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Public hearings set for mining ordinances

Fri, Oct 26th, 2012
Posted in All Agriculture

By Karen Reisner

The Planning Commission at their October 18 meeting discussed the revisions to Fillmore County Zoning Ordinance 721 and the draft of the new Ordinance 736 that will deal specifically with industrial mining. After some discussion and some tweaking, a public hearing date, November 15, was set for each of the ordinances. The public hearings may be held at the regular meeting place, the county board room in the courthouse. However, other sites are being looked at to accommodate an expected large crowd.

This discussion of the two ordinances was not a public hearing, but just an opportunity for Sand Committee members and the Planning Commission to make any changes to the draft language of the two ordinances before the public hearing. The room was full to capacity, but the public was not asked to contribute.

Tom Kaase, who chaired the Sand Committee, commented on the process since the moratorium was put into place last February. He said much has been learned with committed committee members and the participation and interest of the public.

721, Mining for Construction Materials

This ordinance remains similar to the ordinance that has set the rules for traditional excavation and mining for some time. There are a few changes including improved definitions and clarifications on rules for blasting. Commission and committee member Duane Bakke noted that all unloading of trucks and equipment must occur on site and not on a public road. The ordinance is geared toward all types of construction materials and includes agricultural lime and bedding sand for livestock operations. It specifically does not include rules for “industrial minerals and metals.”

736, Industrial Mining

Some additional changes were made to the current draft made available at the meeting. Bakke noted there are about seven previous drafts. The most recent language prohibits all washing of the materials at the site. “The washing or application of any chemicals or flocculants to excavated or mined industrial minerals or metals at the mining site is prohibited.” The committee also won’t allow materials to be hauled back into Fillmore County that are the leftover by-product after having been washed with chemicals or flocculants. It is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the material hauled from the mining site will be separated through processing and not qualify as frac sand. Zoning Administrator Chris Graves said washing is prohibited to protect and keep safe the county’s needed water supply.

Additional language will be added to 736.04 Prohibited Activity. “Any materials brought back to the site that have been processed with chemicals or flocculants is prohibited. Any haul back material is subject to testing at the owner and/or operator expense.”

After some discussion on size, the total allowable size or surveyed boundary, shall not exceed 50 acres and a working area of no more than 25 acres will be allowed at one time. No more than eight industrial mining sites will be allowed at one time within Fillmore County. Reclamation is to be done in phases as the working area moves.

Haul routes will be on blacktop or concrete roads. The use of gravel roads is prohibited unless an exception is applied for and approved. “If an exception is approved, the mining operator must maintain the roads to the satisfaction of the local road authority, provide dust control, and still enter into a road maintenance agreement with the county and/or township.”

Graves said once the most recent changes are made, the drafts of the ordinances which will be presented at the public hearings will be placed on the county’s website. Bakke commented that the proposed ordinance is pretty restrictive compared to some others in other locations.

After the meeting I had a conversation with Paul Leduc. He and his wife Rita were consistent attendees to the committee meetings and often contributed to the discussions. Leduc said he thought the resulting proposed 736 ordinance was a fair compromise. He said it was a good process and he felt he and the public had been listened to by the committee. Others must have agreed with this sentiment because there was sporadic applause at the end of the meeting.

Other Business In Brief

•A feedlot expansion CUP was granted for Heusinkveld Farms LLP, Forestville Township, Section 28. They will expand from 454 animal units to 600 animal units. Cows are housed in total confinement free stall barns and youngstock in a total confinement barn with manure pack. Young calves are housed in calf huts with manure pack. Adequate land for manure application is available. During the public hearing there was no comment from township officials or the public. Because there was an issue to be resolved at the township level, the CUP application was approved pending approval by the township board.

•A public hearing was held to remove Whalan from county ordinance 606.01. There was no public comment from Whalan officials or residents. Whalan is the last of the incorporated cities in the county to adopt their own zoning ordinance which they did on October 1.

•There will be an additional public hearing on November 15 which will limit the requirement of a permit for cement slabs. Bakke noted a permit is needed for a cement or asphalt area that is part of a feedlot due to runoff issues, but doesn’t seem necessary for a cement patio, a corn dryer pad, or other non feedlot-related areas.

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