Red Wing's planning and development commissions have posted a draft online of the Industrial Silica Sand Mining Operations Moratorium Report, and the public is responsing.
The Red Wing Republican reports in City gets public input on sand report:
A majority of the sections in the draft are complete for now, but one set aside specifically for recommendations remains blank.
“We wanted to get to this point, get some feedback from the public, and then our two commissions will work on recommendations,” Red Wing Planning Director Brian Peterson explained.
The public is giving its feedback in no uncertain terms:
Red Wing resident Winston Kahler said he is most bothered by the transporting of sand and the idea of heavy truck traffic frequently making its way through the town he calls home. . . .“I think it’s somewhat comparable to raising tigers within city limits,” Kahler added. “It’s just not something that you want to do within the boundaries of a town.”. . .
Hay Creek resident Katie Bakke asked at the meeting whether looking at other mines had proved there was an economic benefit to be had for communities housing mining operations.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that these operations are employing some people,” Peterson answered. “It has more to do with does it outweigh some of the negative impacts?”
Several citizens think it doesn’t.
One of them — Kathleen Bibus — said she knows people that had been considering buying homes in Frontenac and Hay Creek, but decided against them because of the potential of a sand operation coming to the area in the future.
“It’s already impacting people not moving here,” Bibus said.
The "raising tigers" reference isn't fear-mongering, but a reference to Red Wing and Goodhue County's experience with the "Tiger Zone," a facility that caused headaches and heartaches for the local community, and like frac sand mining, part of an industry that popped up without adequate regulation to protect public health and safety.
In 2005, Minnesota Public Radio reported in A jungle of confusion: tigers in Minnesota:
Grant Oly moved to Goodhue County in 1997, and set up Tiger Zone just outside Red Wing. Within a few years, reports began to trickle out to law enforcement of the tigers injuring people. Carol Lee's the assistant Goodhue county attorney.
. . .County assistant attorney Carol Lee says closing Tiger Zone has been an uphill battle.
"Our county is just going to have to work very hard to make sure that something like this doesn't happen ever again in the interest of the public purse but also in the interest of public safety, " says Lee. "So we're glad that part of it over. And I'm sure there are other places in Minnesota where this happening as well and because the law on the subject is very fragmented it's hard to control the situation before something happens."
For now, the recommendation section of the report is blank. One member of the Goodhue County Mining Study Committee, former county commissioner Roseanne Grosso writes in Strong mining ordinance needed for safety:
As a member of the Goodhue County Mining Study Committee what have I learned?
That most folks think “sand is just sand,” even some members of the nine-member committee, and that our current mining ordinance is basically “just fine.”
That ordinance went into effect in 2002 when I was serving as a county commissioner. We had an 18-month moratorium to study the issue of borrow pits, aggregate, sand and gravel mining. It was a good ordinance for its time, but industrial silica sand mining was not on our radar then. . . .
The key word for me is “industrial.” I picture “big.”
Our current ordinance limits sand/gravel mining to 40 open acres at a time. Some mining committee members think that this will control the size and scope of silica mining.
An Oakdale, Wis., mine is on 1,100 acres that has processing capacity of over 1 million tons per year. In Section 4, Article 5, our ordinance reads: A mineral extraction facility … exposes no more than 40 acres at any one time, “unless approved by county staff.”
Did someone leave the back door open a crack?
The processing and shipping of frac sand concerns me the most. There are too many unanswered questions about health when words like “fugitive dust” enter my vocabulary.
I’m from the Iron Range where a University of Minnesota study has been ongoing for years. Mesothelioma is a lung cancer that is 300 times greater there than anywhere else and was thought to be caused by asbestos fibers. They broadened the study to include “shorter asbestos-like fibers” when no firm link to asbestos was found. They have expanded the study again adding “elongated mineral particles” and are looking at the “relatively high exposure to silica dust” in taconite operations as a link because asbestos doesn’t appear to be the culprit. . . .
Read the whole letter. Will Red Wing pick the lady or the tiger?
Photo: A view of Hay Creek Township, by Jim Tittle.