The Winona County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday not to require an intensive environmental review for the Nisbit mine in Saratoga Township, clearing the way for the applicants to proceed with permit approval.

Commissioner Marcia Ward, who voted along with commissioners Steve Jacob and Wayne Valentine against requiring the review, warned that the decision shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of frac sand mining in the county.

“One mine is not a rubber stamp to do mass mining in southeast Minnesota,” Ward said.

Commissioners Greg Olson and Jim Pomeroy argued that the county should have required what’s known as an Environmental Impact Statement.

“We’ve got several state agencies, including the department of health, that say, you know, you really need an EIS on this because of cumulative impact,” Pomeroy said. “I know a lot of people will find fault with that, but at the same time, what we’re talking about is an emerging, huge industry.”

About 10 people spoke both for and against the mine at a public comment session prior to the vote.

“Please take this into your own hands, use the local control you have and do not require an EIS,” said Don Evanson, a member of the county’s planning commission.

Some attendees said they weren’t convinced the mine’s Environmental Assessment Worksheet — the state’s other, less-intensive review process for developments — adequately assesses potential effects.

“You are indeed setting a precedent here,” Fillmore county resident Rita LeDuc said. “I’m concerned about the cumulative long-term effects that these projects may have.”

The proposed 20-acre mine site is located outside Utica on land owned by David and Sherry Nisbit. The site lies on the north side of Gethje Lane, a dead-end private road. Current plans call for about 200,000 tons of sand to be removed each year for about three years, at which time the commercially available sand is expected to be exhausted. The mined area will be recovered with topsoil and planted to native prairie.

The project dates back to September 2011, when the initial permit was filed. That application was denied after the county approved a three-month moratorium in early 2012, and a second application was resubmitted after the moratorium ended in May. The county’s planning commission recommended approval in August 2012, but a group of residents successfully petitioned for the Environmental Assessment Worksheet to be prepared.

The county’s planning commission recommended March 21 that the county not require the EIS. At Tuesday’s meeting, Jacob noted that the local farm bureau also recommended against an EIS.

The state feels differently.

In February, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health called for the project to be added to a sweeping EIS on several mines in both Winona and Fillmore counties, in order to study the potential cumulative impacts of the mines on air and water quality, truck traffic and other issues.

Minnesota Sands LLC announced in February that it will voluntarily conduct an EIS on two of those proposed mines it would operate in Winona County, as well as four of its proposed mines in Fillmore County.

In late March, the MPCA recommended a fifth mine in Fillmore County to be added to the EIS.

The conditional-use permit for the Nisbit mine isn’t expected to come before the county’s planning commission until May at the earliest.

(12) comments

Leslie Hittner
Leslie Hittner

It appears that some members of the County Board believe that a sand mining operation that is "small" operates in an imaginary environment where no other sand mines exist. Only "big" mines operate in the real world and are subject to oversight and care in their approval.

On another issue. Does changing the routes invalidate the EAW? Seem to me that it does. This entire request needs to go back to "start."

And finally, why would a sand mine supporter - who sees nothing wrong with full speed on the approval process (Wayne Valentine) be so elated to discover that the routes have been changed (NIMBY)???

Has information and data been replaced by selfishness in the boards "process"?

Me thinks so...

Joe Friday

I did not know the route had changed. Very interesting. Too cozy a relationship between Rowekamp (IT Sands) and at least one member who voted yes. This was all sorted out ahead of time--we knew where the vote would break.

terryo

Here we go...Steve Jacob awards his biggest campaign contributer...Wayne and Marcia go along with Steve because they are simply empty headed tools. Marcia's comments are almost laughable. The worst thing though was Don (total scumbag, google his name to get the facts) Evanson being present. Not an intelligent thing ever comes out of Don's mouth. It is a pity that this bag of baloney is even allowed to be at the meetings. Let the rape of the land begin!

Sampson
Sampson

It appears to me that for those opposed to sand mining no study will be satisfactory, no moratorium will be long enough, and no process will be sufficient. They will not be satisfied until they block the operation all together.

Here we have a proposal for a 3yr, 20 acre site that will be reclaimed & replanted after the sand is removed. They applied, waited for the moratorium to take it's course, reapplied, completed the environmental worksheet, gained approval from the planning commission and the farm bureau, and yet the opponents say that isn't enough.

Who actually believes the opponents would be satisfied after an EIS is done and gets approved?

Leslie Hittner
Leslie Hittner

Maybe yes. Maybe no. But right now the "process" has a distinctive smell to it - and deserves to have a bit more light shed upon it (See terryo's comments below.)

The EIS will do that. It would be a real shame if in twenty years or so our children were to look back on this time and say, "They (us) should have paid attention to what was going on in West Virginia."

mhazzard

"Fracking" to America is like "kool-aid" to Jonestown Tic Toc Tic Toc...they do not want anyone to know what fracking chemicals consist of...

Don Evanson

If we are to live in a free society, we must allow others to enjoy their freedom. The owners and operators of any proposed sand mine are willing, in their pursuit to provide an apparent public good, while only perhaps improving their livelihood, to take risks in that pursuit that the should be allowed to take.

The naysayers shrilly harp (profanity not allowed) anytime innovating entrepreneurs propose something.

Those naysayers would have favored whale oil over light bulbs, camels or wagon trains over trains, trains over airplanes, etc., and now copper, etc., over fiber (silica,) regardless of the resources that would have been previously destroyed. Such Luddites!

I favor the prospects of lower energy bills for individuals and businesses, cleaner fuel for a multitude of purposes, and less reliance on foreign sources of energy.

Don Evanson

Proponents of fracing are willing to drink, and have been drinking, the lubricating additives used with the sand to demonstrate the non-toxicity of those fluids. The additives have been FDA approved for other uses related to food production.

Les, is it selfishness when one Board does not follow your personal whims, but not the selfish narcissism of radical environmentalism when another Board satisfies your whims?

To the decrepit "terryo," who has to despicably,spinelessly and hideously -- need I go on -- hide behind the anonymity of a pseudonym to post public comments,) get a life. I may be a "total scumbag" as you suggest, but I don't try to hide that as you do of yourself.

mhazzard

Takes a special kind of greedy person to poison they're neighbors water supply with fracking drink frac fluids I have ocean-front property in Az for sale...

terryo

So there goe Don Evanson spouting off about the drinkability of fracking fluids and pursuing destroying the environment as some sort of divine right. Keep in mind that Don, who admits he is a scumbag, also fails to meet his financial obligations. One merely needs to google his name and find out that he totally disregards being financially responsible. Tis a pity that such vermin has a voice in county affairs, let alone a voice at all. Make something out of your life Don.

dannieevansen

Don Evanson should be muzzled, not put on a County Advisory Committee. One needs only to examine the sorry record of American Plumbing. Don made a nice living ripping people off. He would underbid and win government jobs. Then he would file for cost overruns, costing the very taxpayers he claims he is interested in protecting $$$. No wonder he gravitates toward supporting liars like Steve Jacob, Marcia Ward and Wayne Valentine. He is a big if not a bigger liar. Disregard anything Don Evanson says or writes. Demand that the County Board relieve themselves of having him around.

donnyevansen

Way to go dannieveansen. Don really does not belong on any government commissions, advisory boards, etc. Wish he would just go away!

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