In a Houston County frac sand mining dispute, Wabasha County Judge Terrence Walters has issued an order denying a motion by Minnesota Sands, LLC, Tracie Erickson and Michelle Erickson for a temporary injunction against Houston County.
Back in July, 2012, Houston County had amended its moratorium against frac sand mining to prevent existing mines from extracting silica sand. The moratorium expires in March 2013, but the company and the Ericksons had sought to restart a closed mine.
On August 1, the Houston County News reported in Frac sand moratorium amended to halt mining:
The Houston County Board of Commissioners at its July 24 meeting amended wording in the frac sand moratorium it enacted on March 20 to fully halt all silica sand mining.
The moratorium was put in place to give Houston County time to study the effects of frac sand mining. However, the original moratorium only prevented companies from applying for new permits to operate frac mines and did not cover mines that already had been permitted. This became an issue a few months ago when an old mine owned by Tracie Erickson, which was first permitted in 1992, planned to restart operations for the purpose of mining frac sand. As the moratorium did not exclude old mines, the county commissioners could not prevent the mine from operating.
Environmental Services Director Rick Frank brought the amendment to the board. Frank said these existing permitted mines are circumventing the moratorium and this amendment would prevent further grandfathering in of previously permitted frac mines.
The revised moratorium states that new mines, old mines turned into silica sand mines and all existing silica sand processing were restricted until the expiration date of the moratorium in March 2013. This new amendment does not affect the expiration date of the moratorium. . . .
In October the Winona Daily News staff writer Tesla Rodriquez reported in Frac sand mine takes Houston County to courts:
A Houston County mining company and two mine owners are asking a Wabasha County judge to allow them to continue mining and processing sand in Houston County, after the county ordered them to stop because of the county’s ongoing moratorium.
Minnesota Sands LLC and mine owners Tracie and Michelle Erickson are scheduled to go before Terrence Walters today to fight the stop work order the county issued in July against the mine, located a few miles east of Rushford in the western edge of the county.
The mine, now called the Erickson Quarry, was created and permitted in 1992 to provide sand for a bridge construction. The current owners bought the property in 2010 and began mining sand — assuming, they said, that the original permit still covered their work.
The county issued a stop work order in July, arguing that the owners were operating outside the permit conditions, and that the permit doesn’t cover the scope of the operation or the amount of sand the owners want to mine.
The county issued the order to “preserve the status quo until the County could determine what work was going on on-site, and complete its analysis of the scope of permissible activity,” according to an affidavit filed by Houston County Environmental Services Director Richard Frank.
The owners can’t apply for new permits because of the county’s yearlong moratorium, which the Houston County Board of Commissioners approved in February and which prohibits new frac sand mines.
Minnesota Sands is arguing, in its push to continue to mine sand during the moratorium, that the moratorium doesn’t specifically address the operations of existing mines.
“No activities in violation of the current CUP have taken place at the Erickson Quarry,” owner Tracie Erickson wrote in a affidavit.
The WDN reported that the Hearing canceled for frac sand mining dispute, so that the two parties could work out an agreement in 30 days:
If the two parties don’t come to an agreement within 30 days, there would presumably be another hearing, Squires said.
The judge's order upholds the right of local government to write reasonable planning and zoning rules.Court Order Judgment 11 2012
The Sand Point Times, an anti-frac sand mining website maintained by the Houston County Protectors, has more information about the issue in Southeastern Minnesota.
Photo: A protest sign in rural Houston County. via Sand Point Times.
Blog begathon: Bluestem is supported by reader contributions. If you liked this post, consider throwing some coin to the tip jar. If you don't like using PayPal, email at the address on this page for a snail mail address. We'll be running our twice-yearly "bleg" though Christmas.