PENDLETON, Ore. — A coalition of health and environmental groups is asking Oregon officials to investigate construction of a mega-dairy in Morrow County.

It’s unclear whether state agencies will sign off on the controversial 30,000-cow dairy farm, reported The East Oregonian (http://bit.ly/2j8dadH ). It hasn’t been determined whether Lost Valley Ranch broke the law by breaking ground long before it secured the necessary permits.

Representatives from the health and environmental groups plan to meet face-to-face with state regulators in Portland on Friday. The Oregon Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality are jointly responsible for outlining how Lost Valley will manage the roughly 187 million gallons of liquid manure it generates each year and protect against groundwater contamination.

The agencies said they haven’t yet issued a permit for Lost Valley, and the coalition said the dairy doesn’t have a construction storm water permit, either.

“We will definitely be considering what our response should be,” said ODA Confined Animal Feeding Operations program manager Wym Matthews said.

California dairyman Greg te Velde is developing Lost Valley Ranch. He did not comment on the coalition’s complaints other than to say that the company is working through the permitting process.

He also told The East Oregonian that Lost Valley Ranch has built milk barns and stalls on site, although he wouldn’t say exactly how much money has been spent so far. He would only describe the amount as “a lot.”

The coalition is not only concerned that the farm is hurting the environment — it also believes it the mega-dairy could have violated laws by starting construction even though it still hasn’t registered as a business with the Secretary of State’s Office.

There is already a Lost Valley Ranch, LLC, in Eastern Oregon. That ranch is registered to Robert and Joan Wade of Condon.

“It suggests the company perhaps doesn’t take the permits seriously,” said Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farms, one of a dozen groups in the coalition. “That’s very problematic as well.”

Te Velde did apply for a confined animal feeding operation permit in August 2016. In the application, he described a system that stores liquid manure in six main lagoons and uses the nitrogen-rich wastewater to irrigate 5,900 acres of farmland, growing feed for the dairy’s cattle.

ODA instructed the dairy to stop building the wastewater system without its CAFO permit in November, and the dairy did apply with that request, said Matthews. But he said the state can’t stop them from building some other structures.


Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.com