116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Eastern Iowans who spoke at a public meeting Monday evening fear a Monona cattle feedlot would use more water than stated in an application to renew its water use permit.
Supreme Beef wants to withdraw up to 21.9 million gallons of water a year from two wells in the Jordan aquifer near the 11,600-head facility in Clayton County. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources permitted this use back in 2017 and staff have recommended renewal, but opponents want the agency to reconsider.
“I’m concerned Supreme Beef has drastically underestimated the amount of water needed for 11,600 cows,” said Alicia Mullarkey, of Marquette. She was one of nine people who spoke out against the permit renewal.
While the permit would allow for six gallons of water per cow per day, many experts recommend 10 to 20 gallons per day in the summer.
The permit renewal application also doesn’t reflect changes in the Supreme Beef operation, which was called Walz Energy in 2017 and planned to use an anaerobic digester to convert manure into digestate. The earlier permit called for 10,000 cattle, not 11,600.
Tammy Thompson, the first to speak at the meeting, said the permit should be considered anew because the 2017 version omitted information, such as the existence of her nearby private well.
The feedlot has met ongoing opposition from environmental groups and some neighbors for reasons that include its proximity to Bloody Run, a treasured trout stream and an Outstanding Iowa Water.
The Iowa chapters of the Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited are suing the Iowa DNR over the April 2021 approval of Supreme Beef’s nutrient management plan. They say manure from the feedlot, built in porous karst terrain, could easily pollute Bloody Run and nearby private wells, many of which already have high levels of nitrate, linked to blue baby syndrome and some cancers.
But Noah Poppelreiter, an Iowa DNR lawyer moderating Monday’s meeting, made clear the agency is just considering the water use permit. After listening to oral comments and reading written comments, the department is expected to decide on the permit renewal by mid-May, he said.
Iowa law requires water drawn from underground resources to have a “beneficial use” for Iowans.
In May 2020, the Iowa DNR denied Pattison Sand Co.’s request for a permit to draw millions of gallons of water from the Jordan aquifer to sell to drought-ridden western states after the company couldn’t say why the project benefited Iowans.
Jeff Klinge, who lives 4 miles from the Supreme Beef site, said manure from cattle operations can be used to fertilize organic farm fields like his.
“There is a need for cattle,” he said. “If your research will show it won’t harm (the aquifer), the Walz feedlot should be allowed.”
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