By Tony Ends


MONROE – Pinnacle Dairy has hit a wall – a wall of water – that could wash out the proposal to build a 5,000-cow dairy on 130 acres in Sylvester Township several miles west of Brodhead.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Engineer Gretchen Wheat just before Thanksgiving gave T.J. Tuls until today, Wednesday, Dec. 9, to counter findings regarding severe water problems at the site from the DNR; a Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection engineer; and Green County’s Land and Water Conservation Department.

All three agencies have determined that the proposed site is simply too wet to build the massive industrial dairy complex. Their investigations indicate the site is a free-flowing water system that makes the ground impossible to engineer out of a high water table.

“If they were to dig the pit in their design as it is, they would end up with 11 feet of water,” said County Conservationist Todd Jenson, in a phone interview Monday. “Sixty-eight percent of their soil test pits had water issues out there.”

T.J. Tuls, whose family wants to construct Pinnacle Dairy, remained confident Monday that Pinnacle dairy could satisfy the agency’s design requirements for permits.

“We are confident that the additional information we will be providing will address the agencies’ comments,” stated Tuls, whose own engineers have stated that the signs of high water at the proposed construction site indicate that it is “perched” above a geological feature similar to a hard pan, a feature that engineers should be able to remediate.

“As always, the farm’s focus is on designing and building a dairy that is protective of environmental resources and is in compliance with state laws,” Tuls said Monday.

Wheat, however, laid out 11 serious water problems with the proposed site on Decatur-Sylvester Road. She said without additional information to the contrary of investigation and review, the site plans and specifications for the huge dairy will have to be rejected.

“As I said during the recent DNR site visit (Nov. 12), based on the information I had received up to that date, I would not be able to recommend approval of the plans and specifications,” Wheat stated in the communication to Tuls in late November.

“There was insufficient information to demonstrate the saturation encountered during the soil investigations is perched, and because wetland identification information was insufficient. During the site visit, and since the site visit, additional information I’ve obtained also does not support a perched saturation argument, and I did not see discussion of saturation level fluctuation to ensure the high saturation elevation is identified.”

In similar troubled large-scale livestock facility siting situations around the state, the DNR has given applicants for pollution elimination discharge permits additional time to submit more information before issuing a final rejection.

Satisfying the problems that state and local examinations of the site in eastern Green County have raised are formidable. Wheat laid them out in detail.

For instance, no soil logs or maps were provided to verify test pit information sited in a report responding to DNR questions regarding static levels of water in wells at the site. “In summary, the Groundwater Conditions report has little substance with regard to identifying the elevation of high saturation, and does not appear to make any attempt to support a perched saturation argument,” the DNR stated.

Also, soil logs have not supported a site assessment narrative, which advised the DNR that all soil investigations ended in dry soil.

Information on wetlands, field tiles, high saturation elevations, recorded observations following rain events, and other evidence of the capacity for the site to drain away water were all missing from evidence submitted to the DNR on the proposed Pinnacle Dairy.

Green County Land and Water Conservation staff will update the county committee on the Tuls dairy proposal and communication from the DNR tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 10, in its regular monthly meeting in Monroe at 10:30 a.m.