Public questions Lake City dairy expansion

September 28, 2018

LAKE CITY — How the expansion of a Wabasha County dairy would impact water near the farm was the main concern brought forth during a public hearing hosted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Brian and Ashley Yotter, owners of Scotch Prairie Farms LLC, plan to triple the size of their existing dairy operation in West Albany Township, about 8 miles south of Lake City.

The current operation includes 600 mature dairy cows, 141 dairy heifers and 300 dairy calves for a total of 998.7 animal units. The expansion would extend those numbers another 1,385 mature dairy cows, 159 dairy heifers and 500 dairy calves — or 2,150 more animal units — for a total of 3,149.

George Meyer, who lives east of the dairy, said the expansion will jeopardize his health and his water supply.

“I’m requesting right now ... we put an extension on this and hold a public hearing so further review can take place,” Meyer said.

The Sept. 17 meeting was designed as a forum where residents could give their input on the environmental assessment worksheet presented by the MPCA. The MPCA is in a 30-day comment period on the worksheet. Once that period closes Oct. 3, the MPCA plans to answer questions and concerns brought forth, and determine whether the project gets permitted or a more stringent environmental impact statement is ordered.

The environmental assessment worksheet both outlines the animal expansion of the project, the new buildings to be constructed — including several barn extensions, new barns, new underground concrete liquid manure storage pits, and milking parlors — and a new manure management plan that includes more than 1,600 acres for spreading the increased amount of manure.

Nancy Drach, a project manager with the MPCA, said the dairy has plans for spreading the more than 20 million gallons of liquid manure, which includes manure, dairy waste, wash water and other waste, on farms in three different townships.

The dairy would spread manure five days in the spring and 45 days in the fall, she said.

The project also would require a new well to supply water for the cattle and for the dairy operation.

“Cathy Rofshus, a public information officer with the MPCA, said the agency is just one of several governmental bodies that will need to sign off on the project. Others include the Department of Natural Resources, which would permit the new well, and Wabasha County, which would need to approve a conditional-use permit for the dairy expansion.

Also included in the environmental assessment worksheet is an air quality modeling report. That report, Drach said, shows that even on the worst potential day around the dairy, the air quality — measured in parts per billion of hydrogen sulfide — would not exceed state standards.

“The EAW is an information gathering tool,” Drach said. “It is not an endorsement, approval or rejection of a project. We’re trying to put together various potential impacts and we’re asking people what’s not in there.”

Meyer, who called the family-owned farm a factory farm, said, “When the factory farms come in, they ruin the family farms.”

Brian Yotter said the expansion was a necessity for this dairy operation. “For the future of the family farm, he said, “this is what we feel we need to move forward.”

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