HELENA — “We plead. Do not leap before you look!” That is the message the group Protect The Falls has for Montana leaders.
On Tuesday, they delivered a petition to the Capitol asking the state to use the 1971 Montana Environmental Policy Act to study the potential impact of the proposed Madison Food Park.
The industrial-scale food processing facility, which includes animal processing, would be located about eight miles east/southeast of Great Falls.
“It is our intent to deliver to the Governor a petition, which in part, are the City of Great Falls' actions in requesting an Environmental Impact Study,” says Eric Ray, a member of Protect The Falls. It's a coalition representing various entities concerned about the proposed facility in Cascade County. They have gathered nearly 1,000 signatures from Montanans on the petition.
The group, along with Great Falls City Commissioner Mary Sheehy-Moe, delivered the petition to the Governor's Office. Moe says an environmental study would clarify impacts of the Madison Food Park complex on the surrounding community including infrastructure, housing, water and waste.
“The proposal pulls an estimated 3.5 million gallons of water from the Madison Aquifer daily, that's what it says anyway,” says Moe. “What will that do to other agriculture in the area? Other people? The Great Falls businesses that depend on the aquifer? Montana's most visited state park?"
One Great Falls resident says a study would also clarify factors such as noise, and the overall quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods. “Given the severe adverse impacts the slaughterhouse would have on our communities, it is our collective responsibility to be well informed before we make decisions of this magnitude," says Carolyn Craven, member of Protect The Falls.
The City of Great Falls has previously asked the Governor’s Office twice for a study of the impact of the proposed facility. The first time was in March of 2020 when Governor Steve Bullock was in office and they sent a letter to Governor Greg Gianforte in March 2021. They say both requests went unanswered, but the coalition is hopeful they can get an answer now that the legislature has adjourned and concerns over COVID-19 are starting to ease.