Angst over manure smells of red tape


During a public hearing last night in Yakima, the odor of discontent over dairy manure lagoon management filled the air.

Rural residents complained the proposed new rules governing permitting of manure lagoons and ground application don’t protect ground water resources. Dairymen called the permitting process too costly, both in terms of money and in terms of land management. And Hispanic civil rights advocates claimed the proposed dairy rules inherently continue to put low-income minority families at risk.

The fact that came out of the public hearing loud and clear is that only state Department of Ecology employees believe the manure lagoon proposal will effectively allow for dairy operation and protection of groundwater. That leaves us wondering why Ecology is pushing so hard to implement new rules nobody believes will work — rules nobody wants.

Perhaps it’s the excessive permitting and assessment fees the agency expects to receive next year. Perhaps it’s the proposals required 100-foot setback for manure application on fields within 100 feet of irrigation and other waterways. Or perhaps its just a way to keep agency officials employed.

One thing is for sure, the angst is the air during last night’s meeting smells of red tape.

Residents with nitrate-contaminated drinking water wells are concerned the agency is dragging its feet. They are also accusing the agency of kowtowing to dairy interests by shielding them from possible lawsuits.

Officials representing dairies are concerned the move is an end-run to claim jurisdiction over the land they own adjacent to irrigation ditches and streams. They are also concerned that the agency will use the permitting plan to enhance the already bloated agency bureaucracy.

We’re concerned the red tape of this plan is just too much for anyone to stomach.

Rather than have dairy owners, rural residents and environmentalists hold their collective noses and accept the proposed new rules, Ecology should start over.

Let’s allow a stakeholder group comprising dairymen, rural residents and environmentalists come up with a plan that allows for productive dairy operations while protecting groundwater resources.

Here in the lower valley, we need both.


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