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Commentary: Avoid 'I wish we could turn back the clock'

For two years, Goodhue County has been considering the possibility of frac  sand mining in this area. It seems many residents in Red Wing and surrounding communities object to this endeavor. 

In the 10 a.m. Aug. 6 meeting (timing alone restricts many people from attending) there were 33 presentations during a two-hour span — all expressing opposition to frac sand mining and requesting to extend the moratorium. 

The unanimous vote of the commissioners extended the moratorium for six months. We are grateful for an additional time to re-evaluate the sand mining.

Those of us who attended cited 12 reasons to ban frac sand mining in Goodhue County. Without elaborating on each reason, they include health concerns with the silica sand, environmental issues, tourism, road traffic, road maintenance, noise, water contamination, water depletion, alienation of neighboring land owners, value depreciation of property within a three mile radius and. more recently as experienced in Wisconsin, creation of unstable piles of sand waste and illicit wastewater runoff. 

If one of the reasons for sand mining is that it will solve a problem with unemployment, a recent study relates that Minnesota has returned to a 5.2 percent rate of unemployment. This does not seem to be a reason for allowing such mining when the reasons for banning it are so much more legitimate and damaging to the Goodhue County community. 

A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources representative recently commented, “The industry just came on too fast. I wish we could turn back the clock a couple of years and start over.”

Bill Mavity, a lawyer and supervisor for Pepin County, established a mining overlay district there that prohibits mining from shore to bluff along the Mississippi Great River Road. There is only one frac sand mining operation current in Pepin County and that is located in the Frankfort Township. The board is considering a moratorium on any additional requests in their township.

In Whitehall, Wis., Trempealeau County has 26 companies mining and processing silica sand on a total of 4,733 acres. The county health department now realizes that they have not addressed the health concerns and are considering a moratorium for future mining sites.

In Eau Claire, Wis., an environmental attorney shared that the DNR has not provided enough safeguards to protect people and the environment. There also are concerns about mines’ adverse impact on water depletion and pollution with waste runoff.

A headline in the Eau Claire Commentary reads, “Sand mining badly fails the cost-benefit test.” The claim for job creation is outweighed by all of the costs the state and citizens end up paying to support the sand industry.

Our Goodhue County commissioners have been elected to represent the people. There have been many, many people who are requesting a ban on frac sand mining. There have been very few who are advocating for this mining.

When a group of people has been elected to serve on a commission, it would be appropriate to seek all options for a proposed request. However, it seems that this board is seeking only ordinances, restrictions, variances etc. and not at all considering a ban on frac sand mining in Goodhue Country — despite the many statements of opposition. Rather than listening to the people with valid concerns, the commission has been delegating time to justifying frac sand mining to accommodate the reason for same. Any violations would be difficult to monitor and even more difficult to enforce.

A request is made now to contact the members of the Goodhue County Board by telephone or by letter to ban frac sand mining in our county. They are Chairman Dan Rechtzigel, Ron Allen, Jim Bryant, Richard Samuelson and Ted Seifert.

On behalf of all those who are against frac sand mining in our county, I’m requesting again, “Please establish a ban on frac sand mining in Goodhue County.” It would be unfortunate if — in a few years — we are saying, “The industry just came on too fast. I wish we could turn back the clock a couple of years and start over.”