In a split vote last week, Buffalo County Board members approved changes to the county’s nonmetallic mining ordinance, adjusting regulations that are applied to the growing frac sand industry.
The rules were approved, with Commissioners Mary Anne McMillan Urell, representing the towns of Buffalo and Cross, Larry O. Balk, representing the city of Alma, and James L. Ziegeweid, representing the towns of Glencoe, Montana and Lincoln, voting against the new rules.
Seven sand mines have been approved in Buffalo County thus far, with most expected to begin operations soon. County leaders have been working on new regulations for the growing industry for months, during a moratorium that prohibited new mines from being permitted to operate. The moratorium is expected to end on April 30, the day the new ordinance takes effect.
Mining activities will now be prohibited in residential, commercial, and recreational districts, allowing for mines only in areas zoned for industrial or agricultural use. “Transloading” facilities, used for the transfer of sand from truck to rail, will only be allowed in industrial zones.
All sand facilities will be required to obtain a conditional use permit, and those seeking permits must provide the county with the following information: operation plans, details about water use, maps showing the location of wetlands or surface water within 2,640 feet of the mine boundary, and financial assurance for reclamation plans. New mines will not be allowed to lower the water table under the new ordinance, and must comply with Wisconsin state standards for dust control measures.
Unannounced inspections may be conducted at the mine sites to ensure that regulations are being followed. Mine permits can be revoked if operators do not comply with regulations, and an operator found to have violated the ordinance or permit conditions may face fines of between $100 and $1,000. Each day a regulation is violated will be considered a separate violation, and if fines are not paid, an operator could be jailed for between one day and six months.