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Oberdiek hog farm expansion gets the OK

by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

The wait is finally over. For Gary and Warren Oberdiek of Farley, the long months of fighting opposition over a proposed hog expansion came to an end last week when they received word from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that they would be receiving their permit.

"We're pleased to get the permit. It took quite awhile but we're glad to have it now," said Gary Oberdiek.

The proposed expansion included an addition of two high-rise hog facilities that would add 2,200 finishing spaces to their current operation. The facility, which is similar to ones in Ohio and Indiana, involves the manure and liquid waste being combined with sawdust or other organic material in a system that dries the waste to reduce odor.

Despite the months of opposition from some neighbors in Farley and some residents throughout Platte County, the Department of Natural Resources announced it found no reason to deny the permit.

"We didn't find any solid reasons for denying the permit," said Randy Clarkson, chief of engineering for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources water pollution control program. "We reviewed the application in detail and it met all the criteria that it was required to meet."

Clarkson, who addressed a public meeting of nearly 120 individuals in March regarding questions and concerns for the proposed hog farm operation, clarified that his department was only authorized to deal with subsurface and surface waters.

Despite Clarkson's remarks explaining his position with the permit, questions continued to flood the public meeting about odor from the facility, property values and contamination of water supplies.

A main concern that Clarkson stated needed to be addressed was the designation of that area as a 500-year flood plain, which is what the area was believed to be designated prior to the public meeting. Clarkson clarified that even if the area turned out to be in a 100-year flood plain, it would still meet the criteria set forth by the state.

In a conversation this week, Clarkson told The Landmark that the area met the 100-year flood plain criteria.

"What that tells us is that if there is a flood event in the Missouri River area that would represent a 100-year flood, that the levy in that area should support that type of flood," explained Clarkson.

Despite the approval of the construction permit by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri State Representative of the 30th District Meg Harding stated her displeasure with the approval of the permit.
"While I do support the rights of our local family farmers, and understand that there is nothing in the law to prevent the issuance of this permit, I think this is an unfortunate decision. I feel the hog barns are perilously close to the communities of Farley, Parkville, and Kansas City, as well as the Missouri River. One of my priorities next year will be to do a strict review of existing laws, rules, and regulations governing concentrated animal feed operations," stated Harding.

During the 45-day waiting period, Clarkson stated his department expedited the transcripts from the public hearing
and developed a response letter addressing everyone's concerns and explaining the reason for the department's approval of the permit.

"We developed a response letter that was sent to over 100 people that had associated with us through a letter or at the public meeting," said Clarkson.

He explained that due to the media coverage and the great interest from the public surrounding this issue, the majority of those 45 days was spent reviewing the letter that would be distributed.

"We wanted to ensure the right reply to concerns, as well as the explanation for the approval of the permit."

According to Oberdiek, the next step is to get a county health permit.

"I don't know if there will be any opposition or not. There shouldn't be but you never can tell," said Oberdiek.

Oberdiek stated he is going to try to get the health permit as soon as possible. He said he needs to speak with the county commissioners regarding the health ordinance and find out what process needs to take place in order to receive the permit.

The length of time it takes to receive the health permit will determine the construction schedule of the high-rise facilities.