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Pocahontas Co. tried to rescind support for new CAFOs

By Staff | Dec 8, 2016

ROLFE – After supporting the expansion of a hog confinement in northeast Pocahontas County in October, the county board of supervisors tried – and failed – to rescind its decision.

The Pocahontas County board changed its position after rescoring the project based on the state master matrix.

The new score was 200 points lower than the original score.

Letter received too late

To complicate the matter, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said it never received the original recommendation from the board.

The DNR, which makes the final decision on such confinement permits, had given the Pocahontas supervisors a 30-day extension on the original filing, which meant there was a 60-day window in which to file.

It was a week after that 60-day window closed that the Pocahontas supervisors asked to rescind the original recommendation, which was mailed but apparently never received.

Sidelined supervisors

The DNR granted the farm’s application on Nov. 30, and removed Pocahontas County’s ability to officially make recommendations for the remainder of 2016.

The county can reapply to be part of the matrix program in January 2017, said Cindy Garza, DNR environmental engineer.

The application was from Crown Farm Partners IV Inc. for the Martin Finisher site, which has three existing barns.

Crown sought to build two new ones, according to documents provided by Pocahontas County Auditor Margene Bunda. They will expand the site’s total capacity from 4,450 to 7,490 hogs.

In a document, Pocahontas County alleges Crown Farm did not score enough points on the master matrix for approval of the expansion.

The company’s self-reported matrix score was 445 points, according to Bunda. The supervisors originally approved that score. But later rescored and examined the site, ultimately taking off 200 points.

This left a score of 245. A total of 440 is needed to pass the matrix.

“As we learned, went out did some additional measuring, perhaps some of the distances were not quite what they should have been, or were different than what they indicated on their plan,” Bunda said.

The supervisors said the company failed to provide detailed design and operations plans for some features, as would be required in order to get points in the matrix, according to Bunda.

“Then to top it off there was a huge spill on this particular farm as well,” Bunda said. “There was a lot of stuff on our roadways. Our Secondary Roads had to go out and clean the road off.”

Minutes from a Nov. 1 supervisors meeting indicate an “incident over the weekend” left a large amount of mud on the road from a manure hauler. The mud was graded to the side of the road and had to be removed.

But Nov. 1 was far past the board’s deadline to issue a recommendation on the permit, Garza said.

Garza said there was a dumping incident in Pocahontas County which will likely lead to an enforcement action, but that was done by a contractor, not by the site in question.

“That was not tied back to the facility, that was only the applicator,” she said. “That happened Oct. 31.”

That manure didn’t reach a “water of the state,” she added.

The DNR received the permit application for the Martin site on Aug. 23, Garza said.

On Aug. 29 a specialist visited the site for an inspection, she said.

The county’s recommendation was due to the DNR in 30 days, which would have been Sept. 23, Garza said.

The 30-day extension moved the deadline to Oct. 23, according to Garza.

On Oct. 26, the county said its recommendation was in the mail.

Then, on Nov. 9, a supervisor called and asked the recommendation be rescinded, Garza said.

The Martin Finisher application was unanimously approved Oct. 25 by the Board of Supervisors, according to meeting minutes.

“The waterway distance has been confirmed by the DNR,” the minutes state.

Nov. 1 meeting minutes indicate the board wanted the DNR to re-evaluate the site, and to respond to concerns from neighbors.

Any county which doesn’t respond in a timely manner loses the ability to issue recommendations on hog confinements for that year, Garza said.

She regularly has to remind counties of this to ensure work is turned in on time, she said.

“Because the Pocahontas County Board of Supervisors did not timely submit an adopted recommendation regarding the Martin Finisher Farm application, the department is required by its own rules to disregard any adopted recommendation from Pocahontas County,” she wrote in a Nov. 30 letter to the supervisors, “including the recommendation for the Martin Finisher Farm application, until the next matrix enrollment period.

“For future master matrix participation when the 30 day deadline is near, we recommend faxing or emailing your recommendation to the department rather than relying on mail service.”

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