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EQB prepares silica advisory team

The state’s Silica Sand Technical Assistance Team is just about ready to begin advising local governments on mining and related impacts.

The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board is scheduled to vote on formally establishing the team at a meeting Oct. 16 in St. Paul.

Its purpose is “to provide local units of government assistance with ordinance development, zoning, environmental review and permitting, monitoring or other silica sand mining and processing issues,” according to an Oct. 1 letter from EQB Executive Director Will Seuffert.

The team will combine representatives from several state agencies, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency, Department of Health, Board of Water and Soil Resources and Department of Transportation.

Specific members of the team will vary depending on the nature of the requests it receives, according to a proposed EQB resolution.

County, township and city governments can request help from the team in one of two ways — either through general assistance regarding silica mining or an official recommendation for a specific project.

Local governments are not required to abide by the team’s recommendations, but must include the reasoning behind their disagreement on the record of any decision, according to the EQB.

All Technical Advisory Team meetings will be open to the public under Minnesota law.

The Legislature tasked the EQB with assembling the team as part of a number of silica sand laws passed earlier this year.

Goodhue County commissioners previously stated the county intends to utilize the team in some fashion when reviewing mining applications.

Land-use Management Director Lisa Hanni said the county also is willing to participate in a proposed dry run of the team, but it is unclear when that test would occur.

The Goodhue County mining moratorium expires March 5, 2014.

In addition to the Technical Assistance Team, the EQB continues to consult with local governments to develop a statewide model for silica mining, processing and transportation.

The board directed staff Sept. 18 to form a silica sand subcommittee, as well as to schedule a number of public meetings to receive input from citizens, government officials and industry representatives.

The EQB will host a public input meeting 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 29 at Wabasha-Kellogg High School in Wabasha.

More meeting dates will be announced in the coming weeks, according to the EQB.

Updates on EQB rulemaking and other state agency activities regarding silica sand can be tracked on a new government website,

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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