From: Joseph Mlinar
Buffalo County is small-town rural living at its best, even at its increasing rareness. We are a “one-stop-light” county still, in the 21st Century! We know that this county could use a good jolt in new business development and opportunity. Maybe more like a kick in the pants, long overdue! Something for our children to grow up into, learn and achieve in school for, come back from college for. We should have something to build that provides lasting and realistic jobs, that encourages other business growth and opportunity, and helps assure that this beautiful natural area is a destination for others to visit, and for others to live in, for generations to come.
So where is it? What has the Buffalo County Economic Development Committee been researching, attracting, and courting, that provides long-term, sustainable, and productive economic development? Well, we don’t have a county Economic Development Committee. La Crosse, Eau Claire, Pepin, Pierce, Dunn, Barron, Chippewa counties do, as well as Economic Development Corporations. The UW Cooperative Extension Center for Community and Economic Development has quite a comprehensive list, though Buffalo County is not on it. Extension agent Carl Duley has set up a web site with info on the BUFFALO COUNTY RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, and five area business owners are listed as representatives. A sincere thank you to them, along with a friendly nudge to speak up. We do have area Chambers of Commerce, of course, and the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission. I certainly don’t want to cast any aspersions on the efforts that are being, or have been made, by such organizations, and by entrepreneurs, in the area.
Buffalo County needs to court long-term, productive business, and environmentally sustainable industry. NOT boom and bust extraction and depletion of natural resources, landscape, and goundwater filtration. We do not need an economic opportunity of which the primary contributions are air pollution, highway-pounding, traffic-clogging, house-rattling, and all-around high-impact, high volume, low-employment sand mining. It will leave this bluff region with less to offer other businesses and customers when it has been dug up and hauled off into the near and distant future.
The Buffalo County “Land Resources Committee” is currently reviewing a new non-metallic mining amendment to the Zoning Ordinance, as well as a new policy and procedures document. Both are intended to guide the administration and permitting of industrial sand mining. This is certainly necessary, for both the protection of the public, and the regulation of this new scale of industrial mining in the county. But neither of these official documents provides the needed details, requirements, and protections to adequately control this extractive industry. They pass off too much authority and local control to an inadequately funded Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation. For example, gone is the hard-fought-for condition of no sand truck hauling during school busing hours. Why? Because the LRC is afraid or unable to do what is required to keep our school children safe. Do you want your kids being picked up and dropped off from the school bus in a convoy of sand-semis and other impatient traffic? Conditions on state highways can be changed and mediated for local impacts. Our local representatives just need to have the ability to figure it out and make the right moves.
Industrial frac-sand mining does NOT and CANNOT constitute productive, sustainable economic development for Buffalo County. The costs are too high for the expected gains. It is unfortunate, and revealing, that the desperate need for economic development in Buffalo County is now being confused with this ham-fisted attempt to handle the first and least sustainable economic development to come along; just because it was dropped in our laps. Not everything the dog brings in is worth picking up!