Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Letter to the Editor

The Chicken Collision: I don't think the County is doing the right thing

I fail to see how any part of this looming chicken factory operation doesn't fall under the jurisdiction of Columbia County. The buildings are going up in Columbia County; the waste that may pollute our river will be in Columbia County; the citizens that are outraged by this live in Columbia County. You are the popularly elected county attorney and should be acting in the best interests of the county's residents against this chicken factory. Just because there isn't a law on the books that gives the county direct oversight in this matter, that doesn't mean that you and the commissioners cannot get involved in bringing a suit against the agencies that are responsible for seeing that the chicken factory owners obtain the correct permits.

It seems there must be something that can be done, other than just stating that we can work to change the laws so this doesn't happen again. If our county officials are concerned about our water quality, then you should all be applying pressure on the responsible government agencies to ensure we are all protected.

How were the property owners of the chicken factory able to just clear cut the land? How were they able to fill in the gopher tortoise holes? In Newberry, they had to work with Florida Fish and Wildlife to relocate the tortoises prior to building a park. What is so different about Columbia County's gopher tortoises?

Why did a family in Suwannee County need to obtain a permit from the Suwannee River Water Management District for their 4 chicken barns, but this farm in Columbia County, with 12 barns in an area of high water recharge, doesn't require a permit?

The chicken factory owners seem to essentially skate just under many of the laws and we're just told there's nothing that can be done. It isn't right that we are being forced to accept this. I thought the County Commissioners and County Attorney were supposed to stand up and fight for what's right in their County. It seems to me that everyone is just hiding behind some law instead of trying to protect our interests.

This is industrial/commercial farming which is why it's different. It simply boggles my mind that the chicken factory owners are able to use the practices put in place for small farming operations and that they are not considered a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). There are going to be a million chickens going through there each year.

I don't think the county is doing the right thing. I think there must be more you ALL can and should do to help.

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