Citizens question the benefits of sand mineThere’s a lot about the area that draws tourists to southeastern Minnesota. Everything from fishing on the Mississippi River to climbing dozens of bluffs to watching for eagles keeps people coming back to Goodhue County.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
There’s a lot about the area that draws tourists to southeastern Minnesota. Everything from fishing on the Mississippi River to climbing dozens of bluffs to watching for eagles keeps people coming back to Goodhue County.
With so much environmental appeal at stake, many residents are agreeing that the addition of a silica sand mine to the county won’t exactly contribute to increasing tourism.
A meeting organized by Hay Creek and Florence townships Saturday afternoon found many participants debating whether a mine would result in any kind of benefit to the county whatsoever.
Interested in sharing their opinions and getting their questions answered, more than 100 citizens attended the two-hour meeting in Florence Town Hall. They were interspersed with numerous government officials ranging from township officers to county commissioners, city council members to Minnesota Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing.
The meeting was split into two parts — a panel discussion and a presentation by Frontenac resident Jody McIlrath. McIlrath highlighted events in the Village of Howard, Wis., and explained how the neighboring state allows townships to enforce their zoning ordinances at a licensing level.
Goodhue County townships are hoping to learn whether they would have any kind of control in the development of a silica sand mine.
Concern about that type of mine emerging has been a prominent concern for the past year as oil companies have been searching for prime locations to find the valuable sand, which is used to extract oil and natural gas.
“We’re noticing as we move forward this is not just a Hay Creek or Goodhue County issue,” Hay Creek Township Planning Commission Chair Keith Fossen said. “This is a southeastern Minnesota issue.”
In fact, representatives of Fillmore, Winona and Wabasha counties attended Saturday’s meeting to weigh in. Winona County currently has a three-month moratorium in place on silica sand mining, and Goodhue County is several months into its yearlong moratorium, which ends in August.
As information surfaces through studies done by a Goodhue County mining committee, citizens said they are still confused as to why a silica sand mine would even be considered.
Those who live near a potential mine site argued that their property values will go down, they’ll be at a higher risk for respiratory diseases caused by silica dust and the county’s roads will be destroyed from constant heavy truck traffic.
They also questioned economic benefits to the county, referencing possible negative effects on tourism and the fact that a mine likely wouldn’t employ hundreds of people.
“To totally dismiss economic benefit is not realistic,” attorney Richard Gorman said at the meeting.
He added that the operation will be very beneficial to the people who receive employment from the operation, whether there are many or few.
“If you’re one of those people … it’s pretty important.”
Many of those who attended Saturday’s meeting will gather again Feb. 4 as the annual Township Association meeting is held at 9 a.m. at the Zumbrota VFW.