Dairy proposing major expansion in Wabasha County

Contact: Cathy Rofshus, 507-206-2608

Scotch Prairie Farms in Wabasha County, about seven miles southeast of Lake City, is proposing to triple its dairy operation, according to an Environmental Assessment Worksheet prepared by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The worksheet is open for public comment through Oct. 3 at 4:30 p.m.

The agency will hold an informational meeting on the proposal starting with an open house at 6:00 p.m., Sept. 17 at the Lake City Ballroom, 205 West Center St., Lake City. Presentations explaining the proposal, MPCA environmental review, and feedlot permitting will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by time for questions from the public.

State agencies use the Environmental Assessment Worksheet to help decide whether a project requires a more extensive Environmental Impact Statement. The worksheet covers site location details, nearby resources, and other elements, including wells, soil types, water use, manure management, air and odor emissions, and traffic considerations.

Brian and Ashley Yotter propose to increase their dairy herd from 600 dairy cows, 141 heifers, and 300 calves to 1,985 dairy cows, 300 heifers, and 800 calves at their total confinement facility in West Albany Township. They will remove some structures and add several others, including extensions to three buildings, three new barns, one animal mortality structure, feed storage areas, one covered liquid manure storage area, one manure solids separation shed, and manure solids stacking slabs.

The project also requires a second stormwater pond to collect and treat any runoff before discharge to the environment.

There are nine homes within one mile of the facility, with feedlots at six of them.

The proposed facility would generate an estimated 25.86 million gallons of manure, manure-contaminated runoff, and process wastewater annually that would be stored in reinforced concrete pits below the barns, with a total capacity of 26.27 million gallons.

Scotch Prairie Farms would remove the manure in the spring and fall, injecting it into cropland as fertilizer following an MPCA-approved manure management plan requiring at least 1,602 acres. More than 1,602 acres of cropland are available for land application among 16 manure application sites, all within seven miles of the project site. At least a dozen homes are located in the manure application sites with several water features within or near the sites. Before applying manure, Scotch Prairie Farms plans to contact nearby landowners to see if it would interfere with any neighborhood activities.

The proposed expansion and manure application sites include some karst features, including an abandoned and sealed sinkhole and shallow areas of soil over bedrock. The proposer would need to follow setbacks and other requirements in the manure management plan to protect sensitive features.

According to a study of air emissions from the expanded facility, it would meet air quality standards and odor guidelines. This study also took into account the surrounding feedlots and accumulative effects.

To access the complete worksheet for this project, go to the MPCA website at www.pca.state.mn.us and search for “environmental review.” It’s also available by calling Nancy Drach at 651-757-2317. Written comments may be sent by email to nancy.drach@state.mn.us, or mailed to her at the MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., St. Paul, MN 55155-4194.

The proposed feedlot requires federal, state and county permits. The MPCA would issue an individual permit for the project under the National Pollution Disposal Elimination System (NPDES). The permit is also open for public comment through Oct. 3 at 4:30 p.m. The public notice is available by going to the MPCA website at www.pca.state.mn.us, clicking on “public notices” in the right margin, and then scrolling down to  Sept. 3. Mark Gernes of the MPCA will be accepting written comments on the permit either by email at mark.p.gernes@state.mn.us, or mailed to him at MPCA, 18 Wood Lake Dr. SE, Rochester, MN 55904. For more information about the permit coverage, call Gernes at 507-206-2643.

In addition to the MPCA permit, this project will require a conditional use permit from Wabasha County along with a water appropriation permit from the Minn. Department of Natural Resources for a livestock watering well that would draw about 35.8 million gallons of water per year.