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Informational meeting planned for proposed Devils Lake hog farm

DEVILS LAKE, N.D.—A public information meeting for a proposed hog farm near Devils Lake has been set for Wednesday, Aug. 23, for residents to learn about the project.

The 3 p.m. meeting at Lake Region State College will allow attendees to ask questions about Grand Prairie Agriculture and its proposal for a facility about 10 miles west of Devils Lake that would have the potential to hold roughly 2,700 hogs at once, not counting unweaned piglets from 360 sows.

A public input meeting will be scheduled at least 30 days after the informational meeting, said Karl Rockeman, water quality division director for the North Dakota Department of Health. The informational meeting won't allow public input, as state law requires a 30-day notice ahead of such a meeting and comment period.

The farm has garnered criticism locally, with more than 600 residents joining a group dubbed Lake Region Concerned Citizens. The organization that formed in early August has gained momentum, spokeswoman Janelle Engstrom said.

The group has raised concerns that the farm could lower land values for neighboring landowners and pollute the lake.

With the proposed farm near the lake on a peninsula north of Grahams Island, residents worry about pollution seeping into groundwater, the lake and air.

"When you are talking about 7 million gallons of sewage per year that they have to figure out what to do with, that is a lot of manure," said Engstrom, who grew up on Grahams Island and owns land there.

She said she was disappointed the meeting was scheduled the same day Devils Lake Public Schools begins class, adding 3 p.m. is just before students are let out of school.

"Most parents are going to be picking up their kids at that time," she said, suggesting an arrangement will have to be made with babysitters so parents can attend the meeting.

She is hopeful concerned residents will show up, saying the support for her group is organized and growing. The concerned citizens group is asking residents to send letters to the Health Department.

There was no intent to make the meeting's scheduling inconvenient, Rockeman said. If there is strong interest, the department could host another informational meeting or those with questions can call health officials.

"We wanted to have it as soon as we could so we could get that information out there," he said. "I know a lot of people have a lot of questions.

"Our experience is if people have a strong interest in the topic, they'll find a way to make it to the meeting or participate in other ways."

It's unclear how long it will take to make a decision on the permit, but the Health Department is the only state agency that needs to approve it.

Grand Prairie Agriculture did not immediately return a call seeking comment.