Randy Boyum of Pilot Mound Township is ready to speak, seated at the desk, after handing out maps on his proposed silica sand mine to the Fillmore County Board during its hearing on sand mining Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 28. Also seen are commissioners Duane Bakke, left, and Chuck Amunrud looking at the information. (Bluff Country Newspaper Group photo by Lisa Brainard)
Randy Boyum of Pilot Mound Township is ready to speak, seated at the desk, after handing out maps on his proposed silica sand mine to the Fillmore County Board during its hearing on sand mining Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 28. Also seen are commissioners Duane Bakke, left, and Chuck Amunrud looking at the information. (Bluff Country Newspaper Group photo by Lisa Brainard)
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Fillmore County joined the list of those in southeastern Minnesota with moratoriums on silica sand mining issues.

Fillmore County Board members voted 4-1 to enact a one-year moratorium to allow time to consider issues related to the new, booming industry in the area and zoning ordinance changes to regulate it.

The moratorium could be taken off in less than a year if commissioners feel they have addressed concerns. Randy Dahl was the lone vote against the moratorium. While he felt it was needed, he had hoped for a shorter period of time.

The hearing ran from 1 to 3:45 p.m. and included a 10-minute break. Around 75 people were packed into the nearly standing-room only board room in the county courthouse in Preston.

When all was said and done, 14 people discussed causes for concern and urged the board to put a moratorium in place. Nine people spoke against a moratorium including Jerrie Hays, an attorney for Minnesota Sands LLC. She was allowed to speak for a longer period because others "donated" their speaking time to her. Persons were limited to speaking a few minutes, unless this occurred.

Wanting a moratorium

Vern Crowson of Pilot Mound, who's also a supervisor, stated he was speaking for himself and not the township board. "I've known and respected the Boyums all my life. This is no criticism of the Boyums. But I have concerns over this new and life changing industry."

He referred to a mine application by Randy Boyum in the township, which is now on hold as an environmental assessment is performed due to its size before being permitted.

Crowson asked about concentrated truck traffic mixed with farm machinery and buses coming around a blind corner. He wondered about possible blasting, chemicals, washing on site and underground mining, as well as setbacks to the mining property, density of mines water monitoring, drainage, expense to keep up roadways, reclamation and a plan to enforce regulations.

"Develop county ordinances specific to this industry. Leave nothing out that would put the county at risk... I support imposing a one-year moratorium," stated Crowson.

Paul LeDuc of Pilot Mound Township suggested limiting one sand mine per township and further limiting active mining to just five acres at a time, with any exhausted acres being reclaimed as new ones are opened up.

He listed issues of concern to be studied during a one-year moratorium including dust control at site and during transit, setbacks, and the possible use of flocculants with washing and/or processing. He suggested the county might want to employ a mining officer similar to the county's feedlot officer to help check on regulations.

Other people spoke on concerns including karst topography, public health and worries about silica dust, putting funding in place for possible remediation needs, keeping the countryside pristine for tourism, rumbling trucks doing damage to the framework of historic homes and buildings, and the very process of hydrofracking itself in other areas of the country for gas and oil, for which the sand is used.

David Williams of Preble Township brought a petition of 178 signatures in favor of a one-year moratorium and presented it to the board.

Against a moratorium

Rick Frick of Houston County, who intends to operate the Boyum mine, was the first person on the "other side" to speak. He said he's representing four farms in Fillmore County.

"It should be their decision. It's their lands. No hole will be dug. There are no sinkholes or creeks. You've had a site open. You've had no complaints."

Frick referred to the John Rein/Reilly Construction (Ossian, Iowa) sand mine near Highland. It is also on hold for environmental assessment for an expansion and possible washing on site.

He also said the county currently has 30 sandpits and 39 quarries. "You shouldn't need a year to decide on this," stated Frick.

He said the Boyum mine will stay off township roads and use State Highway 30, going to a loading facility on the railroad to be built at St. Charles. He also noted city officials there are talking about building a road through the industrial park to keep the sand trucks off other streets.

"Everything is blown so far out of proportion. No one's died from this, the people in southeastern Minnesota. It's in every sandbox here."

A person who'd driven sand from the Rein sand mine and now works at a mine in Arcadia, Wis., gave some information on that aspect, noting truck owners pay taxes through designated heavy load and fuel taxes to help pay for road use. He said they run legal loads. He also noted he's hired 3 to 3.5 people to run his four trucks. Trucks also are required to run certain roads when empty and when full.

Randy Boyum himself spoke and asked to hold off on a moratorium after handing out maps and satellite views of his potential mine area and similar land to the board.

Dave Collett of Preston stated he was not speaking in his role as a Preston council member when he, as a farmer and truck driver, noted the people bought their property and were taxed for it, therefore they should decide its use. Regarding hauling, he felt rules were in place along with required training.

"This will create jobs and help the tax base. I think it's in our best interest," said Collett.

When attorney Hays spoke, she asked the board to remember steps in the process of issuing a moratorium. She said, "It can have tremendous financial impact (on those whose operation is not allowed while the moratorium is in effect)."

She felt the county could use a lot of information gathered by other counties on the issue of silica sand mining. She also said Fillmore County has a "loose" ordinance that could allow for site-by-site conditions, which she felt was a good thing.

As Hays spoke on numerous issues, she stated if a moratorium were to be put in place, that one year would be too long, with three or six months a better choice.

The commissioners noted a committee continues to meet to look at mining ordinance issues. The public can contact the Fillmore County Zoning Office at 507-765-3325 to be put on an e-mail list to receive notice of the meetings.