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County board weighs in on feedlot notice changes

The county board of commissioners, many residents believe, is on the right track regarding future public notification and public hearings regarding Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) approvals for turkey barns and feedlots.

Turkey barns are being positioned near Highway 210 and less than 800 feet from some houses near South Turtle Lake, east of Underwood. Residents did not find out that two barns were being erected until dirt work started on June 10.

Under current law, if an application comes in under 500 animal units, notification to area property owners is not required. The 500 animal units is equivalent to about 28,000 turkeys.

"We as a county board believe the reporting should be the same for everything over 300 animal units, to match up with the MPCA permitting process," said County Board Chairman Doug Huebsch of Perham.

"The number of residents within a certain distance is also important," he said. "Many people should carry more weight than just a few."

Otter Tail County and other counties throughout the state hold feedlot public hearings on behalf of the MPCA.

"We try to be as transparent as possible when public hearings on any subject are held, including hearings on behalf of the MPCA," said County Commissioner Lee Rogness of Fergus Falls.

"County residents need to keep in mind that the MPCA has the final say on these (feedlot) matters," said Rogness.

County Commissioner John Lindquist of Dalton said the issue is not with the turkey barns but with the MPCA.

"More discussion should have taken place prior to construction near South Turtle Lake," said Lindquist.

County Commissioner Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids said "reasonable setbacks are needed to help both area landowners and ag producers."

County board members have also pledged to work on a zoning ordinance that will be fair to both agriculture and county residents.

There's a general feeling that if the MPCA had listened to public concerns of the residents at South Turtle Lake near Underwood, they would have searched for more information. Commissioners add that turkey processors also should have been more in tune with the concerns of area residents.

Property owners at South Turtle Lake say a site map for the turkey barns site was exclusively zoomed in, prior to construction, and did not include residents near the barns at South Turtle Lake.