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Feedlot expansion request withdrawn

Staff writer

Steven and Martha Krispense of rural Marion have withdrawn a request to expand a feedlot at KK Ranch from 575 to 800 cattle in the wake of concerns expressed by the cities of Marion and Hillsboro regarding E. coli levels at Marion Reservoir.

Environmental engineer Maria Stevens of Kansas Department of Health and Environment mentioned the change in the permit application before opening a public hearing for comments on the permit request Thursday in Marion.

“When we learned that there were concerns being expressed by the cities of Marion and Hillsboro and the Corps of Engineers, we elected to withdraw the request for expansion until we had time to evaluate those concerns and address them in appropriate ways,” the Krispenses said in a written statement provided to the newspaper.

“We haven’t had time to determine the most effective ways to do that, but one idea that we are looking at seriously is a vegetative treatment system designed by Christopher Henry of the University of Nebraska,” the statement said.

KK Ranch currently has a permit for 565 swine weighing 55 pounds or more, 150 cattle weighing 700 pounds or more, and 425 cattle weighing less than 700 pounds. The initial permit application requested adding 225 cattle weighing less than 700 pounds to the feedlot’s capacity.

The Krispenses revised their permit application after the public hearing was announced. They withdrew the request to add cattle capacity and requested to eliminate the capacity for swine. Stevens said KK Ranch hasn’t had swine for several years.

The hearing attracted 28 people, not including KDHE representatives. The agency received five written comments, hearing officer Allison Herring said. Most comments at the hearing referred to expansion.

Clayton Huseman of Kansas Livestock Association’s feedlot division spoke on behalf of the Krispenses. He said they recognized the importance of regulation and had a history of working with KDHE on water quality. The ranch existed before the reservoir was built, he said.

The first KDHE permit for the feedlot allowed 800 cattle and 500 swine, he said. The Krispenses wanted to return the cattle capacity to that level because their grandsons showed interest in pursuing careers in ranching.

He said the feedlot probably wasn’t the only source of E. coli and might not be the biggest source at the reservoir. Huseman said a long-running family business was at stake and urged KDHE to approve the permit.

Hillsboro water plant technician Dan Mount said he was concerned an expanded feedlot could force the city to add expensive testing procedures. If E. coli levels are too high, KDHE would require the city test for cryptosporidium, which could cost as much as $30,000 per year.

Hillsboro City Administrator Larry Paine said it seemed inconsistent that KDHE would consider placing additional requirements on water plants while possibly allowing expansion of a feedlot so close to a municipal water source.

Marion streets director, zoning administrator, and building inspector Marty Fredrickson said Marion Reservoir is the municipal water source for about 6,460 customers in Marion, Hillsboro, Peabody, and at Marion County Park and Lake.

Sandy Loveless of Lincolnville said the reservoir is important to the local atmosphere and economy and that it should be protected. She said it would be hard to reverse any decision to expand the feedlot.

Harry Bennett of rural Marion said most water quality concerns are created without a single identifiable source, but the feedlot was notable as a likely contributor. He urged KDHE to deny any feedlot expansion.

Jessica Mounts of Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks said the department was concerned that expanding the feedlot might pose a risk to fish populations in the reservoir. Runoff from the feedlot could increase algae blooms, harming fish. She offered the department’s assistance in analyzing the conditions at the reservoir.

Marion Reservoir Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies Coordinator Peggy Blackman said monitoring since 2007 has found spikes in E. coli in the reservoir after rains, especially at Cottonwood Point which is near the feedlot.

Rickey Roberts of Kansas State University Research and Extension said he has worked with several feedlots. He said the Krispenses have always been professional about water quality issues. He said it is difficult to pinpoint E. coli sources and that agriculture is the most important segment of the local economy.

Last modified Sept. 29, 2010

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