Dairy opponents have day in courtOpponents of a proposed dairy in Hanson County said Thursday they were not properly informed of a hearing on the dairy’s water permit and are concerned that irreparable damage could be done to an aquifer.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
ALEXANDRIA — Opponents of a proposed dairy in Hanson County said Thursday they were not properly informed of a hearing on the dairy’s water permit and are concerned that irreparable damage could be done to an aquifer.
The issue at hand during Thursday’s court proceeding at the Hanson County Courthouse was whether a legal stay should be placed on the water permit granted to the proposed 7,000-cow dairy. A stay would prevent the dairy’s owner, Michael Crinion, from drilling and pumping water from wells until the appeal of the water permit makes it way through court.
The water permit granted to the proposed dairy allows it to pump 720,000 gallons out of the region’s aquifer each day.
R. Shawn Tornow, the lawyer representing Hanson County resident Rob Bender and state Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, said once water starts flowing out of the aquifer at that rate, there will be no going back.
“Drawing that much from that aquifer is a major event, not just for the county, but for the whole aquifer,” Tornow said.
Crinion’s lawyer, Eric Kerkvliet, argued if the stay on the water permit is granted, it will severely disrupt the development of the dairy and push its estimated date of completion past May 2013. Plans to construct the dairy have been in the works since 2007.
Tornow said the stay would not cause the dairy significant harm because after four years of development, another months-long delay would not make much difference.
Kerkvliet said developers need time to order equipment and supplies and will not be able to begin work until a functioning well is available on site.
He requested a $4 million bond be posted by the appellants if a stay is granted because of the potential for interruption of the construction of the multi-million-dollar facility, and the potential for at least a year of lost profits for the dairy’s owners.
The dairy’s opponents argued that court supervision to keep both parties on-task would be more appropriate than a bond.
Tornow opened court proceedings, presided over by Judge Sean O’Brien, by arguing the request for the stay was appropriate to allow time for the water permit to be contested and for the appeal to work its way through the court.
Tornow also argued that the proposed dairy and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources did not meet all the criteria required by South Dakota law when they issued a public notice of the South Dakota Water Management Board’s hearing regarding the dairy’s water permit. As a result, Tornow said, Hanson County residents did not receive a proper chance to be heard.
The notice was published in the Alexandria Herald, a weekly newspaper. The dairy’s critics said the notice didn’t fulfill all the requirements of state law.
Diane Best, assistant attorney general, appeared on behalf of the DENR.
Best argued the public notice the DENR gave regarding the dairy’s water permit hearing was sufficient notice for residents and did not necessarily need to comply verbatim with the state’s statutes.
“I just don’t know how it could be better spelled out,” Best said of the notice. “The DENR does everything it can to get these notices out.”
After arguments were heard, Judge O’Brien said he will review the case and issue a written decision at a later date.
Bender, who has been at the forefront of the dispute since its beginning, expressed his thanks for the continued attention of Hanson County residents.
He said he was happy with the way the hearing had gone.
“I’m just really happy everyone showed up,” Bender said during an interview after the court proceeding. “We’re representing everyone in the community who couldn’t be notified by the water board notice.”