Bluestem's coverage of the Fillmore County citizens fight to stop the creation of a huge hog factory farm in Southeast Minnesota's sensitive karst country has been followed by people engaged the struggle.
A reader forwarded an email the MPCA planner involved in the project, noting that concerns raised about soil collapse have prompted the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to postpone a decision on whether to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):
From: "Peterson, Charles V (MPCA)" [email redacted]
Date: August 6, 2018 at 1:45:28 PM CDT
Subject: Postpone decision on need for EIS for Catalpa Ag, LLC EAW
Pursuant to Minn. R. 4410.1700 Subp. 2a.B. the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is providing this e-mail as written notification that the MPCA and the Project Proposer have agreed to postpone the decision on the need for an EIS for the Catalpa Ag, LLC EAW to August 31, 2018 to gather additional reasonably obtained information.
The MPCA received comments regarding the vulnerability of geologic setting of the Project to possible soil collapse. The MPCA does not have sufficient information to assess those potential impacts. Consequently, the MPCA is postponing the decision gather necessary information regarding the subsurface bedrock by requesting an Electrical Resistivity Imaging (ERI) beneath the proposed barns.
Resource Management and Assistance Division
Note that the name of the project is now Catalpa AG LLC. While earlier paperwork on the factory farm project from April refers to Catalpa LLC, that name was already in use by another person for a project unrelated to agribusiness. In a phone interview, Peterson said that the lawyer hired by the shareholders had gotten ill and so routine checks for the availability of a business name had not been conducted at the time the paperwork was filed with the MPCA.
At a June 19 meeting held by the agency in Mabel--the best attended meeting of its kind in the MPCA's history, according to the Fillmore County Journal report Citizens advocate for EIS on proposed hog feedlot in Fillmore County--activist Loni Kemp raised a question of ownership:
Loni, two miles from proposed project, asked who is Catalpa LLC? Who is responsible for compliance?
Dan Dykstra, assistant general manager of Waukon Feed Ranch, Inc., stepped forward to answer those questions. Waukon Feed Ranch provides agricultural products and services which include swine management. Catalpa LLC is majority owned by Al Hein’s family. The site of the facility is below his home. Minority share holders include the Feed Ranch which is being hired by Catalpa as a general contractor and to manage the facility. Holden Farms provides the sows and contracts Waukon Feed Ranch and/or Catalpa to raise their pigs. The baby pigs are to be weaned at 22 days and shipped into the Holden Farms system. They are not to be finished near the sow facility in order to maintain biosecurity.
According to the Secretary of State's office, Catalpa Ag LLC filed its with the very next day. Nonetheless, news reports continued to call the project Catalpa LLC. One example is the Bluff Country News article, Fillmore County farmer sets record straight about proposed sow facility.
Apparently not so much about the legal name of his hog operation, though that headline suggests everything's rock solid in karst country.
We'll continue to follow this project. For earlier reporting on Bluestem at the issue, check out:
Photo: Whirlpools near Fillmore County's Niagara Cave during a heavy rain in June. While this might not have too much to do with sinkholes and soil collapse, Bluestem suspect might be a budding visual metaphor for the regulatory process in Fillmore County. Screenshot of cool video by Rick Hansen via twitter.
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