Benton commission may decide on feedlot this week

By Sara Schilling, Herald staff writerMarch 16, 2013 

A Pasco couple are looking to build a 4,000-head feedlot in unincorporated Benton County.

And county commissioners may decide this week whether to require what could be a lengthy and costly environmental review of the proposed project.

Commissioners took testimony last week during a hearing that lasted several hours.

Matt and Debbie Driscoll want to build the feedlot on a 324-acre parcel north of Prosser.

They argue that extensive analysis already has been done and more reviews aren't needed.

But others, including some nearby residents, disagree.

They want it studied further, particularly the effect of the feedlot on water availability in the area. Opponents also have concerns about dust, odor and traffic impacts.

The Driscolls last year submitted a conditional use permit application and environmental checklist for the feedlot. In December, the county's planning manager determined an environmental impact statement, or EIS, is needed because the project could have a significant adverse effect on the environment.

The Driscolls would foot the bill.

They appealed, and the hearing last week drew dozens to the county courthouse in Prosser, with extensive testimony -- from residents and officials -- on both sides. Commissioners deliberated for about a half-hour behind closed doors following the testimony, but didn't make a decision.

They continued the hearing to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

James Buchal, the Driscolls' attorney, said his clients are working with local agencies on dust control and manure management plans, and those plans would mitigate any impacts. They're also working with the county's public works department on road issues.

Buchal noted the feedlot's well would be used for stock watering, meaning a water right permit from the state isn't required. He also said experts have determined the feedlot wouldn't significantly impact groundwater levels.

Matt Driscoll told the Herald after the hearing that he and his wife have done their homework.

"There is a right to farm," he said.

During the hearing, opponents talked about their concerns, including the feedlot's possible effect on the Wanapum Aquifer and nearby wells. A state Department of Natural Resources official was among those who spoke about the water issue, saying the EIS is needed to determine the long-term impacts.

Dianne Jung, who lives near the proposed site, said, "My water is down already," to the point where she has to choose between taking a shower and watering her garden.

She also brought up the smell and said the feedlot would put a strain on the area.

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