Controversial hog facility in Allamakee County wins approval

An earlier, larger plan from Reicks View Farms drew objections

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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has approved Reicks View Farms’ plan to build a swine confinement facility in an environmentally sensitive area of Allamakee County.

Construction can begin no sooner than Aug. 25 on the facility that will accommodate no more that 2,499 pigs, DNR Environmental Specialist Tom McCarthy wrote in a letter last Thursday to company Chief Executive Officer Dale Reicks.

Reicks View Farms, with headquarters near Lawler, applied in March for a state permit to construct confinement buildings in a region of porous, shallow bedrock in steep terrain overlooking two streams with naturally reproducing trout.

Several environmental activists described the site as unsuited for its intended purpose.

DNR Director Chuck Gipp has said that if a livestock confinement facility could be built on the proposed site, there is no place in Iowa one could not be built.

McCarthy said the DNR was concerned about the initial application to build a facility to house 7,499 pigs because of its threat to surface and groundwater. Rules are more stringent for larger facilities, and that application was withdrawn. An application for the smaller facility was submitted instead.

“The DNR has many concerns on this site, even though it appears to meet current regulations,” McCarthy wrote.

Most of those concerns center on the storage and handling of manure.

“A manure spill or leak at this site would have the potential to do great environmental damage to the ground water and surface water,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said Reicks View Farms has at times had difficulty applying manure for its more than 50 sites in a timely manner and that DNR records include notices of violation for manure management plan record keeping, manure overflow from buildings, manure spills and manure separation distances.

In his letter to Reicks, McCarthy asked the company to voluntarily retract its application.

“What I am saying is that legally they are able to build it but it is not a good idea,” McCarthy told a reporter Monday.

Decorah attorney Karl Knudson, who represents many project opponents, said, “This application, and the DNR having to grant it despite their reservations about the threat it poses to the environment, should serve as a wake-up call to the Legislature — that livestock siting rules are not adequate,” Knudson said.

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