Everyone who lives within Devils Lake or the surrounding Lake Region area is asked to attend one of two meetings next Wednesday, Sept. 12; 1 p.m. at the Spirit Lake Casino & Resort or 5:30 p.m. in the LRSC Auditorium to give oral comments on a proposed livestock facility.

Everyone who lives within Devils Lake or the surrounding Lake Region area is asked to attend one of two meetings next Wednesday, Sept. 12; 1 p.m. at the Spirit Lake Casino & Resort or 5:30 p.m. in the LRSC Auditorium to give oral comments on a proposed livestock facility.

The North Dakota Department of Health received an application from Daniel Julson and Taylor Aasmundstad on behalf of Grand Prairie Agriculture, LLP, on June 30, 2017. It consisted of a four page application and 378 pages of supporting documentation.

At an informational meeting held over a year ago, Karl Rockeman from the NDDoH pointed out that after the permit was granted, then the public would have 30 days in which to comment. He promised they would be back in Devils Lake for public hearings at that time, once the permit was approved. That’s how the process works. So here they come next week.

The opposition                                                                                                                                           Those who oppose the CAFO hope that the North Dakota Department of Health will listen to the overwhelming opposition from the residents of the region.

Lois Steinhaus, who lives less than a mile from where the hog farm is planned, is optimistic, “Why would they risk this?” she asks. “I was a nurse for over 40 years and I know all too well that prevention is far better for everyone. That’s why we emphasize wearing seat belts, brushing and flossing, you name it!” Why wait until there’s a problem before you address it, consider what you can do before the problem exists, she asked.

She is convinced that the NDDoH will realize that it is not the hog farm that they oppose, it’s the location of this hog farm. Like the old saying goes, “Location, location, location....” that’s the problem.

From the reading and research she and others of the group, Lake Region Concerned Citizens, have done it’s a consensus that although they support agriculture throughout the region, this situation is unique because of its location.

Jeff Kenner, who grew up very close to the location in question, says, “I understand that the Aasmundstads want their young son [Taylor] to succeed in his chosen profession. I want my son, Jesse, to succeed, too. What is this hog farm going to do to his future? To the campground he dreams of owning and running on the shores of Devils Lake? Who is going to want to camp down wind of a hog barn?” Kenner asked. He continued by siting a study recently released about Lake Alice and how the runoff from hog operations near that wetlands have created unhealthy high nutrient and E-coli concentrations.

The Grand Prairie Agriculture LLP hog barns will be 17 feet above the Spiritwood Aquifer. Only a 5-inch concrete floor, with no liner included, will separate the 3.85 million gallons of hog waste from the regions’s source of fresh drinking water.

“Everybody should be concerned about that!” Daril Rainesalo said. “This isn’t just ‘their’ fight - it’s all of ours!” she continued - indicating the people who live near the proposed hog farm.

Kenner also brought up the concerns he has for the cemetery where many of his family members are buried, the Norway Lutheran Cemetery will be a few hundred feet from the hog barn. He said he thinks of it as a sacred place where he and family members can go to spend a few minutes of peace, listen to the meadowlark’s call, and breathe in the fresh country air.

With 2,499 hogs closely confined in a huge barn just on the other side of the fence, the smell will be nearly intolerable and the noise from constant and huge fans drawing the methane gas out of the barn will put an end to the peace, quiet and tranquility that sacred space has provided.

The Norway Lutheran Cemetery, established in 1889, is still being used, burials still take place in that cemetery. Most recently Vernon Christianson was buried there June 26, 2018, according to the records kept by St. Olaf Lutheran Church. Families of loved ones still gather there around the grave sites as the presiding minister provides the fitting words and rituals accompanying the interment. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons of those buried there have a lovely, peaceful place to visit the graves of their loved ones. But for how long?

LRCC                                                                                                                                                         Lake Region Concerned Citizens has grown to more than 1,500 members since it was founded one year ago. They maintain a Facebook page to support one another and to disseminate information. “We’re not against farmers, farming or pigs - we are against having this hog farm in this location. It’s all about the location and its proximity to the lake and to sloughs that drain into the lake,” Stenhaus said.

Some of their concerns include the following:

•Polluting the aquifer that sits a mere 17 feet below the pit which may one day hold millions of gallons of swine waste

•Polluting the waters of Devils Lake and destroying the region’s billion-dollar fishery

•Air pollution for campgrounds and Grahams Island State Park located south and east of the hog farm •Desecrating the holy place, the Norway Lutheran Cemetery

•Concern about the land locations where waste will be spread on fields that were under water not long ago as Devils Lake flooded. (Nobody can predict that it won’t flood to that level again.)

The NDDoH says it will monitor the water quality near the CAFO and check it twice each year. They do not have the personnel or resources to monitor it more often than that. Besides, according to their own procedures, that should be sufficient.

Perhaps so, if the location is far from an already endangered body of water like Devils Lake. Surely there are countless other locations in the state of North Dakota that would welcome an operation like this, far from the state’s busiest State Park and the often flooding shores of Devils Lake.