CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. – Hood River County residents may have voted to ban a proposed Nestle water bottling plant, but the town of Cascade Locks said it could pursue other options to allow the corporation to operate after all.
A measure to ban commercial water bottling plants passed with 68 percent of the vote during the primary election Tuesday night.
Every precinct in the county besides Cascade Locks voted in favor of the ban. In Cascade Locks, residents voted against the ban 58 percent to 42 percent.
The measure stops Nestle Waters from bottling spring water in Cascade Locks and operating a bottling plant in the small town.
“We took on one of the largest corporations in the world and won,” said Aurora del Val, secretary of Local Water Alliance, the local group that sponsored the ballot measure.
In a statement, Nestle said it was “disappointed” by the outcome.
“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,” said Nestle spokesman Dave Palais.
Environmental groups argued the plant would create pollution and put a vital resource at risk, but the Cascade Locks City Council supported Nestle’s plan because it would bring about 50 jobs to the economically struggling small town.
Gordon Zimmerman, city administrator for Cascade Locks, said he wasn’t surprised the ban passed. He also said city officials will discuss options for moving forward during the next council meeting on May 23.
“There’s some legal precedent for county charters not being able to override city charters,” he said. “The council will consider a range of options.”
Zimmerman said legal action is unlikely but not out of the question.
“The vote indicated the people of Cascade Locks are in favor of continuing a relationship with Nestle,” he said. “If Nestle indicated an interest to continue, the city will continue to pursue it because our citizens voted in opposition of the restriction.”
A spokeswoman for Nestle said the company is considering options in Cascade Locks but would not specify a definitive plan.
Background: Nestle plant in the Gorge: What's at stake