Cascade Locks water transfer approval worries residents

This is happening in spite of a Hood River County vote blocking bottlers

Ballot measure yard signs regarding the issue of moving a Nestle spring water bottling plant into the small community, are shown in Cascade Locks, Ore. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. (KOIN) — Those who opposed a Nestle water plant in Hood River County are speaking out after the City of Cascade Locks said a recent water transfer approval through the state gets them one step closer to it.

This is happening in spite of a Hood River County vote blocking bottlers.

Nestle protests took place in the spring before voters said “yes” on prohibiting future big bottling operations in the county. Still, a water transfer application approved on Friday is giving pro-bottlers hope that it will be a reality someday.

“My wife and I have a small farm here in Hood River Valley. We feel strongly this is a resource that needs to be protected,” said Mark England, president of Rockford Grange.

Many voted for the ban on big bottlers and are disappointed the City of Cascade Locks says it will again press forward to try to get one in town.

“It seems mean spirited to try to play with that, to water down the voice of the people we will continue to be in favor of limiting that access,” Moria Reynolds, who owns a small farming operation, said.

“Once the water is damaged, you can’t repair it,” said Lorna Jim of Goldendale.

The Cascade Locks City Administrator said the recent approval of a “water transfer application” from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife gives them momentum.

“[It’s the] first step in a long journey for us to eventually get a water bottling plant into our city,” said Gordon Zimmerman, Cascade Locks city administrator

The water transfer doesn’t have anything to do with a plant directly. It only allows for different points of water diversion for the Oxbow Springs Hatchery, but approval could lead to the city getting spring water diverted to them down the road.

“The water transfer is the first step. The second step is the water exchange,” said Zimmerman.

The state says it’s something that’s been generally discussed since 2008.

“Gov. Brown like Gov. Kitzhaber has basically asked us to move forward with the process, the due diligence and come up with a recommendation,” said a spokesman for ODFW.

“I am very disappointed in Kate Brown,” said Aurora del Val, campaign director for Local Water Alliance.

Del Val said she feels like state leaders are ignoring the will of the people.

“It’s really crazy that for nearly 10 years we’ve had Nestle trying to sink their roots in here when you have a lot of opposition,” said del Val.