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Residents, environmental groups win lawsuit over wetland determination at large dairy farm

FILE PHOTO: Annie Ropeik/IPB News

Residents of Lake Village and environmental groups have won a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers over a large organic dairy in Newton County. A federal court ruled that the agency didn’t do a good job of investigating Natural Prairie Dairy for a wetland permit.

Natural Prairie Dairy is a confined animal feeding operation that sits in the now dried-up bed of Beaver Lake on the edge of the former Grand Kankakee Marsh — which used to be one of the country’s largest inland wetlands. The Hoosier Environmental Council calls the area one of the most "ecologically sensitive" in the state.

Kim Ferraro, HEC senior staff attorney, said Natural Prairie Dairy was only investigated for a federal wetland permit after it had already filled drainage ditches and done other work on the property. The court ruled that the Army Corps should have taken those changes into account.

“The Army Corps has to essentially go back to the drawing table and do a proper wetland investigation," she said.

READ MORE: State approves controversial Newton County CAFO

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If the agency finds that there are wetlands or waters that should be federally protected at Natural Prairie Dairy and require a permit?

“Well, it just means that Natural Prairie went ahead and violated the Clean Water Act very clearly," Ferraro said.

And that would give the plaintiffs ammo for their other pending lawsuit against the dairy itself — which states Natural Prairie Dairy violated the Clean Water Act. The farm wasn’t able to comment in time for air.

Contact reporter Rebecca at or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.