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Court fight over local restrictions on large-scale farms

Posted June 12

— A northwestern Wisconsin county plans a court fight to defend a local ordinance that places more restrictions on large-scale farms to protect water quality.

Bayfield County passed an ordinance last year requiring concentrated animal-feeding operations near the South Fish Creek watershed to provide a minimum of 540 days of manure storage. Researchers have discovered that phosphorous levels in the creek exceed the maximum limits under state standards.

But the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources rejected the ordinance, and the county plans to argue its case against the state agency in court next month, Wisconsin Public Radio (http://bit.ly/2rnkNPB ) reported.

Iowa-based Reicks View Farms has proposed building a farm for about 26,000 hogs near South Fish Creek. The farm is expected to produce around 10 million gallons of manure every year.

County officials hope that additional requirements for large farms will avoid worsening water quality issues form farm runoff.

The state attorney general's office said in court documents filed in the fall that the ordinance doesn't provide reductions for existing phosphorus sources. The state argues that's where the county should focus.

In a response filed in May, Bayfield County Attorney Linda Coleman argued the department couldn't "rightfully argue that preventative regulations are unnecessary to achieve water quality" when the department also employs a proactive approach.

Oral arguments are scheduled for July 10 in Washburn.

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