Dairy plans irk neighbors

Dairy owners want to expand property

RICKREALL -- Rickreall Dairy could see 1,000 more cows.

That would happen gradually over five years.

In the meantime, dairy owners filed to develop on more of its land. That land is in the flood plain.

That has irked some neighbors. They say any change could hurt their property during a flood.

Under county zoning, there's no question the dairy can expand, said county planner Austin McGuigan. "It's an exclusive farm use area and a dairy is a farm use."

County Hearings Officer Robert Oliver will need to decide if the dairy can pass its first test -- developing in Rickreall Creek's flood plain. The state Agriculture Department decides how big the dairy can get.

The dairy's owners proposed to fill 13.5 acres on their 392.5-acre property. Doing so would raise the area just less than one inch, according to an report by Willamette Engineering and Earth Sciences.

Earlier development at the dairy raised the elevation around two inches. According to the county's zoning laws, a change of more than one foot can hurt the flood plain.

"It's not going to change the flow," said dairy co-owner Louie Kazemier. "The proposed site is up against the freeway.

"It acts as a big puddle in a flood."

But Paul Smull, a longtime resident on Rickreall Road, isn't convinced. He questioned Willamette Engineering's findings.

"That engineer's a young fellow," Smull said. "He's from out of town. He ain't got nothing to lose."

County Engineer Todd Whitaker reviewed Willamette's report and found it to be sound.

If the development were to change the flow of water, Kazemier would know about it first, he said. "I live in the house right next to the dairy. Why would I put my own house in jeopardy?"

Kazemier wants to milk 1,000 more cows at the 3,300 head dairy. Future expansion would let him process the manure better, he said.

He has looked into converting the waste into electricity.

For now, Kazemier will hold off on expansions until low milk prices turn around.

The hearings officer should decide on the flood plain development within two weeks, McGuigan said. That decision would go before the County Board of Commissioners if appealed.

Kazemier welcomes neighbors' questions about the dairy.

"We have a good working relationship with the Ag. Department and people who have control over our size. We're making sure we take care of the environment."

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