State enacts emergency rules regarding poultry operation

Thursday, January 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(NARCISSA) - State officials say they are preventing a poultry company from building chicken houses on a floodplain, but the company contends it never had that intention.

The state believes Simmons Foods planned to construct 20 of its 90 proposed chicken houses on a floodplain in Narcissa. The state Department of Agriculture has enacted so-called emergency rules to stop the company from building on a floodplain.

“My boss, the governor, has directed me to do everything possible this year to protect the waters of eastern Oklahoma,” said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Howard.

The planned poultry operation, on about 490 acres south of Miami, was expected to produce about 2.25 million chickens every two months. It would use 6,772,500 gallons of water every month during the summer.

Howard said the Agriculture Department enacted emergency rules because residents in the area complained about the proposed chicken houses.

But Prosper Farms, Simmons' local contractor, did not intend to building on a floodplain, said investor Buddy Pilgram.

“It would not make good sense to spend that kind of money on something that could be washed away,” he said.

Pilgram said he did know how Howard had information about where the company planned to build because Prosper Farms had never drawn up any plans - “not even on a coffee napkin” - that showed where the 20 houses would be.

The sale of the 80-acre tract where the 20 chicken houses allegedly were proposed had not even closed, he said.

Pilgram said Prosper Farms had closed the sale on a 200-acre parcel Dec. 29 - after the Ottawa County Rural Water District 2 board agreed to supply the company with water.

Now the water board is reconsidering its action, mostly because of opposition by its customers.

“I've never heard of a water department rescinding on a promise to supply water,” Pilgram said. “I don't know how that will turn out, because we bought that land in good faith based on the board's decision.

“A chicken can't live without water.”

Residents in the area are concerned about water and air pollution from the poultry operation.

Pilgram said he will set up meetings with local residents to clear up some misconceptions and listen to their concerns.

“I would have done this before, but I've never seen such a public outcry over building chicken houses,” he said.

Simmons Foods is a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed in December by the city of Tulsa against six poultry producers over water pollution.