Sierra Club eyes court action over N.E. Iowa cattle operation

A fight over a northeast Iowa trout stream threatened by a cattle operation may be heading to court. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources)

Critics of a northeast Iowa cattle operation near a high-quality trout stream are considering a court appeal after the state’s top environmental official declined to review her agency’s approval of the feedlot.

Supreme Beef wants to raise more than 10,000 cattle in a partially enclosed feedlot near Bloody Run Creek, not far from Monona in Clayton County. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources years ago declared Bloody Run an “outstanding Iowa water” requiring special protection, and the agency stocks trout in the popular fishing spot. 

Wallace Taylor, lawyer for the Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club, an environmental organization, said he asked for clarification of the recent ruling by Kayla Lyon, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 

“The department will not be providing any additional justification or comment,” responded Tamara Mullen McIntosh, DNR’s general counsel.

That has shifted the discussion to legal appeal options. “We are considering asking a court to review the DNR decision,” Taylor said. 

The fight over the cattle operation, located in a geologically sensitive area prone to groundwater pollution, has been going on for a couple of years.

Sierra Club recently joined 40 organizations, including the Iowa Environmental Council, and nine Democratic lawmakers to ask Lyon to invoke the “director discretion rule” to review DNR staff member’s approval of manure management plans that critics say are seriously flawed and will lead to over-application and pollution. 

Lyon responded that DNR and attorney general’s office lawyers said she didn’t have the legal authority to do that. Taylor disagreed.

“It is shameful that Director Lyon won’t use the authority given to her,” Taylor said.

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.