A very important question was recently raised in the Decorah newspaper: Do we need a moratorium on industrial-scale frac sand mining in Winneshiek County?

We, the Winneshiek County Protectors, emphatically say "yes" to the question for several reasons. Neither the current Comprehensive Plan nor the Zoning Ordinance adequately anticipates questions and problems presented by very large mining operations in our county. Townships and counties in Wisconsin and Minnesota have often been overwhelmed by big companies that want to come in and scoop up the sand. The University of Iowa College of Public Health and The School of Urban and Regional Planning need time to do their studies before large scale mining should begin. State and federal regulators have told us that they do not have the staff to adequately deal with large scale mining operations. An owner of one of the local mining companies has publicly expressed support for a moratorium. There are large gaps in our current Plan and Ordinance that need to be filled by the Planning Commission and Supervisors before mining should be allowed to begin.

The county supervisors have received the recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission to adopt an ordinance setting a moratorium. The supervisors must now draft an ordinance, hold a public hearing and vote on the ordinance. We believe the process should go forward and a moratorium put in place as quickly as possible.

A few examples of questions that must be answered in the Planning and Zoning documents before issuing any conditional use permit for industrial-scale silica sand mining include: Should we require an independent, scientific, public health impact assessment? Should we require a similar scientific, environmental impact study? Should we set a limit on the size of the mines? Should we require set-back distance from rivers, streams, and existing residences? Should we require a road impact fee for damage to roads and bridges from a large number of heavy trucks? Should we set a limit on the number of frac sand mines in a township?

These and many other questions are not adequately addressed by the current Comprehensive Plan or Zoning Ordinance. Careful and thorough planning before the mining companies try to begin large-scale sand mining takes time. Over 1,350 citizens have expressed their support for a moratorium through a petition. We ask the citizens of the county to contact the supervisors and urge them to draft an ordinance, to hold a public hearing, and to pass a 24-month moratorium on industrial-scale frac sand mining in our county.

Lyle Otte,

Winneshiek County Protectors Board Member,

Decorah