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Letter: Speak up to protect scenic byway

To the Editor:

It looks as though there will certainly be silica mining in Goodhue County – maybe a lot of mining in Goodhue County. The extent of that mining will be determined in large part at the County Board of Commissioners meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday Dec. 5 in the old Courthouse, where the commissioners will discuss some final amendments to the county ordinances and possibly lift the moratorium.

Four of the items deal with 1) setbacks from residential groupings 2) chemical use 3) more substantial penalties for violations and 4) setbacks from the Mississippi River and other public waterways.

In an effort to minimize some of the harm that will come to the tourism industry in the region, an additional issue arose at the County Planning Advisory Commission meeting Nov. 18. It was suggested the county should establish a one-mile setback from the Great River Road (Highway 61). Tourism is such a vital component of the economic security of this region that every effort should be made to protect our scenic treasures.

A concern was expressed that protecting one specific route would be arbitrary and indefensible in court. Providing a setback from all of the major roads used by tourists in the county would be the most preferable choice but, if that is deemed to be indefensible, providing arguments to protect the Highway 61 corridor are easy to come by.

Highway 61 is part of the Great River Road which is celebrating its 75th year of existence this year.

The state of Minnesota has established a commission to protect this byway. It seems an easy argument that keeping the blight of mining operations one mile from the road is a logical step in protecting our bluffs and rolling hills along the corridor. If you agree, contact the county commissioners and/or come to the meeting Thursday and express your opinions in person. Time is running out.

Google “savethebluffs” if you’d like more information on issues relating to silica mining. There you will find a virtual library of information on the issue.

Larry Sonnek

Red Wing