Public hearing to be held for CAFO expansion

By Sarah Nigbor
Posted 7/3/24

During the public comment portion of the June 25 Pierce County Board meeting, a representative of GROWW asked supervisors to consider attending a public hearing about a proposed CAFO expansion.

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Public hearing to be held for CAFO expansion


During the public comment portion of the June 25 Pierce County Board meeting, a representative of GROWW asked supervisors to consider attending a public hearing about a proposed CAFO expansion.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is holding a public hearing at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 11 in the Elmwood Auditorium (323 W. Winter Ave.) about Ridge Breeze Dairy’s expansion proposal. They will receive comments and testimony from the public before making a final decision.

Ridge Breeze Dairy, LLC is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) dairy farm located at W2686 390th Ave. in Salem Township in Pierce County. The farm is owned and operated by Breeze Dairy Group and currently operates with approximately 1,700 milking/dry cows (about 2,380 animal units).

According to their WPDES permit application, the operation is proposing to expand to approximately 6,200 milking/dry cows and 300 heifers (about 9,010 animal units) by the end of 2025.

“The operation is proposing to add three waste storage facilities to be used to store manure and process wastewater generated at the site,” the application reads. “Existing and proposed structures provide the operation with 240+ days of liquid waste storage, based on expanded animal numbers. The operation also proposes to add a concrete stacking pad, used to store separated manure solids and used animal bedding.”

Wendy Dart from GROWW, which is grassroots organization helping people tackle issues impacting families, home and communities in western Wisconsin, spoke to the board.

“We are concerned about the impact to our land, water, growth, rural way of life, drinking water and health,” she said.

The WPDES CAFO permit was transferred from the original owners to Ridge Breeze Dairy, LLC on April 26, 2022. Since the transfer, the department issued Ridge Breeze Dairy the following enforcement actions.

  1. Notice of Noncompliance letter issued on April 14, 2023. This letter was issued due to field runoff that occurred during a February 2023 rain event.
  2. Notice of Noncompliance letter issued on May 10, 2023. This letter was issued because of an operation and maintenance issue for the feed bunker runoff collection system. A permanent fix was implemented, and the enforcement action was closed on June 14, 2023.
  3. Notice of Noncompliance letter issued on November 15, 2023. This letter was issued due to wastewater effluent limit violations that occurred during the second quarter of 2023. Ridge Breeze Dairy addressed the concerns by suspending the use of the wastewater discharge outfall as of Aug. 31, 2023. Use of the system will only resume if/when the system will meet permit discharge requirements.

After a review of annual reports, review of permit modification application materials, and site inspections on April 17, 2023; April 25, 2023; and October 20, 2023, this facility has been found to be in substantial compliance with their permit, the DNR states.

According to the permit application, it’s estimated that approximately 77.7 million gallons of manure and process wastewater will be produced by Ridge Breeze per year. Ridge Breeze owns approximately 89.7 acres of cropland and controls an additional 7,273.3 acres through rental or land contract agreements, according to the permit. The permit requires all landspreading of manure and process wastewater be completed in accordance with an approved nutrient management plan.

According to Dart, GROWW members are concerned that 1,100 acres of the 7,500 spreadable acres are noncompliant with insufficient soil.

“The agency is concerned about the farm’s lack of spreadable acres, which could lead to the overapplication of manure and lead to contaminated water,” she said.

She also alleged that several landowners listed in the nutrient management plan with hundreds of acres don’t have any written agreements with Ridge Breeze for manure spreading and/or hadn’t heard of Ridge Breeze Dairy.

“It is clear that a lack of written agreements and a reliance on verbal agreements needs to be addressed by the DNR,” Dart said.

Pierce County Board Chair Jon Aubart made clear that the board doesn’t issue WPDES permits.


Other business

  • Tony Pfaff of Durand has been hired as the new solid waste operations manager. He is currently the director of recycling and solid waste in Buffalo County. His first day will be July 8.
  • County Administrator Jason Matthys shared that Finance & Personnel recommends adopting a county tax budget based on the maximum allowable levy under the state budget by increasing the county tax operating levy by the net new construction and other allowable factors. Standing committees will be asked to work toward a common budget goal of 0% increases since the county will only receive about $257,000 in new money for need. This does not include personnel costs.
  • The board voted to increase the payment for care of soldiers’ graves from $3 to $5 apiece. The amount was last increased in 1977.
  • The board voted to accept (on first reading) a Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment Grant of $18,337.40 and partner with Pepin, Buffalo and Trempealeau counties to hire a broadband consultant to assess, evaluate and conduct a data collection effort to support the state’s five-year broadband action plan.
  • The board adopted the Pierce County Outdoor Recreation Plan for 2024-2028.

The board will next meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 23.

Pierce County Board, Ridge Breeze Dairy, CAFO expansion, public comment, public hearing, GROWW, Pierce County, Wisconsin