HOOD RIVER COUNTY voters may be able to block Nestlé's plan to bottle and sell pristine Columbia River Gorge water.

A group of Cascade Locks residents calling themselves the Local Water Alliance filed a ballot initiative last week that would prohibit large-scale water-bottling operations in the county.

The initiative comes in response to what petitioner Aurora del Val calls a disappointing reaction from local and state lawmakers who refuse to say "no" to the mega corporation's years-long push for access to Columbia Gorge water, despite opposition from state citizens, environmental groups, and Native American tribes.

"There has been just a groundswell of support for this, even in Cascade Locks where people have been quiet," del Val says. "It's really about protecting the water."

Del Val says the group needs to collect 664 signatures to get the initiative added to the ballot. SHELBY R. KING

BIKE CITY'S BACK! After spending five stubborn years in a rut, Portland finally increased its bike-commuting rate last year, making us even more dominant over other major cities.

According to the US Census Bureau, about 7.2 percent of Portlanders 16 and older—23,347 people—commuted to work by bike in 2014. Not only is that number heartening after being stuck at 6 percent from 2008 to 2013, it's the largest bike commute rate ever recorded for a major American city.

The news comes as Portland attempts an ambitious goal of getting Portlanders to use a bike for 25 percent of all trips by 2030. Meanwhile, Portland City Council is scheduled to vote on September 23 to spend roughly $1.8 million in grant money on a 600-unit bike-share system ["Share and Share a Bike," News, Sept 9]. The proposal appears to have unanimous council support. DIRK VANDERHART

RENT IN PORTLAND is rising faster than in any other city in the country—and faster than any time in this city's history. That's according to a study released recently by Axiometrics, a Texas-based firm that analyzes rental markets for big institutional investors.

According to the company, Portland's rents increased 15.4 percent from August 2014 to August 2015. They'd increased just 5.5 percent the year before.

Axiometrics economist KC Sanjay tells the Mercury the rapid increase comes down to job growth. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says Portland's added nearly 43,000 jobs in the last year, but Sanjay says he expects the city to add only about 4,600 housing units in 2015.

Not everyone agrees with the company's findings. A recent survey by apartmentlist.com suggested rents are actually rising fastest in Vancouver, Washington. DVH