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Letter: What's the point of public input?

City Council did our community a disfavor in refusing comments before approving LabUSA's ash mining project. Why? There's value in public comments, and this project's morphing demonstrates that value.

In the environmental assessment worksheet, several things that were problematic or just plain false. Tyler Hills Neighbors, Department of Administration — State Archeologist, and Indian Affairs Council comments resulted in changes. For example, the project's treatment of leachate changed after the public comment period.

The water tank mounds issue was buried in the EAW, yet it wasn't considered publicly in the laydown yard permitting. The State Archeologist wasn't brought in until after the public comments, after the laydown yard was already permitted. That's backwards.

There's no State Archeologist final determination for this project, and the laydown yard has already had to make adjustments.

An April 17 letter from the archeologist was a recommendation that further study be done. The city should not permit something before there's a determination that it is in compliance with state law. Public comments raised this issue.

The number of truck trips was raised in EAW comments, resulting in changes, with proposed larger trucks for fewer trips. However, noise of the larger trucks was not considered, and the use of "trucks" per day, not truck "trips" per day, was not corrected. Traffic is measured in "trips," not the number of vehicles.

Sound abatement attempts was added, including different trucks, tree planting, building openings were closed, and doors added — that adds credibility to questions regarding the noise expected.

Further, there was no council discussion of the moved road within the project, now over 250 feet to the south and closer to residences. This increased impact was not addressed.

There is also the legal issue of whether this project is indeed a "Public Works Maintenance Shop and Yard." City Council has not addressed that — no surprise.

These are issues that should, could and would have been public comment, and which council should discuss. The summary of comments in the council packet was not complete and did not accurately characterize issues — the council discussion revealed a lack of information.

The project had flaws and the EAW had flaws, which were pointed out by the public, and some remain. This is why a thorough read of the project proposal, a critical read of the EAW and public comment is necessary at all stages of permitting.

Carol A. Overland

Red Wing