Groups ask DNR to veto cattle operation near trout stream

By: - May 25, 2021 3:41 pm

Environmental groups continue to fight a cattle operation planned near a trout stream in northeast Iowa. (Photo by Michael Yero via Unsplash)

More than 40 groups and individuals, including nine state lawmakers, have asked the state’s top environmental official to block a proposed cattle operation near a specially protected northeast Iowa trout stream.

“Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a duty to protect Iowa water and landscapes from contamination that threatens public health and livelihoods,” the letter reads. “Some agricultural operations subject to DNR’s permitting authority must be restricted from areas where the risk posed to water quality and the environment is just too high.”

DNR has turned aside protests over Supreme Beef’s proposal near Monona, close to Bloody Run Creek, a protected trout stream. Opponents now are asking DNR Director Kayla Lyon, a former ag group lobbyist, to employ a little-used “director discretion rule” to veto her staff’s approval of the operation.

The rule sets out a list of things a director can choose to review, including whether “open feedlot effluent from the operation will cause pollution of a water of the state.”

The planned cattle operation had the help of state Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, who is the father-in-law of Jared Walz, one of the developers. Consultants on the project include Becky Sexton, who founded Twin Lakes Environmental Services with her husband, state Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City.

Critics say the operation is likely to overapply manure in the area, threatening streams including Bloody Run Creek, listed by the state as an “outstanding water” that is supposed to get extra protection.

The latest letter was signed by Democratic state Reps. Sharon Steckman, Art Staed, Marti Anderson, Bruce Hunter, and Liz Bennett, and Democratic Sens. Joe Bolkcom, Rob Hogg, Claire Celsi and Pam Jochum. 

Groups signing included Sierra Club, the Iowa Environmental Council, Trout Unlimited, Iowa Audubon, the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association, Iowa Farmers Union and 100 Grannies for a Livable Future in Iowa City.  

DNR spokesman Alex Murphy did not respond to an email seeking comment. 

Lyon is a former lobbyist for the Iowa Institute for Cooperatives and was appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican who has enjoyed strong support from agricultural groups and farm-related donors.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.