Plan for manure pipeline beneath Lake Ocheda advances
Ocheda Dairy hopes to build a permanent manure pipeline that would be six feet below the surface on land and 10 to 15 feet below the lake bed. The pipeline would be used for about a week each year.
WORTHINGTON — Plans to bore 10 to 15 feet beneath Lake Ocheda for a liquid manure pipeline advanced Wednesday, as the Nobles County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the Ocheda Dairy Inc. project.
The pipeline would be permanent, but would only be used about seven days a year, with a licensed contractor conducting the pumping.
“We think it is environmentally safer,” said Joe VanderKooi, whose family owns the dairy. Currently the manure is transported via temporary overland hoses, running through ditches and culverts — hoses that are more exposed to potential damage than a pipe six feet under the ground and 10 to 15 feet below the lake bed, he said. Moving the manure via truck is another option, but would greatly increase traffic in the area, bringing noise, dust and wear and tear on the roads.
The manure’s ultimate destination will remain farm fields, where it will be used as natural fertilizer, in accordance with the dairy’s manure management plan and state regulations.
“The protections that they have built in are satisfying to me,” said Eric Roos, water superintendent with Worthington Public Utilities, following the meeting. “They have pressure monitoring and can hit a kill switch and shut it down immediately.”
He did caution the commission that the project isn’t a long distance away from the wellhead protection area, but emphasized that the temporary hose seemed like a riskier option than the permanent pipe.
“I’m not against it,” Roos said. “I just wanted to be sure everybody is aware.”
The project would have two phases, with the first mile-and-a-half-long portion of the pipeline heading northwest of the dairy, dipping beneath the lake and then heading straight north. The second phase would bring the pipeline about another mile north.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have already been involved in the permitting process, VanderKooi said, a necessary step because Minnesota law considers most surface waters and groundwater “waters of the state.”
The pipe will have a 12-inch interior diameter, and its typical operating pressure would be about 100 PSI, VanderKooi said, though it will be specced for 200. It will be brought to the site in chunks and fused, before being pressure-checked and installed.
Conditions set for the project include having easements in place with landowners affected by the pipeline prior to construction, maintaining the DNR permit for the life of the project, getting permits from appropriate road authorities before installing pipes in or under roads and rights-of-way, and providing proof of insurance to the county before the project begins.
The pipeline will go before the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for final approval on Sept. 7.
The Planning and Zoning Commission also approved a laydown yard for wind turbine parts as part of a planned upgrade for Nobles Wind Farm, in section 23 of Summit Lake Township, north of Reading.
All 134 turbines in the existing wind farm will get longer blades and new hubs, which connect the blades at the top, as well as some internal components, said Chad Peterson, senior land rights agent with Xcel Energy, who was flanked by civil engineers Omar Mohamed and Kyle Lau.
The repower will potentially lead to a 10% increase in power production, but it will also mean a longer lifespan for the towers and increased reliability and efficiency, he said. No substation upgrades will be required to accommodate the repower.
Once the upgrade is complete, likely by December 2022, the area will be reclaimed as farmland, Peterson said.
Conditions for the project include controlling weeds on the site and dust on the roads, getting permits from the Nobles County Engineer for driveway placements, getting permits from road authorities for any sign removal needed for moving oversized loads, using appropriate signage and storing components in the approved laydown yard. A sunset clause of Dec. 31, 2023 was also included, leaving time for site reclamation.
The laydown yard is set to go before the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for final approval on Sept. 7.