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Green Co. livestock study group finalizes recommendations
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MONROE - After a dozen presentations on the quality of groundwater, Green County zoning and the operation of large-scale dairy farms, as well as meetings to discuss these topics since its inception in August, the county Livestock Facility Study group has finalized a report of recommendations for the county board.

The document will be presented to the Green County Board of Supervisors during its meeting May 8.

Eight voting members with the help of advisory experts and facilitator Victoria Solomon, community resource development educator with the county University of Wisconsin-Extension, were placed on a study committee to provide supervisors with science-based recommendations to help protect water and air quality and public health and safety. The Green County Board passed a moratorium, or temporary halt on any animal feedlot permits, to measure the potential impact of livestock facilities on county residents.

There are 24 recommendations being put forward by the study group after two hours of discussion Tuesday during its final meeting. The suggestions are categorized as community mapping and monitoring, best practices and outreach and rules and regulations.

Recommendations call for mapping of "environmentally sensitive areas" and how deep the soil is between the surface and bedrock within the county with the use of the recent groundwater study.

There is also a recommendation to coordinate the data collected through private well tests that would be required every 15 months to establish water quality, which member of the public Craig Edler said seemed unnecessary because farmers are already required to test annually, providing a scattering sample. Fellow member of the public Bethany Storm disagreed.

"Having everybody test on a regular basis is safer," Storm said, adding that if a local lab were set up, the cost and inconvenience currently posed by regular tests would be reduced.

Currently, Green County Health Department Director RoAnn Warden said the public is not notified by letters if a nearby well is found to be contaminated with e. coli, which is one of the recommendations made by the study group. Solomon said the Extension does not report findings to nearby homes either if that type of contamination is identified in well testing done through the system.

One of the recommendations requires any new manure storage applicants to have sufficient funding if pollution needs to be cleaned up or to ensure proper closure of a manure lagoon if it's abandoned or ceases to operate. Another asks the manure storage ordinance permit fee be changed to reflect the number of animals in a proposed facility rather than a set fee.

Other recommendations ask that county officials "engage the state legislature on water and air quality regulations and for more local control on these issues" and that the county "review and update the comprehensive plan," which Zoning Administrator Adam Wiegel and Corporation Counsel Brian Bucholtz noted would be a large and expensive undertaking.

Zoning would also be implemented via ordinances to create districts that would not allow concentrated animal feeding operations in some parts of the county "especially vulnerable based on soil type."

The formation of a study group and implementation of a moratorium was prompted by citizens concerns over an incoming CAFO called Pinnacle Dairy, proposed by the owner of a similar operation east of Janesville called Rock Prairie Dairy, Nebraska native Todd Tuls.

Supervisor Russ Torkelson said during Pinnacle's application process that the cost needed to be evaluated when man-power costs greatly exceeded the fee paid by Tuls, prompting Torkelson's support of a moratorium study.

Pinnacle, which had a conditional permit approved by the Green County Land and Water Conservation Committee just over a year ago, has been building and moving to meet its three conditions, which relate to water drainage near its four manure pits. The large-scale dairy would have 5,800 cows in an enclosed space on 127 acres of land along County FF and Decatur-Sylvester Road in Sylvester township.

Tuls originally submitted an application in August 2015.

Reports relayed from Pinnacle engineers to Green County Conservationist Todd Jenson indicate builders may complete most of the dairy operation by the end of May. Engineers still have not met the final condition requiring specific water elevation near the site's four manure pits but have plans to dig a trench roughly four feet wide and increasingly deep up to 26 feet down to redirect water flowing toward the pits in an effort to meet the condition.

Pinnacle engineers recently withdrew a variance request from the Green County Highway Department to place a temporary driveway 175 feet from the intersection of County FF and Decatur-Sylvester Road. It had been denied by Highway Commissioner Chris Narveson in February because law requires it be at least 250 feet away.

T.J. Tuls, son of Todd Tuls and operator of Rock Prairie, said previously repairs to Decatur-Sylvester Road were planned by Pinnacle engineers as part of an agreement with the town of Sylvester and that the driveway will keep truck traffic off the crumbling roadway while operations continue at Pinnacle. He did not know when roadwork would begin but estimated it to be scheduled during upcoming summer months.

Narveson said Wednesday that Pinnacle intends to place the driveway within the distance dictated by county ordinance.

The recommendations report will be presented to the board, which will then likely accept the report and disseminate different requests to corresponding county departments, Bucholtz said. Board Chair Art Carter, who was present for the meeting, said the departments would evaluate possible changes and recommend new measures to the board for approval at a later date.