ANOTHER VOICE: Passing countywide ordinance ‘is wrong’

Measure 14-55 reminds me of the “Big Box” ordinance passed years ago, limiting the size of retail stores in Hood River. Some supporters truly did not want big box stores built, while others just wanted to stop Walmart from building a super center. While some people truly believe Measure 14-55 is necessary to protect water, I believe some are just anti-“big corporation” Nestlé. You can take that stance — hopefully your 401K or child’s college fund doesn’t depend on corporate earnings. But passing a countywide ordinance based on that is wrong.

The supporters of 14-55 argue this measure is needed to protect county water, but there’s one point the petitioners either don’t want you to know or don’t understand themselves. That’s Oregon’s strong water rights laws. Water rights determine not only who may use the water, but the purpose of the use, the period of use, and the quantity. Some water rights in the county date back to the 1800s. The fact is, Nestlé or any other bottlers can’t touch the agricultural water in the county. I’ve noticed while the petitioners claim doom from Nestlé drying up the county, I don’t recall them naming a single source of water they think is at risk. If there are any potential sources of water in the county to use for bottling, then that water right has already been set aside for domestic use. There simply aren’t any more water rights to be developed. The Oxbow Springs water right had already existed.

Some argue the increased traffic is a reason to stop Nestlé. Fine to argue that, but why anytime someone organizes some sort of “Gorge Mountain River 10K Arts and Beer Festival,” everyone embraces it, and no one fusses about the hundreds of cars these events seem to bring. The fact is, any new industry may bring a little more traffic, and we shouldn’t use that argument against just the ones we oppose.

Yes on 14-55 supporters argue “the jobs aren’t dedicated to Cascade Locks residents.” If the jobs should be dedicated to Cascade Locks residents only, then why doesn’t this measure pertain to Cascade Locks only? And the mentality that these jobs aren’t good enough — people need to understand that every new job or venture in the county doesn’t have to be some high-tech, new innovative wonder that may change the world and pay 100K a year. There are plenty of folks in the Gorge who are suited to this work and welcome the opportunity Nestlé is providing.

The majority of the duly elected Cascade Locks City Council and Port of Cascade Locks Commissioners have voted overwhelmingly to support the Nestlé bottling plant. If there are folks dissatisfied with that decision, then that is where this should be handled, not a change to the entire county charter. I have faith the commissioners and councilors understand the fact that “Our Water, Our Future” is already protected by Oregon’s water rights laws.

Jon Laraway is a third generation orchardist and serves on the board of directors of a local irrigation district.

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