The comprehensive environmental review planned for two Winona County frac sand mines may widen to include mines in two neighboring counties.
Minnesota Sands agreed last month to complete an Environ-mental Impact Statement on the proposed Dabelstein and Yoder mines in Saratoga Township.
The company also plans to operate four mines in Fillmore County and one in Houston County, and has requested that all the mines be reviewed at the same time.
The company wants the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to lead the review process, a recommendation the counties are expected to discuss soon.
The Winona County Board of Commissioners is expected to weigh in today on whether it agrees with the company’s plan or whether it believes a different agency should lead the process.
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It’s ultimately to the state’s Environmental Quality Board to pick a government unit to oversee the process. Typically a local government will handle an EIS, but since this case involves multiple counties, it’s likely the board will choose a state agency.
Jason Gilman, Winona County’s planning and environmental services director, said the state board’s decision—which is expected to come as early as March 20—could lay the path for future reviews involving mines in more than one county owned by a single company.
“It becomes somewhat of a policy decision, because it’s precedent-setting in nature,” he said.
Minnesota Sands agreed to the EIS after it came under scrutiny from state agencies that questioned whether separate and less-intensive environmental reviews on the mines would be enough. The commissioners of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health both expressed concern that if the mines were studied separately, there would be no way of knowing what cumulative effects could arise from truck traffic, safety, air and water quality and other issues.