Within the last day or two, the New Ulm Journal and other southern Minnesota media have printed a release from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) giving notice that the period for public comment is open for a 3000-cow dairy proposed for rural Nicollet County.
The dairy will be owned by Davis Family Dairies, LLC.; the Davis family also owns cheesemakers Davisco Foods (cheesemaking plants in LeSueur, MN; Lake Norden, SD, and Jerome, ID) and Cambria USA, which makes countertops from quartz, as well as Cambria Mortgage. The Davis family, which bought Sun Country Airlines in 2011, contributed $150,000 to MN Forward in 2010 and has generously funded Republican candidates for many years.
In MPCA seeks comments on proposed Nicollet County dairy, New Ulm Journal readers learn:
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) invites public comment until 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 25 on an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) being prepared for a proposed 3,000-cow dairy northwest of St. Peter.
High Island Dairy LLC, owned by Davis Family Dairies, LLC, proposes to build a total confinement barn off 348th Street, about two-thirds of a mile southwest of County Road 8 in Lake Prairie Township.
The facility would use anaerobic digestion to break down manure and waste water along with waste water and sludge from the Le Sueur Cheese Co. The process would create methane gas to use as energy at the site.
After digestions, manure solids would be separated from the waste stream and used as cow bedding. Liquid manure and solids not needed for bedding would be stored in a covered, earthen basin on site until it is applied as fertilizer to cropland annually after harvest.
The dairy would generate 32.85 million gallons of manure a year. The on-site basin would have 15 months of storage capacity for manure and waste water.
Based on a computer modeling study, the dairy, which would use 45 million gallons of water a year, would comply with state air quality standards, with odors considered faint to moderate. There are 13 homes located within a mile of the proposed facility.
Some tile drainage and treated storm water from the site would discharge to Judicial Ditch 13, then to the Rush River.
Comments and questions on the EAW may go to Charles Peterson, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Rd. N., St. Paul, MN 55155. Call 651-757-2856 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Permit comments on a discharge/disposal permit must be given in writing to George Schwint at George.email@example.com
According to Davisco's website, the company currently runs two dairies, both in Nicollet County: the Northern Plains Dairy (3000 head) and the New Sweden Dairy (4500 head); In December, Nicollet County approved a conditional use permit for the Granby Calf Ranch, LLC., which would house 4,320-head dairy heifer calves for six months before they are sent to an Iowa location.
KEYC reported in Proposed Dairy Facility Could Generate Millions for Local Economy:
Although there is not much activity going on right now, by next summer this land could be the home to 3,000 dairy cows, which would generate over millions of dollars for the local economy. But before they can move forward, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will take public comments until July 25th before they can issue a permit.
Chuck Peterson from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says, "We have worked with the Davis's on several project in the past and haven't had many issues. I haven't heard from anyone at this point so I don't believe that there is going to be much controversy at this time."
Peterson's remarks are rather curious, since the MPCA fined Northern Plains Dairy $7500 for a feedlot violation earlier this spring; the facility is one of the Davis Family Dairies. (The MPCA web site is down as Bluestem writes this, so we do not know the details about what the violation might entail, nor can we review and comment on the pending project for the moment).
Moreover, Northern Plains Dairy was the subject of quite the row between Gustavus Adolphus College and citizens of St. Peter when it was first proposed just a couple miles west of campus and the edge of town. A historical note for the GAC college archives item, The Conflict Files between Gustavus Adolphus College and Northern Plains Dairy, 1995-2001, reports:
In 1997, Northern Plains Dairy, a feedlot for 2,500 head of cattle, was proposed to be built in Oshawa Township, within 2.5 miles of the Gustavus Adolphus Campus. Gustavus did not want the feedlot so close to the campus because they were worried about the impact of odors on the Gustavus community, so they sued the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) stating that more environmental impact studies needed to be completed first. In 2000 a settlement was reached. Northern Plains Dairy agreed not to build the dairy at the proposed site, and Gustavus agreed to provide $15,000 for additional expert assistance to the MPCA and Northern Plains Dairy to develop an appropriate application of state-of-the-art animal waste treatment technology. Northern Plains Dairy built its feedlot 4.5 miles southwest of St. Peter in Oshawa Township, and it includes 3,000 head of cattle and an anaerobic bacteria digester system that combats the odor produced by the feedlot and creates methane gas which is harnessed to power the dairy.
The dairy is situated in the third location proposed for it.
But other than at least one fine, contentious grassroots organizing and a lawsuit, perhaps Peterson is dead on about Davis operations never disturbing the living stream
Bluestem is very curious about the plan to bring "waste water and sludge from the Le Sueur Cheese Company" to the dairy, but since the MPCA's website is down, we'll just have to remain curious until the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) becomes available. How are the waste water and cheese sludge treated and disposed of now?
Photo: Brown Swiss and Holstein milk cows at the Northern Plains Dairy.