By Kalie Hudson
Director, Visitor Experience & Marketing Powell Gardens

The Missouri Clean Water Commission (Commission) voted to reverse the Valley Oaks expansion permit during a public meeting in Jefferson City, Mo, on Monday. After hearing from attorneys from all sides, the Commission ruled to withdraw the permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources to allow the expansion of the Valley Oaks Steak Co. confined animal feeding operation (CAFO).

“The Powell Gardens’ Board of Directors and I are thrilled that the Clean Water Commission recognized the deficiencies in the permit and made the right decision to comply with the Administrative Hearing Commission’s recommendation,” says Tabitha Schmidt, CEO and president. “Although Valley Oaks may continue to try and secure the Class IB permit, we hope that they and the Director of the Department of Natural Resources, Carol Comer, will keep in mind the impact that a development like this would have on local families and businesses.”

The permit for the expansion would have made Valley Oaks the largest beef CAFO in the state of Missouri and was initially approved despite failures to comply with Missouri law. In October, the AHC recommended to reverse the permit issued by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to Valley Oaks CAFO, determining that it was not in compliance with Missouri law and was not protective of water quality near Kansas City’s botanical gardens and the surrounding community.

“We are relieved that the Commission recognized the inadequacy of Valley Oaks’ manure management plans,” says Aimee Davenport, a partner at Stinson Leonard Street LLP. “Approval of their plans would have been to the detriment of Missouri’s water quality.”

The AHC and the Commission agree that Valley Oaks Steak Co., failed to base its land application plan on realistic data, which would lead to the over-applying of manure on nearby fields, and Valley Oaks failed to provide adequate storage for the 110,000 tons of manure that will be generated annually, among other violations.

Powell Gardens’ concerns over the Class IB CAFO operations were voiced along with nearly 1,400 petitioners from Lone Jack and the surrounding community at a hearing last spring. Concerns included environmental and human health concerns related to water quality, air pollution, as well as increased traffic, strain on infrastructure and declining property values.

Powell Gardens remains vigilant concerning the negative effects of additional CAFOs that may consider locating in Johnson County in the future.