Frac sand barge plan tabled: City board concerned about possible permitting, environmental review

2014-07-17T04:00:00Z Frac sand barge plan tabled: City board concerned about possible permitting, environmental reviewTesla Mitchell Daily News Winona Daily News

A Winona company’s plan to get more flexibility in how it ships frac sand on barges at the city’s commercial harbor isn’t exactly a done deal.

That was the message Wednesday, when the city’s Board of Adjustment unanimously chose to table a request by CD Corp. owner Dan Nisbit to change the monthly cap on barges to account for unpredictable river conditions.

Board members said there were too many unanswered questions related to air quality, sand on nearby roads, whether the company needs to complete a state environmental review, and whether its existing permit adequately includes requirements from the city’s new frac sand ordinance.

“I can’t make a decision before some of these questions are answered,” said board member Dave Kouba, who was at times visibly frustrated.

“I’d like to have staff look into (the questions) before I can make a sound judgment on whether to answer yes or no,” he said, then banged his fist on the table.

CD Corp. had originally asked to be allowed up to 60 extra barges of frac sand a year to accommodate for river conditions. Right now the company’s allowed to ship up to 48 barges a month, but some months shipping is slow or halted because of water levels, temperatures, and other factors. A monthly cap, Nisbit has argued, makes it difficult--if not impossible--to catch up after a bad month.

But before the board’s meeting, Nisbit altered his request to make sure it was clear his goal was flexibility, not increased quantity, he said. The amended request calls for allowing “an average” of 48 barges a month, with only a yearly cap of 432 barges.

“All I’m asking for today is not an increase in barge traffic, but flexibility in accommodating for (the challenges) the river throws at us,” Nisbit said.

The board was particularly focused on the state environmental assessment worksheet, because attendees at the meeting said state law requires the review for any facility that handles more than 200,000 tons of frac sand a year. It isn’t clear whether CD Corp. handles that volume of sand each year.

“Lacking (a completed review) ... would break the law,” Winona resident Steve Schild said during the public hearing.

Copyright 2015 Winona Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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