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Sylvester calls for licenses for large dairies
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Editor's note: This story contains corrected information from the version originally posted online.

TOWN OF SYLVESTER - Licenses for new or expanding farms of 500 cows or more are now required in the Town of Sylvester after recommendations to restrict manure transport and spreading locations from the town science committee were adopted by the board Monday night.

The science committee, made up of local scientists with backgrounds in ecology, hydrogeology, environmental biology and other areas, was established by the town board after a moratorium was passed on large-scale livestock facilities in September. Owners of the Rock Prairie Dairy in Janesville submitted an application to build a similar 5,000-cow dairy over 127 acres along County FF and Decatur-Sylvester Road. Following the introduction of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation to the area, residents created an ordinance to allow for a period of time to study the effects of a large-scale dairy on public health. The moratorium officially ends March 31.

On Jan. 18, the science committee presented its findings to the town board and proposed amendments to the existing ordinance put in place at the end of September. All recommendations were adopted in their entirety. In the ordinance amendments, the town noted specifically that the Town of Sylvester has a vulnerability to groundwater contamination, especially from large amounts of nitrate. Evaluation of a groundwater contamination susceptibility map showed the committee that roughly 85 percent of Green County groundwater is susceptible and that 75 percent of sections of the groundwater "demonstrate significant risk" for contamination.

Jen Riemer, a member of the science committee and neighbor to the proposed site of Pinnacle Dairy, was glad to see five months of research applied into a local law.

"It's great. We're glad to see it actually get used," Riemer said. "They asked us to find scientifically defensible ordinances and that's what we spent a lot of effort doing and they recognize its value."

Riemer said the mapping of the springs and the wetlands were of particular importance because those areas are most susceptible to contamination. Before the effort by Riemer and Green County Defending our Farmland, there were no local laws put in place to address the addition of CAFOs on township land.

"There are going to be big farms coming in all different places," Riemer said. "It just really came to the township's attention that they need to do something. More and more communities and counties and townships are realizing that everybody needs to get on board."

Leah Ziemba, attorney for the Tuls family which is proposing the large-scale Pinnacle Dairy, and future manager of the facility, Parker Tuls, attended the meeting. Ziemba said the family did not have a comment in reaction to the license applications requirements because they did not apply to Pinnacle; however, both Riemer and Sylvester Town Chair Anna Anderson said the requirements do apply because Pinnacle did not submit a complete application before the moratorium ordinance was put in place. Pinnacle is still attempting to finalize plans with both the township and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Licenses will be approved upon the condition of a designated administrator. Anderson said the board is in the process of reviewing a handful of individuals for the position, but it still has not decided who it will be.

In order to apply for a license, a farm owner must produce maps indicating where manure will be spread. These maps must 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 must not be within 350 feet of a property line. Applicants will have to show maps of the locations of each parcel of land they wish to spread manure on and provide documents proving the land is able to accommodate the amount specified in the nutrient management plan. They also have to map where water will be reintroduced to any springs on the property utilizing scientifically acceptable methods and confirmed with water testing supported by a registered Wisconsin hydrogeologist and senior ecologist.

Soil sampling has 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.