A Preston-area cattle producer has to pay a $10,000 penalty after digging a trench to send manure down a ditch and into Copper Creek.

James Carstensen also agreed to stop manure discharges or get a permit for them in the future, according to an order filed with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The James Carstensen feedlot at 45436 45th St., Preston, is about a third of the mile from Copper Creek and is north of Highway 64 between Preston and Miles. It has two settling basins with a capacity for 700 head of cattle.

On May 24, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources learned that Carstensen had dug a trench to a ditch that feeds into the creek. A DNR field officer could see manure in the creek.

Carstensen told the field officer that he dug the trench to keep manure from overflowing onto neighboring fields, according to DNR officials.

The manure discharge increased ammonia levels in Copper Creek from 1.2 to 220 milligrams per liter at the point of discharge.

“The discharge in this case was extensive enough to produce elevated levels of ammonia in the Creek,” reads the administrative order signed by Carstensen and DNR director Kayla Lyon. “Most problematically, however, was the intentional nature of this discharge. Constructing a trench to discharge manure greatly degrades the environment.”

From the farm, Copper Creek swings south to skirt the north edge of Preston. Along with by its namesake trail, the creek continues north and west to join the Maquoketa River northeast of Spragueville.

This spring’s heavy rainfalls made it harder to keep manure out of waterways around the state. After Memorial Day rains, the DNR reported about 70 wastewater and “multiple” manure releases around the state, especially in the west.

The agency urged producers to contact a field office to discuss solutions if there’s a danger of manure overflow.