Committee amends waste ordinance
The Marathon County Environmental Resource Committee last week Tuesday voted 6-2 to send an amended animal waste ordinance back to the full county board for approval.
Voting for the measure were supervisors David Overbeck, Wausau, Randy Fifrick, Kronenwetter, Bill Conway, Schofield, Allen Drabek, Edgar, Sara Guild, Weston, and Jacob Langenhahn, town of Marathon. Voting no were supervisors Arnold Schlei, town of Easton, and farm service representative Eric Vogel, town of Hamburg. Supervisor Rick Seefeldt, Eland, left the meeting prior to a vote being taken.
The ordinance will return to the county board with one, slight modification proposed by supervisor Drabek. The ordinance would make illegal a person dumping over 300 square feet of stacked manure within 300 feet of a waterway. The original ordinance, following state performance standards, disallowed anything over 150 square feet of manure.
County land and water program manager Paul Daigle said the amended ordinance was “better than nothing” and that the county’s real concern was with discharge of much larger quantities of manure to creeks, rivers and streams.
“This is something we can live with,” Daigle said.
During a second public hearing on the ordinance, dairy farmer James Juedes, town of Easton, presented a list of Marathon County Farm Bureau concerns about the ordinance.
Juedes asked a series of questions:
_ Why would the county regulate Marathon County farmers when waste from farms outside the county pollute local waters?
_ Why would the county impose regulations when other counties aren’t doing so?
_ Would the ordinance require some farmers, including dairy graziers, to build manure pits?
_ Would the ordinance prohibit farmers from giving cows access to streams?
_ Would crop and ginseng farmers be held accountable for pollution?
Juedes also commented that the ordinance contained a “gross overreach of county power” that included county staff having access to investigate complaints on private farmland.
Daigle addressed each question and concern in detail. He said the ordinance does not include multi-county regulations, that 27 other Wisconsin counties have adopted either some or all of state ag performance standards, that no manure pits would be required by the ordinance, that cows would continue to have stream access as long as the banks are sod, that all citizens, whether they have cows or not, are encouraged to implement best management practices and that county enforcement practices under the new ordinance did not change from the past.
Daigle said the only substantial issue in the ordinance rewrite was not stacking manure near waterways and that all farmers had to do to comply with this provision was to stack manure on upland hills, not near creeks.
In other oral testimony, Matt Oehmican, a Colby ag consultant, testified in favor of the ordinance while a number of other farmers, including Wayne Gajewski, Randy Wokatsch, Dave Hanneman, Joe Kaiser and Randy Roskoph testified against the proposal. Jeremy Haas, Colby, supported the ordinance in written comments. Ronald Zimmerman, Aniwa, penned his opposition.
In debate, supervisor Anold Schlei called for postponing a vote on the ordinance, saying that he wanted to know whether Daigle had, in fact, answered Farm Bureau concerns with the ordinance.
Supervisor Guild, however, said there was plenty of time to communicate with the Farm Bureau prior to the county board taking a final vote on the ordinance.
Marathon County Towns and Villages Association representative Marilyn Bhend, a non-voting committee member, argued the committee had discussed the ordinance thoroughly and needed to vote on the measure.
“Sometimes you can beat a horse only so many times,” she said.
A vote to call the question and vote on the ordinance passed 7-1 with Schlei casting the lone no vote.