HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KOIN) — After a contentious battle between water and wages, voters in Hood River County passed a ballot measure to ban all future commercial water bottling operations in the region.
Around 68% of residents voted “yes” on ballot measure 14-55, blocking Nestle’s years-long battle to export 118 million gallons of water a year from Oxbow Springs.
“Voters in Oregon’s Hood River County today made their community one of the first in the country to ban industrial-scale water bottling.” – Local Water Alliance
“This is really a resounding victory for everyone who cares about protecting not only our water supply, but water supplies around the world,” Aurora del Val said.
Nestle’s controversial Cascade Locks proposal divided the community and caused a rift between environmentalists and others worried about the local economy.
The mayor of Cascade Locks and the city administrator spoke in favor of Nestle’s plan, describing it as a way to bring more jobs to the community and catalyze growth.
But environmentalists and activists with the Local Water Alliance said Nestle’s plan would do more harm than good, adding that giving the corporate water bottling giant free reign over the region’s resources could be devastating in the event of a drought.
“We’re unwilling to allow Nestle or any other corporation to put our local water supply at risk… when we’re heading into a period of major water limitations,” del Val said.
Dave Palais with Nestle Waters North America released the following statement:
“Nestlé Waters North America is disappointed in the passing of Measure 14-55 in Hood River County, but we are pleased to see that the voters of Cascade Locks have spoken out in opposition to the measure. While we firmly believe this decision on a county primary ballot is not in the best interest of Cascade Locks, we respect the democratic process.”
Nestle would have paid Cascade Locks an undetermined amount after the town completed a water rights swap with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The city was then going to sell its new share of spring water to Nestle for its Arrowhead bottled water, which is branded as being sourced from mountain springs.
Opponents of the plan also spoke out against bringing in trucks that would have made 200 trips to-and-from Nestle’s plant every day. Native Americans cited global warming, salmon die-offs and water conservation as reasons to reject the proposal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report