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Biesanz, city, may have agreement this month on quarry expansion (12/05/2012)
By Emily Buss

Later this month, the city of Winona could enter into a nonconformity agreement with Biesanz Stone Company that would regulate the company's quarry expansion plans. The Winona City Council held an informational pre-council meeting Monday to discuss draft stipulations attached to the proposed agreement.

In June, in response to questions from the Planning Commission, Assistant City Planner Carlos Espinosa said the best way to regulate the site, which has "grandfathered" status, is to enter into a nonconformity agreement.

"The agreement is a significant tool for us to know how the quarry is going to expand in the future and what is going to happen after excavation," Espinosa said.

In the proposed draft are stipulations that regulate where the mine can be located, how deep it can be, its hours of operation, dust mitigation plans, and a reclamation plan. The agreement also requires the submission of an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) if Biesanz wishes to excavate for frac sand outside its 2011 footprint. However, the quarry may expand without submitting an EAW if its intentions are to mine strictly for stone or other aggregates.

New to this proposed agreement is a stipulation that requires stockpiled frac sand mined from the quarry to remain at a moisture level of at least 1.5 percent, a figure that could become an industry standard once the one-year city moratorium on the frac industry ends in early 2013.

"To be honest, we swallowed hard on some of these conditions, but [the nonconformity agreement] works to our benefit and that's why Biesanz is in favor of it," said Pete Schwab, Biesanz Stone Company Manager of Quarry Operations.

An aspect of the agreement Schwab said is difficult—but possible—to meet is the 400- to 600-foot setback from residential properties. Espinosa said the setbacks were determined from geographic information system (GIS) mapping.

Council member Al Thurley asked about a reclamation plan and if it would be implemented within the next 10 years. However, Schwab said it would depend on what the long-term vision for the quarry is once excavation is completed.

"We've talked about a housing development up there, but we've also gotten ourselves into hot water putting houses so close to the quarry," Schwab said. "But, it would depend on what the end result of the quarry is. That's all a ways out yet."

As outlined in the proposed agreement, there is a 110 percent bond on the reclamation plan, to ensure that all aspects of reclamation are completed when excavation ceases.

When Biesanz has completed the draft for a reclamation plan, the entire proposed agreement will go before the City Council for final approval, that Espinosa said could happen later this month. Once the agreement is approved, it will take effect immediately, and the city will be the agency responsible for compliance checks.

Other business

The City Finance Department introduced the 2013 budget during the regular City Council meeting, proposing a 1.2 percent increase in property taxes.

Winona City Manager Judy Bodway attributed the increase to the debt service for the Lake Winona bike path project and repayment of bonds from airport improvements.

The city's portion of the property tax increase is nearly $78,000, and the Port Authority's portion is $130,000.

The Winona City Council has until December 28 to agree upon a budget and proposed property tax levy. 


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