(This piece was originally published on November 25, 2018 by the Northwest Indiana Times.)

The Hoosier Environmental Council has presented a grassroots, all-volunteer group with its Frontline Advocate of the Year award for its fight against a large-scale organic dairy in an environmentally sensitive area near Lake Village.

Protect our Kankakee River Basin Steering Committee was formed to represent Newton County residents opposed to the construction of a confined animal-feeding operation in the former lakebed of the now-drained Beaver Lake.

“Steering Committee members Jeanette Jaskula, Michael Nichols, Alyssa Nyberg and Thomas Vanes have worked tirelessly with countless volunteers to fight a proposal by Natural Prairie Dairy to construct a nearly 5,000-cow factory farm,” according to a Hoosier Environmental Council news release. “The group was instrumental in forcing the company to withdraw its application for an IDEM permit due to serious concerns about negative environmental impacts.

“They remain dedicated to the ongoing campaign both against this proposed factory farm, and for comprehensive reform of Indiana’s weak CAFO/factory farm regulations.”

Protect our Kankakee River Basin Steering Committee member Jeanette Jaskula said the award was a “great honor” and the group would not be able to continue its fight against the proposed diary without the Hoosier Environmental Council’s support.

Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the nonprofit was grateful for Protect Our Kankakee River Basin Steering Committee’s efforts.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management held an informational meeting last week about Natural Prairie Dairy’s proposal.

Residents raised a variety of concerns at the meeting, Jaskula said in an email.

IDEM said the dairy will be required to submit groundwater testing results twice a year. IDEM officials said the company will not be required to show the new technology it says it will use to process waste is proven.

The comment period for the CAFO proposal has closed, but IDEM has said it will continue to consider comments submitted before it issues a decision.

Written comments may be submitted to IDEM by mail or email at MHalcomb@idem.IN.gov or ATTN: Mitchell Halcomb, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Office of Land Quality, Confined Feeding Section, MC 65-45 IGCN 1101, 100 N Senate Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Written comments also may be submitted in person at the public informational meeting.

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