Air permit moves Costco poultry project forward

Company plans for April 15, 2019, completion.

Costco's planned poultry complex project in Fremont, Neb., will be able to begin vertical construction soon after the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) said it will issue an air permit, according to various sources.

“We’re certainly glad to get the air permit behind us. We had to answer a lot of questions and had to really make sure that we explained all of our perspectives,” Walt Schafer, project manager of Lincoln Premium Poultry, told KFMT Radio during an interview this week. Costco chose Georgia-based Lincoln Premium Poultry to run the plant.

Schafer said excavation has been occurring at the site, because that activity didn’t require an air permit, but no vertical construction is allowed until the company receives clearance from the NDEQ.

“The air permit allows us now to really start construction on the buildings. We’ve spent most of the summer doing the dirt work, putting in sediment ponds, getting compaction done and really getting ready for the hatchery, feed mill and processing plant. So, I’d expect some cement to start being poured here very shortly,” Schafer said.

The feed mill has the longest lead time -- 18 months -- so Schafer expects that vertical construction will begin on this first. The processing plant will follow, since it has a lead time of 12-14 months, and the hatchery will be last, with a 12-month lead time.

On the grower side, everything is still going as planned, Shafer noted, adding, “We continue to accept applications from growers.”

He said the team has done more than 60 site visits to meet with growers. From there, the construction company visits and provides a cost estimate. If everything goes through, Lincoln Poultry then signs a letter of intent with the construction company, after which a timeline is established.

The building and design process has evolved as well, since Costco is committed to cutting-edge technology. Shafer said when anything new comes out that is cutting edge, Costco will call him to consider it for the project.

With permitting out of the way now, Shafer said everything is occurring on time, and they expect to meet the timelines they’ve already laid out.

“We’re looking at April 15, 2019. That’s our date. Our goal is to meet it," he said. "Everything that we laid out from growers to construction, etc., is based on that.”

He added that the main focus over the next couple of years will be to continue to educate the community and the public about chicken production.

“We want to keep a very open dialogue. We want to keep our team in front of people," Shafer said. "We want to continue to show folks that we’re doing and continue to do exactly what we said from day one — and that’s not going to stop. It’s full steam ahead for us.”

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