ALEXANDRIA -- Opponents of a proposed 7,000-head dairy in Hanson County say the dairy's developers have withdrawn their application for a water permit, essentially bringing the more than five-year-old project back to square one.
"I'm glad that the dairy is finally getting the point that we do not want them here," said Rob Bender, a rural Fulton resident.
Bender's property is near the site of the proposed dairy, which is located about two miles north of Fulton.
Bender, along with state Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, organized the Concerned Citizens of Hanson County, Inc. The group, made up of hundreds of residents of Hanson County and the surrounding area, has been fighting the development of the proposed dairy.
The group's attorney, R. Shawn Tornow, who is also a state representative from Sioux Falls, said on Sept. 12 he confirmed with state officials that the dairy had withdrawn its application for a water permit. If issued, the proposed dairy's water permit would have allowed it to pump 720,000 gallons per day from the Floyd East James Aquifer.
Calls made and an email sent on Sept. 12 to the dairy's developer, Michael Crinion, were not immediately returned.
In light of the withdrawal of the dairy's water permit application, it is unclear what future, if any, the proposed dairy has.
"(The dairy) is standing with no permits in hand," Tornow said. "They would have to start from square one."
Developers could reapply for a completely new water permit, Tornow said.
"I can't imagine that's what they anticipate doing," he added.
In April, a judge remanded the dairy's water permit back to the state Water Management Board for reconsideration. A hearing before the board was scheduled for Sept. 18-19 in Pierre, but that hearing has now been canceled, Tornow said.
The Concerned Citizens requested the hearing be held in front of the state Office of Hearing Examiners instead of the state Water Management Board.
The Office of Hearing Examiners has studied the issue and held a lengthy meeting on it, but a decision was not issued prior to the dairy withdrawing its water permit application.
Earlier this month, a judge delivered another blow against the dairy's developers when he ordered Hanson County officials to cancel a conditional use permit and variances issued to the dairy in 2007. Opponents of the dairy successfully argued in court last month that, according to the county's own ordinances, the conditional use permit should have been canceled after two years had passed without substantial completion of the project.
"It's sweet relief," Nelson said of the dairy's decision to withdraw its water permit application. "This ends a long fight by a lot of people here in this county."
State Rep. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland, praised the efforts of those Hanson County residents who oppose the proposed dairy.
"This proves that democracy does work at the grassroots level," Kloucek said.
"I'm proud of each and every one of them."
The dairy opponents held a meeting at the Hanson County Courthouse on Sept. 12. Kloucek planned to honor Bender for his efforts to prevent the large dairy from coming into the county.