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Clean water, feedlots and the Prairie Lakes Farms, LLC ad

To the editor:

The good people of Douglas County are proud and protective of the county’s clean rivers, lakes and wetlands. Clean water will always be a huge part of the county’s economy. Water and agriculture work together for the economic good of the county.

Douglas County ordinance requires a half-mile setback from protected waters to site a feedlot. April-June rainfall in Alexandria was 160 percent of normal, which is a consideration in setback evaluation.

Prairie Lakes Farms LLC (PLF) wants to site a feedlot with 800-1,000 animals less than a half-mile from the Chippewa River to the west and less than a half-mile from Long Lake to the east. Both are protected waters. PLF is suing Douglas County, which said no to the variance request.

People in the cattle business say that a 900 pound animal produces approximately 60 pounds of manure each day, so 1,000 animals equals 60,000 pounds of manure each day and nearly 22 million pounds/year. Proper manure management requires advanced technical and managerial skills.

PLF’s press release and full-page ad in this newspaper are colorful and clever. But this should be about protected water. And, is the matter legislative or judicial? The people of Douglas County protect their water resources through local ordinances administered by the County Board of Adjustment, not the courts.

Increasingly, intense and extreme rainfall events are occurring. Saturated soils attract more rain. A feedlot with 800-1,000 animals is not without risk. Building a facility to contain 60,000 pounds of manure each day requires a high level of technical and managerial expertise. Building such a facility within reach of not one but two protected bodies of Douglas County waters seems dangerous. What happens if manure management is unmanageable? Who pays if it goes wrong? How much? Is it worth the risk?