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Neighbors of a controversial feedlot in northeast Iowa speak out against its water use permit

Supreme Beef LLC near Monona in June 2021.
Clay Masters
Supreme Beef LLC near Monona in June 2021.

The owners of a controversial cattle feedlot in northeast Iowa are asking to renew a permit that allows the facility to take 21.9 million gallons of water a year from the Jordan aquifer in Clayton County. Residents asked the Iowa Department of Natural Resources not to grant approval of Supreme Beef LLC’s request at a virtual public meeting Monday evening.

Tammy Thompson says the application does NOT take into account her nearby private well.

“This permit should not be renewed as is because by doing so it would result in an unreasonable use for only the applicants’ personal gain while negatively impacting residents of the nearby communities of Monona and Farmersburg,” Thompson said. “As well as nearby domestic well and cattle farming users.”

The DNR approved this back in 2017 but the scope of the project has changed and the earlier permit was for fewer cattle than is now proposed.

“I contend that the use of the Jordan water by Supreme Beef for 11,600 cattle will result in pollution that impacts the public's quality of life and Iowa’s land air and water resources,” said Larry Stone, who lives near Elkader. “That will violate Iowa code.”

The majority of those who spoke were in opposition to the renewal request. However, farmer Jeff Klinge said if research shows it won’t harm the aquifer, the feedlot should be allowed for its use as fertilizer.

Separately, the Iowa chapters of the Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited are suing the Iowa DNR over its approval of Supreme Beef’s Manure Management plan. The feedlot is right next to the headwaters of Bloody Run Creek, one of the many cool-water trout streams in Iowa’s Driftless region.

DNR employees listened but did not speak during the Monday evening forum that was for public information gathering. The Iowa DNR is expected to make a decision on the permit renewal next month.

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Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.