The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) has voted to issue a construction permit for a hog confinement expansion north of Decorah off Locust Road.
Last month, the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to appeal to the EPC the Iowa Department of Natural Resource's decision granting Millennium Agriculture LLC a construction permit for a hog gestation and farrowing operation.
The EPC, a panel of nine, governor-appointed citizens who provide policy oversight for Iowa's environmental protection efforts, held a hearing on the matter Monday. Jerah Sheets, a DNR spokesperson, said after the hearing the Commission voted to issue the permit.
Millennium plans to expand its current confinement animal feeding operation (CAFO) located in Highland Township from three to five buildings, increasing the animal unit capacity (AUC) housed there from 1,111 to 1,666, which equates to a total of 4,165 swine. For swine weighing more than 55 pounds, the DNR multiplies the number of head by 0.4 to determine the AUC.
In August, the supervisors voted unanimously to recommend the DNR deny the permit, but the DNR approved it.
"The Winneshiek Board of Supervisors finds credible and reasonable cause to conclude that the applicant's expansion of confinement feeding operations poses increased threats to the health and safety of Winneshiek County's citizens, their property, natural resources and the environment," the supervisors' resolution requesting the DNR deny the construction permit said.
The Board's resolution also noted the expansion is located in karst terrain in the Bear Creek Watershed, "a coldwater trout fishery of national renown." Karst or fractured limestone topography is vulnerable to groundwater pollution due to the relatively rapid rate of water flow and the lack of a natural filtration system.
In addition, the supervisors' resolution referenced the more than 100 public comments made through mail and e-mail expressing concerns about the adverse effects of the proposed expansion. During a public hearing on the matter, supervisors heard numerous comments from citizens concerned about the detrimental impact the project would have on public health, water and air quality, public recreation, the environment, local property values and the "quiet enjoyment" of their property.
Millennium Ag would have been required to be evaluated under the state's master matrix, if it had been built after 2002. But since its original buildings were constructed in 1998, before the state adopted the requirement, the facility has been "grandfathered through," according to Supervisor Dean Thompson.
The master matrix is a scoring system used to evaluate the siting of CAFOs based on their impact on air, water and community.