Responding to Oceanside residents' complaints of water pollution and stench, County supervisors Wednesday ordered the Whelan Ranch to cut the size of its nearly 1,000-cow dairy herd.
Under a decision creating new limits for herds, dairies in San Marcos, Escondido, Valley Center, Lakeside and Harmony Grove may legally retain their current herd levels, but Whelan Ranch must reduce its herd size from 965 cows to 385.
New North County Supervisor John MacDonald proposed the compromise Wednesday as an alternative to an ordinance discussed at an earlier meeting and backed by former Supervisor Paul Eckert. Eckert's proposal would have allowed as many as 25 cows per acre on the dairy farms, increasing herds by up to 10 times their current sizes.
MacDonald's compromise drew little comment from supervisors and no testimony by the audience.
Whelan Ranch, along the southern boundary of Camp Pendleton in the San Luis Rey River valley, has been fined by the Regional Water Quality Control Board over water pollution caused by its dairy herd. The district attorney's office has filed a criminal action against the dairy designed to reduce the herd size.
Louis Kintz, resident of a housing subdivision near the Whelan property, expressed satisfaction with the county board's action but pointed out that "it is only a first step because they haven't gotten rid of any of those cattle yet."
In addition to waste runoff that allegedly pollutes local streams, including the San Luis Rey River, the dairy farm creates an odor that "you can smell for 2 1/2 miles away," Kintz said. Oceanside officials estimate that more than 10,000 residents live in the area affected by the dairy cattle's smell.
Under the new limits approved Wednesday, dairy farmers may maintain the number of dairy cattle and younger replacement cattle that they now have, but they must obtain a permit from the county to increase herd size or reduce the amount of acreage devoted to dairy operations.
No deadline was set for compliance in cutting the size of the Whelan herd. The smaller herd size was reached by excluding 580 dairy cattle brought on the property by a tenant, John Borges, whose lease has expired.
Allowed to keep current herd levels are the Brower dairy in Escondido, 750 dairy cows; De Raadt dairy in Harmony Grove, 600; Kesting in Harmony Grove, 450; Konyn in the San Pasqual Valley, 670; Van Ommering in Lakeside, 1,400; Vander Woude's San Marcos dairy, 360, and Ver Boom dairy in Valley Center, reportedly not currently operating, 550 cattle.