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Cascade Locks Leaders Say Nestle Fight Isn't Over

<p>Voters in Hood River County approved a measure to block a proposal to bottle water from Oxbow Springs in Cascade Locks.</p>

Cassandra Profita/EarthFix

Voters in Hood River County approved a measure to block a proposal to bottle water from Oxbow Springs in Cascade Locks.

City administrator Gordon Zimmerman is quick with the numbers. Sure, Hood River County voters backed Measure 14-55 by a large margin last week.

But as Zimmerman notes, the stats went the other way in Cascade Locks.

"There are varying interpretations of what the vote means," he said. "The vote countywide passed 69 percent to 31 percent. but in Cascade Locks, the one precinct in Hood River County voted against the ballot measure, 58 percent to 42 percent."

The ballot measure essentially killed Nestle’s proposed 50-million-dollar bottling plant by banning large bottling operations. Supporters say there’s no room for interpretation.

But Zimmerman and his bosses on the Cascade Locks City Council believe otherwise. City Councilors voted 5-to-1 this week to keep up the fight.

"The city needs to pursue what our legal options are to challenge or maintain a relationship with Nestle," Zimmerman said. "Our citizens want Nestle to come."

Zimmerman says he’s going to get the opinion of an outside lawyer who specializes in municipal law. At issue: Whether a countywide ballot measure overrides the choices made by an individual municipality within that county.

In the 27 Oregon counties that don’t have their own charter, that question is easily answered: No. But Hood River County is a home rule county – meaning it does have a governing charter. The question of whether county voters can trump city will isn’t clearly answered.

Hood River County administrator David Meriweather says his board considers the Nestle matter closed – but also recognizes that the legal and political fight probably isn’t over.

"Truthfully the answer is we don't know whether or not county charter amendment can essentially usurp or override a municipal charter, especially when it comes to a water right assigned by the state of Oregon," he said.

In Cascade Locks, Zimmerman remains hopeful – and patient. They’ve been working on this since 2008. And he’s still got a date in mind for groundbreaking at the Nestle plant – but it’s at least two or three years from now.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Anna Griffin