Members of the Roaring River Parks Alliance testified before the Administrative Hearing Commission in Jefferson City on Jan. 8 and 9 in opposition to the permitting process followed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resource when it approved permits for the Ozbun pullet operation on Highway F near Roaring River State Park.
Michelle and Rodney Ozbun received a permit to construct a 65,000-capacity pullet operation on their farm in March of 2007 and then a permit to begin operating the facility in August of 2007. The project falls under the state's concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) guidelines and requires DNR oversight to monitor and control environmental impact.
Members of the Roaring River Park Alliance, who are represented by Springfield attorney John Price, allege that DNR's permitting department acted with a "lack on integrity and responsibility" in issuing the Ozbun's permits, according to Sharon and Jim Riedel, who attended the two-day hearing.
"Doyle Childers said previously that he was appointed director of the DNR with a goal to speed up the permitting process," said Jim Riedel. "He has done a good job of that. You cannot keep building CAFOs next to rivers, lakes and state parks without doing damage to the environment."
On Thursday, Jan. 8, members of the Administrative Hearing Commission heard testimony from engineer Kathy Martin, who offered her opinion on environmental destruction taking place in Missouri and the United States, and from Bob Lanning, a Springfield geologist.
The next day, the Commission heard from Michelle Ozbun and DNR employees Darrick Steen, Kara Moore and Jerry Prewitt, who were involved in the permitting process.
Kaye Smith, an Alliance member from Pierce City, provided closing remarks at the hearing and her words summed up the position of those opposing the Ozbun CAFO.
"Roaring River Parks Alliance is a widely disparate group of individuals who run the gamut in age, income and experience," said Smith. "The thing that binds us together is our concern about the effect the CAFO in question will ultimately have on our water quality, air quality, property values and tourism attraction of the area."
The Ozbuns were represented at the hearing by the Jefferson City law firm of Schreimann, Rackers, Francka and Blunt. Michelle Ozbun testified that she and her husband have followed all DNR guidelines in constructing and operating a "no-discharge" system.
"I followed the regulations and did what I should have to make everybody happy," Michelle Ozbun testified. "None of the litter has gone into the watershed."
Now that the hearing has been held, the parties involved will wait for the transcript review and recommendation from the Administrative Hearing Commission.
"The Alliance would like to see this move faster, but the system will not allow it," said Jim Riedel.
This week, the Alliance received a $2,000 donation from the Missouri Parks Association, who had a representative present at the Jefferson City hearing.
"The money is appreciated, but their support is even more important," said Jim Riedel.
For more information on the Alliance, visit the group's new website at www.roaringriverparksalliance.org.