A measure that would ban commercial bottled water production in Hood River County has qualified for the May ballot. It’s the latest move from activists who want to stop a Nestle facility planned for Cascade Locks.
The measure would amend the county charter to ban commercial producers that bottle more than 1,000 gallons of water a day from operating in Hood River County or collecting water from sources in the county.
For the past six years, Nestle has been negotiating to bottle water from Oxbow Springs, part of the Herman Creek watershed near Cascade Locks, in the Columbia River Gorge. The state of Oregon currently holds the rights to use that water for a fish hatchery. Nestle has sought to obtain a right to the spring through a trade involving the city of Cascade Locks and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“I am very concerned about setting the precedent of selling public water, because this is not municipal water they want,” said chief petitioner Pamela Larson, a teacher in Hood River. “As well as setting the precedent of our county being a water exporter. I think that’s a very dangerous precedent to set, because we are in a time of drought, and we need our water.”
Larson is with a group called the Local Water Alliance, which authored the measure. She said the group has raised $21,784 in cash contributions and $13,000 in in-kind contributions so far.
“I don’t believe that the measure can stand up in court,” said Cascade Locks Mayor Tom Cramblett. “We’ll do what we can to inform the people to vote against it. We don’t think it’s a good measure.”
Cramblett said he finds the proposed ban on water exports ironic, given that Hood River County exports a lot of microbrews. Beer is about 90 percent water.