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DNR director urged to reconsider feedlot

State code allows review of feedlots near sensitive waters or on porous land

By Erin Jordan, The Gazette Environmental groups are asking Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Kayla Lyon to use her discretion to overrule a project to put 11,600 cattle near a northeast Iowa trout stream.

The Sierra Club Iowa Chapter and the Iowa Environmental Council were joined by nine Iowa Democratic elected officials, community groups and residents in the letter opposing the Supreme Beef animal feeding operation.

“Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a duty to protect Iowa water and landscapes from contamination that threatens public health and livelihoods,” states the letter, sent Monday. “Some agricultural operations subject to DNR’s permitting authority must be restricted from areas where the risk posed to water quality and the environment is just too high.”

The letter is the latest effort of the groups to halt the Supreme Beef animal feeding operation near Monona. The Iowa DNR approved the feedlot’s nutrient management plan April 2, despite dozens of letters and public comments against the proposal.

The groups are asking Lyon to authorize a “departmental evaluation” of the feedlot proposal, which would provide for special protection of environmentally sensitive areas. This review, authorized by Chapter 65 of the Iowa Administrative Code, could consider the feedlot’s proximity to “trout streams and karst terrain,” as well as the potential for manure to run into waterways.

The feedlot is in the watershed of Bloody Run Creek, a popular trout stream considered an Outstanding Iowa Water, as are several fields where Supreme Beef will apply manure. The Driftless area of northeast Iowa is known for its limestone bluffs and porous topography.

The letter has a diverse mix of co-signers, including environmental groups (Food & Water Watch, Iowa Environmental Law and Policy Center); outdoor recreation enthusiasts (Trout Unlimited chapters, Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association); and agriculture groups (Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture).

Lyon has been aware of the project at least since last fall, when Supreme Beef first tried to get approval for the 11,600-head facility. The DNR approved only 2,750 cows at that time.

Sen. Dan Zumbach, RRyan, whose son-in-law, Jared Walz, is one of the Supreme Beef owners, contacted Lyon about the project in early October. He told The Gazette earlier this month he was not attempting to pressure the agency to approve the larger facility, but just to get the “right folks” at the DNR in contact with Walz.

If Lyon declines to overrule the DNR’s April 2 decision on Supreme Beef’s nutrient management plan, environmental groups could consider filing a lawsuit.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

MONONA

C.R. I.C.

The Supreme Beef feedlot, near Monona, is seen from Highways 18 and 52. On the right is the plastic-lined basin that will hold manure from 11,600 cattle. Environmental groups are asking the director of the Department of Natural Resources to overrule a decision to allow the project, which is near a trout stream. (Larry Stone)

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