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Todd County approves permit for Osakis feedlot

On November 6, with a 3-2 vote, the Todd County Board of Commissioners approved a conditional use permit (CUP) giving the go-ahead for a large feedlot operation near Osakis.

A crowd of about 125 people attended the meeting; some of the crowd overflowed into the hallway.

Before the vote, commissioners took time to hear from people who supported and opposed the project. People who spoke in favor of the project noted that the operation would advance the agricultural industry in Todd County and the applicants had met the project's requirements.

Some people who expressed their opposition noted they're not against this project, rather, its location and proximity to waterways. Plus, others told commissioners that the potential for odor from the feedlot next summer was their main concern.

Gourley Brothers LLC is the applicant for the hog feedlot project. Several of the Gourley family members attended the meeting. They explained to commissioners, and the crowd, that they intend to build a state-of-the-art facility, use feed from local growers, employ local workers and adhere to conditions outlined in the permit.

How commissioners voted

Commissioner Gary Kneisl motioned to approve the CUP and Commissioner Dave Kircher seconded the motion. Commissioners Randy Neumann and Mark Blessing voted no. It was Commissioner Gerry Ruda who cast the third "yes" vote to approve the CUP.

The Todd County Planning and Zoning Board recommended that the county board approve the permit.

The project

The proposed feedlot will house 3,980 hogs on a 10-acre section of land in Leslie Township.

The confinement barn will be 230 feet by 424 feet long and includes plans for a 12-foot deep, below-barn concrete liquid manure storage area with a capacity of 8,750,000 gallons. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), all manure generated at the site will be applied to designated crop land after fall harvest.

Lake Osakis is located approximately 3.6 miles from the proposed livestock facility, and the closest proposed manure application site is about 1.3 miles from the lake, according to the MPCA.

The project's scope required an initial Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) to be completed before construction. The EAW helps determine if the project has the potential for significant environmental impact and addresses concerns with surface water quality, groundwater quality and air quality. As part of a public comment period, the MPCA Citizens' Board was asked to require a more extensive and costly Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the swine barn project. The MPCA board voted against requiring an EIS.

Conditions on the project

The CUP approved by the board puts the following conditions on the feedlot project:

--Meet all MPCA regulations.

--Prepare a stormwater management plan for the site capable of handling a 25-year storm event (4.5 inches rain in 24 hours) and have the plan reviewed and accepted by the Todd County Soil and Water Conservation and Development Division (SWCDD) prior to construction.

--Submit a structural design for animal composting for approval to the Todd County feedlot officer.

--Collect baseline water quality data (nitrate, soluble phosphorus, e-coli) from perimeter tile prior to animals occupying the site and annually thereafter and submitted to MPCA and Todd County feedlot officer.

--Install and maintain a compliant septic system to serve the site and its expected employees.

--Establish a vegetative screen along the east and southern roadways to reduce dust and light impacts.

--Observe proper well setback from feedlot based on well depth.

--Copy Todd County feedlot officer on all reports submitted to MPCA.

--Work with SWCDD to create a plan to ensure that no contaminated water from the facility can get to Dismal Creek.

One condition on the original permit required installation of a bark biofilter, which is designed to reduce projected hydrogen sulfide emissions, or odor. However, there are no installers in the region that could outfit an operation this large. Therefore, the Gourleys have committed to air monitoring at least annually, according to Tim Stieber, SWCDD director.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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