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11,000+ cattle feedlot near Monona up for DNR review, no digesters this time

Residents spoke out at public hearing about environmental concerns

Iowa DNR logo
Iowa DNR logo

Plans to build a 11,600-head cattle feedlot near Monona are moving forward again with an ownership change and no digester.

Northeast Iowa residents who have opposed the operation since 2017 spoke out again at a public meeting Aug. 31 over Supreme Beef LLC’s nutrient management plan, which details how owners Mike Walz, Dean Walz and Jared Walz propose to dispose of cattle manure.

The original $30 million proposal for the site included anaerobic digesters that would convert manure and food waste into natural gas. But the new nutrient management plan doesn’t mention digesters and proposes applying the manure to farm fields.

“When Walz Energy proposed this operation in 2017, I praised them for seeking better ways to handle livestock manure by installing a methane digester,” Larry Stone, of Elkader, said at the public hearing, held via Zoom. “But I strongly criticized the location in karst terrain and in the watershed of Bloody Run Creek, an Outstanding Iowa Water.”

Stone’s review of the plan shows the Walzes would apply manure at higher rates than what is recommended by Iowa State University, which may causes excess nitrate to run off into nearby waterways. One of the properties proposed for land application is “more than 20 miles from the Supreme Beef facility,” Stone said.

Jared Walz spoke briefly at the hearing, saying people often get stuck on the “potential pitfalls” of a new business venture rather than the good that can come from it. He said the 11,000 cows will be fed with commodities from Eastern Iowa.

The DNR will review the proposed management plan and public response and make a decision by Oct. 2.

The project has faced delays and stormwater permit violations, paying a $10,000 fine in 2018. The DNR tried to get the case transferred to the Attorney General’s Office, where penalties are steeper, but the Environmental Protection Commission said no.

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The original facility was proposed by Walz Energy, a partnership between Supreme Beef and Feeder Creek Energy, LLC.

The Walzes sued Feeder Creek and its owners, Jon Haman and Heath Kellogg, in April 2019 for theft, breach of contract, fraudulent representation and other charges.

The Walzes said they invested $10 million and gave land to Haman and Kellogg to build a facility. Haman and Kellogg told their partners they had secured a loan for $15 million to build the digesters, but acknowledged by March 2018 they didn’t have the money, the suit states.

A judge in November ordered Haman and Kellogg to pay the Walzes $308,000, maintaining the Walzes’ right to seek additional damages. The order also allowed the Walzes to dissociate with Feeder Creek. Other orders since have allowed garnishment of funds to be released to the Walzes.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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