Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to withdraw its application for a water rights transfer with the city of Cascade Locks.
The transfer is a key part of Nestle’s plans to build at $50 million water bottling plant in Cascade Locks.
Last year, Hood River County passed a ballot measure banning all commercial water bottling. It was an attempt to block Nestle from moving forward.
But the city of Cascade Locks hasn’t given up on Nestle. City leaders say they still want the economic boost the bottling plant would bring.
So, they’ve continued to pursue a water rights transfer with the state to help Nestle gain access to valuable spring water.
The transfer would allow the city to access up to 225 gallons per minute from Oxbow Springs to sell to Nestle and replace that water from its municipal source.
Now, the governor wants Oregon to back out of the deal.
In a letter to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Curt Melcher sent Friday, Brown said the ballot measure prohibiting commercial water bottling makes the ultimate goal of the water exchange uncertain.
She noted that the state has already spent “significant resources, including legal costs” on the exchange application and expects to spend more money and staff resources on “expected challenges and court appeals.”
“I find it irresponsible to incur additional significant state costs for an uncertain outcome,” she wrote. “I am asking that you withdraw the ODFW exchange application.”
The governor also wrote that she is directing state resources toward economic development in Cascade Locks, which she said is “more important than ever in the wake of the devastating Eagle Creek fire.”
The Eagle Creek Fire burned around 50,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge this summer, and dampened tourism to towns like Cascade Locks for months.