By DAVID GREEN
A pair of large dairies are underway in the area, but this time they’re south of the Michigan-Ohio border.
On Williams County Road P, west US-127, Andy Brehm is building a dairy for 650 head. Brehm already has barns for dry cows (non-milking) on Fulton County Road 28, just west Harrison Lake State Park.
Vreba-Hoff has built 10 dairies in northwest Ohio, but the current project is the company’s first in Fulton County.
Yoder Construction began moving dirt in November for the farm, but construction stopped by order of the Ohio EPA due to the failure to obtain a storm water discharge permit.
Lynette Hablitzel of Ohio EPA’s surface water division in Bowling Green explained that a storm water discharge permit is required for erosion control during a construction project. The permit is required when five or more acres are involved in a project and the entire area will be disturbed by earth moving.
Hablitzel said that in March 2003, the restriction will address projects as small as one acre. The EPA rule isn’t specific to agricultural projects, she said. A permit would also be needed for construction of a subdivision, an industrial park, etc.
Six other Vreba-Hoff sites were visited by the Ohio EPA in July and August to evaluate storm water permits and several deficiencies were found. The company was told make sure that all appropriate permits were in place before initiating activity at other sites.
“We are very concerned about the status of this and several other Vreba-Hoff projects,” Hablitzel said. “One option we have to achieve compliance is to pursue enforcement.”
Cecilia Conway of Vreba-Hoff said she hopes the matter will be cleared up soon. Her company is still hoping to open the Chesterfield Township dairy by July 2003.
Township board members learned at their November meeting that a state block grant for road work might be in jeopardy since construction got underway before a grant application was submitted.
“I’ve always been told that if construction gets underway before a funding package is arranged, then it could be in trouble,” Fulton County Planning Commission director Steve Brown said, “but the block grant might not be in jeopardy.”
In addition, he said, other funding options exist.
“We wanted to work with the township on getting funds for the road,” Conway said, “but economic decisions forced us to start early. We still want to work with the township to obtain grants.”
More funding would be available if the dairy expands beyond the initial 650 head, she said, and she’s certain that is in the VanderKolk brothers’ plans.
Conway said her company will urge the farmers to direct milk tanker traffic north to State Route 120 rather than the longer route south to US-20. County Road 14 already has several areas of disintegration in some areas.
Andy Brehm is starting off with a 650-head dairy, said Deborah Abbott, a public information officer with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), but he intends to expand in the future.
Brehm sought a permit for 2,500 head, Abbott said, but later withdrew the request. No permit is required for a dairy with less than 700 head.
Abbott said the ODA questioned Brehm’s plans at first when he built a barn to hold 1,250 head, but the owner explained that half the barn would be used for cows and the other half for equipment storage. His operations are consistent with his building plans, she said, and no permit will be required until he’s ready to expand.
Brehm isn’t definite on what he’s going to end up with at the site.
“It might be a couple years before we do anything,” he said. “We’ve got a long ways to go.”
Brehm said much of the material for the barn is manufactured at a factory he owns. During the current economic slowdown, it’s a way to keep his employees busy.
If the economy turns around, he said, the dairy could move to the back burner.
“There’s no big deadline. I don’t know what we’ll end up with right now.”
Brehm refurbished an existing barn at the Fulton County Road 28 and built another for dry cows.
Brehm says the facility could hold about 600 head and has about 250 currently.
Concern has been expressed by some citizens in the area about the proximity of both operations to Mill Creek, which feeds Harrison Lake.
Manure discharges could threaten recreational activities at the state park.– Dec. 11, 2002