Residents from the area near the planned hog farm worry that the application could be approved without a public hearing, thus the request to the county for support.

After hearing from several residents of Pelican and Grand Harbor townships, the Ramsey County Commission agreed Tuesday to draft a letter of support for public hearings concerning an application filed with the Dept. of Health to allow a hog farm to operate in Pelican Township.

The application, filed by Taylor Aasmundstad of Grand Prairie Agriculture on June 30, is for just under 2,700 pigs, though that number could expand should the application be approved.

Residents from the area near the planned hog farm worry that the application could be approved without a public hearing, thus the request to the county for support.

Jeff Kenner, chairman of Grand Harbor Township, said at Tuesday’s meeting that he’s been “bombarded” by calls from concerned citizens.

“Why would they even consider having a hog operation close to all of the residences and campgrounds?” Kenner asked while pointing out that tourism and agriculture in the region have “been in harmony for years.”

Commissioner Ed Brown pushed back some against the request, mentioning the county’s loss in the state Supreme Court in 2008 after it was determined that Ramsey County had overstepped its regulatory bounds concerning a hog farm operation near Edmore. He pointed out that the county got stuck with all of the costs associated with that lawsuit.

“We have no jurisdiction over what you do in Pelican Township,” Brown said. “The county has to be very careful about what they support because of that case.”

He also said that the county and affected townships “have to follow the North Dakota Dept. of Health guidelines.” However, one resident pointed out that the Dept. of Health “doesn’t care about air quality” while describing his concerns about pollution from the proposed farm.

The Dept. of Health application indeed does not include an air quality review. The department does review potential water quality impact, which was another point with which township residents took issue Tuesday.

One resident, Janelle Howard-Engstrom, said those near the planned site of the operation feel “stonewalled” by the Dept. of Health. She acknowledged that she didn’t expect everyone on the commission to agree with the position of concerned neighbors, but said that the county’s letter of support could have influence on the department to hold hearings.

Another, Greg Lynch, said that the runoff from the farm into the lake should be a concern for everyone in the region.

“There’s a constant grade right into the water,” Lynch said while joining Howard-Engstrom in protesting the application process. “We’re getting this shoved down our throat.”

Another resident, Jesse Kenner, said that waste will be dumped across the road from his property, and because he gets his well water from a shallow aquifer, he’s concerned his primary water source could become contaminated by the proposed farm.

The Dept. of Health is expected to conduct an on-site inspection before approving the project, though one township resident said that “dirt has been moved” at the site, indicating that initial phases of construction may have begun. That, however, has not been confirmed.

Despite some concerns with the county’s involvement in the proposed farm, commissioners unanimously decided to draft a letter to the Dept. of Health requesting a public hearing. Commissioner Lucas Wakefield warned that the letter would not be legally binding.

Commissioner Adam Leiphon was the most vocal supporter of the letter.

“A public hearing should be a baseline,” Leiphon said.

The commission estimated that the letter should be drafted and sent by week’s end.