Citing wetlands concerns, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has rejected an initial application for a 26,350-head swine operation in the Town of Trade Lake, putting a pause, at least for now, on the Cumberland LLC plans for the concentrated agricultural feeding operation (CAFO) off State Highway 48.

The proposed CAFO has fueled large-scale protests, and garnered some support, for such operations across the region and last week brought dozens of residents to the Burnett County Land Use and Information Committee meeting at the county government center in Siren.

The DNR addressed the rejection announcement letter to applicant Jeff Sauer of Thorp, and cited the state administrative code for manure storage in the rejection.

“As a result of the artificial wetland decision, alternative wetland permitting options need to be explored based on anticipated wetland disturbances with the submitted proposed site layout,” the letter stated. “Due to the potential for significant site design changes, it is the Department’s policy to not approve plans and specifications until wetland permitting decisions are finalized.”

The application was filed with the DNR on May 7, and the rejection letter specifically noted the appellate rights of the Cumberland LLC group, how they have up to 30 days to file an appeal for a judicial review of the decision.

“The filing of a request for a contested case hearing does not extend the 30-day period for filing a petition for judicial review,” the DNR stated in closing.

The denial leaves the Cumberland LLC proposal unclear as to whether it will impact the size, scope or overall future of the swine CAFO project and its legality. As to what is next on the proposal is also unclear, although the DNR denial decision seems to have slowed down the proposals’ timeline.

However, the state clearly makes it possible for continued review, noting the need for “alternative wetland permitting options,” which could mean the operation may work with the DNR on ways to mitigate the noted impacts or concerns.

Burnett County Board supervisor Craig Conroy has been instrumental on land-use studies and issues related, but said he was not sure yet of the impact.

“I’ll stand by and see what happens next regarding appeals, potential revision, etc.,” Conroy said.

The Sentinel reached out to Burnett County Board supervisor Ramona Moody for her take on the rejection letter. Supv. Moody has been front-and-center on the CAFO issue, and is the chairperson for the Town of Trade Lake, where the permit would apply.

Like Supv. Conroy, Supv. Moody also withheld any comments on the impact, but did share an addendum of sorts that may clarify one aspect of the Cumberland LLC application, in a note from DNR wastewater specialist Tyler Dix:  

“The other reviews are put on hold since the plans and specs were rejected,” Dix stated to Moody. “The next step is for Cumberland LLC to resolve the wetland issue and potentially resubmit plans and specifications.”

Reading between the lines on Mr. Dix’ response, the rejection does mean other aspects of the application are apparently on hold until the wetlands issues are resolved.

“If plans and specifications are resubmitted, then the review holds on the liquid storage capacity calculations and the nutrient management plan would be removed,” Dix concluded.

The Sentinel will continue updates on the CAFO issue(s) as the various aspects of the permitting, regulations and state action come to light.