Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin

I read with interest the Capital Times article by Steve Elbow on the frac sand regulations proposed by democratic state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Sen. Vinehout voiced her concern about the proliferation of frac sand operations in the state:

“Right now there’s an explosion that seems to be unfettered, largely because right now our state law regulates sand mines as if they were quarter-acre gravel pits, and we’re talking 1,000-acre sand mines.” Sen. Kathleen Vinehout

Vinehout has witnessed a rapid growth of frac sand mining in her home district of Alma in the western Wisconsin county of Buffalo.  These dusty, noisy mines are popping up with no notice.  She wants to give local residents the opportunity to have a say in these mining matters.  Matters like when the mines operate and their blasting policies.

One of the state’s newest frac sand operations is scheduled to open in the town of Bridgeport, in Crawford County near the Lower Wisconsin River.  The Town Board recently approved the 300 acre frac sand mining operation despite widespread opposition from residents.

The permit for the mine allows it to operate 24/7, sending over a hundred truck loads of sand per day on Highway 60 to a processing plant in Iowa.

The proposed mine site is located outside of the Wisconsin River  view shed therefore, a permit from the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board was not required.

On a sunny day last November, Mark Cupp, director of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, traveled by canoe from Millville to Bridgeport to view the proposed mine site by river.  Here’s an excerpt from his journal:

As I paddled past the proposed mine site, there were many profound moments.  I listened intently and, in addition to the raucous cry of the rabblerousing crows, I could hear the whistle of the Burlington Northern Sante Fe train several miles away, which made my concerns about noise from mine site return.  I heard the kingfisher announce my arrival well before rounding the toe of an island and heard a juvenile eagle on the right bank just below the mine site give a piercing cry reminiscent of a young calf in the pasture separated from Mama for the first time; lost and afraid.

fracsandphoto

Photo courtesy of Mark Cupp

Across the river were two adult eagles, one responded to the cry with a strange whistling call, one I hadn’t heard from an eagle before.  I took it as a sign to tell the juvey to “be cool” and “everything will be okay in a minute.”  A short distance later was a large eagle nest without any activity around, not sure if it was vacant, but the empty eaglet nursery made me think of the future and wonder if the mining activity will change the sentience of this place by making the area bereft of nesting eagles. “

Senator Vinehout has proposed five bills in response to her constituents’ concerns about mining operations popping up in their backyards.  She wants local people to have a say when something as disruptive and potentially damaging to the environment is proposed.  Seems like common sense proposals to me.

To read the entire article click here.

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