BOARDMAN, Ore. — State regulators are satisfied with the cleanup of a controversial Eastern Oregon dairy that shut down in early 2019 following numerous repeated manure and wastewater violations.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture issued a “letter of satisfaction” for the cleanup at Lost Valley Farm on Dec. 30. The defunct dairy near Boardman was previously approved for up to 30,000 cows.
Almost immediately after opening in 2017, Lost Valley Farm began racking up more than 200 violations for improperly managing wastewater. Former owner Greg te Velde declared bankruptcy and lost control of the dairy in September 2018, along with two other dairies he owned in California.
A federal trustee, Randy Sugarman, was appointed to oversee Lost Valley. Sugarman opted to close and sell the dairy, and was put in charge of cleanup per an agreement with the state.
Cleanup duties included removing all cows from the property, flushing manure from free-stall barns and emptying wastewater lagoons to prevent groundwater or surface water contamination. The final item on the checklist was completed on Oct. 14.
While cleanup at Lost Valley was successful, no cows are allowed on site until the state approves a new Animal Waste Management Plan under the Confined Animal Feeding Program — more commonly referred to as a CAFO permit.
Easterday Farms, based in Pasco, Wash., has purchased the property for $66.7 million and applied for a new CAFO permit in July. The Easterday family plans to reopen the dairy with up to 28,300 cattle.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality, which jointly administer the CAFO program, are now reviewing the application and working on a draft permit. Once that is written, the agencies will schedule a public hearing within 35 days.
Opponents argue the state should reject the Easterday proposal and declare a moratorium on “mega-dairies” until regulators address impacts on the environment and public health.
ODA has chalked up past failures at Lost Valley to poor management under te Velde. The agency says it will look to the Easterday Farms “to provide responsible management and other resources to achieve and maintain CAFO compliance” going forward.
Wym Matthews, CAFO program coordinator for ODA, said Easterday Farms Dairy would likely be subject to three or four inspections per year, as opposed to one every 10 months for smaller facilities.
In a previous interview with the Capital Press, Cody Easterday, president of Easterday Farms, said the company is investing $15 million in the dairy to bring it into full compliance.
“Part of the issue with compliance is the waste system was not completed, and not adequate to some extent,” Easterday said during a tour of the dairy in July.
Easterday Farms Dairy expects to generate roughly 5.4 million cubic feet of liquid manure, 5.9 million cubic feet of solid manure and 11.7 million cubic feet of processed wastewater annually.
The dairy plans to recycle all that nitrogen-rich manure by using it as a fertilizer on 5,390 acres of surrounding farmland, growing crops such as potatoes, onions and wheat, as well as forage for cattle.
By operating in a closed-loop system, Easterday said the farm will reduce its purchases of commercial fertilizer by about 3 million pounds per year.