Residents of the western Minnesota town of Hendricks thought they had won a feedlot war two years ago when they sued to stop a big dairy farm that was being planned just across the border in South Dakota.
They feared that any leak from the farm's huge manure lagoons would run into streams that feed Lake Hendricks, a little gem that they had worked hard to rescue from years of pollution. The lake, which straddles the state line, was once so choked with algae that fishing lures wouldn't sink.
But officials in Brookings County of South Dakota have, for the second time, granted a permit for the 4,000-cow feedlot and members of the Lake Hendricks Improvement Association are contemplating their next step, the Star Tribune reported Monday . Their first lawsuit cost $90,000 and they're short on funds for another fight. Plus they find themselves up against a South Dakota governor who is actively trying to lure dairy farmers with promises of plentiful water, low taxes and light regulation.
"We're essentially back to square one," former mayor Jay Nelson said.
Brookings County has become South Dakota's largest milk-producing county. Officials there say they can protect local water without shutting down an important economic engine. But opponents in Hendricks, home to about 1,100 people, cite calculations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that a farm with 4,000 dairy cows would produce the same volume of waste as a city of 650,000 people.
"If there's a major spill, it's a South Dakota problem for one hour and it's a Minnesota problem for a long period of time," said Tom Landmark, the lake association secretary.
The proposal now heads to South Dakota's Department of Environment and Natural Resources for approval.
Randy Hukriede, feedlot program manager for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said South Dakota's feedlot permitting rules are similar to those in Minnesota.
"We're confident that they have the requirements in place in their permit process to protect the environment," Hukriede said.