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Supervisors deny EPC hearing

Free-range chicken operation will make home near Goldfield

April 30, 2009
By LINDSEY ORY, Messenger correspondent

CLARION - Wright County residents will not address the Environmental Protection Committee about a free-range chicken operation near Goldfield.

The Wright County Board of Supervisors 4-1 vote came after weeks of deliberation regarding the construction of Iowa Cage Free LLC, a commercial livestock operation owned by Joe Fuller. The business would bring 1.4 million chickens to an 80 acre-area along North 200 Street near Goldfield.

Supervisors took action after citizens told the board they had no points to bring up to the EPC against the business that were backed by legal documentation. Supervisor Amdahl was the dissenting vote.

"We spoke with our attorney about information to present to you on our behalf," Jim Youngclas, Goldfield resident, said, "but there is no way we can gather all that information and format it to your specifications in a day. There is no way to proceed with this thing it was so mishandled."

The accusation of mishandling comes from residents' frustration as they were given two days to construct their argument in a persuasive way. Since the documents would be representative of the county, citizens needed the supervisors' approval, which made an even tighter time crunch.

Supervisor Stan Watne said the board lost some critical time when it improperly ruled against Iowa Cage Free's master matrix plan, which was legal. It met the Department of Natural Resources minimum requirement of 440 out of a possible 880 points at its April 20 meeting.

"We lost a little time with (the master matrix vote) mistake," Watne said, "but we honestly did everything in our power to give the citizens a chance to have their voices heard."

Watne said he was not aware citizens could contest the DNR ruling on the county's behalf until last week.

"We haven't dealt with anything like this for 10 years," Watne said. "I was on my cell phone in my tractor calling people all day trying to get the word out."

Knowing the clock was ticking, citizens asked the board if another route was available to try and defeat the 1.4 million chicken operation. The group noted they had several areas of concern regarding the commercial producer such as sustainability, water and air quality and health issues.

"I'm sure the manure will be handled safely," Youngclas said. "My biggest concern is the surface water run-off."

The area slated as the new home of Iowa Cage Free is a naturally water saturated area.

"A lot of the surface water runs off (to the Boone River)," Youngclas said. "There are studies that show manure particles and pathogens can be blown out of the chicken houses and from the air end up in the water."

Fuller's design is in compliance with the master matrix's requirements for distance from public water, which is 1,000 feet. Fuller also plans to relocate the current county tile underneath two of the 12 buildings. Some local residents argue this should not be allowed.

County Auditor Betty Ellis said the new tiling Iowa Cage Free will implement, along with a water retention pond, will benefit residents south of the business.

"Fuller will create a pond and allow the water to slowly drain out through the tile system," Ellis said. "It should slow the water traveling toward the neighbors in the south."

But, these words do nothing to ease the mind of Youngclas and the other land owners in the area. And, their time to share their worries has come to an end, for now. The entire deal with Iowa Cage Free is not finished.

The businesses permit is contingent on Fuller's drainage proposal. The proposal has not yet been presented.

"I am happy with the outcome," Fuller said. "We will address the water shed issues and fully comply with regulations. I believe we will be a good addition to this county."

Contact Lindsey Ory at (515) 573-2141 or



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