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Illinois grants permit for proposed mega-dairy
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The state Department of Agriculture has granted a California farmer a permit to build Illinois' largest dairy.
Owner George Kasbergen said he plans to begin work on the 4,500-cow Stone Ridge Dairy just south of Bellflower by the middle of October.
"I feel great. I always had a positive attitude about getting the permit to build," Kasbergen said after the permit was issued Tuesday. "I'm pretty excited about moving forward. And we will try our best to get along with the neighbors."
Nineteen Bellflower residents sued this spring to block the dairy, saying it would be too noisy and could pose a pollution problem. A judge declared the lawsuit premature and dismissed it.
Dairy opponent Dave Adamson of Bellflower said members of the Quad County Clean Air and Water Coalition will meet with their lawyers to decide what to do.
Options include appealing the permit decision to Agriculture Department director Joe Hampton, seeking a construction injunction and refiling the nuisance lawsuit, he said.
"I firmly believe this is not the best thing for our community," Adamson said.
Meets state criteria
Agriculture Department officials said they approved the permit because Kasbergen met Illinois Livestock Management Facilities Act criteria. Those criteria include designing a facility that will protect the environment and control odors.
Kasbergen has assured area residents his other operations follow all state and federal regulations and that Stone Ridge would follow suit.
Bellflower's 408 residents are split on whether to support the project, as are local governments. The McLean County Board endorsed the project; Champaign County and four nearby towns passed resolutions against it.
Supporters argue the dairy would bring money and jobs to the rural area, while opponents argue that manure pits pollute ground water and foul the air, ruining nearby residents' quality of life and property values.
According to Kasbergen's proposal, cattle waste would flow into two lagoons covering 19 acres, and some would be spread by area farmers as fertilizer.