MPCA Failure to Order In-depth Environmental Review of Massive Winona County Dairy Expansion to be Challenged in Court

Science & Public Record Ignored by MPCA’S Failure to Order EIS on Daley Mega-Dairy Expansion

LEWISTON, Minn. — The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) is challenging in court the recent decision by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to reject the public’s call for an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed massive expansion of a Winona County dairy farm. LSP filed the challenge in Minnesota Appellate court on Feb. 1. The link to the petition is here (EIS case number is A19-0209).

“The Land Stewardship Project feels strongly that in making this decision to not do an EIS, the MPCA failed in its obligation to protect the natural resources of rural communities, especially groundwater,” said LSP organizer Barb Sogn-Frank. “Under Minnesota law, an EIS is required when a project has the ‘potential for significant environmental impacts.’ In this case, this standard was clearly met, and the record ignored by the MPCA in failing to order an EIS.”

Daley Farms, already one of the largest dairies in the state, wants to add 3,000 cows to its operation near Lewiston. This would increase the number of animal units at the operation to 5,968. The expanded mega-dairy would consume 92 million gallons of the area’s groundwater annually and produce 46 million gallons of manure and wastewater per year, to be dispersed within a 10-mile radius. In comparison, Lewiston (pop. 1,564) uses 33 million gallons of water per year. The expanded operation would be near towns plagued with nitrate levels nearing or above the maximum allowable safe drinking water level of 10 milligrams/liter.

Over 500 citizens called on the MPCA to do an in-depth environmental review of the Daley expansion. Among those calling for the review were neighboring residents who raised concerns about the likelihood of the proposal negatively impacting water quality, especially groundwater.

Dr. Calvin Alexander, Minnesota’s leading karst geology expert and a professor emeritus in earth sciences at the University of Minnesota, studied the Daley proposal and concluded in writing that, “Given the prominent karst features all around the Daley Farms site, the nearby catastrophic collapse of the Lewiston Waste Water Treatment Lagoon on similar karst stratigraphy, the documented growing nitrate pollution of Lewiston’s wells and many local wells, and the enormous size of this proposed CAFO this facility should not be permitted at this site without a full scale EIS.”

“The MPCA hasn’t done due diligence to protect water, air, land, quality of life and local economies for the majority of Minnesota’s family farmers and rural residents,” said Bob Redig, a Winona County farmer and LSP member. “That’s their job — to make sure we have a sustainable environment for everyone — not to rubber stamp industrial-scale farming.”

Daley Farms still needs to be granted a variance to Winona County’s Zoning Ordinances, which do not allow feedlots over 1,500 animal units. This expansion would put the dairy at almost four times the current Winona County animal unit cap. The Winona County Board of Adjustments will consider and rule on the variance application during its public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 1 p.m., at Winona State University’s Tau Center. If a variance is granted, then Daley Farms must obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to proceed with construction. These steps are unrelated to and unaffected by the court petition brought by LSP appealing the MPCA’s decisions.