Expand? DeVries Told to Cut Water Use First



Yakima, WA - DeVries Family Farms must reduce its current water use before the east Moxee dairy is allowed to increase its herd to 4,480 milking cows and calves, county planners have decided.

Planners said the dairy is nearly at the limit of its water right with the current herd of about 2,800 cows.

"They are trying to do some recycling and conservation measures to get (their usage) down," said planner Deb Barnes. "What we are trying to do is get the conservation measures in place and validate that they can do it."

A preliminary decision that would allow the dairy to expand also calls for better control of insects, odors and dust.

Tom DeVries, an owner of the dairy, 15 miles east of Yakima, expressed confidence Monday the dairy can comply with all mandated measures.

The dairy filed a request to expand last fall, intending to add six new cow pens and cow shades, a new silage bunker and commodity shed, a manure storage area and a second milking parlor.

To add the pens, the dairy must move an intermittent stream south of the dairy.

The initial decision by county planners, issued on Monday, opens a 14-day public comment period through July 7 before the planning department issues a final decision.

The final environmental decision will be the subject of a public hearing before the county hearing examiner. A date for the hearing hasn't been set.

Neighbors who have opposed the dairy since it first opened more than three years ago said they had not read the preliminary decision and could not comment.

DeVries Family Farms has been at odds with its neighbors, a group called Concerned Morningside Citizens. The group is appealing a water-rights transfer approved last year by the state Ecology Department. The group wants the state Pollution Control Hearings Board to void the transfer for dairy and irrigation use.

The hearings board, which handles appeals from Ecology decisions, is scheduled to hear the case in October.

Issues surrounding the water right received the most attention from county planners.

Barnes said the dairy must reduce its water usage to less than 45 gallons per cow per day to have enough water left to irrigate the State Route 24 farm on which the dairy is located.

County planners estimate the dairy is using water at a daily rate of 60.4 gallons per cow. Industry estimates gathered by the county place daily per-cow water use in a range from 35 gallons to 75 gallons per day.

The DeVries plan is to use wastewater from the dairy wastewater lagoon to flush alleys in the milking parlor and feeding aisles.

Tom DeVries said the dairy already had plans to improve water conservation and will implement them as the dairy grows.

On other issues, the county's preliminary decision calls for paving the circular driveway in front of the milking parlor and frontage roads on the dairy property. Other interior roads must have a gravel surface and have dust retardant applied.

Existing plans for odor, insect control and noise have not been as successful as originally hoped and must be upgraded, the report said.


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