‘Loss of opportunity’ lamented in Hanson County dairyAg Secretary Walt Bones says failed proposal held big potential.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
ALEXANDRIA — The apparent end of a 7,000-head dairy project in Hanson County is a lost opportunity for area farmers, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Walt Bones said Thursday.
“I am disappointed with the loss of opportunity for farmers to add value to the crops they raise while saving transportation costs with higher fuel prices,” Bones said in an e-mail response to The Daily Republic.
South Dakota Assistant Attorney General Diane Best, who represented the state during several hearings involving the proposed dairy, confirmed Thursday the dairy had withdrawn its application for a state-issued water permit.
Calls made Thursday by The Daily Republic to the dairy’s developer Michael Crinion, of Brookings, and his attorney Eric Kerkvliet, of Sioux Falls, were not immediately returned.
The decision seems to signal the end of a five-plus-year battle between the proposed dairy and local residents opposed to the project. To continue work, the dairy would have to reapply for all the necessary permits.
Bones testified in favor of the dairy before the state Water Management Board last year. Bones supports the rights of counties to bring in projects such as the proposed dairy.
“We support local control and local farmers and ranchers, and their ability to get more for everything they raise,” he said.
Bones said the state will continue promoting the benefits of livestock, and added it is “imperative” for South Dakota and the agriculture industry to have a diverse supply of products.
Sarah Caslin, a livestock marketing program specialist for the state Department of Agriculture, said the department is planning to hold informational meetings this fall to educate livestock producers on how best to expand their operation.
“Most of these livestock producers, they follow all the rules,” she said. “They’re wonderful stewards of their land and their animals.”
Opponents often expressed concern such a large dairy operation would pollute the area, especially the nearby town of Fulton.
“It’s a big relief for everybody here that has an interest in Hanson County,” said Concerned Citizens leader Rob Bender after learning of the dairy’s decision. Bender lives near the site of the proposed dairy, which is about two miles northeast of Fulton.
In April, Judge Sean O’Brien remanded the dairy’s water permit back to the state Water Management Board for reconsideration. A hearing before the board was scheduled for Sept. 18-19 in Pierre, but that hearing has been canceled.
The permit would have allowed the dairy to pump 720,000 gallons per day from the Floyd East James Aquifer.
Earlier this month, dairy opponents, organized as the Concerned Citizens of Hanson County Inc., claimed another victory when Judge Tim Bjorkman signed an order telling Hanson County officials to cancel a conditional use permit and variances issued to the dairy in 2007. Opponents of the dairy successfully argued in court last month that, according to the county’s own ordinances, the conditional use permit should have been canceled after two years had passed without substantial completion of the project.
At a 2007 Hanson County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, developers said the dairy would bring 60 to 70 jobs to the county and have an estimated $31 million annual economic impact on the area, as well as generate another $60,000 in property taxes. It was estimated the dairy would cost between $28 million and $30 million to build.