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Landfill and CAFO continue to occupy Crawford County committee
Land Conservation

CRAWFORD COUNTY - The meeting of the Crawford County Land Conservation Committee (LCC) left open the question of whether the Livestock Facility Siting Permit for the Roth Feeder Pigs II (RFPII) hog CAFO is finally approved or not.

In August of 2022, the committee approved the permit contingent upon Wisconsin DNR (WDNR) approval of an updated nutrient management plan (NMP) for the operation.

“The motion made by County Board Chairman Tom Cornford was to approve the county livestock facility siting permit contingent upon the approval by WDNR of the updated NMP,” County Conservation Director Dave Troester pointed out. “Based on his motion, if the NMP is approved by WDNR, then no further action would be required of the committee.”

At the time, the NMP included hundreds of acres supposedly available for manure spreading from the facility that were not, in fact, available. This included an almost 300-acre -parcel in the Plum Creek Watershed that had been purchased by Mycelium, Inc., and placed in a conservation trust agreement with the Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

RFPII’s updated nutrient management plan was due to WDNR by March of 2023, and was submitted in a timely manner. The problem? No new acres were included in the plan to replace the hundreds that had proven unwilling to accept manure from the facility, and the only change was to remove the almost 300 acres owned by Mycelium, Inc. The plan still includes 106 acres that were questionable in the original plan.

NMP approved?

Prior to the meeting, Forest Jahnke of Crawford Stewardship Project (CSP) had shared a screen shot from WDNR’s website for the CAFO indicating that the NMP was “pending approval.”

“I spoke to WDNR’s Tabatha Davis about the updated NMP,” Troester told the committee. “She said the NMP had been reviewed by Erin O’Rourke, who determined that the land base cited in the NMP was sufficient for the facility, but that it was technically not fully approved.”

Troester said that after leaving work on Friday, July 7, he’d received a voicemail message from Davis communicating that the NMP had been “officially approved.” Jahnke told the committee that as of Monday, July 10 (the day before the committee met) it was still listed as “pending approval” on WDNR’s website,

According to Gina Holtz, a communication from WDNR’s Tyler Dix at 2:23 p.m. on Monday, July 10, indicated that the NMP does not yet have final approval.

“Tyler Dix told me via e-mail that WDNR is aware of the problems with RFPII’s NMP, and is working through them,” Holtz told the committee.

Verification of acres

CSP’s Joe Childs said that the solution to discrepancies in the NMP would be for WDNR to require written leases for the manure spreading acres. “It’s a low bar to set for CAFO owners.”

“Frankly, I’m shocked that WDNR is not requiring written verification of spreading acres,” Troester said. “Our ordinance doesn’t have any language requiring written verification.”

Dave Olson, committee chair, commented that “they don’t seem to have really looked into this updated NMP. He asked the committee “do we want to request more information from them?”

Troester said that his impression, though he is not a legal expert, is that asking for more information or requiring written verification of spreading acres would have to be a completely different process.

“I’m afraid if we renege now on the motion we passed last August, there could be problems,” Troester said.

“For WDNR to be so concerned about water quality, it certainly seems strange that they didn’t look into this at all,” Olson said.

Marietta Township farmer Bob Mitchell, who owns a large number of row crop acres included in RFPII’s NMP stated that he has had permission from Adams, the former owner of the 106 acres in question, for spreading manure for 18 years.

“Since he passed, I haven’t been able to talk yet with his son,” Mitchell said. “However, the acres where we spread manure is proprietary producer information.”

Jahnke pointed out that the acres to be used for spreading manure included in an NMP for a CAFO are a matter of public record, and the document is publicly available on WDNR’s website.

Possible action

Committee member Gary Koch, who was the lone ‘nay’ vote on the motion to approve the permit in August of 2022 asked the committee, “do we think that 1,400 acres is enough for the size of operation that AV Roth is proposing?”

“Is it reasonable for the county to ask WDNR for further verification of the spreading acres, given that we hear that the acres listed in the updated NMP are not accurate?” Koch asked.

“The main point is, is it what WDNR requires,” committee member Mary Kuhn stated.

Supervisor Dave Olson pointed out that just because acres are listed in the NMP doesn’t mean that all those acres will actually be available for spreading.

“I think we should at least ask the WDNR if they can further verify the acres,” Koch said.

“Don’t we have to follow our ordinance?” Kuhn asked.

“How are we not following our ordinance?” Koch responded. “We are just asking questions – we aren’t taking any action to approve or deny the permit.”

Koch explained that he feels that asking if the spreading acres have been verified is a fair question.

“My concern is about the water resources in our area, especially with our karst geology,” Koch said. “The geology requires extra due diligence on our part.”

Troester asked the committee if what they wanted was for him to compose a letter to WDNR from the county asking them if they are comfortable with the verification of spreading acres listed in the NMP.

“Will we be holding AV up on building his facility?” Kuhn asked. “We have to operate within the constraints of state law.”

“If WDNR says he can build, then he can,” Olson responded.

The committee agreed that they should take no action on the permit at the meeting, and that Troester should send a letter to WDNR asking them if they think the acres listed in the updated NMP have been sufficiently verified.

Other options

Gary Koch pointed out that, within the constraints of state law, there are things that the county could include in their ordinance that would do more to protect the county’s water.

“Have we updated our water protections for livestock producers in general?” committee member Chad Sime asked.

“We have two ordinances that pertain to livestock producers and manure,” Troester responded. “Those are our manure storage ordinance and our livestock facility siting ordinance.”

Troester pointed out that neither ordinance has been updated in some time. In addition, he reminded the committee that the county had had a CAFO moratorium in place for a year, during which time a CAFO Study Group empanelled by the County Board had met multiple times and generated a 125-page report with eight possible actions for the county to consider.

“There have been no ordinance updates since the moratorium ended,” Troester said.

Kuhn said that any proposed changes to ordinances will take time, and can’t be done overnight. Koch agreed with her.

“There are likely some things that we could do that would affect future permits that would help to protect our water,” Koch said.

Landfill update

In the Land Use portion of the committee meeting, Real Property Lister Gionne Collins updated the committee about WDNR’s questioning their ownership of the property on which the former Bell Center Landfill was located.

“After talking about this with WDNR, I’ve realized that this situation is over my head,” Collins told the committee. “I’ve referred the matter to county corporate counsel Mark Peterson, and he hasn’t gotten back to me.”

Collins said that she had received lots of e-mails about the need to clean up the former landfill site, but that “that is not the issue right now.” She said that she had found an old file in her office containing a letter that stated that WDNR owns the 6.97-acre property.

“It’s been this way on the assessment rolls for a long time now,” Kate Krachey said.

In other business

In other business, the committee:

• heard from Becky Nagel that the Wisconsin Fund, providing financial assistance for income-eligible septic system owners, has been reapproved for another two years

• heard a report from Troester that it is time to update the county’s telecommunications tower ordinance, and that this will be an agenda item for a future committee meeting

• heard from Troester about a permit issue that has been in the courts for a home project in the Ambro, discussed the precedent approving such projects might present, and discussed what kind of ordinance changes could clarify the county’s requirements

• heard that the department is plugging along with cases in the courts for septic system owners who have not responded to county efforts to have their systems inspected, and agreed that the committee should consider a change to their ordinance that would allow more than three citations

• heard from Forest Jahnke that he had contacted the 3M Company a year ago about possible PFAS contamination in the Bell Center and Bridgeport landfills, and that the company had expressed a willingness to pay for water testing

• agreed that this year’s Conservation Awards Ceremony would take place on Thursday, August 24, at 6 p.m., on the County Fairgrounds

• heard from Travis Bunting that he had talked with the contractor and engineer for repairs to the Blackhawk-Kickapoo PL-566 flood control dam on Johnstown Road, and they had agreed to use a heavier pipe in the project, which will increase project costs by $4,000.