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Hay Creek Town Board awaiting county decision

The Hay Creek Town Board is ready to take steps against silica sand mining in its township, but decided Wednesday to hold off on any actions until Goodhue County reaches some decisions.

The county's moratorium on silica sand mining is set to expire Sept. 6, but if the County Board follows its Planning Advisory Commission's recommendation to extend the moratorium by one year, townships won't have to immediately act.

At a Hay Creek Town Board meeting this week, supervisors considered voting on a township moratorium before realizing they could be jumping the gun. If the Town Board had approved a yearlong moratorium at its meeting Wednesday and then the County Board approved an extension at its upcoming meeting, the township moratorium would essentially be wasted.

"Our moratorium could run out before theirs is even done," Hay Creek Town Board Chair Arlen Diercks said, adding that townships don't have the option of extending moratoriums like the county does.

Goodhue County commissioners are expected to vote on a moratorium extension at their meeting Aug. 16. The Hay Creek Town Board scheduled a meeting for just a few hours later to take immediate action if necessary. The county meeting will be at 3:30 p.m., while the township meeting is set for 8 p.m.

"If the county would decide not to extend the moratorium ... we could decide to put a moratorium on that night," Diercks explained.

In the meantime, the Town Board will continue studying issues surrounding silica sand.

Windsor Permian, an oil and natural gas company, bought 155 acres of land in Hay Creek last year and has drilled exploratory wells in the area. Citizens suspect the land will be used to mine silica sand -- often referred to as frac sand.

"We're very concerned about frac sand mining and the implications it can have for people," Diercks said. "We're watching it and working on our own ordinances."

While the township has the ability to enact a moratorium and halt mining within its boundaries for up to a year, Hay Creek residents and Town Board members realize there are certain things that are out of their hands.

"No matter what we do we can only control ourselves. We can't control what happens in other townships," Diercks said, noting that the Hay Creek Town Hall is a mere 600 feet from the Featherstone Township line.

Diercks said the planning commissions for several townships have been communicating about the issue since as early as last fall.

Townships have the ability to enforce some of their own zoning regulations, but only if they are more restrictive than the regulations developed by Goodhue County.

"The township cannot be less restrictive than the county," Diercks said. "We're going to continue studying the (sand) issue and seeing what we need to do that the county will not be doing."