A citizen petition urging the Winona County Planning Commission to recommend an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) be part of the county’s first frac sand mine application was denied Thursday. In a 4-3 vote, commissioners decided to forgo recommending the study to the Winona County Board.
“We have not uncovered any new substantial evidence that would indicate an environmental assessment worksheet would be necessary,” said Jason Gilman, Director of County Planning and Environmental Services.
The petition detailed concerns for the planned 20-acre Saratoga Township mine, proposed by David Nisbit. The petition said the mine has the potential to increase truck traffic, elevate levels of diesel fumes, and ruin the township land.
Signed by nearly 300 people, the petition was sent to the state Environmental Quality Board (EQB) earlier this month for review. With the county acting as the regulatory governing unit, it has the final say as to whether or not an EAW is warranted. However, without a recommendation from the Planning Commission, no decision has to be made.
Commissioners discussed all 13 points addressed in the petition and followed up with a response from the county engineer that stated each concern had an appropriate remedy.
“It’s important to recognize that when [the county] does the review, we don’t have the luxury of being speculative,” Gilman said. “We have to give the best information we have. Our position is not at odds with the citizens; it’s just conducted with different standards.”
Commissioner Robert Redig, who was in support of the recommendation, said he wanted to see the petition go to the County Board because of the large amount of public concern.