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Iowa Great Lakes residents upset about hogs

MILFORD, Iowa (AP) -- Some Iowa Great Lakes residents are angry that Dickinson County didn't tell them about a hog confinement being built near the popular vacation area.

"They chose not to tell anybody," said Mel Berryhill, a resident who used to run a local water utility. "The public really didn't have time to comment. A lot of people are upset."

The permit application was filed in May, and construction has begun. The site is owned by Albert Gearhardt of Fairmont, Minn.

County supervisors also declined to issue any comment during the two weeks they had to appeal the permit in August.

Residents called a meeting Monday night to discuss whether the project could be blocked even after the Iowa Department of Natural Resources gave the developers, Kaiser Productions, a permit last month. They also planned to attend Tuesday's supervisors meeting.

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A nonprofit group, Save Dickinson County's Environment, is working with Algona lawyer Tom Lipps to stop the project. The group is preparing for mediation required by Iowa before it can sue.

"What's there to mediate?" said Paul DeMuth during Monday's meeting. "Tell them to fill the hole and leave the county."

Kaiser plans a 4,000-head finishing operation. The company plans to store or spread manure on properties on several sides of the park, according to state records.

Inspectors from the state environmental protection division visited the site at least twice and confirmed that the proposal meets state rules.

Berryhill said the lagoons and fields where manure is to be spread are in the area that drains to the Okoboji lakes. He also said that both Spencer and the Clay County Regional Water system have wells in the area.

Dickinson County Supervisor June Goldman said the supervisors will scheduled a public hearing on the matter.

"Whatever we can do, we are going to do," she told about 90 residents at the meeting. "I don't know if that is a comfort to you. We have joined the battle."

Goldman didn't say why her board neglected to pursue, or publicize the case over the past four months. Instead, she suggested the DNR was at fault for not reminding the county of its obligations.

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"I think it was odd that they didn't contact us and say, 'We have not heard from you, what is your decision?' We never heard anything. No phone calls, nothing."

Reza Khosravi of the DNR said state law has in the past required public hearings and public notices of such projects, and will again beginning in March. However, the county technically didn't have to publish a notice or hold a hearing for this project, he said.

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