Our friends at Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) alerted Bluestem to a public hearing at 8:30 am on Thursday, August 27th, in Olivia regarding Duininck Inc.'s request for a variance to mine gravel less than 1000 ft from the Minnesota River in Renville County.
As the map shows, and CURE writes, the proposed pit is also near one of our favorite places to take friends visiting the Upper Minnesota River Valley:
Duininck Inc. controls a little less than 20 acres in the Sacred Heart South Township, and while they have ignored that particular parcel for years, they are now planning to reopen the gravel mine. Surrounding areas are Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program land vibrant with wildlife, and the historical Joseph R. Brown Wayside Park is only a half-mile away. The pit is also in the Minnesota River floodplain, and, according to locals in the area, floods frequently.
The Joseph R. Brown Wayside Park is home to the ruins of "Farther and Gay Castle," the Brown family mansion that was burned in the 1862 US-Dakota War. We love to tell the story of Indian agent and inventor Joseph Brown's role in renegotiating treaties (and those terms' impact on the run-up to war) and the courage and eloquence of his French and Dakota wife, Susan Frenier, whose Dakota name is Hinyajice-duta-win (Soft Scarlet Down), in securing the lives of her children and hired hands when they were captured in fleeing the fire.
Right now, it's a lovely and peaceful place, but given the way sound echoes in the valley, we're concerned about the proposed project. We'd rather be able to hear migrating wild swans each spring in the river bottoms than mining equipment.
According to Renville County Ordinance (Chapter Seven, Section 2.7), an Interim Use Permit for a new or expanded mining operation can only be granted if the property is at least 20 acres in size. As Duininck only owns or has a permanent easement on 16.98 acres, Duininck cannot reopen this gravel mine without receiving a variance from the County Board of Adjustment and Appeals. The meetings of the Renville County Board of Adjustment and Appeals are public, and interested persons can be heard during the meetings.
While the staff of the Board of Adjustment and Appeals have duly noted that the ordinance requiring that mining parcels be at least 20 acres was in place before Duininck bought the property, Duininck insists that they did not know about this provision. This sounds like a lack of due diligence and respect for the community where Duininck hopes to extract resources.
If you can join us at the meeting, please do. Even if you can’t, please share this news with friends and acquaintances in the area. It’s just not right that these decisions can be made with minimal citizen input.
Public Hearing Time and Location:
Thursday, August 27th at 8:30 am
Renville County Government Services Center
105 South 5th Street, Suites 312/313
Olivia, MN 56277
Here's the application for the variance:
Photo: The Joseph Brown ruins.
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