Lawsuit over beef farm in trout stream watershed may proceed

U.S. Law Review

A state court judge said environmental groups may proceed with a lawsuit seeking to halt expansion of a cattle farm in northeast Iowa near a prized trout stream.

Judge Michael Huppert on Monday ruled against the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which sought to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter and Iowa State Council of Trout Unlimited.

The groups are seeking to protect Bloody Run Creek, a stream in Clayton County that is among the few waterways designated with an Outstanding Iowa Waters designation qualifying it for a high level of protection. The owners of Supreme Beef want to stock farm buildings with 11,600 cows and spread manure on fields that are in the stream’s watershed.

Huppert found the Sierra Club has standing to sue by showing that some of its members fish, hike and shoot photos in and along Bloody Run Creek. He said the group has adequately shown that real harm could come from cow manure reaching the creek and that concerns aren’t just speculative.

The cold-water creek has significant populations of several trout species.

The Iowa DNR approved a manure management plan for the farm in April 2021 despite claims that it underestimated by more than 1.3 million pounds the nitrogen and phosphorous that would be released by the cow manure.

“The resulting pollution will have a devastating and irreversible impact on an Iowa Outstanding Water, the fishery residing within, and other streams,” the Trout Unlimited group said in a court document.

The DNR did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the ruling.

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