County won’t appeal Duncombe hog sites

Confinement permits go forward

Webster County’s Board of Supervisors declined on Tuesday to appeal the decision to allow two hog confinements to be built near Duncombe.

Although Supervisor Keith Dencklau said the appeal would send a message, and all the supervisors agreed there were concerns with the two sites at the meeting, the board ultimately didn’t take up Dencklau’s motion to file the appeal with the state’s Environmental Protection Commission.

The EPC hears appeals of Iowa Department of Natural Resources actions. The DNR determined the sites had met all legal criteria to be issued a construction permit on Dec. 8.

The supervisors voted unanimously on Nov. 14 to ask the DNR not to approve the two sites, while also acknowledging the sites had scored enough points to pass the state’s master matrix.

“We’ve already made a statement that we want this not to happen out there. Now the specific matter is whether we can appeal it,” said board chair Merrill Leffler. “The county attorney has given us advice that they feel there is no grounds to appeal it. We have to take that into consideration. We can’t be appealing it just to appeal.”

Dencklau said that as he understood it, the county could take the people of Duncombe’s concerns to the EPC and did not have to base their appeal solely on the matrix.

About 50 people attended the meeting Tuesday, many from Duncombe. Several spoke out against the two proposed facilities, one of which will be less than a mile outside of town, citing concerns about air quality, property values, drinking water, and the water flowing into Brushy Creek State Recreation Area.

Mike Pearson, of Fort Dodge, who is in the hog industry, said it would be inappropriate for the supervisors to file an appeal in this way.

“Just voting it down because you don’t want it is not within the law. It’s a frivolous thing to do,” he said.

Pearson said the supervisors weren’t powerless in this matter — if they wanted to change how the sites would be built, they should have approached Richard Stark, who will own the sites.

“They could have done things before. Just voting it down doesn’t help, but maybe go to the people, go to Richard Stark, try to get it moved to another location,” Pearson said. “Especially in Richard’s case, he’s got hundreds of farms. Why don’t we move it two miles from Duncombe?”

Leffler said the supervisors have spoken with the applicant.

“We have had extensive conversations,” he said.

“I did contact you guys when I got this application from the DNR,” Dencklau said to the people in attendance. “I think I called the closest landowner within 1 minute.

“The first thing he said to me was, What can I do to stop this? I said call the applicant. He did.

“I don’t know how that conversation went, but the applicant called me, and that conversation didn’t go very well,” Dencklau went on.

Although Dencklau has expressed frustration at how it seems the board has no control over whether a confinement is built, Pearson said they are not “powerless,” because if a confinement doesn’t follow the matrix the supervisors can put a stop to it.

“I do think the matrix makes the buildings safe. Nobody’s drinking water is going to be damaged, I can promise you that,” Pearson said. “We have no fly problems. … If it’s a problem in the building we have to get rid of that right away.”

The supervisors reiterated that people need to go to their lawmakers to seek change in the master matrix from the state level.

Duncombe City Clerk Lynda Wunder said a letter-writing campaign is underway in Duncombe, and the citizens have plans to contact Iowa Select Farms, Richard Stark, the DNR and their legislators.

If the citizens do want a change, it will take coordinated effort from everybody, said Supervisor Bob Thode.

“A while back the city of Clare had the same issue you have right now. But I don’t seen anybody from Clare here,” Thode said. “Now Duncombe has this issue, and now we’re full with Duncombe, but there’s no Clare here.

“This is an issue that everybody in Webster County has to deal with, whether it’s Duncombe, whether it’s Clare, whether it’s Harcourt, Slifer, it doesn’t make any difference. Everybody’s got to get together,” he said. “We have contacted our legislators. We have signed letters to them saying we have issues, but the only time it ever gets any attention is when it gets to one area, and only one area’s worked up. Everybody has got to get together on this.”