The Department of Natural Resources on Monday turned down an application to build a new animal confinement in Winneshiek County. The owner of the Postville meatpacking plant had proposed a poultry operation in Bloomfield Township, near the town of Castalia. DNR spokesman Kevin Baskins says the application for a construction permit outlined a fairly big animal operation, a broiler facility. There would be 199,996 chickens, to be raised for meat rather than eggs, according to the proposal. Public opinion at a hearing four weeks ago was universally against the plan to build four barns with fifty-thousand chickens in each…but Baskins says that’s not why the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors forwarded the application to the DNR with a recommendation to disapprove it. On April 4, Winneshiek County recommended disapproving it, as they’d scored the project on Iowa’s “master matrix” at 385 points — and it takes 440 points to win approval. The DNR did its own review and scored the plan at 380 points, even lower. Baskins says there were a number of technical issues that led to the low score. Along with concerns about the size of the proposed manure-storage facility, there were environmental issues including the distance to water sources, and the shallow bedrock that could increase the risk for groundwater contamination. This is only the third time the DNR’s done its own evaluation, after having a county board of supervisors forward an application that failed to score high enough on the “master matrix” to win approval. Now, the would-be producer has fourteen days to appeal the thumbs-down decision. He could appeal to either the Environmental Protection Commission of the DNR, or to an administrative-law judge. They could overrule the DNR’s refusal to issue a construction permit. The same applicant also has another proposal before the DNR, for a second chicken confinement near the first one and just as big. No decision’s been made yet on that request.
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