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Mining ordinance revisions continue

Fri, Jul 20th, 2012
Posted in All Features

It has been nearly five months since the Fillmore County Board put a moratorium into place on 721 Excavation of Mining of Materials and Minerals. The committee tasked with revising the ordinance continued to refine the wording at their July 18 meeting. An over flow crowd filled the board room and many added their suggestions or posed questions. The committee has been open to discussion and participation from concerned citizens attending the meetings.

Committee members including Zoning Administrator Chris Graves, County Attorney Brett Corson, and David Williams worked on the ordinance as directed by the committee to better define terminology and clean up the language since the June meeting. Working from that work product, the sand committee with most the members of the Planning Commission in attendance made their way through part of the ordinance again.


•Brett Corson said that digging wells should be segregated out of the current language so a CUP wouldn’t be needed to drill a well. He insisted the state, DNR, controls water removal with a water permit. The concern was if “subsurface water from any source” was included then anyone drilling a well would need a CUP. Graves explained they were just including water as a “material.” Corson repeated you are proposing the need for a CUP for everyone removing material, including water. He asked if Ag use should be an exception. Duane Bakke noted some dairies may be using 10,000 gallons per day. Steve Duxbury noted dairies are permitted. Bakke added we don’t want to require a CUP to dig a well. David Williams suggested an exception for Ag and residential wells.

Emily Spende suggested they add the phrase “relating to excavation or mining” after “subsurface water from any source.” It was decided to add the wording as she suggested and also to include Ag and residential wells under Exceptions where a CUP is required.

•Rita Leduc suggested there be a limitation for mining on property with a CER (crop equivalent rating) of 65 or higher. She insisted one of the interests of this ordinance is to protect farmland in Fillmore County. Graves said a mound could be 65 CER or higher and still not be farmable. Bakke noted they will need to discuss this later.

•The wording in the ordinance clearly states a prohibition of the use of any chemicals or toxic substances for washing. Bakke asked if it would be possible under the current wording in the ordinance to apply for a washing or transfer station that is not part of a sand pit. David Williams asked about the commercial district outside of the city of Canton. Bakke concluded it could be possible in a commercial district in the Ag zone.

Loni Kemp asked if they could just out right prohibit washing. Bakke said there already is washing going on for sewer rock, cement, and so on. She asked if it could be limited to a smaller scale. Bakke questioned whether the county could legally limit the number of gallons used.

Only materials excavated on that site can be washed onsite unless the materials come from continuous properties. Vern Crowson was concerned about five or six landowners up and down a ridge concentrating mining operations in a particular area. Paul Leduc asked if they could limit new operations to avoid really large concentrations of mines. Andy Batstone noted that an operator could potentially acquire a lot of land.

Operator Richard Frick protested saying you would be taking away the opportunity for someone to mine because his neighbor mines. Frank Wright, Lanesboro, maintained there needs to be a balance, saying people have a right to make money, but not the right to make everyone else’s life miserable. The more operations in a concentrated area, multiplies the trucks hauling. Someone asked if the combined impact of several continuous operations could require an EIS.

Corson asked which would be worse for the environment, one wash site for several owners or four smaller wash sites.

•Julie Kiehne, Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce, asked that the committee consider the preservation of the county’s scenic beauty. She noted it is the number one reason people visit the area. Kiehne maintained that the hospitality and tourism industry brings in $18.7 million.

Frick insisted there isn’t a farmer out there that gets a dollar off of tourism. Roy House said only a few will profit from sand and thousands will suffer from it.

•Bob Johnson wanted permitted mining sites to be less than 150 acres, adding that the larger the acreage, the greater the intensity of the operation. Bakke remarked that there needs to be more discussion on density, transportation, and CER soil rating. He said he was open to lowering the total size of an operation. An EIS is required for 160 acres or larger and an EAW is required for 40 acres or larger.

Johnson suggested they can start smaller and add more later. Duxbury noted it has taken Big Springs about a century to get to the 56-acre size it is now. Williams said they might solve the concentration issue by reducing the cap on the number of acres.

Loni Kemp suggested the acreage limitation is the single most important item. She noted that with the feedlot ordinance it was capped at a moderate size. Kemp maintained setting a modest size will send a message that operators can’t go really big. Frick remarked, “Why fix something that ain’t broken.”

Johnson said they should keep in mind the end result, the contamination from the fracking process and the potential for water contamination all over the United States.

Duxbury suggested setting it so the total permitted acres could only be twice the actual working area. Corson said he was concerned about making it too small; it should be big enough so they can operate over a number of years. He suggested making the operational area smaller, but not the surveyable boundary. Gary Ruskell commented that 80 acres for the surveyed boundary and 40 acres for the operational area was doable. The 80-40 is where it was left at for now. It had been 150-50.

•Donna Rasmussen explained that six SWCDs met and recommended some additional guidelines for sand mining plans. She suggested several pre-mining conditions that could be part of the application requirements for a CUP, including the assessment of soil type and depth of top soil, hydrology, vegetation cover and species, wetlands, and wildlife habitat. It was the SWCDs group suggestion to set up a Technical Evaluation Panel made up of people from P& Z, SWCD, DNR, Highway Department, and BWSR (if there are wetlands involved). The applicant would be responsible for any fees if there were any.

The panel would also evaluate the reclamation plan. Rasmussen said the end use of the land post-mining has to be considered; post-mining conditions should be equal to or better than before. Bakke commented that the burden of reclamation is for environmental protection. Williams noted that many of these mounds are not farmable, but can be brought back to some use.

•Dale Forster, Lanesboro, maintained there should be a baseline road survey to document the condition of the roads pre-mining. Bakke suggested any road impact fee for a particular industry would be challenged legally. He continued saying truckers will be paying for their use through the fuel tax and licensing. Batstone suggested most of the fuel tax goes to the state and federal governments. Bakke noted Fillmore County’s allocation is fairly high because of the number of county roads.

Rita Leduc insisted, if the density problem is addressed by limiting the number of active mines in a geographical area in a given period of time, the effect from the number of trucks will be less of an issue.

Frick noted that MnDot says if the roads are built right and legal weights are maintained (80,000 pounds or less) the roads will hold up. Bakke explained that MnDot has for about 10 years had 10 ton standards. He asked how you get a gravel road to a 10 ton standard. Many of the county’s hard surfaced roads are built to an 8 or 9 ton standard.

•Roy House suggested there should also be an archaeological survey. Frick said they had completed one in Houston County looking for the possibility of a burial site. He said the landowner didn’t have to do it by law, but did it anyway. Bakke added that an archaeological survey is part of an EAW.

Emily Spende suggested any mining CUP over 10 acres should require an EAW. She continued saying we need an EAW to expand a campground, insisting a campground is less invasive than a mine. Bakke explained they would have to make such a requirement one at a time, since the state law requirement is 40 acres or more.

Request for a Presentation

A request from the Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce (LACC) to give a presentation was denied early in the meeting. Bakke maintained that they have had an open discussion at every meeting held by the committee, but have avoided presentations. At this point, the committee is working to revise the ordinance.

In a handout from the LACC it was noted that the “LACC believes the mining of frac sand has the potential, if done on a large scale, to adversely impact the quality of life in Fillmore County and the City of Lanesboro.” They ask for the ordinance to set “reasonable limits and mitigate the adverse impacts of large scale mining of sand.” Concern is expressed for the county’s natural beauty, water resources, truck traffic, density and clustering of mines, and health due to exposure to silica sand dust. To assure restoration and preservation of the land for the future, the chamber encourages phased reclamation.

Additional Comments and the Next Meeting

•David Williams reported that the Environmental Quality Board will be reviewing a petition from SE Minnesotans asking for a regional three year moratorium to allow time to conduct a generic EIS. The issue was on the EQB agenda for a meeting this day.

•The next Sand Committee meeting will be Friday, August 10, 9:00 a.m. in the board room.

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