by Sarah Squires
The Winona County Board will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, January 3, at 6 p.m. at the Winona Middle School Auditorium to accept comments about a possible moratorium on new frac sand mines.
Frac sand, used in hydraulic fracturing processes for oil and natural gas extraction in other parts of the country, has been in the demand, and there are three new mine permit requests currently pending for consideration by county leaders. There are also five more applications that were submitted earlier this month, but need more information before they can be accepted for review by county leaders.
The frac sand issue has become contentious in recent weeks, with some county residents asking for a moratorium on new mines so that county leaders can further study issues like added truck traffic and potential environmental effects. Still others have urged the county not to stand in the way of a new industry promising jobs and a boost to the local economy.
A first public hearing on the moratorium question was held before the Winona County Planning Commission earlier this month, when planning commission members did not vote on a recommendation to the county board on a potential moratorium. The county board may choose to vote on the moratorium question following the meeting Tuesday, or it may wait until its next meeting. The three pending new mine applications must either be stalled by a moratorium or approved or denied by January 19. If not, they are automatically approved.