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Bayfield County, DNR In Settlement Talks Over CAFO Ordinance

County: Court Date Postponed While Talks Are Ongoing

L.G. Patterson/AP Photo

Bayfield County officials say they’ve begun formal settlement talks with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources over an ordinance that would go beyond state standards for large farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

The two are at odds over the ordinance and were set to defend their positions in Bayfield County Circuit Court on Monday, but settlement discussions have postponed the court date.

The county passed its South Fish Creek ordinance last year to protect water quality by placing more restrictions on large-scale farms that locate in the South Fish Creek Watershed, which flows into a bay of Lake Superior. Iowa-based Reicks View Farms has proposed building a farm upstream for around 26,000 hogs.

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“The Bayfield County Large Scale Livestock Committee worked hard to develop a plan above and beyond the requirements of the DNR to protect our unique water resources and environment,” said Bayfield County Board Chairman Dennis Pocernich in a news release. “I feel the DNR wants to help and support us in this and that’s why I want to support further negotiations before we go to court.”

Water resources are “critical” to the county, Bayfield County Administrator Mark Abeles-Allison said.

“We think that we have some geological conditions, some soil conditions, climate conditions that are not the same as the rest of the state because of our proximity to Lake Superior,” he said.

Abeles-Allison said they’re hopeful a settlement can be reached that protects water quality.

“We need to see what that’s going to look like, if the compromises are something we can live with or not,” Abeles-Allison said.

The county is making progress in talks with the DNR “that would allow the county to surpass state standards in South Fish Creek in certain respects,” according to the news release.

Abeles-Allison declined to offer specifics on what aspects of the ordinance may be allowed by the agency except to say all of its key provisions are up for negotiation.

The county wants CAFOs to store manure longer, restrict winter spreading, create three spreading windows, prevent spreading 48 hours before a forecasted rain event and set a lower phosphorus index for water running off lands within the watershed.

The DNR rejected the county’s ordinance last year because the agency said it doesn’t address excess phosphorus in the watershed from existing sources. A DNR spokesman declined to comment on the discussions. The agency has allowed Manitowoc County to go beyond state standards to protect water quality.

A spokesman with Reicks View Farms has declined to weigh in on the county’s ordinance.

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