MONTEVIDEO, Minn. - A hearing on a permit to build an underground pipeline to carry millions of gallons of liquid manure drew a small crowd to the Chippewa County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday afternoon in Montevideo despite a snowstorm.

Ten landowners joined David Yost, representing Louriston Dairy, to show support for the dairy's plans to bury a pipeline to carry liquid manure.

The Chippewa County Board unanimously approved a utility permit for the project, and made note of the support for it by affected landowners near the dairy.

"I've had phone calls of support for this from people unable to make it this afternoon," Board Chairman Jeffrey Lopez said following the vote. "Neighbors have discussed the issue and worked through all that. Nice to see this. I know you guys have worked at it."

While new to Chippewa County, Yost said, Riverview Dairy has installed over 60 miles of underground pipelines in the past 10 years at its other dairy operations in Minnesota and South Dakota. Most recently, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved a manure pipeline for the company's Riverview Dairy near Pennock.

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The Louriston Dairy is located in Louriston Township of Chippewa County near Minnesota Highway 40, approximately 6.75 miles southwest of Kerkhoven and 15 miles west of Willmar.

The dairy needs a county permit for the pipeline because it will affect county tile lines and open ditch at 13 different crossings, according to Josh Macziewski, agriculture and drainage inspector for Chippewa County. The PVC pipeline will be 14-inch in diameter and 7.7 miles in length.

The dairy is permitted for 9,500 animal units, or 8,670 Jersey cows and 1,180 Jersey heifers. The dairy generates an estimated 84 million gallons of liquid manure each year. Separators remove solids from the animal waste to be used as bedding, and the liquid is held in sealed lagoons.

The pipeline will be installed this spring with the goal of having it in service by fall. The pipeline will eliminate the need to install a two-mile-long, above-ground hose each fall to pump the liquid manure, according to Yost.

The dairy injects its manure in area farm fields as fertilizer each fall, from Sept. 1 through freeze-up on Nov. 15, according to Yost. Using the above-ground hose has limitations. A harvested field may be ready for fertilizer, but cannot be reached if an unharvested field stands between it and the dairy.

The dairy plans to install a dozen risers at locations along the underground pipeline. The tractor and chisel-type applicator used to inject the manure can tap into any of the risers.

The pipeline speeds up the fall fertilizer application process during what is a narrow time frame, and improves efficiency, Yost said. He said the system is a cleaner system, with less liability risk.

A tracer line along the pipeline makes it possible to locate every inch of the pipe, he said.

The dairy is permitted to apply manure on 6,300 acres of cropland each year. It has agreements with landowners for up to 10,500 acres. In most cases, the fertilizer is applied on fields where corn, sugar beets or soybeans have been harvested.

Chairman Lopez said the commissioners decided to hold a hearing on the permit in the interest of transparency. Macziewski said his office mailed letters to affected landowners to notify them about the project, and included maps showing where the project would be located. His office received no calls in response, he said.

Board members credited the dairy for doing its homework and working with its neighbors. They also cited its economic value to the county.

"We're really happy to have the dairy in Chippewa County," said Commissioner David Lieser. "It's a shot in the arm for our economy, I think the board would agree."