The city of Winona’s planning commission on Monday approved a draft of a comprehensive frac sand study.
All commissioners voted to send the draft report to a public hearing except commissioner Brian Buelow, who voted no on three of four separate votes on different issues that effect the growing local industry.
Buelow said he would like to see more frequent moisture testing of frac sand handled by local businesses than the weekly tests the draft calls for.
“Is that enough?” Buelow asked.
Two people spoke during a public comment session prior to the votes and expressed concerns about the industry’s presence in Winona.
“I appreciate your diligent work and the amount of study and time that’s gone into these proposals, but we do recommend that you really take a serious look and make sure that our future is secure in Winona County,” said Marie Kovecsi, a representative for Winona Area Citizens Concerned about Silica Mining.
The draft report contains changes to the city code dealing with sand moisture testing, truck traffic and road use, and proximity of operations to residential properties. The report intends to guide the city and Winona City Council when faced with permitting and regulating frac sand operations after Winona’s one-year moratorium expires.
The study would not require air quality monitoring. It would require that sand processed in Winona must maintain a moisture content of 1.5 percent or higher. Companies handling the sand would need to submit moisture content reports to the city, and staff will be allowed to randomly check sand at each site.
The report also introduces language dealing with traffic impacts and road use issues.
The definition of “heavy commercial vehicle” would be adjusted to define one more than 33,000 pounds, rather than one more than 26,000 pounds. There’s no limit on how many trucks an operation would be able to use to haul sand each day, but a traffic impact analysis would be mandatory for operations that require 200 or more daily truck trips.
The city could also require a road-use agreement with a business that would raise funds to repair roads damaged by heavy truck traffic. Regulations for traffic impact studies and road-use agreements could also apply to industries that don’t handle sand.
The draft report also stipulates that frac sand operations must be located at least 200 feet from a residential property.
The report covers all topics the planning commission has discussed this year after the city council asked the commission to guide an in-depth study on the potential impacts of the frac sand industry. Since May, the commission has examined habitat and wetlands, quality of life, air and water permitting, environmental reviews, road wear, and traffic impacts.
A public hearing on the report is scheduled for Dec. 10. The planning commission may approve the final draft at that time, and would then forward all proposed city code changes to council for approval.