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Hogs in a confinement

Hogs mill about in a North Iowa confinement operation.

MASON CITY — Cerro Gordo County supervisors voted Tuesday to appeal a state agency’s decision to approve construction of a hog confinement facility near Ventura.

Their unanimous action came after the Iowa Department of Natural Resources rejected the county’s recommendation of Aug. 16 to deny a construction permit for River Edge Farms LLC to build a facility that would house 4,992 head of finish hogs on 300th Street, about a half-mile east of Balsam Avenue north of Ventura.

The Aug. 16 county vote came after a public hearing in which 23 people spoke, 20 of whom opposed the application.

The River Edge application met all requirements in a state matrix, but Supervisors Jay Urdahl, Phil Dougherty and Casey Callanan recommended that the state deny a permit, primarily because of the proposed site’s proximity to homes and nearby wildlife areas.

The DNR, however, gave preliminary approval last week because the application met state standards.

At a supervisors meeting Tuesday, Assistant Administrative Officer John Robbins said the county had three decisions to make: whether to appeal, whether a county representative should present an oral argument to the DNR, and whether the county should be represented by legal counsel.

The appeal would go to the state Environmental Protection Commission for resolution.

Robbins said his research showed that the DNR dealt with seven appeals in recent years with three of them being successful.

Urdahl said he was still concerned about the site’s proximity to wildlife areas and that the approval was based on what he called a technicality over interpretation of how much marshland was involved.

Citing Robbins’ statistics on past appeals, he said, “With seven appeals and three successes, it is not a hopeless cause.”

Board Chairman Casey Callanan wasn’t as optimistic. “This is somewhat of an exercise in futility, but we might as well exhaust the process,” he said.

Administrative Officer Tom Drzycimski said the state will set a hearing date within 35 days and the county must submit documentation for its appeal within 30 days.

The board did not decide whether to appeal in person and whether to have legal counsel.

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