Army body must review Indiana dairy farm decision

MUNSTER, Indiana (AP) – A federal judge has ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider its ruling that a dairy farm built in northwest Indiana to house more than 4,000 cows is not subject to the Clean Water Act.

Environmental groups and several residents sued Texas-based Natural Prairie Dairy and the Army Corps of Engineers in 2019, accusing Natural Prairie Dairy of violating the Clean Water Act by installing drainage tiles and filling ditches during construction of the Newton County farm.

The Hoosier Environmental Council and the Indiana Audubon Society said Natural Prairie Dairy did not contact the Army Corps to determine whether the lands and ditches were federally regulated until almost two years after the work was completed.

Kim Ferraro, senior counsel for the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the Army Corps “summarily concluded that the land is not a wetland and that the ditches are not jurisdictional waters – effectively legitimizing the activities of Natural Prairie after the fact and eliminating the need for Natural Prairie to obtain a federal permit to construct ”the concentrated animal feed operation.

In the recent ruling, U.S. District Judge Damon Leichty in South Bend concluded that the determination of the Corps’ administrative jurisdiction was “arbitrary and capricious” because it was not supported by facts on the record. administrative.

He returned the decision to the corps for further consideration, the Northwest Indiana Times reported.

The dairy farm, which includes 4,350 cows and a 9-acre lagoon, was built in the Kankakee River basin in “one of the most environmentally sensitive and historically significant areas in the state,” the groups said. environmental.

This area was part of the Grand Kankakee Marsh, which once spanned nearly a million acres in parts of northern Indiana and Illinois before being drained for agriculture. The extinct wetland is often referred to as the “Northern Everglades”.

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