Dairies in the North Bosque watershed continue to have trouble getting their Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) permits renewed.

The TCEQ recently rejected applications of two dairies in the watershed -Parks Lingleville Dairy and the Howle Dairy - that sought permits to remain "concentrated animal feeding operations" with 200 or more cows.

TCEQ said the two dairies submitted applications with technical problems and then responded to resulting questions with insufficient information.

Now, as a result of the TCEQ decision, the two dairies must reduce their herds to fewer than 200.

And the struggle to get Erath County dairy permits approved persists.

As part of an effort to reduce phosphorus pollution in downstream Lake Waco, large dairies in the watershed have been required since mid-2004 to apply to renew their permits under more strict rules.

However, reportedly only one of the about 50 dairies that have applied to renew their permits has been issued a permit.

Consequently, the dairies continue to operate under less stringent, pre-2004 rules.

And Fort Worth attorney Jim Bradbury, who represents Parks Lingleville Dairy owner Elmer Jack Parks and a number of the area’s other dairies, said TCEQ’s slowness in approving the permits isn’t helping matters environmentally.

"The length of this process won’t strengthen the environment one iota," Bradbury said.

Bradbury said opposition to dairies and "heightened visibility" caused by the city of Waco and the Sierra Club has presented TCEQ with "more obstacles than they’ve had in the past."

"This is an extremely complicated process that these dairies are having to reckon with right now," Bradbury said. "There’s a layer of politics and a layer of legal issues that has never before existed."

What’s ironic, Bradbury said, is the city of Waco was "a strong, strong advocate for these new rules" and because of its continued protests and lobbying the dairy permits aren’t being approved and the new rules aren’t kicking in.

"They have delayed all these permits and delayed the new rules, and we’re halfway through 2007 and these dairies are not subject to the 2004 rules," Bradbury said.

But city of Waco officials have said they just want to make sure dairies comply with the rules aimed at protecting the environment.

Waco Assistant City Manager Wiley Stern told the Waco Tribune that it is important that the TCEQ issue proper permits as soon as possible and that the watershed be cleaned up.

"This is a crossroads of the whole issue in the watershed," Stern told the newspaper. "What the TCEQ does with the permits, and how the dairies respond, is critical. This is where it all comes together."

Bradbury said dairies are interested in doing what is right and that many are already following the 2004 rules.

Ultimately, Bradbury said, he expects the TCEQ to approve a majority of the permits.

"Ninety-five percent of the dairies will comply, no problem," Bradbury said. "The sad reality of it, though, is" some of the dairies who cannot afford lawyers and consultants "may get chewed up in the process."

Meanwhile, Bradbury said Parks of Parks Lingleville Dairy was "completely floored" with the TCEQ’s rejection of Parks’ permit, especially since Parks has been a "model dairyman."

Bradbury said Parks hired a consultant to handle the permit and, unfortunately, that consultant had health problems that seemingly hurt his ability to respond to TCEQ’s request for additional information.

As a result, Bradbury said, the permit application was rejected.

DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at doug.myers@empiretribune.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.