City of Marquette ‘stuck’ when it comes to Walz Energy

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

“There’s nothing you can do until something happens.”

That was Marquette city attorney Dan Key’s advice to the city council when asked, at its Dec. 12 meeting, if there is anything the city can do to halt construction of the Walz Energy facility currently being built east of Monona.

Construction on the 10,000-head cattle feedlot and biogas operation began earlier this year. Its location in the Bloody Run Creek Watershed, and in an area with sinkhole-prone karst topography, has many concerned about the effect on water quality, both to Bloody Run and the ground water.

“It could very well affect our water supply. It could affect our air quality,” said mayor Larry Breuer. “Does the city have any recourse? Can we put them on notice that we’re going to monitor the water and air quality?”

Key said the facility, which will include six open front cattle barns, to go with an additional barn already in existence, as well as a feed storage area, concrete transfer pits and an earthen liquid manure storage lagoon with a capacity of nearly 39 million gallons, has simply gone too far. According to DNR officials, permits for the well and lagoon have been issued. Issuance of a stormwater permit is pending.

“Whether their conclusions are right or wrong, it’s OK’d and approved,” Key said. “You’re stuck now. You’ll have to wait for something to happen, then there’s grounds for an injunction. That’s an uphill fight.”

Marquette resident Dennis Mason, who was in the audience, agreed it’s too late. He said he wished the city had voiced concerns earlier in the process.

“I’m glad you’re concerned, but it should have been addressed before,” he commented. “It needed to be done before they started digging.”

Stolen guns update

Worried about the stalled investigation into the theft of several firearms from the Mar-Mac Police Department in February 2016, Breuer wondered if offering a reward might bring in more information.

Breuer said he received an update on the investigation from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office that noted interviews had been conducted with individuals who may have had access to the firearms, which were left unsecured in the Marquette city garage during renovations to the police station. The sheriff’s office asked the public for leads, but received none.

“All leads have been exhausted and no suspect has been identified,” Breuer said.

“It would be nice if we could solve it,” he added. “It’s still hanging out there.”

Although the council agreed it would be nice to solve the mystery, they felt offering a reward might not be the best idea, especially without consulting others first.

“We need to get the police commission’s opinion on a reward. The McGregor Council should also be part of it,” said councilman John Ries. “And what about the investigators and the police chief? That would undermine their authority if we didn’t consult them.”

Winter parking woes

Breuer said the city has received several complaints regarding the alternate-side winter parking regulations downtown.

“It’s just one block, really, that we have a problem with,” he said, referring to North Street. 

With a number of railroad vehicles, as well as those of guests at the Cobblestone Inn, Breuer said parking is needed on both sides of the street.

When it snows, he wondered if city crews could simply plow the middle of the street first, then have people move so the sides can be plowed.

“Do we even need it?” asked Ries, who noted that alternate side parking made more sense when downtown was more residential. “Now, eliminating half the spots is ridiculous.”

He also feared the ill feelings issuing tickets might cause.

“The worst thing for business is to start ticketing visitors,” he remarked.

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