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Planning Commission recommends approval of Harmony quarry


Fri, Nov 21st, 2008
Posted in Government

An over flow crowd spilled out of the commissioner's board room at the Fillmore County Planning Commission's November 20 meeting. Keith Bruening, Bruening Rock Products, Inc., Decorah, Iowa, had applied for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a rock quarry located on Alan Thorson's property, Section 3, Harmony Township. The property is currently being used for row crops.

Engineer Geoffrey Griffin of Chatfield detailed the plans for Bruening. Griffin maintained that the rock quarry would be in a good location, not needing to use gravel roads which produces a dust problem. The proposed quarry would not require any variances. Griffin assured the commission that neighbors would be notified before blasting.

No Harmony Township Supervisors spoke for or against. Jerry Grehl, Harmony, was concerned about a large sink hole west of his home and the affect of blasting on his foundation. Secondly, he worried about the quarry's affect on Partridge Creek which is a tributary to Camp Creek, both trout streams.

DNR hydrologist and licensed professional geologist Jeff Green was also concerned about the trout streams and the possible affect on springs. He noted problems associated with Big Spring Quarry and its negative affect on Camp Creek. Area Fisheries Supervisor Steve Klotz expressed his concerns in a letter to the commission dated November 17. He warned that "any additional potential impact to either spring flow or water quality in these streams (Partridge Creek and Camp Creek) should be thoroughly examined."

Griffin explained that Green's concerns could be met by raising the floor of the quarry 20 to 30 feet. He said that there are no known sink holes or springs on the proposed quarry. Commissioner Duane Bakke asked where the projected floor was. Griffin responded that if the floor was raised 20 feet, then the floor would be at an elevation of 1220 feet which is the same elevation as the dry run. Bakke asked about the depth of material to be excavated. Griffin said that it was 1285 feet to the top of the hill which would allow about 65 feet of material.

Evelyn DePunteney, Harmony, claimed her house, which is over 100 years old, is the closest home to the site. She has lived there 12 years and commented that the sink hole near her driveway is growing. She said that the blasts are like earthquakes and cause cracks in her home and could possibly pose a radon health concern. She was worried about the close proximity of the quarry to Harmony. She insisted that there should be a thorough environmental study with the results made available to citizens of Harmony. DePunteney added that blasting causes cloudy water for days.

Commissioner Steven Duxbury suggested that blasting is more controlled with today's technology. Griffin agreed. DePunteney complained about the lack of notification. Cristal Adkins, county zoning, said that all land owners within a mile of the site were notified and the city of Harmony was notified. Bakke added that a notice was in the paper.

Brad Osmonson, Harmony, lives next to the Thorson property. He maintained that the blasting can be felt at his home from the Big Spring Quarry. He said that water is cloudy for 3 or 4 days after blasting and was concerned about who would be responsible if a well went bad.

Green explained that there have been studies done on wells in blasting areas which showed no impact on wells. However, he believes there are impacts on older, shallower wells, those completed before the enactment of the state well code. Green suggested that a well survey be completed for a mile and a half radius. He agreed raising the floor of the quarry 20 feet would be helpful. An engineer with Bruening added that he has worked in 10 or more quarries with existing wells on them and there has not been a problem with the wells. Griffin said that they would do a well survey and pull the pumps so they could camera older, noncased wells. He suggested that it would be to the company's benefit and home owner's benefit to videotape houses to establish a baseline before any blasting or claims of damage arose. This work would be done by an independent firm.

The proposed quarry is expected to produce a million and a half tons over its life. As a note, a 300 turbine wind farm uses 600,000 ton of aggregate plus additional aggregate in the concrete.

Bakke listed three conditions: conducting a well survey within one and one half mile radius of the site; raising the floor of the quarry 20 feet; and having a geological survey or core sampling. A geologist would be hired to take the core sampling and interpret the results. Griffin was agreeable to the conditions which would have to be completed before operation of the quarry could begin.

The board unanimously voted to recommend approval to the County Board of Commissioners with the three conditions attached. The County Board is expected to act on the recommendation at their December 2 meeting.

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