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DNR was right to stop illegal silica sand mining in Houston County

Fri, Aug 15th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

Marilyn Frauenkron Bayer

By Marilyn Frauenkron Bayer, Houston County, MN

The DNR is to be commended for their decisive action to ensure important new laws to protect trout streams from silica sand mining are not ignored. The law is straightforward and requires silica sand mines within one mile of a trout stream to get a DNR Silica Sand Mining Trout Stream Setback Permit before they begin mining. The DNR was clear with the owners of the Erickson silica sand mine in Houston County that mining at their site would require this permit. Despite this, the mine owners started mining without the permit. Acting quickly, the DNR ordered mining stopped, in accordance with the law.

This case is particularly important because it is the first test of the new law. One can be sure many who would like to mine silica sand for fracking in southeasternMinnesota were wondering if the DNR was going to be serious about enforcing this permit requirement. I know citizens like myself were counting on the DNR to be just that. Well, it is clear now the DNR is serious which is very good news indeed. I know hundreds in Houston County, and thousands throughout the state, were glad to see this.

The misinformation about this issue coming from some Houston County officials is troubling and two issues need to be clarified. First, this DNR permit is about silica sand mining. It does not matter what the end use of the silica sand is. The law mandates if you want to mine silica sand within a mile of a trout stream you need this DNR permit. If you dig anything at the Erickson site it will be silica sand. Calling it “construction sand” does not change that.

Second, this is a DNR permit that is focused on protecting our trout streams. It is up to the DNR to ensure silica sand mines within a mile of a trout stream apply for the permit and set the requirements for receiving one. It is separate from a Houston County land use permit,which is also required. This regulatory structure is common. For example, very large factory farms require a local land use permit and a permit from the state Pollution Control Agency. They need both to operate and getting the county permit does not guarantee they will get the state level permit. Oddly, some Houston County officials seem surprised by this and that Minnesota state law applies to Houston County.

Look at the beauty of our region. The farms which have been here for generations. The trout streams that attract visitors from all over the world. This new law and permit requirement are about protecting this region and helping to ensure our children and our children’s children inherit what we have been blessed to enjoy. The DNR is doing the right thing in demanding this important new state law be followed. Short-term profits for a few should never be gained at the long-term expense of all of us.

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