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Livestock ordinance is under review
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TOWN OF SYLVESTER - The Sylvester township board may have to extend its 6-month moratorium on large-scale livestock facilities if the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection takes longer than seven days to review the township's livestock ordinance.

At a township meeting Monday, Sylvester town chairwoman Anna Anderson said DATCP had initially said the board would simply have to file the township's livestock ordinance with the state. Now, the township has learned it is required to submit the ordinance for review.

The moratorium was put in place at the end of September. It expires on March 31, but can be extended up to another six months. Sylvester township has scheduled another meeting for Monday, and Anderson hopes the review of the livestock ordinance will be done by then. If not, the moratorium will have to be extended.

The livestock ordinance put in place by the Sylvester township board at the recommendation of the town's science committee, which was established after the moratorium was enacted to give the township time to examine the issue. The committee's purpose was to study the potential impact of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations on land in Sylvester township.

The concern arose after Todd Tuls applied to build a 5,800-cow dairy farm, called Pinnacle Dairy, over 127 acres of land along County FF and Decatur-Sylvester Road. Tuls owns an identical dairy in Rock County east of Janesville. Some residents in the Sylvester township area said large-scale dairies such as the Pinnacle project are harmful to the environment, particularly ground water, and could hurt surrounding farmland values.

Once the moratorium has ended and the livestock ordinance is in effect, the law will apply to any new large-scale facilities that want to build within the township.

The committee recommended a number of guidelines, including an application process at the local level, in its findings presented to the township board on Jan. 18. The board officially adopted the livestock ordinance with the amendments on Feb. 15.

In the ordinance amendments, the town noted specifically that Sylvester township has a vulnerability to groundwater contamination, especially from large amounts of nitrates. Evaluation of a groundwater contamination susceptibility map showed that roughly 85 percent of Green County groundwater is susceptible and that 75 percent of sections of the groundwater "demonstrate significant risk" for contamination, the committee said.

In order to apply for a license, an farm owner must produce maps indicating where manure will be spread. Maps will have to be updated and submitted annually. Applicants also must adhere to property line limitations, with livestock structures a minimum of 100 feet from the property line and waste storage structures at least 350 feet from a property line. Applicants will have to show maps of each parcel of land they wish to spread manure on and provide documents proving the land can accommodate the amount specified in the nutrient management plan. They also have to map, utilizing scientifically acceptable methods and confirmed with water testing supported by a registered Wisconsin hydrogeologist and senior ecologist, where water will be reintroduced to any springs on the property.

Soil sampling will have to be conducted to provide a baseline and no manure can be applied to land beyond 80 percent of its nutrient-load capacity. Soil samples have to be taken again within four years of the first applied manure. No hoses or pipes to transport manure will be allowed in or across the township rights-of-way. The Town of Sylvester is also required to notify adjacent landowners of any large-scale dairy applications and host a public hearing to gain input from residents and the applicant.

Jen Riemer, who founded Green County Defending our Farmland in opposition to the Pinnacle Dairy project, lives across the road from the proposed building site. She was part of the group which drafted the moratorium ordinance in Sylvester township and later became a part of the science committee. Riemer said it was frustrating to see the ordinance the committee worked to draft stalled by a review, but acknowledged that "things take time." She also said she was confident she and the science committee members presented an ordinance which the local government is within bounds to institute.

"I know what we've done is pretty solid, so if they have to modify something it should be minor," Riemer said. "We made sure that what we included in our recommendations was within the rights of the township."

Anderson said the town board hopes to not only adopt the ordinance next week, but also to appoint an administrator. The Large-Scale Livestock Facility Siting Administrator will serve as a regulator to large dairies and monitor area CAFO operations for anything that may violate local law. The board was considering "a handful" of individuals for the position in February, but Anderson said it will not appoint anyone to the position until it gets an approval from DATCP.