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Frac study finally goes to City Council (01/20/2013)
By Emily Buss

The Winona City Council will discuss four potential amendments to the final silica sand study during a public hearing Tuesday, after concerns regarding the city mining ordinance language, road wear, moisture testing, and structural setbacks arose during a recent Winona City Planning Commission meeting.

The four action items before the city council are amended recommendations discussed by commissioners during a meeting in November 2012 to better address citizen concern.

Since the commission completed its study of the controversial mining industry in late 2012, the final draft has been sent back to the commission several times for additional review.

New recommendations

During the November 2012 meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to recommend to the council a change in the city mining ordinance that pertains to the proximity of an extraction operation to a residential property.

The first action item members of the council will discuss will be the new language recommending that “no part of an extraction operation shall be conducted closer than 500 feet to any residential or commercial structure.”

Council members will next discuss the second action item, which deals with moisture testing. Solutions to this hotly debated topic have caused commissioners and citizens to clash at nearly every meeting, with citizens asking for a higher moisture content requirement.

Commissioners voted to recommend the reduction of moisture levels in stockpiled materials from 4 percent to 1.5 percent, a level Assistant City Planner Carlos Espinosa said was approved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Despite much opposition from citizens, commissioners approved the lower moisture content in a 5-1 vote, with commissioner Brian Buelow casting the dissenting vote.

The third action item council members will discuss is recommended language that requires all structures containing processing equipment or stockpiles to be located a minimum of 200 feet from a residential property.

Finally, council members will discuss the fourth action item, which pertains to transportation and road wear. As part of new road wear regulatory language, commissioners voted to recommend ordinance language that allows an operation to utilize as many trucks as needed. However, if the operation has the potential to produce more than 200 heavy commercial vehicle trips per day, a traffic impact analysis (TIA) must be submitted.

The scope of the TIA is also recommended to apply to any road, other than a designated truck route, that is used between the operation and the nearest truck route.

Also as part of road wear ordinance language, commissioners voted to recommend that a heavy commercial vehicle be defined as one weighing more than 33,000 pounds, defined in previous drafts as weighing 26,000 pounds.

The council discussion will be part of a public hearing, during which members of the public are encouraged to bring forth opinions or concerns.

If the council approves the recommendations, they will be incorporated into the final study draft, expected to be presented to the council for a vote sometime next month.

The Winona City Council meeting is Tuesday, January 22 at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers of City Hall. 


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