Amid Nestle controversy, Gov. Brown looks to cancel water swap in Cascade Locks

PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown has asked a state agency to cancel plans for a water swap that would have allowed Nestle to access the valuable spring water it wants.

The water transfer is a key part of Nestle's plans to build a $50 million water bottling plant in Cascade Locks. The town of Cascade Locks said the plant would bring much-needed economic growth to the struggling town, but critics cite possible environmental impacts and Nestle's controversial history at other U.S. water bottling plants as reasons why the plant should be stopped. 

Hood River County voted in May 2016 to ban commercial water bottling. Most voters in the city of Cascade Locks, however, favored letting Nestle in.

City leaders have been pursuing a water rights transfer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife that would allow it to sell water from Oxbow Springs to Nestle.

Brown on Friday asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to withdraw its application for the water exchange.

The governor wrote the agency's director, Curt Melcher, saying the ballot measure makes the goal of the water exchange uncertain. Brown says she is also worried about spending additional state money for an uncertain outcome.

"In 2016, 69% of Hood River county voters passed a ballot measure to amend Hood River County's Charter to prohibit any operation that produces more than 1,000 gallons a day of bottled water for commercial sale. This law makes the ultimate goal of the proposed water exchange uncertain," she wrote. "I find it irresponsible to incur additional significant state costs for an uncertain outcome." 

Brown acknowledged Cascade Locks' economic development issues. She did not offer an alternative solution but said she is directing efforts to find new revenue streams. 

"I am also asking my Regional Solutions Office and Business Oregon to work with the City and Port of Cascade Locks to redouble efforts to address key economic development needs, more important than ever in the wake of the devastating Eagle Creek fire," she said. 

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