The Fremont Council Board of Supervisors met Aug. 8 to focus their consideration of two items of timely importance—ridding the County Courthouse of its bat infestation, and problems, actual and potential, caused by the increasing number of hog confinements in Fremont County.
Farragut Mayor Tom Shull and Farragut City Attorney Mahlon Sorensen were on hand to present their grave concerns regarding the area's increasing number of smaller-scale hog confinements—those housing fewer than 2,500 head, which do not require construction permits that are reviewed by state engineers.
Shull read aloud two emails he sent to State Senator Mark Costello of the 12th District, and Dan Olson of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Of primary concern to area residents is the adverse effect of the hog farms on water quality and property values.
Currently, Farragut's water measures no presence of nitrates. That could easily change for the worse due to runoff from the farms and the fact that wells are shallow in the area. The water level in Farragut is static at twelve feet.
The fetid odor from the hogs was also mentioned several times by various people at the meeting. The presence of the foul smell will bring property values down in an area that is already experiencing a steady decline in population.
The general consensus of those at the meeting, supervisors and guests alike, is that “good neighborship” is behind the 2,500 head restriction, providing a way for smaller farmers to add pigs to their farms as well as keeping pig farming to a smaller scale. But the law operates as a loophole to be taken advantage of by larger, industrial agriculture.
Twenty-seven non-permitted (under 2,500 head) hog confinements are now located in Fremont County, including 18 finishing houses.
Sorensen will investigate whether they share common ownership. In that case, the head limit would exceed 2,500 and permits would be required, though it was not immediately known whether the law addresses the issue of common ownership directly.
There are 45,000 hogs in confinement units in Fremont County. The 2013 human population stood at just under 7,000.
Anther concern is the monitoring of water quality. The pig manure, full of nitrates, is passed off as fertilizer, with fields serving as little more than “dumping stations”—but the distance to the water supply and homes is minimal, sometimes as little as a quarter of a mile.
Under the manure plans submitted before a non-permitted structure is erected, nitrates from the facility are required to be monitored. But the manpower and resources to enforce the regulations are lacking.
Another issue the board addressed at the meeting was the bat problem in the Courthouse. Mike Davidshofer of The Bat Experts in Omaha presented the Board with a bid to rid the building of bats for $9,982, or less if the city can provide a lift.
Davidshofer said that the job would not succeed if only the chimney area, where the bats nest now, was purged of the animals. “That will not solve the problem. They will get back in…they will be back in other spots. This is their home.”
Davidshofer praised the job done on the roof recently. “But the roof is to keep rain out, not bats.” The entire building must be examined for entrance points. “The trick is to make it so they have to find another place to live because there's no shelter here.”
The Board accepted the Bat Experts' bid for removing the bats, and the work of installing one-way bat tubes is scheduled to begin next week and last about four days.