Pretty neat small town learns frac sand trucks from next county may roll right over them

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Minnesota’s oldest Norwegian-American town, Houston County’s Spring Grove, bills itself as a “pretty neat small town,” and we’ve learned about its citiens’ fondness for Norski street festivals and parades from watching a dear friend’s Facebook page.

But Spring Grove’s prettiness and neatness may be frayed if plans to haul 120 daily truck loads of frac sand from a mine proposed across the Fillmore County line come to fruition. The situation underscores why people from Southeastern Minnesota are asking for state help in regulating the industrial sand industry.

The Spring Grove Herald’s Craig Moorhead reports in Frac sand route to go through downtown Spring Grove that the pretty neat small town is along the route for the sand’s secondary destination, New Albin, Iowa. The route will be used when facilities at Winona are beyond capacity:

A Fillmore County frac sand mine could be sending hundreds of trucks through downtown Spring Grove, Houston County commissioners were told last week.

“The reason we’re bringing this to you is because it’s going to have an effect on residents in Houston County,” environmental director Rick Frank told the board on Feb. 19.. . .

Traffic isn’t the only potential problem for Houston County from the Fillmore County site. Moorhead reports:

“This mine is within about two miles of Houston County,” Pogodzinski warned. “Impacts to groundwater sources are not just going to affect Fillmore (County).”

“Surface water drains down the Root River Valley. We don’t want the Root River becoming any more polluted than it already is.

Probably not, although Houston County doesn’t have any say in approving or denying the permit:

“Ultimately, it’s up to them to approve or deny the EAW,” Pogodzinski said. “We don’t have a say in what they do.”

Neighboring counties are still hammering out plans to address joint impacts, Frank added.

“We realize that a lot of these companies are going to utilize county roads and township roads maybe. We need to make sure that the applicant comes to the next county or city that they’re affecting.”

Commissioner Dana Kjome asked that the EAW address diesel fumes from trucks passing just a few feet [from] Spring Grove’s public school. . . .

Oh, good. However, Spring Grove may have something of a reprieve because of the actions in Iowa’s premier tourism destination county:

A letter from Allamakee County [Iowa] engineer Brian Ridenour was referenced for commissioners, stating that “mining, processing, trans-loading, stockpiling, etc. for frac sand has an 18-month moratorium in effect for Allamakee County.”

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors imposed the moratorium on February 4 after hearing citizen concerns about the industry, the Standard reports:

Allamakee County stakeholders will have additional time to explore the pros and cons of frac sand mining, following the passage of a moratorium on that mining process by the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors that will be in effect until July 1, 2014.

At its Monday, February 4 regular meeting, the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the moratorium, following a public hearing Thursday, January 31 which drew more than 40 people. . . .

. . .Jeff Abbas of Dorchester reminded the Supervisors frac sand mining is a “boom and bust” industry, which lasts from two to five years. “Once they’re done, they’re gone. We do not regain business we lose from hunting, fishing, hiking or camping,” said Abbas. “It’s time to put the laws of man aside and put the laws of God in place, because what we’re leaving behind is garbage.”

The Caledonia Argus reports about the county’s dilemma in Frac sand mine just two miles from Houston County.

No wonder, then, that Houston County and other local governments support Senator Matt Schmit’s bill to impose a one-year moratorium while conducting a GEIS. The Star Tribune’s Tony Kennedy reported in

The scope of the GEIS is determined by the bill in order to avoid dragging out the process as was the state’s experience in Southeastern Minnesota asks state for frac sand help:

Houston County’s Board of Commissioners, the Red Wing City Council, a city councilor from Wabasha and elected township officials from Fillmore and Goodhue counties all voiced support for more state study and a moratorium on the permitting of new frac sand mines and facilities.

On Tuesday, February 26, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee sent SF786 to the State and Local Government Committee, which will hear the bill Wednesday, March 6, at 3:00 p.m. Room 15 in the State Capitol.