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Buffalo County mine delay denied (08/11/2013)
By Jen Burris
River Valley Sands would like Buffalo County to wait before voting on its permit application to mine silica sand in the Town of Dover to give the company time to clarify its plans and correct what it feels is misinformation being circulated about the mine request.

The Buffalo County Zoning Committee refused the request to delay the vote, however, and the application will proceed as planned. It will be considered during a meeting on August 14 at 6 p.m. at the County Courthouse in Alma.

According to Ben Bublitz, Buffalo County zoning technician/inspector, the proposed mine would be sizable. “The total number of acres to be disturbed is 300, taking place in 15 phases, with approximately 20 acres in each phase,” Bublitz said.

The life of the mine is estimated at 20-30 years, and would produce 200 truckloads per day. Four routes could be used to transport the frac sand — two primary routes, and two secondary backup routes. The first primary route would be State Highway 121 to State Highway 93 to State Highway 54/35 to Winona. The second primary route would be State Highway 121 to State Highway 88 to State Highway 37 to State Highway 35 to State Highway 25 to Wabasha.

Seven frac sand mines have been approved in Buffalo County so far, and two of them are currently in operation, Bublitz said. The mine in the Town of Dover is only one of several mines waiting for county permits. “Two conditional use permit applications have been submitted,” Bublitz explained.

River Valley Sand's delay request would have allowed it to waive its right to a hearing within 45 days of application. In a letter to the zoning committee, Tim Helgemoe, operator of River Valley Sands, noted that the company wanted to address concerns that led to the Town of Dover's sending a letter to the Buffalo County Board of Adjustment recommending rejection of the permit application. The request from River Valley Sands stated that in reviewing the letter from Dover to the county, they realized that “there must have been meetings where incorrect information was presented.”

Many of the residents of the Town of Dover came to the meeting to publicly request denial of the delay and waiver. Those residents noted the potential for negative effects from the mine. Residents said that safety, health, water, and road concerns had not been properly addressed by River Valley Sands. Rosemary O’Connell, a Town of Dover Board member, was present at all three advisory meetings regarding the potential mine. “I asked a lot of questions during the meetings, and all the answers I received were very vague,” she explained. “There were a lot of concerns that were not addressed to our satisfaction.”

The zoning committee had a brief discussion regarding the requested delay of consideration. Committee member Tom Taylor explained that after all the time spent on the ordinance and policy procedures, he had no intention of deviating from the current schedule. Committee member Fay Passow echoed Taylor's concern, adding, “Nobody forced anyone to jump the gun; I’m not pointing fingers at anyone, but I'm not about to change midway in the game.”

Committee member James Ziegeweid then made a motion to deny the request to delay, to which all members agreed.  


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