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December 18, 2013
SHERIDAN — The journey isn't over for Wallace Bridge.
The proposed equestrian facility got a victory Nov. 21, when a USDA hearings officer supported Wallace Bridge originator J.W. Millegan's appeal of the Natural Resources Conservation Service's denial of conservation easement modification necessary to build the venue.
But now the back and forth battle continues. On Dec. 11, two days before the deadline, the NRCS filed an appeal of the hearings officer's decision, requesting a review by Director of the National Appeals Division Roger Klurfield.
All of this is happening before any dirt has been moved on the property in question, more than 300 acres at the intersection of Highway 22 and Highway 18 near Sheridan in Polk County. A modification is required for the project to move forward. Millegan purchased the property in 2011, but the effort kicked into gear in May 2012, when the modification was originally requested.
In its appeal of Millegan's appeal, the NRCS is standing firm on its assertion that Millegan, who is not the owner of all the property proposed for the facility, had no standing to appeal in the first place.
NRCS characterized the findings of fact in USDA Hearings Officer Julie Read-ing's decision as "either incomplete or incorrect," and called into question the relevance of many of her conclusions.
NRCS is requesting a complete reversal of the decision, asserting that Millegan had no standing to appeal, that the NRCS maintenance of the easement in question is consistent with its regulations, and that Millegan didn't meet necessary criteria for the state to recommend a modification.
Millegan, who said the NRCS appeal "is unsupported by the evidence and rules of law," is preparing a response to be released on Wednesday (today). Klurfield has until Dec. 26 to make a decision regarding the appeal.