Frac Sand Study Group needs direction
County's frac sand committee sees week of ups and downs
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 5:47 AM
When Frac Sand Study Committee member Kelley Stanage spoke to the Houston County Board on April 16, it opened up a topic that commissioners would return to later.
"I'd like to express my disappointment in the proceedings of the first meeting of the Frac Sand Study Committee since last November," Stanage began.
"There are some critical topics that have not yet been studied or considered during any of the meetings of this committee."
The committee's last meeting was April 12.
Stanage said that the effects on agriculture and tillable soil, potential health effects, and "the potential economic impacts of widespread frac sand mining" have not been addressed.
In addition, basic research has not been performed, she added. That includes the location of key features within the county.
Stanage provided examples of frac sand study maps prepared by Fillmore and Olmsted counties, identifying underlying sandstone formations, 1000-foot setbacks from dwellings, the distance of certain sandstone formations from key water bodies and more.
"At some point during our meetings last year, we began drafting an ordinance," Stanage said.
"After studying frac sand mining for roughly eight months, the Houston County Board of Commissioners chose to provide direction to our committee that water appropriation and the use of chemicals in processing should be prohibited.
"At last Friday's meeting, the Frac Sand Study Committee chose to ignore the direction of the board."
Later, several commissioners who attended last week's meeting, either as participants or observers, chose to speak.
Commissioner Dana Kjome said, "It's a study committee, and I don't understand why they're preparing ordinances for us. That's not their job.
"I also feel that if Justin (Zmyewski) is (our) chairman, he should also be chairman of that committee. They spent an hour and 15 minutes just trying to get going, trying to decide who would chair the committee. I've never seen a meeting so out of control.
"They're doing the board's wishes. The board appointed the Frac Sand Study Committee to go out and study frac sand, not to develop policy. We need to get control of this; we need to be doing what's right for Houston County."
Zmyewski agreed, "It's gotten away from its original intent."
Commissioner Judy Storlie added, "There should be a study group, and there should be an ordinance group."
The study committee should have focused more on gathering information, she stated. "Doing an ordinance is totally different. You have to have the study group's input to the ordinance, but I think we should have a study group (separate from) an ordinance group."
Zmyewski said, "I can name at least four items that have not even been brought up for discussion as of yet."
"We've only got a year," Kjome said.
"If we don't (act) it goes back to the original (ordinance)," commissioner Teresa Walter noted.
Commissioner Steve Schuldt wondered if the Planning Commission shouldn't draw up the ordinance.
Storlie said the Planning Commission might work jointly with the county board to do that.
Zmyewski and Kjome said that professionals, such as members of the Root River Soil & Water Conservation District, should have input on how the ordinances are drafted.
Storlie asked that the board will meet one hour before the next committee meeting on April 19 in order to clarify the situation for the Frac Sand Study Committee.
"We need to see what their goals are and get it clear," she said, "maybe assign the goals, even."
See a separate article in this week's Herald for the details of that meeting.