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Groups work to tackle siting recs

MONROE — Months of discussions have begun to yield results for Green County committees looking to adopt some of the recommendations made by the county livestock facility study group to the board of supervisors in May. 

One of the groups is the county Land and Water Conservation Committee. Members convened at the United States Department of Agriculture building Oct. 4 for their monthly meeting and spoke with county Zoning Administrator Adam Wiegel about the progress being made by members of the Land Use & Zoning Committee. Wiegel said he attended the meeting to ensure the two committees were “on the same page.”

He said the zoning committee decided against rewriting zoning code as well as the option of reviewing or revising the county comprehensive plan “for a variety of reasons,” but may return to those options in the future. He pointed to cost and time being factors in the process of rewriting the zoning ordinances. If a non-county lawyer were hired to assume the time-consuming task, he said based on examples in other communities it could take up to three years and cost roughly $300,000. 

Change would not be easy, Wiegel said. Roughly 90 percent of Green County is zoned for agricultural use. While members of the Green County Livestock Facility Study Group were brought together to recommend measures to better protect groundwater quality, the committees each have to put forward changes. Wiegel said getting 16 members of the Green County Board of Supervisors, who represent varied constituents throughout the area, to approve those changes could be a challenge. 

Another hurdle will be to address the issue of large-scale farms without much guidance from other municipalities, Wiegel said, noting much of the new county measures are more “copy and paste” than created anew. 

“Whatever we do, we’re going to be starting on our own,” he said, adding that he could not find an example from another county on the subject.

Wiegel added that in order to help the general public understand any changes, the county should utilize language recommendations from Green County Conservationist Todd Jenson if any major changes are made.

Though the group intended to continue discussion of its own set of recommendations to consider, members instead received an outline from Jenson regarding which have been favored, which are still being considered and those which the committee has rejected in initial discussion. 

In the “yes” category, the committee had included an increase in education and outreach to landowners regarding the state manure runoff prediction website, fall cover crops on fields following corn silage and soybeans, establishing best management practices for odor and noise and recommending windbreaks around barnyards and incorporating manure management prohibition into Green County’s storage ordinance. There was also a recommendation not to allow liquid manure application on soil with less than 12 inches to the bedrock, or implement two or more mitigation practices, like limiting solid manure application to 20 tons per acre annually, applying within fewer than 10 days from planting, not applying in fall or applying only solid manure in the spring season or providing a manure treatment. Notes on the outline indicated that 90 percent of farmers would not be affected by the change and that concentrated animal feeding operations, which are regulated because of the number of animals on the property, are already required to do so. They also retained a recommendation which called for increased surface water monitoring near potential impaired waterways, which are already conducted by county and state officials, but could be increased if extra funding could be found.

In the “no” category, the committee included recommendations to allow officials to obtain manure or effluent from any source to identify pollution because the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources already does so and doesn’t require county involvement. The group denied incentives for composting and treating manure should be provided because the Natural Resources Conservation Service already does it, and rejected the idea of revising setback distances for wells from manure storage to keep the setbacks in line with NRCS standards.

They also rejected recommendations such as a requirement for all new or modified manure storage to be double-lined, conducting more land application audits, prohibition of injecting manure lower than 4 inches below the surface of soil and a requirement for an offender to be forced to hire county personnel for a fee if self-monitoring of manure storage is not conducted correctly.

Some recommendations are in-between approval and denial, such as the coordination of well water test results, taken every 15 months, to establish water quality trend data. The outline noted well water tests are not required that often but poor well results could be mapped to create an area of focus, though there would have to be more outreach to property owners to increase awareness of water testing. Another suggested restricting winter spreading from January through March to reduce nutrient runoff. The outline noted that the recommendation is stricter than a nutrient management plan, that the ground may not be frozen during those months, and noted that “restrict winter spreading” should be removed from the language. 

The group plans to discuss all of the measures during its November meeting.