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Bayfield County To Defend CAFO Ordinance In Court

Oral Arguments Set For July 10 In Bayfield County Court

Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

Bayfield County will argue its case against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in court next month. The two are at odds over a county ordinance that would place more restrictions on large-scale farms to protect water quality there.

The county passed its South Fish Creek ordinance last year, which goes beyond state standards for regulating concentrated animal feeding operations, also known as CAFOs. The ordinance would require CAFOs that locate near the South Fish Creek watershed to provide a minimum of 540 days of manure storage.

Iowa-based Reicks View Farms has proposed building a farm upstream for about 26,000 hogs that is expected to produce around 10 million gallons of manure each year.

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County officials are proposing additional requirements for large farms to avoid exacerbating water quality issues from farm runoff due in part to the region’s clay soils. In the last several years, researchers discovered phosphorous levels for South Fish Creek exceeded maximum limits under state standards.

The Wisconsin DNR rejected the county’s ordinance last year. The two parties have been trying to reach common ground. However, Bayfield County Attorney Linda Coleman said negotiations broke down this spring.

“The DNR filed a response through their attorneys, and we have filed our reply brief. All briefs are in, and the next step is oral arguments in front of the Bayfield County Court,” she said.

The DNR declined to comment. However, state Attorney General Brad Schimel and Assistant Attorney General David Ross responded in court documents last fall that Bayfield County is aiming at the wrong target.

“(T)he Ordinance that Bayfield claims is necessary to achieve water quality standards provides zero phosphorous reductions from existing sources identified by Bayfield as the source of nutrient loading in South Fish Creek. To achieve water quality standards in the watershed, the county should address existing phosphorus discharges,” wrote attorneys for the agency.

Bayfield County submitted a response to the court in May, countering the agency’s reasoning behind denial of the ordinance.

“In the interim, Bayfield County seeks only to adopt the same approach as the state does in NR 243, which is to set forth standards for CAFOs that will prevent the existing impairment from getting worse,” wrote Coleman. “The DNR cannot rightfully argue that preventative regulations are unnecessary to achieve water quality when the DNR itself employs the same proactive approach via NR 243.”

Gene Noem, spokesman for Reicks View Farms, declined to comment on the county’s ordinance and pending litigation. Oral arguments have been scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, July 10, at the Bayfield County Courthouse in Washburn.