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Letter: Extend moratorium or just ban silica sand mining

To the Editor:

Last year, after a period of indecision, the Goodhue County Board created the mining committee to set a course of action — and to have someone to blame for what was certain to be a controversial job. Since then, the board has been largely silent.

Unfortunately, the committee interpreted its appointment only as a vehicle to create an ordinance, rather than to analyze the issue and then set a course which should only have had drafting an ordinance as the last step. It was essential to understand the science of sand mining, as well as the environmental, economic and public safety matters before drafting an ordinance, which ideally, would address and accommodate those matters.

Unfortunately, the board and committee reversed the order of those tasks. What followed was chaos and wasted time of the committee and the public, who were trying to protect the treasured environment and public safety.

How can committee members draft an ordinance when they not only do not know the answers to the numerous issues — summarized in a Star Tribune front page lengthy article July 7 about the absolute chaos occurring in Wisconsin — but have not even bothered to figure out the questions.

The board doomed success by heavily weighting the committee membership with those predisposed to mining interests. The expected result was a group exceedingly arrogant to others, in many cases more experienced and informed than they, simply because they articulated the issues that the committee ignored.

They were adamant about not considering a total prohibition to provide time to find the answers or an "overlay" to protect the "Tourist/Lake Pepin corridor."

It was from the start, an ordinance or nothing, all the time knowing oil industry lawyers will pound the county into the ground on any ordinance. No ordinance can be drafted that will protect Goodhue County from the devastation that will accompany silica sand mining.

The board has no choice but to abandon the committee’s work, disband the committee, either pass a "no silica sand mining in Goodhue County" ordinance, or in the alternative, pass a moratorium and get on with the serious and complex business of protecting the people of Goodhue County.

Richard W. Johnson