A source shared from a Fillmore County citizen concerned about frac sand mining in the southeastern Minnesota county.
She's focused on a Planning and Zoning Public Hearing tonight, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 7:00 p.m., in the Courthouse Commissioners Room, to consider a request to change haul routes permitted for the Rein Frac Sand Mine
She writes in an email that "Fillmore County has received a request to change the permit conditions for the Rein Frac Sand mine. The new operator, Larry Thompson, has asked for haul routes, instead of the original one, in order that he would have freedom to truck the sand where he would get the best price."
The map below was created by Crystal Adkins, the Fillmore County Zoning Administrator, who described her work in an email to Bonita Underbakke:
Based on the below information received from Larry Thompson for the Rein Sand Pit, I have created the attached map indicating the proposed haul routes out of the Rein Sand Pit, showing their potential final destinations, and related information. Hopefully this clears up some of the confusion. . . .
As provided by Larry Thompson:
*County Hwy 10 to State Hwy 43 as noted on the Road Impact Agreement
*County Hwy 10 to County Hwy 23 to County Hwy 12 to County Hwy 21 to State Hwy 52 (Canton) South to Iowa Hwy 9 East to Montgomery Street to Bruening Rock yard , return to pit with same route.
*County Hwy 10 to County Hwy 23 to County Hwy 12 to State Hwy 52 (Preston) North to State Hwy 14 to 3rd Ave in Mankato North to Kasota, return to the pit with the same route.
*County Hwy 10 to County Hwy 23 to County Hwy 12 to State Hwy 43 (Mabel), return to the pit with the same route. (If needed for a detour.)
Each load out of the Rein Pit will have a ticket with a designation that dictates the route used with a duplicate for the county.
We could potentially use two or three routes each month or even each day, but all limited to the aggregate of 120 loads per day from the pit.
The above routes are the safest for driver site distance and shoulder width.
All loads would be limited to legal weights.
Operation would be limited to the permit regulations.
We will post a phone number for complaints and considerations.
Underbakke, a Lanesboro resident, writes in a "Dear Friends and Neighbors" letter:
Fillmore County Planning & Zoning Public Hearing RE: Request to change haul routes permitted for Rein Frac Sand Mine, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 7pm, Courthouse Commissioners Rm.
Fillmore County has received a request to change the permit conditions for the Rein Frac Sand mine. The new operator, Larry Thompson, has asked for 3 haul routes, instead of the original one, in order that he would have freedom to truck the sand where he would get the best price.
1. If our County grants this request, it will establish the precedent that permits can be changed for the purpose of the operator making a bigger profit.
One example could be a request for greater acreage allowed for a sand mine in order to make a profit. Our Ordinance 736 allows 5 mines at a time, with 50 acres per mine. In Trempeleau County, Wisconsin, (an area with established frac sand mining) mines of fewer than 50 acres are not considered profitable.
If making a profit is an acceptable rationale for changing permit conditions, why believe that any permit conditions would protect the public safety & health, or our water, air, and infrastructure for the future?
2. The financial impacts of the heavy traffic on our roads and bridges infrastructure need to be studied and fully compensated.
I want to understand how our County plans to keep up our roads & bridges infrastructure with the expected extra impact from hauling frac sand.
Fillmore County is very likely to see greatly increased sand hauling over our roads & bridges soon, and extending into the future.
Recent developments in fracking technology have created higher demand for small-particle sand, in much greater quantities of sand per well. Fillmore County’s deposits of this preferred, fine-grained sand (St. Peter Sandstone) lie close to the surface in 15 of our 24 townships.
The market for frac sand heated up in 2017 and is projected to continue growing. Recent examples in Fillmore County include:
Oct. 10, 2017 – Fillmore County received a request for 3 alternative haul routes for the Rein Mine, expected to open with a different lessee than the one on the original permit.
Oct. 18, 2017 – Minnesota Sands CEO, Rick Frick, asked the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board to allow development of the A. Dabelstein Mine in Pilot Mound Township (without an Environmental Impact Study) for a projected life of 15 years for that mine.
Ordinance 736 “Excavation & Mining of Industrial Minerals & Metals” allows year-round mine operations, Mon-Fri: 6am -8pm (Central Daylight Time); Mon-Fri:7am-5pm (Central Daylight Time); Sat:7am-3pm; excluding operations only on Sundays and federal holidays.
Because wear on paved roads occurs to the 4th power, simply doubling weight will cause 16 times the wear, with consequent need to repair much more often than originally scheduled.
In Minnesota we have a limited season for road repairs. That season is already full of planned projects for years out. Fillmore County has a 5-Year Plan to, at long-last, catch up on our roads & bridges projects towards a manageable maintenance schedule. Our new Wheelage Tax was passed just to make that possible. Our Highway Department staff have their hands full to keep on target, working efficiently to continue making progress toward that goal.
When an industry damages a haul route, where do the staff, equipment, and time come from to fix those damaged roads and bridges? Do previously scheduled projects get shoved aside until “sometime”? If the industry cannot use that haul route while it is being repaired, does the County owe that industry an alternate haul route during repairs? How do farmers, residents, and money-contributing tourists have decent roads and bridges during years of such whack-a-mole repairs?
I was told that a goal in selecting an appropriate haul route is to avoid using crushed rock roads, and to connect with State roads in as short a distance as possible in order to save taxpayers’ money. I phoned the Minnesota State Highway Funding office to check whether there just might be an industry-funded pot of money established to repair damage from high volume traffic of an industry. The answer was, “No.” That would seem to mean that simply directing heavy traffic to State roads would not save taxpayers money. Those State roads would also wear out much more quickly than scheduled, and then have to wait their turn for repairs (funded by taxpayers). Meanwhile, we residents would have to deal with crumbling infrastructure.
We do not have a handy duplicate set of roads and bridges to loan out for a few decades of extra heavy use.
Our Ordinance 736 does provide that the mining operator pays a Road Pavement Impact Fee to reimburse Fillmore County for projected costs of fixing damages caused by hauling to and from mines, the amount to be reviewed every two years. The ordinance also provides for a Financial Assurance Bond, sufficient to pay for any County expenses caused by the business’ operation.
Will our County take the time to tally the real costs of, not only repairing roads & bridges damaged by this industry’s extremely high use, but also for additional staff and equipment to do that additional repair work so that our current resources can continue to be devoted to the projects already on our long-term plan?
Our neighbors in Wisconsin have been dealing with this issue for about 6 years longer than Minnesotans. We can learn from their bad experiences and use their information to protect our roads and bridges.
At the time we're posting this, there's nothing on the Zoning Department's page about the meeting. While the Planning Commission's meeting is on the County's calendar, there's no mention of what's on the agenda.
Notice of the agenda was sent to the county's paper of record, Crystal Adkins, the Fillmore County Zoning Administrator, said in a phone interview with Bluestem Prairie. The Bluff County Reader's website seems to be a bit behind on posting official notices online, so it was probably in the print edition.
Images: Bonita Underbakke at a sand activist rally in Winona County, via WI Center for Investigative Journalism (above). Map of the routes requested for hauling silica sand (frac sand) in Fillmore County (below). Supplied.
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