordering The Dalles to release the records. The state law allows The Dalles to seek to block that ruling by suing the news organization, so it did.

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