Paper trout cutouts bobbed above a crowd of about 30 people Tuesday morning outside of Winona City Hall, as a group that opposes the frac sand industry prepared to board a bus to the state Capitol.
The group, comprised of area residents and representatives from the Land Stewardship Project, traveled to St. Paul to voice their support for a measure that would require all frac sand mines to be located at least 1 mile away from any designated trout stream.
They’re particularly unhappy with state Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, who cast one of the key votes to keep the measure from moving out of committee.
Miller has said he would support a setback, but he prefers an approach that isn’t one-size-fits-all and instead relies on research of the southeast Minnesota region and where trout streams are located.
“I always appreciate hearing from constituents and I thank the group for taking time to visit me at the Capitol today,” Miller said in a statement Tuesday provided to the Daily News.
“I stand by my original decision because I’m hesitant to support a one-size-fits all approach, but I remain committed to working with our local governments to get this right.”
“Is it a great day to hold public officials accountable?” LSP rural organizer Doug Nopar asked the crowd in Winona before leaving on a St. Paul-bound bus. They cheered in response, and booed when Miller’s name was raised by subsequent speakers.
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Attendees signed an oversized postcard addressed to Miller, which expresses their dissatisfaction with his vote.
“We are calling on you to start putting the well-being of the citizens of your district above frac sand special interests,” the postcard read.
Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, introduced the legislation that would create such a setback, as well as ban frac sand mining within 25 feet of a water table. Schmit said he plans to re-introduce the proposal once the Senate’s game and fish bill heads to the floor this week.
Attendee Marilyn Frauenkron Bayer of Houston County said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that the group met with Schmit, Miller, Senate Majority leader Tom Bakk and other officials during their visit to the Capitol, and left letters for Gov. Mark Dayton asking for his support for a setback.
“We did have a great day at the Capitol,” she said.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Trout Unlimited have both voiced support for the setback. The organizations are worried about water pollution, but also about the potential for frac mining operations to raise the temperature of nearby streams, as a recent DNR study of a Fillmore County quarry found.