High nitrates, prairie dogs, cattle, and owls have been the center of an ongoing controversy for months. This is a story that has gained national attention from various media outlets.
This kind of pressure, especially pressure from environmentalists, has made the city council to rethink their drastic approach to fixing high nitrate levels at its land application site. A new plan that has even considered by prairie dog advocates as a compromise. Environmentalists have booed and hissed down city hall for months.
"My firm conviction is that if the city kills a single prairie dog it will not be because they have to, it will be because they want to," said prairie dog activist Lynda Watson back in October.
She said that about the city's plan to eradicate prairie dogs, a solution the city thought was the answer to their high nitrate problem.
"You all have done a great job reaching out and working with various environmentalist groups who have a keen interest in our activities," said Councilman Tom Martin after the city council meeting on Thursday.
Provisions to what was once considered a doomed deal for those fury critters is now a proud display of the cities willingness to consider feelings of wildlife activists.
"This is a compromise, and we hope it will benefit the city and natural resources," said Rob Lee, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent.
Here are the provisions city council approved Thursday. Each plot of land has a pivotal sprinkler, where the nitrates are released on to the land. Outside the circle there are triangles. Volunteers will move the prairie dogs to those spaces. Inside those triangles, the city will mount posts. Sitting on top of those posts will be meat eating birds, like raptors. Their purpose is to control the prairie dog population. Inside the circle, the city will grow hay, a crop which experts say is the best way to absorb nitrates from the two billion gallons of wastewater sprayed on the land site yearly.
"So these reasonable efforts by the city shows our commitment to protect the environment and still be able to dispose of wastewater," said Martin.
But there's still a concern. Since the city plans to start plowing the land in January through March, the concern is time.
"Certainly, all the prairie dogs will not be moved by the deadline when the city will begin and finish their plowing," said Lee.
I overheard Councilman Tom Martin say if the prairie dogs are not moved to their designated spot in time for planting in February, some of those prairie dogs will end up being killed. There are 350 acres at the land application site under the prairie dog management plan.
If you would like to take a closer look at the plan (click here ).