Guest Column: Friends of Central Sands’ CAFO battle in fourth year

Editor’s note: The following is from an e-mail update from Bob Clarke of Friends of the Central Sands in Coloma, Wis. Among other efforts, the group has been fighting to preserve waterways by fighting against a proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in Richfield, Wis. Coloma is a village in Waushara County in central Wisconsin.

By Bob Clarke
Friends of the Central Sands

As I return to the normal work week after the beautiful July 4 weekend, I can’t help but reminisce about the time “before” — before the CAFO was announced in our back yard; before we learned how our water was at risk; before our nearby friends showed us how their lake is almost gone; before we were taught about how our prized streams may not support trout habitat; and before we took legal action to protect our water.

July 4, we celebrated our independence! And for many, this holiday represents the halfway mark for summer. I watched many families enjoying skiing and tubing and wave-runners. My wife and I watched the sailboats and paddle boards and kayaks and canoes. We laughed at the fun that people were having swimming, floating, splashing and snorkeling. We listened to our neighbor’s excitement when the eagles were spotted. We saw people fishing and hiking and biking and we saw tents. Lots of tents and tarps and campfires. The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed sleeping with our windows open while others slept on porches or under the stars. It was beautiful weather to enjoy our wonderful outdoor world.

But we couldn’t help but think about how all of these activities will be negatively impacted. What would it be like to experience the sights and smells of manure on the fields, spilled on the roads and pooling in ditches? What would it be like to sleep with windows closed tight against the stench of liquid manure or hazardous air pollutants, such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia?

For us, the Fourth represents other things as well. Over the Fourth of July weekend in 2011, we were preparing for a public hearing on the then-proposed Richfield Dairy high-capacity well permit. Over three years, two permits, two court victories, and three weeks of contested case hearings later, we still don’t have a decision on whether the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was within its rights to issue the high-capacity well permit without considering the impacts of other wells.

But we are getting close, despite a recent effort by the DNR to delay a decision again.

Hearings challenging the Richfield Dairy high-capacity well permit concluded in December 2013, and the attorneys submitted final post-hearing briefs in early May 2014. In early June, the DNR asked the administrative law judge to stay a decision and reopen proceedings so it could re-do its analysis yet again. This analysis still would not have led to any changes in the well permit. But we prevailed, as the judge recently denied that request.

What’s more, the judge stated he would make every effort to issue a decision in 60 days.

Our legal actions are still going strong as we enter our fourth year, and we are making a big difference! Our costs now hover near $300,000, and we need your help. Please support these efforts to protect why you enjoy making family memories on holidays such as the Fourth! Follow us on Facebook for announcements:

From the July 16-22, 2014, issue

2 thoughts on “Guest Column: Friends of Central Sands’ CAFO battle in fourth year

  • Jul 16, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    As Bob Clarke has so eloquently stated, a lot is at risk for the people around Pleasant Lake and for all the people of that area that want to fish and walk the streams, enjoy the fresh air of outdoor living or even draw clean, safe water from their wells. But the implications of this battle over water and land usage are huge for the whole state. Why else would members of the legislature have proposed several changes to state law that would severely limit, if not destroy, the opportunity for the public to even challenge well permits in the future? They fully understand the importance of this case.

    This isn’t just a few people around a small lake trying to preserve their small portion of Wisconsin. This battle is for the protection of water throughout the state not only from factory farms, but mining and any industry that requires high capacity wells. The struggle taken on by Friends of the Central Sands will result in a decision that will impact the entire state in the management of it’s water resources.

    Support for F.O.C.S., whether financial or otherwise, goes beyond one small lake and four streams and even beyond the region of the Central Sands. By supporting F.O.C.S. in it’s legal challenges you are supporting reasonable well permitting processes and water management for all of Wisconsin.

  • Jul 31, 2014 at 9:11 am

    After the devastating loss in Saratoga, I’m really proud of you guys for sticking with it! No matter what it’s going to cost us, cost the members of the FOCS, I think I speak for all of us when I say — We’ll pay the costs. Money is NO object when it comes to protecting our natural resources. By uniting Illinois and Wisconsin in your battle to protect our state’s water, you bring that much more support for your campaign against land rapers. When we’re done with the CAFOs, we should turn our attention to all the other ones that are just as nefarious too!

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