Bitter battle over trout stream and planned cattle operation lands in court

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The Sierra Club of Iowa is suing the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Supreme Beef over a feedlot project to house 11,600 head of cattle.

The lawsuit, filed in Iowa District Court for Clayton County Thursday, alleges that Supreme Beef’s proposed new concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, in Clayton County uses a nutrient management plan based on incorrect data and incorrect calculations.

The Sierra Club says that because the DNR refused to reconsider its decision approving the transaction, even after the data issues were brought to the agency’s attention, it is now forced to sue the agency in justice.

“Despite numerous comments from over 100 individuals and groups, the DNR blatantly violated its own rules and Iowa law when approving the nutrient management plan,” said Wally Taylor, councilor. legal from the Sierra Club of Iowa. “The DNR has failed to protect the water in Iowa. This is their job. We need to set a strong precedent that we expect the DNR to do its job. “

The planned operation in Clayton County has been the source of considerable controversy. It is said to be one of the largest animal feed operations in Iowa and is located near Bloody Run Creek, a trout stream clean enough that the state has declared it one of 35 streams. exceptional state – a designation that is supposed to result in additional protection.

The DNR, however, is now accused of giving in to political pressure by approving Supreme Beef’s nutrient management plan.

Senator Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, contacted the DNR on behalf of Supreme Beef, according to the email records. One of the company’s executives, Jared Walz, is married to Zumbach’s daughter, Chelsea. Additionally, Becky Sexton of Twin Lakes Environmental Services wrote to a local MNR office worker on behalf of Supreme Beef during the approval process. Sexton is married to Representative Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, and the two founded Twin Lakes. Representative Sexton sits on the House Environmental Protection and Agriculture committees.

“Bloody Run Creek is ‘exceptional Iowa water’,” said Steve Veysey, organizer of the Committee to Save Bloody Run. He said Iowa has laws about siting manure lagoons in the type of land that is on the CAFO site. “The MNR approved it anyway. For my part, I would like to know why.

To function, Supreme Beef had to develop a nutrient management plan approved by MNR demonstrating that farm manure would be applied to cultivated fields at a level that would avoid runoff into streams and rivers.

The Sierra Club of Iowa submitted comments to the DNR challenging Supreme Beef’s plan, arguing that it was relying on flawed data and miscalculated how much manure could be applied to cultivated fields.

Among the many alleged miscalculations: The Sierra Club claims Supreme Beef has so underestimated the amount of manure that the farm will produce that there are 1.3 million pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus that are “no.” counted ”. The club also alleges that 98% of planned manure fields are on highly erodible land, and that manure should not be applied to sloping fields without any soil erosion control practices in place.

The MNR approved the Nutrient Management Plan for Supreme Beef in early April. In the court application filed Thursday, lawyers for the Sierra Club argue that it is the state agency’s responsibility to properly enforce regulations related to environmental risks associated with animal feed operations. “Unfortunately, the IDNR often shies away from its duty,” the petition says. “This case is a tragic example.”

According to the Sierra Club, there were only five feed operations in Clayton County in 1990, and today there are 116, with a total of over 100,000 animals.

The DNR and Supreme Beef have yet to file a response to the lawsuit.

The Sierra Club of Iowa is the state’s largest environmental nonprofit, and supports political candidates, engages in lobbying work with volunteers on issues affecting the environment.


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