More support for sand moratorium from Red Wing groupsThe Red Wing Advisory Planning and Sustainability commissions each voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend that the Red Wing City Council support a moratorium preventing any silica sand mines from being established in Goodhue County for an entire year.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
The Red Wing Advisory Planning and Sustainability commissions each voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend that the Red Wing City Council support a moratorium preventing any silica sand mines from being established in Goodhue County for an entire year.
The two commissions, which normally meet separately, held a joint meeting solely to discuss the silica sand mine issue.
Citizen group Save the Bluffs previously brought the moratorium idea to the City Council, which decided to get input from the two commissions.
“Our city doesn’t really have jurisdiction on this issue, so it’s more a matter of educating our commission on what the concerns are,” Red Wing Planning Director Brian Peterson said.
But with the issue being out of the city’s hands, Save the Bluffs members hope getting more support will influence the county commissioners, who make the ultimate decision on whether to put the one-year moratorium in place.
“We are hoping that this helps the commissioners see that there is public sentiment for looking at these issues more thoroughly,” explained Jean Egbert, who spoke on behalf of Save the Bluffs at the meeting.
One county commissioner has already voiced his approval of a moratorium. Commissioner Ron Allen spoke out at the Goodhue County Planning Commission meeting in July and also showed up to Tuesday’s meeting. He said it was a good idea for concerned citizens to bring the moratorium idea to the city because that may help their chances with the County Board because the board will take all opinions into consideration.
“It’s like if something was going to happen in our county, the state should want to consider what we think,” Allen explained. “And that’s the first thing we do — we want to know what the city and townships involved think, and the local residents.”
Save the Bluffs has already received support from the Hay Creek and Florence town boards, and now that the two Red Wing commissions are on the citizens’ side, City Council might soon follow suit if it follows the recommendation it will receive at its meeting Monday.
“I think our City Council is responsive to citizen concerns and they’re taking this matter seriously, and I think that’s shown by referring it to these two advisory commissions,” Peterson said.
While environmental and health problems are some of the public’s main concerns, so is the possibility of silica sand mines spreading throughout the county.
“It’s not just one mine that’s being looked at,” Egbert said, referring to the expected silica sand mine in Hay Creek Township. “There are also some test wells on some other properties. From the history in Wisconsin, if you have a transfer station — which is what’s proposed in Frontenac — you have multiple mines that feed into it.”
The Hay Creek Township mine would be 155 acres, but Egbert said citizens are worried mining would quickly become much more widespread.
“In Wisconsin there have been conditional-use permits that were applied for, and they’re expanding and their mines are getting quite large,” she said, adding that some have reached 500 acres.
Wabasha County put a moratorium in place Aug. 2, preventing all new mining operations. The moratorium could last up to a year.
“It’s wise if you’re looking at such a big change to look at how that’s really going to affect you — as a city, or a county, or a region,” Egbert said. “It feels like there’s some momentum for at least investigating the issues, digging deeper whether you’re for it or against it.”
The Red Wing Advisory Planning and Sustainability commission’s recommendations will be presented to the City Council at its 7 p.m. meeting Monday, and Council members will decide whether they want to make any kind of recommendations to the Goodhue County Board.
The County Board will review the proposed moratorium at a 4 p.m. meeting Sept. 6.