Jul 20, 2014

Wisconsin Gov Race, World Class Golf Resort and the Politics of Cow Manure

Citizens groups in Wood County Wisconsin and
surrounding region oppose CAFOs and
aerial liquid manure spraying
Photo by Martha Karris of
Rome and Saratoga-Friendly
in Wisconsin (Facebook).
A dream golf resort is under threat by liquid cow manure and a proposed massive factory farm in central Wisconsin as Scott Walker's DNR rubberstamps dangerous Concentrated Agricultural Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and high capacity water wells that could drain area waterways and ruin the golf site as another area CAFO has done to residential homes  

Updated — "If Sand Valley’s first course — which is expected to open in 2017 — is a success, then Keiser and his team will consider adding subsequent golf courses, with a total of five courses possible" (emphasis added), reports Melanie Lawder in an exclusive interview with golf developer, Mike Keiser, appearing this weekend in the Wisconsin Rapid Daily Tribune.

The report by Lawderfollowing a series of pieces appearing in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (D’Amato) and Wisconsin State Journal (Moe) touting Keiser's recruiting of famed golf course architects to design numerous courses at the planned golf resort in the Golden Sands region in central Wisconsin at the bottom of an ancient glacial lake—has in the writer's nut graf (or why-readers-care graf) cited above an important word: "If."

No one wants Keiser to fail to achieve his dream that may make Wisconsin one of the top summer golf destinations in the world, the Journal-Sentinel's D'Amato notes.

But there is one rapacious and pathological entity that doesn't care about Mike Keiser's dream, Wisconsin's environment, or the health of Wisconsin families: The Concentrated Agricultural Feeding Operation (CAFO) inflicted by the Wysocki Family of Companies [specifically the Golden Sands Dairy, LLC and Ellis Industries Saratoga, LLC created by Wysocki in 2012 to avoid zoning rules] onto innocent families. I'll come back to that.

Writes the State Journal's Moe, citing D'Amato's breaking the story in 2013: "A Chicago businessman (Keiser) who turned the tiny coastal town of Bandon, Ore., into one of the world’s premier golf destinations is planning to build a similar multi-course resort on sand dunes that formed the bottom of a prehistoric lake in what is now Adams County."

Onto the one skunk making an appearance in the Sand Valley resort dream.

Make that one disgusting waste product from 1,000s of cows, some 150 pathogens, and the corporate neighbor from hell: The Wysocki Factory CAFO Farms (which act like the Koch Brothers) of Central Wisconsin.

In 2012, Wysocki quietly formed two LLCs to avoid coming zoning changes, and subsequently sued the Town of Saratoga in Wood County when the Town refused to grant new building permits. The case is still open.

Wysocki's MO is to buy up land quietly, and then spring its CAFO operation on the local populace and elected officials, with the help of the new Scott Walker-altered Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rubber stamping high capacity well permits and other CAFO permits in a process that is supposed to protect area waters and the environment generally. The families in these small rural towns depend on getting their drinking water--all of their water--from the local groundwater aquifers, all of which are susceptible to seepage and drawdown from CAFOs in the central sands area.

"Between 2003 and the end of 2010, Wisconsin will have permitted 200 mega-dairies to open or expand but has never turned down a permit application or revoked a permit, even after repeated environmental violations," notes the Food and Water Watch organization. Clearly, this situation was not helped by Scott Walker's transformation of the Department of Natural Resources into a do-anything that helps potential Walker campaign contributors approach to protecting natural resources.

Siting a CAFO in the central Wisconsin sands area is in a word: Crazy.

The central sands are the worst place outside of downtown Milwaukee to site a CAFO because of the soil-sand susceptibility. "According to the Wisconsin Soil Survey provided by the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, our soil properties are identified as Plainfield Sand, by soils scientists. "The Plainfield series consists of deep, excessively drained, sandy soils on outwash plains. Available water capacity is low to very low, and permeability is rapid."

For a region that hypes its recreational value for tourists, a massive CAFO is without question destructive.

"I can't imagine what this would be like for the new Trapshooting complex [Wisconsin Trapshooting Association] that happens to be working for national accreditation. These folks are right next to the proposed CAFO (site)," said Rhonda Cain-Carrell of the Town of Saratoga, Wisconsin. "And another of my concerns is that Mike Keiser is working to build a world-class golf resort, people would fly in to the Wisconsin Rapids airport and basically drive through the epicenter of this proposed CAFO where liquid manure-spreading irrigation and a 50-million gallon manure lagoon are right next to the highway. How would that look, and smell? Then, you consider the pathogens that are going into the environment. ... And make sure you write 'proposed' CAFO, because this Golden Sands operation isn't going to happen."

Protect Wood County did an analysis of campaign contributions to Scott Walker using data supplied by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The data show contributions of over $700,000 from Big Ag (Big Agriculture) since 2011 directly to Scott Walker campaign committees.

It is a political truism in Wisconsin that Scott Walker has Big Ag's back. It remains to be seen how fervently the Democratic Party opposes Big Ag in the face of Big Ag's damage inflicted onto the Wisconsin people—not necessary a disqualification of political support.

Already, other area CAFOs in central Wisconsin have experienced damaging incidents, all of which are feared to occur should the massive Golden Sands CAFO begin operations.

A recent fire occurred near the existing manure lagoon, silage storage (chopped hay and corn) and the methane digester through which manure is trapped in the Central Sands CAFO in the Town of Armenia in neighboring Juneau County. Could have been bad.

Groundwater contamination and manure irrigation (which are foreseeable consequences of these types of operation) are proven bad, occurring next to neighboring houses forcing the buying-out of residential homes.

Just another risk CAFOs ignore, says Cain-Carrell.

In the foreground, notice the manure coming out of the end gun and
drop sprayers. The background center pivot irrigation system is
pumping water. Photo by Rhonda Cain-Carrell.
Then there's liquid cow manure that sticks, and won't go away.

Cow manure irrigation is the normal operating component of CAFOs, and especially the Wysocki conglomerate.

A Wood County resolution passed last week in a committee vote banning the aerial applications to spread manure, a practice banned now in 10 counties in Minnesota.

"The issue is spraying manure through industrialized irrigation equipment, said Criste Greening, a Saratoga resident who spoke in favor of the ban. One type is similar to a residential sprinkler system and sprays the liquid manure through a traveling gun. A second kind uses a type of distribution pipe that pivots around a central point to spread the liquid manure." (Karen Madden, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune).

The Scott Walker administration reportedly contacted local Wood County officials last week and said it wanted the manure ban resolution killed in committee in another Republican attack on local community control.

Walker looks very vulnerable in central Wisconsin because of his dismantlement of the DNR as an independent agency.

Notes Rebecca Kimble in The Progressive (March 2013):
The prize for Wisconsin’s most Orwellian agency goes to the once-great Department of Natural Resources. It might as well be the Ministry of Truth itself. Once known as among the best environmental protection and stewardship agencies in the nation, under the direction of Secretary Cathy Stepp, a homebuilder and politician, the DNR’s role in protecting natural resources has been turned inside out. Now the name of the game is streamlining regulations to make it easier for companies – a.k.a. polluters - to do business.

In Walker’s first year in office he turned the DNR into an 'enterprise agency' with 'increased operating flexibility to enable the agency to improve customer service and business support.' This shifted staff and resources away from monitoring, oversight and compliance with environmental regulations and created the Office of Business Support and Sustainability at a time when two major threats to clean air and water were ramping up: Frac sand mining and massive Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) with thousands of head of livestock.
The Protect Wood County citizens groups (and others in the area) say they have been in touch with the Mary Burke campaign, and that they remain non-partisan, but note Burke's people appear "very sympathetic."

Attorney Dana Duncan of Port Edwards, Wisconsin challenging a sitting legislator says opposing the Wysocki CAFO operation is a major campaign plank, along with local control targeted by the Walker administration.

"Dana wants to return much of the local control that has been taken away by the current state leadership and help empower local municipalities and small communities to have a say in what happens in their area. Dana believes that we should make strides to reverse the policies of the last four years that have tried to consolidate power at the state level and work to assist communities to be able to make the best and most equitable decisions for them," reads Duncan's webpage. "Dana believes that protecting our water quantity and quality in Wisconsin are essential for maintaining our quality of life, but also if we want the type of economic growth that Wisconsin deserves. Water is one of our most precious resources and is the oil of the 21st Century and must be protected as such. This means protection from threats like Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or from the over abundance of high capacity wells that are drawing down the aquifers. Dana stands for denying any further expansion of CAFOs in Wisconsin and to limit overabuse of the watershed through too many high capacity wells. Dana supports common sense approaches like a moratorium on all high capacity wells until we receive all of the environmental impacts studies, making the DNR an independent agency again so that the position would no longer be used as a partisan tool, and for establishing locally controlled water boards that would work with an independent DNR to maintain their water quantity and quality."

Duncan is running against incumbent Rep. Scott Krug (R-Wisconsin Rapids) — a Scott Walker loyalist and member of the rightwing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that is a corporate bill mill.

Krug, says one Protect Wood County citizen, "has been jerking us around because he knows he's in big trouble running for (re)election."

Meanwhile, the groups with active citizens numbering well into 100s say they have hired an attorney looking into federal remedies from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, should as is expected the DNR roll over for Wysocki, with the predictable consequence of devastating the Central Sands region as a recreational community.

Writes Julie Kreutzer of Wisconsin Rapids in an email going around the region, reminding folks that people live here now.

Everyone here talks about the recreational community.  Well for us it's not recreational, it's where we live!  My husband has cancer and is now on disability.  We won't be able to live here on our 40 acres anymore if the farm comes in. The property right next to us would become crop land.  The pesticides, herbicides, manure they spray would be very harmful to him.  The water quality, the air quality, stress are detrimental to his health.  No one is listening to the health issues we have here in Central Wisconsin with all the cancer.  It IS a matter of life and death for us.  Add to that the loss of property value.  Now the main bread winner in our home is no longer working, and when we try to sell our home we won't get the value we put into it!  Even if I sell my home right now!  The farm isn't even here yet!   Who's going to help us?  Will we get subsidized?   I've been a resident of this area all my life along with my dad, my grandparents, and my great grandparents who originally settled in Rome!  We will leave  if the CAFO comes in, we will be forced to.  We won't buy a home in Wisconsin again.  Can't trust that anyone is looking out for our well being.  I have brought this information to all the town meetings, DNR in our township etc.  Just saying it again hoping someone will hear.
Citizens are reaching out to career DNR staffers whom they believe are more amiable to listen, per Wisconsin statute and case law, speaking to the socioeconomic and health effects of the proposed CAFO, including:
Decline of property value - Many have already felt the impact of this. Homes in Saratoga recently sold between 75-100 thousand dollars below the asking price simply due to the threat of the dairy.  If you know what your home was worth prior to the dairy announcement and have an estimate of what it is worth now, it is great solid information to include.

    Property Taxes Increase - The proposed farm would be taxed at a significantly lower rate than personal property owners, less than a dollar an acre ... who do you think will be making up the difference?

    Significant Road Damage - The vast majority of roads in Saratoga and Rome do not have underlying road base that can support the weight of the constant heavy machinery and truck traffic it will be made to support. Again, who do you think will foot the bill to maintain and fix these roads?

    Increased Health Concerns and Medical Bills - the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that there is an average of a 25% increase in children with asthma that live next to an industrialized agriculture facility or its fields.  It is also highly dangerous for individuals suffering from allergies and/or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Any and all medical conditions that would require additional medical attention effects a families income and are valid socio-economic impacts.

    Increased Financial Burdens - Living next to fields sprayed with manure STINKS.  Residents in such positions are forced to keep their windows closed and air conditioning units running 24/7.  Hanging clothes on the line outside in the fresh air will be a thing of the past. Both of these factors directly effect a residences pocket book by higher electric bills and unnecessary wear and tear on personal appliances.

    Water wells running dry - If the High Capacity Well permits are granted and they start pumping the estimated 7.3 billion gallons of water annually, there is a very high likelihood that numerous wells will run dry.  YOU as a homeowner are solely responsible for this cost.  A drilled well is estimated to cost between 7-12 thousand dollars.

    Water Contamination - Nitrates in drinking water are not to exceed 10 mg/L. If higher than the standard of 10, detrimental health impacts can occur.  We all know that a main side-effect of industrialized agriculture is extreme spikes in Nitrate levels in our groundwater. One way to address excessive Nitrates in drinking water is the purchase of a Reverse Osmosis machine (which at times still cannot filter the water enough to make it drinkable again).  Reverse Osmosis equipment can vary from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the filtration needed. Again ... who do you think pays for this device?

    Small Business Owners - If you are a small business owner there is no doubt you are concerned with maintaining your customer base when faced with potential air and water quality issues.  Please be sure to document how your business will be detrimentally effected by the proposed dairy.  Will you be able to stay in business if your campers all smell of manure?  Will customers be able to eat out on your patio if manure drift is landing on the tables?  Can you continue a restaurant or campground if Nitrates in your water exceed 10 mg/L? What will happen to the Saratoga and Rome economy if businesses start shutting down?
Below are two maps; one of the proposed Wysocki CAFO operation abutting four counties (Wood, Portage, Juneau and Adams counties) at left, and the map of the proposed Sand Valley golf resort in northern Adams county, at right. Note the proximity (some three miles) between the two planned developments where they abut on the Wood and Adams county border, a short distance from the Town of Rome (a vacation home region with several small lakes).

Wysocki Proposed CAFO

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