Missouri Department of Natural Resources officials said they want to work with Callaway County officials as they look at balancing economic development and keeping water clean.
At a Friday meeting with DNR leaders in Jefferson City, Callaway County Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer said he was glad to hear the department was working to reduce red tape so local communities get help they need for various issues. He hopes that will help as he and fellow commissioners deal with the Cedar Creek Watershed between Boone and Callaway counties.
"We're in the process, with a proposed sewer district, of bringing a sewer line from I-70 down to Millersburg," he said. "If we do that, we open the area up for development. We have a lot of developers from Columbia who want to build homes in Callaway County. However, we're already in major-league problems with DNR over sewer discharge in that area. That's why we need a sewer district."
In January 2017, county officials announced they were considering a multi-stage, multi-year sewer project in this area after two small developments asked for the county's help. They have their own small wastewater treatment systems, but because of age would have to make significant upgrades to meet the standards to be re-permitted by DNR.
"Now, in Columbia, they're in the process of building a $90 million milk and cheese processing facility, and they don't have the dairy cattle to supply them," Fischer said. "We don't have any regulations in Callaway County, so we anticipate we're going to get loaded up with dairy facilities.
"Is there anything you (DNR) can do to help us? I'm in a situation where I can go two ways — am I going to cater to the home developers or cater to the concentrated animal feeding operations? I don't think I can take all that nutrient runoff from the CAFOs and compete with the development of the neighborhoods."
"That's a very tough spot because you have two really legitimate economic interests," DNR Environmental Quality Director Ed Galbraith said. "Protection of any watershed is something we're not willing to compromise on. We have to protect the water no matter what the human activity may be. That's why we review those CAFO permits and make sure that everything is protected."
Galbraith told Fischer if the county has concerns about how a permit is being set up or how an operation is being run, then DNR will look into that. He added he didn't see DNR making any changes in how the department deals with CAFOs, as they believe current criteria is protective of the water and watersheds through inspection and licensing processes.