Activists rally against Nestle, hand out free water

Hood River County to vote on ballot measure that would keep Nestle out

Aurora del Val with the Local Water Alliance rallies with other activists in support of measure 14-55. (KOIN)

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s primary election ballots are in the mail, which means Hood River County residents are one step closer to voting on a measure that, if approved, would block Nestle from opening a water bottling facility in the area.

Activist group the Local Water Alliance held a rally Thursday and handed out free water in support of the Hood River County Water Protection Measure 14-55.

Nestle has spent years working to gain access to Oxbow Springs in Cascade Locks where they plan to bottle and export 118 million gallons of water every year.

“The water Nestle is after is managed by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife, so it’s Oregonians’ water,” Aurora del Val with the Local Water Alliance told KOIN 6 News.

Those against Nestle’s plan say it will restrict the amount of water available for local farmers, orchardists, families, salmon and — above all else — future generations.

Activists rallied against Nestle in Cascade Locks, April 28, 2016. (KOIN)
Activists rallied against Nestle in Cascade Locks, April 28, 2016. (KOIN)

A “yes” vote on ballot measure 14-55 would prevent any water bottling corporations, including Nestle, from gaining access to water resources in Hood River County.

“We need to protect our water,” Moria Reynolds said. “We can’t just give it away.”

The Cascade Locks City Council recently voted 6-1 in favor of a resolution that opposes measure 14-55. It was an overwhelming vote in favor of Nestle.

City leaders say a Nestle facility would give the local economy a much-needed boost.

Around 50 new jobs would reportedly be created if Nestle gets the green light, however, the company hasn’t confirmed whether those jobs would go to locals.

“Everything comes down to trying to get jobs for people,” Cascade Locks Mayor Tom Cramblett said. “We got a great opportunity for good, full-time paying jobs.”

Despite record-breaking drought conditions across Oregon last year, city leaders say Cascade Locks has an abundance of water that should be used for economic growth.

But not all locals see it that way. Reynolds says last year’s drought was a wake-up call for her and other small family farmers. She says wildlife in the region suffered too, with 250,000 fish dying because of higher-than-normal water temperatures.

“Oxbow Springs is feeding into that same water system and creating cool micro-climates and eddies in the water that are important for the fish,” she said.

Using the springs for corporate water bottling could impact fishing. Some worry Nestle might seek out more water from neighboring counties, including Multnomah.

“They need to keep that bottling line going 24-7,” Reynolds said.

Ballots must be returned to the county elections office by May 17 at 7 p.m.

Stay with KOIN 6 News for a deeper look at the battle over Nestle in Cascade Locks.

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