Starland Colony Confined Feeding Operation causing concern

Written by Terri Huxley

A diagram of where the Dairy barn and other assortment of buildings will reside on the rolling plain west of Rumsey. ECA Review/NRCB Application

The Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) has accepted Starland Colony’s Confined Feeding Operation (CFO) near Rumsey, Alta.

Approximately 3.6 km away from the hamlet will reside a dairy barn with attached bull barn and pump room, a dry cow shed and a synthetically lined liquid manure storage facility.

The dairy barn is expected to hold 200 milking cows plus associated dries and replacements.

This land has been admitted as being the future location of the new colony according to the county.

Starland Colony’s previously existing dairy barn, located approximately 15 kilometres north east of Morrin, was lost to a fire in December, 2019.

This application to the NRCB was to reconstruct that facility at a new location.

One problem the county finds troubling is that the NRCB only views projects on a case-by-case basis rather than taking future construction into consideration, meaning the future construction of the rest of the colony to follow including the homes and other barns.

There is also fear that this CFO alone will cause major strain on the water basin in that area to feed these 200+ animals.

It is said that the land this CFO is being built on is in a low water aquifer and borders land that is a high water contamination zone.

Jim and Cindy Krywcun, the nearest neighbours to the east of this site sent an email to local and provincial officials which was presented at Starland’s regular council meeting on Tues. Nov. 10.

The couple was rejected by the NRCB for their request to review this application.

“It is abundantly clear to us that the NRCB has no other mandate but to approve a CFO when the applicant is a Hutterite colony.

“The lack of foresight by the NRCB towards us, the nearest neighbour to the east, is disconcerting.

“Our quality of life and the enjoyment of our yard for the rest of our lives for as long as we live [where we do] will be forever shattered,” the pair stated.

Ownership map of Rumsey and surrounding area to the west. ECA Review/NRCB Application

They requested the county keep a close eye on the development “as they need to be aware of the atrocity of having a CFO 0.38 km outside of Starland County’s Municipal Development Plan, and the hamlet of Rumsey could have on the people of this community”.

They also asked to have the NRCB stripped of their power and hold the colony accountable in a few different areas including the recent construction of a grain bin yard which was found to be non-compliant with the Alberta Building Code.

They already received a small fine for this but the Krywcun’s said “To an establishment that has access to millions of dollars, a small fine is not a deterrent.”

Glen Riep, Starland County municipal services manager, shared with council that construction for the new CFO has already begun in the area with no consultation on development permits with the county.

Riep stated the county has little control of the situation as this is considered a provincial matter that was reviewed by the NRCB already.

Councillors felt that the process was backwards and that water should be sought out first before construction takes place to ensure there is a solid source for everyone.

In reviewing the decision summary supplied by the NRCB, 48 submissions from landowners were received.

Only three were from individuals who own or reside on land 0.5km within the CFO radius mainly expressed concern that the CFO’s water usage would reduce and deplete their own water supply.

Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) is directly responsible for licensing the use of groundwater and surface water under the Water Act.

Starland Colony acknowledged that they are aware that they must obtain adequate licensing.

“Given the AEP’s direct responsibility for water licensing, it is unlikely that a party can be ‘directly affected’ under AOPA based on water supply risks. Furthermore, this alleged effect falls outside of the regulatory mandate of the NRCB under AOPA.”