Thanks to all of our supporters who submitted comments on the water right applications for Lost Valley Farm, the new 30,000-cow mega dairy under construction near Boardman, Oregon. Here is an update on the status of those applications and other matters related to the dairy.
Summary. The dairy is under construction and has begun operations with a small number of cows even though it has not obtained all the permits it asked for and some permit issues remain outstanding.
Background. We have been part of a coalition of groups opposing the dairy because we believe animal welfare suffers on large factory farms. In addition to trying to raise awareness about environmental and animal welfare issues associate with factory dairies, the coalition has opposed three permits the dairy needs: a water quality permit from the Oregon departments of Environmental Quality and Agriculture, and three applications to the Oregon Water Resources Department to use groundwater for operation of the dairy. The dairy also needed land use permits, but those were largely non-discretionary and were granted before we got involved. In August of last year, we submitted our own comments in opposition to the water quality permit. In March of this year, we joined with other groups in filing comments against two applications for temporary rights to use groundwater for dairy operations - one application to use shallow groundwater and another application to use deep groundwater. Then, also in March, we joined other groups in filing a "protest" to a proposed water rights "transfer" to let Lost Valley use groundwater rights previously used by another party at another location. The water quality permit for the diary was issued in March, but we joined with other groups seeking reconsideration of that decision. The permit for temporary use of shallow groundwater was issued in April, but we joined with other groups seeking to overturn that decision in court.
Current Status. On July 25, the request for reconsideration of the water quality permit was denied. Coalition members are considering whether to challenge that decision in court. The permit for temporary use of groundwater was withdrawn after we challenged it in court. The application for temporary use of deep groundwater was later withdrawn, probably because of our opposition. We understand the dairy is now trucking in water from a nearby municipal water provider for its dairy operations and that drinking water for the cows is coming from a well under under a claim that no permit is required for "stockwatering." We plan to put pressure on the use of that exemption. Meanwhile, our protest of the water right transfer (the intended permanent supply for the dairy) remains pending and is not likely to get a hearing until late this year.
Thank you again for supporting us in this work!
Photo: barns and waste lagoons under construction at Lost Valley Farm.