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New community farm, PUD differ over water issue - Agency worried animal waste could foul well

By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News


PORT HADLOCK, WA — Concerns that an educational and sustainable agriculture project could foul the Tri-Area's largest groundwater source are without merit, a representative of Sunfield Farm said Monday.

Abby Jorgensen, Sunfield site committee member, said that Jefferson County Public Utility District officials have not discussed with Sunfield Farm representatives the farm's waste management concept.

Just the same, Jorgensen said the farm's approach to manure and other waste management is taken seriously.

"Biodynamic animal farm'

"A biodynamic animal farm requires meticulous animal waste management as part of its integral and sustainable system." Jorgensen said in a prepared statement Monday.

Helen Curry, Sunfield board president, adds: "We are very aware of the sensitive nature of the whole environment of the valley in which Sunfield is, and our educational mission actually involves raising the awareness of the sensitive nature of this area."

She said Sunfield wants to demonstrate how farming, open space and commerical activities can co-exist "when they have balanced, sustainable types of practices."

PUD Commissioner Wayne King said he was concerned that Sunfield bypassed PUD in its state Environmental Policy Act and building, storm water, commercial and conditional use permits applications.

"We're concerned about this recharge area in the Chimacum Creek basin," King said Monday.

"I would like to see a detailed plan of how they're going to retain the cow manure and animal waste."

"My concern is it will leach into the well area."

On the farm site off Rhody Drive near Kennedy Road, Sunfield Farm is establishing a learning center for all ages interested in creating balance between nature, agriculture, and our human needs, representatives said.

Programs are developing for youth from public and independent schools with a focus on sustainable agriculture and environmental education.

The farm will also be home to a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school using the Waldorf style of teaching.

Sunfield Farm , formerly a dairy farm run by the Spalding family, was acquired in April, 2004 by the Sunfield Education Association.

It was placed under a conservation easement by the Jefferson Land Trust.

Sunfield is a nonprofit community organization founded in 1998 with a broad mission that includes developing hands-on educationap programs in organic, sustainable agriculture.

Biodynamic agricultutre is founded on a holistic and spiritual understaning of nature and the human being, Sunfield leaders say. The concept builds on the pioneering research of Rudolph Steiner.

Every biodynamic farm aims to become self-sufficient in compost, manure, and animal feeds, according to the Steiner concept.

Sunfield is expected this year to produce three acres of organic/biodynamic-grown vegetables. The produce will be sold to Community Supported Agriculture program subscribers, at the Port Townsend Famers Market and The Food Co-op in Port Townsend.

Fences will be built to contain Dexter calves, Nubian goats, chickesn and a donkey.

Animal waste, which PUD officials fear could generate nitrates in the water table through leaching, is a major concern.

The Sparling well, the Tri-Area's largest groundwater source and operated by PUD, is about 500 feet away at Rhody Drive and Kennedy Road.

Sparling well pumped 164 million gallons fo water in 2005, according to (Bill) Graham.

The Kively well, by contrast, delivered 34 million gallons of water to PUD customers.

The Sparling wellhead protection area includes the farm site.

Four phases

It extends from the upper Anderson Lake Road area, including Anderson Lake State Park, part of a "Susceptible aquifer recharge area," and runs as far north as Irondale Road.

"It's basically all of the Tri-Area," said PUD Resource Manager Bill Graham, adding that the farm is upstream in the aquifer.

"So if anything was to infiltrate on that property, it's most likely it could reach our well," Graham said.

In the farm's case, he said, county regulations would require a septic system that diminish(es) nitrates.

"They'll have to do an alternative septic system based on the regulations," said Graham.

PUD concerns have been largely generated because the agency was unaware that there were four phases in the project.

Mark Denbro, president of Jefferson Land Trust, which is managing the farm's property as a conservation easement, said the biodynamic principle behind the type of organic would ensure that the land and water would be protected.

The conservation easement protects the land from being subdivided and developed.

"It's pretty much the way people used to have to farm," Denbro said, "adding some benefits of science, but they apply their respect and techniques for the land."

"There's a commitment that we're here to stay to protect the land forever, so we need to protect it forever."

County Commissioner David Sullivan, D-Cape George and a former PUD commissioner, said he believed issues between PUD and Sunfield Farm can be resolved.

Sullivan said from what he has learned, the water that recharges the Sparling well comes from a hillside.

"There is a real thick protective layer of glacial till that protects the aquifer down below," said Sullivan.

"That's why we have wetland and Chimacum Creek there."

Impervious protection

With the natural impervious protection of glacial till, the Sparling deep well water source is indeed protected, said Sullivan.

"It's not a bad question to ask, though," Sullivan said of PUD concerns about wellhead protections, adding that they should be discussed and worked out to ensure protection of the water source.

County Associate Planner Mo-chi Lindblad, Jefferson County Department of Community Development, said although the public comment period technically ended March 15, she was still taking comments from those concerned about the farm's possible impact on the area.

While the state environmental protection act review approval is within the county Department of Community Development's decision-making purview, the other permits much go before the county hearing examiner, who will also listen to public comments at a hearing yet to be scheduled, said Lindblad.

Port Townsend/Jefferson County Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-385-2335 or jeff.chew@peninsuladailynews.com.




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