MARIETTA TOWNSHIP - On a stormy summer night outside the Marietta Town Hall Monday, the town board voted 2-1 to impose a one-year “Moratorium on Livestock Facilities Ordinance,” specifically aimed at giving the board more time to evaluate a proposal from Roth Feeder Pigs to build a 10,000 animal unit hog CAFO on Harvest Lane between Steuben and Wauzeka. The vote came after nearly three hours of debate between people on both sides of the issue.
“We’d like to get information from all the people,” Town Chairman Ted Beinborn said at the start of the meeting, “whether you’re a farmer, live on the Kickapoo or are new here. We want to hear from everyone.”
First up was Kelvin Rodolfo, a retired geology professor from the University of Chicago, who warned of the dangers of groundwater contamination in the area’s sensitive karst geology.
“The area is comprised of soluble dolomite and sandstone that allows water to percolate down and sideways, and into the aquifer,” he said. “In karstic country if you have an impoundment you have contamination. If you put pollutants into the aquifer it stays there forever.”
John Page, who owns land on nearby Kickapoo Road, told of fish kills and well contamination connected to hog CAFO’s in his native Illinois.
Paul Patterson, who has owned land directly north of the Roth property for the past 52 years, warned of runoff from the steep slopes indicative of the area.
“Every year I have runoff, last year a wall of water four feet in height,” Patterson said. “At the time the Kickapoo was already flooded, so guess what happens? It backs up into my basement. I still have three feet of water in my basement. If Mr. Roth’s project goes through I’m going to have contaminated water in my basement. Unfortunately, it’s in the wrong place, on the top of a ridge with tremendous runoff.”
Dave Collins, who also owns land adjacent to the proposed CAFO, predicted that he would have a 43 percent drop in his property value if the Roth project is approved.
“We can’t sell our property today for what we’d have gotten three months ago,” Collins said, “just from the rumor of a CAFO going in. The Roths are good people, a good family. It’s not about them. He has a right to protect his financial future, and we have a right to protect our property. It’s a beautiful area and I don’t want to see that lost.”
Another neighbor, Larry Kellogg, voiced concern with truck traffic on the twisting, narrow roadways that are typical in that part of southern Crawford County.
“These roads are very narrow,” he said. “Two big trucks can’t drive past each other at the same time. It’s very dangerous.”
Added neighbor Jeff Robinson, “I can’t get any type of exemption to drive up Highway 131 with my cattle trucks when spring weight limits are in effect. I can’t even haul hay up there. I don’t know how AV’s gonna get his feed up there when the weight limits are in effect. There’s no shoulders; it’s really scary.”
Carl Schlecht, who lives on Kickapoo Valley Road with his wife, Kat Tigerman, worried about health and water quality concerns, saying, “Our drinking well will be right in the impact zone, and it frightens us. I know AV wants to expand, but to put it on a ridgetop straddling the Kickapoo baffles me.”
Ken Cornish, who lives 1,000 yards down the road from the proposed CAFO, warned of possible diseases from infected hogs like MRSA and salmonella.
“These are diseases that are prevalent in CAFOs, and very resistant to antibiotics,” he said.
Cornish’s neighbor, Gary Porter, warned of opening the floodgates to industrial-sized hog farms.
“My main concern is expansion,” he said. “We will open the door to other CAFOs moving in.”
Calls for moratorium
The majority of people in the room called for the board to pass a moratorium to give them more time to study the possible effects of a large scale industrial pig farm on the site, including Jude Hartwig.
“I think it’s really important to enact a moratorium,” he said. “There’s a lot of information that needs to be gathered and considered. There’s a lot of things that still need to happen. That’s why this moratorium is so important and needs to happen.”
AV Roth then took the floor and addressed the concerns raised by the crowd of about 60 people, on both sides of the issue.
“You guys don’t understand what it’s like to grow a farm,” he said. “Do you know anyone who can farm with 20 or 30 dairy cattle like they used to? This farm would support 20 families just from the people who would work there.”
Roth said he had researched different methods of manure spreading to lessen the impact, like knifing it into the soil or aerating it and spreading it.
“This area needs nitrogen,” Roth said, “and farmers are going to get it one way or another, either through chemicals or organically. Around here every farmer agrees runoff is our biggest problem. They don’t want to see their fertilizer run off and wasted.”
Roth said state law requires producers to clean up their own spills, if they happen, which he said they never have at his operation on Highway 60 in the town of Wauzeka.
“If there is a spill, the farm is required to clean it up, period,” he said. “The last thing we’re going to let happen is a spill; I’ll take care of it. The last thing we want to do is beat up the roads. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt this community. I live here. My family lives here. I love this community.”
Roth said that in addition to 20 full-time, good paying jobs, the farm would also bring in $90,000 a year in tax revenue.
“Everyone has an opinion,” he said. “You have one. I have one, and I think this is the best thing for the township.”
Roth wondered, if passed, if a moratorium would even stand up in court.
“A moratorium imposed by a township is very questionable if it’s legal,” he said. “It’s shaky at best. I’ve talked to the DNR about this and they say most of these end up in court. I don’t want to hurt the community, I really don’t. I’m trying to create better jobs so my kids can stay and work here.”
Forest Jahnke of the Crawford Stewardship Project, who had been consulting with the township, said that his research reveals that the town does have the authority to pass a moratorium for up to two years.
“Nothing under two years has been overturned that I know of,” Jahnke said. “We need to take the time and get as much information as we can. We’re lacking the information we need to make good decisions right now.”
After a few more comments the board adjourned to closed session, returning about 15 minutes later for a vote in open session. After Clerk Clifford Monroe read the moratorium in its entirety, the board voted 2-1 to proceed with the one-year moratorium. Chairman Beinborn and Supervisor Eric Sime voted yes, while Supervisor Reggie Lomas voted no.The board will hold its August monthly meeting on Monday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m., at which time it will hear from the newly-formed “Rural Land & Infrastructure Conservation Working Group consisting of the Town Board and resident stakeholders to study the effects of large livestock facilities.”