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Sand operation given go-ahead

The parade of trucks will soon be rolling in Diamond Bluff.

A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources decision on Friday essentially cleared the way for a project that will offload 400,000 cubic yards of sand through the tiny river town.

Resident Bill Nafe, who has led opposition to the project since last winter, said his Citizens for Diamond Bluff group could file for a temporary injunction against the project but won't.

"It's very costly," Nafe said of the legal action, which would have had to go through the federal courts system. "The residents of Diamond Bluff are very disappointed in what happened."

The project will likely begin the week after Labor Day, said Taylor Luke, project manager for LS Marine, the contractor hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

He said the project, which was originally slated to begin in April, will now likely run until river conditions and weather draw it to a close for the season. That will probably be around Thanksgiving, and it will resume in the spring, Luke said.

He said "it's disappointing it took this long," but added that he respects the process.

Patrick Hynes, attorney for the citizens group, said that while the process may have passed legal muster, it did raise the perception of unfairness.

He said the Corps applied for its permit with the DNR nine days into a 30-day public comment period. The citizens group issued a four-page objection to the project during that period.

"It makes it hard to believe they took it seriously," Hynes said. "It certainly seems like they prejudged it."

Hynes said it appears the battle against the project is through.

"In all likelihood, the project will start," he said.

Residents first raised opposition in January to the $1.83 million project, claiming the constant parade of dump trucks offloading the sand would disrupt life and jeopardize safety in the town.

Barges will unload sand from Corps Island to a temporary dock on private Diamond Bluff land, where it will be transferred to the trucks. LS Marine predicts truck traffic to be about 18 vehicles every hour from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week, for 145 days.

"It's going to be crazy," Nafe said.

But there's a chance the duration of the project could be shorter, Luke said. There's a "50-50" chance that some of the sand could be offloaded to subcontractors who would ship it off by barge, he explained. Those contracts are still under consideration.

That came as news to Nafe, who said residents living along the route will remain vigilant once the project gets under way.

"This thing isn't over yet," he said.

He said truck activity will be closely documented to ensure drivers are following provisions of various agreements.

"There's going to be a lot of movies and a lot of pictures taken," Nafe said.