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Letter: Pass ordinance that protects our county

To the Editor:

Our one chance, our last chance may be now. I have been working to protect our community from unregulated silica mining since March 2011 when an Oklahoma oil company bought 155 acres on a bluff, adjacent to a residential development, a state forest and two watersheds that run into Hay Creek.

I have learned more about silica mining than I wanted to learn. I have read hundreds of articles, ordinances and reports. I have spoken with people living near silica mines and those developing ordinances elsewhere. I have listened to the experts. I say without hesitation: Silica mining will change our community, forever.

That is why Sen. Matt Schmit kept saying, "We have one opportunity to get this right."

The county has spent nearly two years working to get it right. Unfortunately, as the proposed ordinance is written, a mine could be next to a school, park, trout stream, well or the Mississippi -- because it does not say, "Here is where you can mine."

Yes, there is a 1,000-foot setback from a dwelling, but nothing else. No setback from wells, even though Wisconsin Industrial Sand paid for wells damaged within 1,500 feet of the Maiden Rock mine. No setback from the trout streams, even though the DNR recommends a one-mile setback. No setbacks from where children play even though studies prove silica dust causes lung issues (including silicosis).

Yes, each application will be reviewed and conditions may be set to minimize impact including operating hours, but there is no assurance that will happen.

The public hearing on the proposed ordinance is 1 p.m. Tuesday June 18. Commissioners will have the opportunity to listen to constituents, confront a few people hoping to get rich, and focus on standards to protect our land, water, communities and livelihoods.

I hope they follow Schmit's example. He listened to his constituents and confronted peers who wanted him to play dead to create legislation that will help protect our groundwater and the streams that generate millions of dollars in tourism. I hope others have the same courage.

Amy Nelson

Red Wing