The Linn County Board of Supervisors made it official on Wednesday and voted to appeal a preliminary decision by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to grant a construction permit for a hog confinement facility east of Center Point.
The supervisors’ vote was 3-1, though Supervisor Linda Langston said Tuesday that she agreed with the majority, but had a conflict and would not be able to attend Wednesday’s meeting to cast a vote.
Supervisor Ben Rogers said he backs the appeal to the state’s Environmental Protection Commission because it will give neighbors opposed to the confinement operation “one final say, one final avenue” to voice their objections.
Supervisor John Harris said the proposed confinement facility is in his supervisor district, where he said calls and emails to him have been running 4 to 1 against farmer Matt Ditch’s plans to expand his father’s 300-hog nursery into an operation that will feed 4,160 market hogs at a time.
“I feel obligated to represent my constituents,” Harris said.
Supervisor Brent Oleson, who voted against the appeal and in June also was the lone supervisor to vote against sending a letter to the DNR in opposition to Ditch’s plans, said he supports the other confinement operations in the county, and so it would be unfair to Ditch not to support his. Ditch has complied with Iowa law, he said.
At the same time, Oleson told neighbors at Wednesday’s meeting who oppose Ditch’s plan that he was not “immune to the frustration you must have” with the prospect of a confinement operation coming to their part of the county. However, Oleson said the neighbors should ask Iowa lawmakers to change state law.
Neighbors opposed to the project say the expanded confinement operation will smell, pollute waterways and hurt their property values.
Wally Taylor, a Cedar Rapids lawyer who is representing some of the neighbors, told the supervisors that he still believes that Ditch’s confinement proposal does not quality under Iowa law to be considered an expansion of an existing facility. Ditch’s proposal would face a more rigorous environmental review if Taylor’s argument prevails.
The county has until Sept. 28 to file its appeal with the state commission.
Ditch has retooled an earlier proposal, which called for a confinement operation with 5,661 hogs at 4853 West Otter Rd., Center Point.
Ditch also has told the supervisors and neighbors that he will employ an odor-control system at the confinement building, will plant trees around it and will inject the hog manure into farm fields and not spread it on top of fields.
Linn County has 16 hog confinement facilities, 14 with manure management plans, the DNR has reported.