Comments top 4,000 on dairy rule proposal

State hopes to adopt policy by end of year

— State officials are sifting through more than 4,000 comments about proposed rules requiring permits for manure lagoons at concentrated animal feeding operations.

If approved, the rules would require all manure lagoons that “discharge” to state waters to obtain a permit, divert clean water away from dairies, prevent animals from contacting clean or surface waters, restrict application of manure farmlands adjacent to surface water, test soil nutrient levels in the spring and fall, pay one-time manure lagoon assessment fees and more.

The comment period ended yesterday, extended two weeks because of a glitch in processing online comments.

About 4,000 comments were submitted through form letters, primarily by environmental groups, agency spokesman Jon Jennings said.

The remainder are evenly divided between environmental and dairy industry concerns, he said.

The dairy industry and environmental groups both oppose the plan, but for different reasons. That was evident in July when 125 people attended a hearing in Yakima.

The comments that night were near unanimous in rejecting the new rules.

Dan Wood of the Washington State Dairy Federation has noted that under the plan dairymen would have to do soil tests in the spring and fall, test manure, pay high assessment fees and give up use of large tracts of land.

He said limits on applying manure within 100 feet of surface water will create storage issues.

Jean Mendoza of The Friends of Toppenish Creek opposes it because it doesn’t address groundwater concerns.

“Their permit, supported by ‘big ag,’ has no clear and enforceable limits on pollution, no requirements to use best management practices that stop pollution, and no ground or surface water testing,” she said.

Her concerns include the plan’s lack of groundwater monitoring.

Jennings said the goal is to post the comments online next week.

“We understand there’s a lot of interest,” he said. “We’ve known there are strong feelings about this particular type of permit.”

A previous permit for concentrated animal feeding operations expired in 2011, he said.

The Department of Ecology pursued getting it updated after receiving pressure from multiple sources

“There really wasn’t much demand for the permit in the past, but there’s been a push in recent years,” Jennings said. “We have both a federal and state mandate, and environmental groups have been active.”

But there’s also been a push by dairymen.

“There are some folks who have facilities who would be interested in a permit from a risk management perspective,” he said.

All comments will be taken into consideration, Jennings said.

The agency hopes to have a new rule approved by the end of the year, he said.


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