A long State approval process moved closer to construction for Pinnacle Dairy in Green County’s Town of Sylvester. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources approval of Pinnacle’s plans and specifications for a concentrated animal feeding operation west of Brodhead came with conditions. Yet State approval Dec. 28, 2016, marks a turning point from its rejection of the 5,800-cow dairy’s previous plans just last January. Thick, water-bearing layers of soil – as much as 7 to 23 feet thick – were found at many locations on the 127acres of cropland. The bare land site is south of State Highway 59, where Decatur Sylvester Road intersects with County Highway FF.

These wet conditions made the DNR cautious about considering shallow water saturation there a perched geological condition, something Pinnacle’s engineer believes he can remediate. DNR Water Resources Engineer Gretchen Wheat also questioned feasibility of draining the wet site on a permanent basis using only gravity drainage to maintain a safe separation from four huge manure lagoons to be built at the site.

However, in a four-page letter and six-page engineering report made public last week, Wheat recommended new plans and specifications with water monitoring and lists of conditions to be approved. “Pinnacle Dairy has two DNR permit applications yet to complete,” stated DNR Waste Water Engineer Mark Cain Friday in response to questions from the Independent Register. “These are general permits for which coverage is normally granted within about two weeks: a Construction Site Storm Water Runoff General Permit, and a Pit/Trench Dewatering General Permit.” Cain directed the public to the DNR’s topic webpage for additional information about the general permits it requires of large livestock feeding operations. He also underscored that DNR approval for Pinnacle Dairy comes with stipulations.

“Perched conditions and drainable extent must continue to be borne out,” Cain said. “The Conditions of Approval include monitoring and reporting to DNR related to the groundwater levels, volumes of perched water removed, and demonstration that the perched saturation can be sufficiently removed to provide the required minimum separation distance (two feet) between saturation and the elevation of the manure storage impoundment floors.”

DNR staff are also reviewing Pinnacle’s updated Nutrient Management Plan, which the DNR received from the applicant, the Todd Tuls family based in Rising City, Neb., in December 2016.  That will include reviewing the land area available for Pinnacle’s manure application, also submitted last month.

Administrative codes also require the DNR to complete an “Integrated Analysis,” which is an environmental review, Cain said. When the DNR’s nutrient management review and the Integrated Analysis are complete, staff will be ready to draft a proposed CAFO Waste Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit for Pinnacle Dairy, he said. DNR staff will also craft a fact sheet describing the proposed livestock facilities in plain language. “Within the next 30-60 days, the DNR anticipates the draft CAFO WPDES Permit may be issued for public comment,” Cain said.

“The DNR is planning to hold a public informational hearing in Green County, during the public comment period for the draft CAFO WPDES Permit,” Cain said. “The informational hearing provides an opportunity for individuals to review materials about the proposed livestock operation, and to make public statements, which become part of the public record. The informational hearing may include presentations about the proposal, but normally does not include a question-and-answer session with DNR staff.”

Updates about DNR’s review of Pinnacle Dairy’s CAFO WPDES Permit are on a specific webpage for this permit application, at

Kennan Wood of Wood Communication Group, which conducts public relations for the Tuls family, also responded to questions from the Independent Register late last week. “Wisconsin DNR approval includes conditions that must be met and maintained throughout the construction process and once the dairy becomes operational,” Woods stated. “These conditions include: reports on groundwater level monitoring and dewatering levels; and various monitoring and reporting concerning the dairy’s Waste Storage Facilities.

“Pinnacle Dairy’s owners, engineers, and technical experts will comply with all State-monitoring and reporting requirements throughout the dairy’s construction and operation,” Wood said. Pinnacle Dairy will construct six free stall barns to house 4,032 milking cows, 1,008 dry cows, and 753 maternity cows. It will raise its calves off-site. Four manure lagoons, one open to the air constructed of cement and three geomembrane liners, covered, will cover 20 acres at the site. Each will hold up to 25 million gallons of liquid manure annually.

DNR legal notices accompanying approval of Pinnacle Dairy plans and specs provided information on seeking both sales tax exemption for a waste treatment of pollution abatement plant or equipment and general property tax exemption for property purchased or constructed as a waste treatment facility and used for industrial waste treatment.