A 19.1-acre frac sand mine proposed in Saratoga Township is currently under review by county leaders, and members of the public have until February 20 to comment on the plans.
The new mine has been proposed by David and Sherry Nisbit. Project proponents have long held that this project, unlike other similar proposed mines, is not related to other frac sand development plans in the area. Instead, the 19.1-acre site would be mined for up to three years, with the product hauled to the Brannt Valley processing facility in the city of Winona.
Those who would like to comment on the proposal may send their thoughts to Jason Gilman, 177 Main Street, Winona, MN, 55987 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 20. Comments will be used to evaluate whether an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) is sufficient for the project to proceed, or, whether a larger environmental review called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be required. The Winona County Board will vote on whether to require the more detailed environmental review in the coming weeks.
The Nisbit mine is the smallest new mine proposed in Winona County, with some of the sand excavated proposed to be used for the oil and gas industry and some used for local dairy bedding and construction. According to information provided in the project EAW, the project would generate a maximum of 280 truck trips per day (140 trucks in, 140 trucks out). The trucks would travel from the site to County Road 113 and County State Aid Highway 33, to Highway 14 and then to Goodview Road in Winona.
"The 'Traffic Impact Analysis for Nisbit Sand Mine' prepared by Wenck Associates, Inc. concluded that the CSAH 33/CR 113 intersection has sight distance deficiencies; however, due to the very low traffic volumes, physical improvements to the roadways to increase the sight distances are not justified," the EAW states. "The proposer will install signage to alert drivers of hauling trucks."
The EAW also indicates that when the sand is purchased by the Brannt Valley processing facility, it will lessen the amount of Wisconsin sand used by the business. "The proposer further indicates that the Brannt Valley load out and sand washing facility is the sole market for the sand from the Nisbit mine although it is currently operating at maximum capacity with undefined agreements from approved sand mines in Wisconsin," states the EAW, which says that once the sand is purchased from the Nisbit site, fewer trucks carrying sand from Wisconsin mines will travel over the Interstate bridge.
County leaders have been urged by the Department of Health and the Pollution Control Agency to consider several other proposed mines as connected to one another, but the Nisbit mine EAW attempts to distance itself from other sand facility proposals, repeatedly indicating it is unrelated to other frac sand plans.
The Winona County Board and Winona County Planning Commission will meet in a joint session for a public hearing on February 21 at 7 p.m. at the Tandeski Center at Southeast Technical College in order to evaluate whether an EIS is needed for two other proposed mines—the Yoder and Dabelstein mines. Originally, county leaders had expected that public comment on the Nisbit proposal would also be received during the meeting. After Nisbit mine proposers objected to being included in the same public hearing as the other two mines, county board members decided Tuesday that the Nisbit mine would not be considered during the public hearing on February 21. Another public hearing may be scheduled for the Nisbit proposal at a later date, although hosting a public hearing on the environmental review for the proposal is considered optional and not required.
EAWs can be found at www.co.winona.mn.us.