CD Corp., the transport company that holds the lease for the Winona Port Authority commercial harbor, has been loading frac sand barges from the old commercial dock at the harbor since the river was opened for traffic earlier this year.
The old dock is being used instead of the newly-constructed dock, explained CD Corp. owner Dan Nisbit, during a transition period as the new harbor area is being readied for use.
Currently, the old dock is being used to load commodities onto barges, while the new dock is used for off-loading only. Nisbit said Cenex Harvest States (CHS) is building a new road to route its trucks out of the way of the new dock, which will allow the new site to be finished and used as the primary loading and off-loading station. "Once that [road] is built, then trucks won't be traveling along the river, and we can finish getting it ready to load barges on the new dock," said Nisbit. "It's not a conspiracy. It's a transition."
CD Corp. obtained a permit last summer to transport up to 24 barges per month containing frac sand at the new dock and was granted an expanded permit in December 2012 to load up to 48 barges of the product per month at the site. Nisbit said that, although the use of the old dock for frac sand transport was considered a "grandfathered" use and not subject to the permit requirements last year, he is now held to the same permit regulations at the old dock. He has not breached the 48-barge-per-month limit, he said, but merely loaded an average of five barges per week. Additionally, Nisbit said he is paying the 28-cent-per-ton fee to load the sand at the old dock, although he was not required to pay the tonnage fee for commodities used at the old harbor last year.
Nisbit said much of the sand he has loaded this year came from processing facilities located in the city of Winona, although he believed the sand originally came from mines in Wisconsin. The demand for the sand, which is used in the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract oil and natural gas, hasn't increased much, he added. Since the river opened to traffic nearly a month-and-a-half late this season, Nisbit said his business was doing a bit of catch-up work for obligations that were supposed to be fulfilled in March. He doubted the business would ever reach the 48-barge-per-month limit included in its permit.
CD Corp. was the site of a recent protest in which more than a dozen people were arrested after blocking semi-trailer trucks from entering the business. He said his company handles many commodities beyond the high-profile sand, and wondered why he was targeted by those who seem to object more to the mining and oil and natural gas industry. "I even got hate mail from somebody," he said, explaining the letter accused him of harming animals and the environment. "They're so against the mining and the fracking, and yet, they're protesting us," he said. "We're transporting much more than sand."