State regulators have denied a request by multiple environmental and animal rights groups to suspend operations at Lost Valley Farm, the controversial new 30,000-cow dairy permitted earlier this year near Boardman.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality are jointly responsible for administering Oregon’s confined animal feeding operation, or CAFO, program. The agencies issued a hotly contested water pollution permit for Lost Valley Farm on March 31, which became final on April 20.
Opponents of the dairy farm have filed what’s known as a petition for reconsideration, urging ODA and DEQ officials to change their minds. The coalition also asked for a stay of Lost Valley’s permit, which was rejected in a ruling handed down Friday, June 23.
“Petitioners have failed to provide any evidence of exactly what harms, if any, their members will sustain during the reconsideration period,” the ruling reads in part.
Petitioners include the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Columbia Riverkeeper, Food & Water Watch, Friends of Family Farmers, Humane Oregon, the Humane Society of the United States, Oregon Physicians for Rural Responsibility and Oregon Rural Action. They argue Lost Valley threatens to contaminate local groundwater and surface water as the dairy ramps up to full capacity over the next three years.
So far, Lost Valley has brought in just more than half the cows it is permitted to handle — 16,000 total, with about 8,700 milking cows. Estimates show that, at 30,000 cows, Lost Valley will produce 187 million gallons of wastewater and manure every year.
ODA and DEQ claim they crafted a permit that will be the most protective of water quality to date. For example, Lost Valley is required to have 11 groundwater monitoring wells on site, which is seven more than usual. The facility will also be inspected at least three times as often as other dairies.
Tarah Heinzen, staff attorney for Food & Water Watch, previously told the East Oregonian they knew it was unlikely the state would stay Lost Valley’s permit. Their petition for reconsideration remains under review, and the groups may still consider a formal appeal in court.
Greg te Velde, owner of Lost Valley Farm, previously said that suspending his operation would have just as harmful an effect on the cows as it would his business. Without the CAFO permit, te Velde said he would have nowhere else to go with the cows. It is entirely possible they would have to be sold for slaughter, he said.
In addition, te Velde said he would likely face foreclosure in Oregon after roughly $100 million worth of investment since 2003. Previously, te Velde ran Willow Creek Dairy on land leased from nearby Threemile Canyon Farms.
A spokeswoman for Lost Valley said the farm is pleased with the latest decision, and continues to focus on its operations.
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-966-0825.