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Judge rejects controversial dairy's water permit

ALEXANDRIA -- District Judge Sean O'Brien on Wednesday reversed a decision to grant a state water permit to the developer of a proposed 7,000-head dairy in Hanson County.

O'Brien found the South Dakota Water Management Board did not properly research the impact the proposed dairy would have on the region's aquifer -- specifically, the Floyd East James Aquifer -- before it approved the dairy's application for a water permit at a hearing in July 2011.

The water permit would allow the dairy to pump 720,000 gallons of water per day from the aquifer.

In his written decision, O'Brien said the state Water Management Board's findings did not "appropriately take into account, nor even estimate, the effect that (the proposed dairy's) use of 720,000 gallons of water per day" would have on the annual recharge rate of the aquifer.

The decision comes as a result of an appeal by the Concerned Citizens of Hanson County. The group's attorney, R. Shawn Tornow, argued against the dairy's water permit at a hearing March 23 in Alexandria.

During the hearing, Assistant Attorney General Diane Best said the chief engineer for the state Water Management Board studied the aquifer using a nearby observation well, but did not measure the exact annual recharge rate of the Floyd East James Aquifer.

O'Brien's written decision indicates Best said a study of the aquifer's recharge rate could be done, but she felt state law did not require it, and noted the study would cost thousands of dollars.

"We're pleased the judge was willing to fairly look at all the concerns that were raised in this appeal," Tornow said. "We're pleased with his decision."

State Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, said he was also pleased with the ruling.

"I'm happy the folks in Hanson County got this," he said. "It's a good day."

Calls made Wednesday by The Daily Republic to the developer of the proposed dairy, Michael Crinion, and his attorney, Eric Kerkvliet, were not immediately returned.

The Concerned Citizens of Hanson County is also challenging the dairy's conditional use permits issued by Hanson County.

District Judge Tim Bjorkman has ordered Hanson County officials to appear in court to explain why the dairy's conditional use permits have been extended beyond limits set in a Hanson County zoning ordinance. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.