Proposed Reicks View (Badgerwood) Swine CAFO
— Bayfield County residents are working to make sure citizens and lawmakers understand the economic, environmental, and public health implications of CAFOs. If permitted, this would be the largest swine CAFO in Wisconsin and would be sited near Lake Superior.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources cannot issue a draft Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or WPDES, permit to Badgerwood, LLC without a complete permit application. As of mid-March, the DNR advised Badgerwood that their permit application was lacking important information regarding wetlands located on the site of the proposed concentrated animal feeding operation.
Fortunately, the DNR listened to a long list of elected officials, citizens, as well as public health and environmental groups - including Midwest Environmental Advocates - who requested that the DNR prepare an environmental impact statement before issuing a water discharge permit to Badgerwood. Our letter analyzed the legal reasons that the DNR must prepare an EIS, including the fact that the DNR has never analyzed the potential environmental impacts of a swine CAFO of the size proposed by Badgerwood. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detailed the potential impacts and issues at stake in an in-depth article in June.
In late June, the DNR announced the agency's plan to conduct a full environmental impact statement saying that “the EIS process would be the best way to comply with the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act requirements for environmental analysis in advance of any permit decisions for the project.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also announced that the federal agency will review the plan due to "the size and location of the proposed Badgerwood facility as well as the concerns raised by Wisconsin tribes."
We applaud the DNR’s acknowledgement that the proposed CAFO is a project of a type and scope that is very unique for DNR staff, Bayfield County residents who would be neighbors to this CAFO and for citizen water quality watchdogs throughout Wisconsin. Midwest Environmental Advocates and our partners will follow the EIS process to ensure that it is robust and complaint with applicable state laws.
UPDATE: September 30, 2015 is the deadline for public comments on topics that the DNR should address in the Environmental Impact Statement for Reicks View Farms, LLC’s proposed swine operation in Bayfield County. The agency has already begun an outline of what the in-depth environmental impact study should include (outline can be found online).
No final decisions on whether or not the DNR would issue a permit to the company will be made during the EIS process, but this is a time for the public to tell the agency what human and environmental impacts should be looked at closely during the study.
Comments can be mailed to Bill Clark, DNR, 810 W Maple St., Spooner, WI 54801, or sent by email to DNRBadgerwoodProposal@wisconsin.gov.
6.5 million gallons of liquid manure do not belong in the Lake Superior Basin
The volume of animal waste generated by any large farm is cause for unique environmental and public health considerations. However, the proposed location of the Badgerwood CAFO is generating public controversy above and beyond the typical feedback to other Wisconsin CAFOs. This controversy is understandable—Bayfield County has never been home to a CAFO, and the County’s residents and local officials are asking for a “hard look” at the potential impacts of Badgerwood’s proposal.
Badgerwood proposes to construct a swine CAFO over 6,000 animal units in size in the Town of Eileen. If permitted, this would be the largest swine CAFO in Wisconsin. Furthermore, Badgerwood would construct its operation in the Lake Superior Basin, within the Fish Creek Watershed. This watershed contains more than 32 miles of outstanding and/or exceptional resource waters. The DNR defines these waters as “waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution.” The waters of the Bayfield area are acknowledged as unique and treasured by the state of Wisconsin, and these are resources in which the public has invested significant funds for conservation.
Bayfield County, which is along the northern border of the state, has long winters and limited amount of land that is appropriate for spreading of manure. In light of these climactic and geological considerations, MEA is among those who question whether the County is the right place for Badgerwood to build a new CAFO.
Tribal concerns in Northern Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Basin
Tribal members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, whose reservation is located just east of Ashland on the shore of Lake Superior, are concerned about possible manure runoff into the world’s largest freshwater lake. Badgerwood’s proposed site sits in the Fish Creek watershed that feeds into Chequamegon Bay. Bad River tribal members are skeptical that Badgerwood has the necessary resources to contain the massive amount of animal waste from entering the watershed.
Members of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, whose reservation is just north of Bayfield, are also worried the potential health and environmental consequences from CAFOs. Red Cliff’s latest winter newsletter, Ganawenjigaade, described outcomes of agricultural runoff in other areas that could have similar effects on Chequamegon Bay (page 6-7).
Lake Superior, known as “Gitchi-Gami” in Ojibwe, is culturally significant to Bad River and Red Cliff Ojibwe because of its pristine watershed for drinking water, abundant source of fishing, and the growing place of wild rice or “manoomin”. Wild rice is especially important to the spiritual beliefs of Ojibwe people because their ancestors migrated to the region looking for a place where “food grows on water.” After the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs were recognized as RAMSAR Wetlands of International Importance in 2012, Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins, noted that “The Sloughs sustain the physical well-being of our community with foods such as wild rice, fish, cranberries, waterfowl, venison, and medicines. From an Anishinabe (Chippewa) world-view perspective, the wetlands ecosystem is a tangible representation of our values of caring for the environment.”
The possibility of manure runoff from Badgerwood’s hog farm into Lake Superior threatens Bad River and Red Cliff Ojibwe culture by potentially polluting drinking water, creating an increase in algae blooms and disrupting wild rice harvests in the Kakagon Sloughs of Lake Superior.
MEA supports Bayfield County residents working for strong, prosperous rural communities
The siting of a CAFO in Bayfield County is not a foregone conclusion. A group of effective, organized Bayfield County residents are working hard to make sure that citizens and lawmakers understand the economic, environmental, and public health implications of CAFOs. We interviewed one of the committed local residents about why she is rallying her community in defense of clean water.
This group helped pass a local ordinance that requires a one-year pause on the siting of CAFOs in the County while a committee studies the impact of these operations. Bayfield County residents also successfully requested that the Environmental Protection Agency exercise their authority to review, comment on, and potentially object to the Badgerwood WPDES permit once a draft is issued. MEA is helping to track the progress of the Badgerwood proposal, comment on the draft WPDES permit and take other action as necessary to protect the numerous environmental gems that are present in Bayfield County.