An estimated $3 million settlement with South View Dairy is in need of funding to stop the 13,000 cattle Confined Animal Feedlot Operation.
By Tiffany Ujiiye, Assistant Editor
Located in southern Idaho, northeast of Twin Falls, Minidoka was one of 10 American concentration camps where persons of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned during World War II. It was here where notable Minidoka internees like Japanese American lawyer Minoru Yasui were incarcerated and soon where the smell of pungent manure odor will move in.
The National Park Service and the Conservation Fund negotiators are working on an agreement with South View Dairy, a proposed confined animal feedlot (CAFO), to purchase the landowners’ development rights or, more blatantly, the smell and waste.
Based on a preliminary estimate of value, the easement could cost $3 million. An agreement, while unofficial, may include a mix of public and private funding, involving private donations to meet match requirements for nonfederal funding.
Should the NPS negotiations team succeed with funding secured to purchase a conservation easement, the NPS and partners would permanently extinguish the right to develop the property as a feedlot or other industrial agricultural operation. Landowners would still retain the right to engage in traditional farming.
In addition to buying the permit development rights, the proposed buyout could also secure the water rights. Privately owned farmland would therefore lack the necessary size and water rights to support an operation of South View Dairy’s size. There would be no chance in the future that another CAFO or large farming operation could sustain itself without the water rights.
Following a decision by the Idaho Supreme Court in 2011, the landowners have the rights to develop the property to raise young cows (heifers) for nearby dairy farms. The site would also be the largest Southview Dairy site, a private land plot.
If developed, as many as 13,000 cows would generate large amounts of waste that would “negatively impact visitors to the park, local residents and water quality in the Snake River basin,” according to a case statement issued by the Friends of Minidoka (FoM), a coalition to stop the CAFO.
Coalition members include the Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment, Idaho Rural Council and the Diamond and Sloan families, which are struggling to stop the CAFO development that sits 1.2 miles away from Minidoka, a unit of the National Park System.
In an air-quality study performed by FoM, the smell of cattle and feces would directly blow into the historic site as CAFO sits upwind (west).
“The proposed CAFO would undermine Minidoka’s educational and economic benefit and over a decade of progress by the Japanese American Community, conservation partners and NPS at Minidoka,” according to the case study.
Opportunity to purchase the development rights is shrinking. FoM is seeking to increase the level of interest in the Japanese American, historic preservation and nonprofit communities to pledge financial support to save Minidoka as the four-year endeavor is a limited window and subject to South View Dairy.
In 2008, Jerome County, Idaho, issued a permit to the landowners for the CAFO. As a response, FoM raised significant private funding to engage in a legal battle to block the CAFO, which succeeded in 2012. The Supreme Court ruling delayed land development, giving Minidoka an opportunity to buy out the permit.
“We have a limited period of time to preserve our nation’s heritage” FoM urged. “Your support is critical to preserve the investment in the park and ensure that it can tell the story of Minidoka to local and national visitors.”
Over the past 13 years, the Japanese American community, FoM, the Conservation Fund (TCF) and the NPS have added nearly 150 acres of land, including the Residential Barracks Blocks 22 and 23.
Other successful efforts include adding the Bainbridge Island Eagledale Ferry Dock unit in Washington State, eliminating the threat of a high-voltage power line that would have ran through Minidoka, land acquisition, new trails, interpretive signage, reconstruction of the Honor Roll and a reconstructed guard tower.
More recently, a new visitor center is set for construction sometime between 2015-16, complete with a new design and master plans.
Community members can help by joining the Friends of Minidoka, donating funds to FoM to support the work of the NPS or pledge support for the CAFO buyout. All three options can be done at www.minidoka.org.
“You can make a difference,” FoM urged, “to prevent a second injustice from being committed.”