A Fillmore County frac sand mine could be sending hundreds of trucks through downtown Spring Grove, Houston County commissioners were told last week.

"The reason we're bringing this to you is because it's going to have an effect on residents in Houston County," environmental director Rick Frank told the board on Feb. 19.

County engineer Brian Pogodzinski said that Houston County had not been contacted when the EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet) from project contractor Reilly Construction was sent out for a 30-day comment period.

That 36-page document is available online at Fillmore County's website and involves the expansion of the Rein Quarry in Highland (www.co.fillmore.mn.us/docs/dept/zoning/EAW/REIN_EAW_FINAL_Part_1_1-09-13.pdf).

"There's several things that I thought were not addressed," Pogodzinski said of the study.

"Their plans would use Hwy. 43 down to Hwy. 44, east through Spring Grove then down Hwy. 76," Pogodzinski stated.

"It would turn at Eitzen and travel Houston County Hwy. 2 down towards New Albin (Iowa). It has county roads, it goes through the city of Spring Grove and the city of Eitzen.

"There's a school right off of Hwy. 44 at Spring Grove, so that needs to be addressed. Their plan said that Hwy. 2 is adequate for the traffic, but if you look at our design section out there, it's not designed for 150-plus semis per day."

Pogodzinski said CSAH 2 has narrow shoulders and four inches of asphalt over an aggregate base. The roadway would need to be upgraded to handle heavy truck traffic, he added. The EAW states that up to 120 trucks per day are anticipated.

"We need to get that stuff addressed if they're going to use that route."

Since Houston County is planning to enact a road-use agreement for the massive amount of hauling envisioned with frac sand mining, using CSAH 2 may require a routing change. The roadway also has load restrictions in place every spring for about two months, Pogodzinski noted.

In addition, CSAH 2 becomes Allamakee County A-11 at the Iowa border. That route is also off limits during spring weight embargoes.

A letter from Allamakee County engineer Brian Ridenour was referenced for commissioners, stating that "mining, processing, trans-loading, stockpiling, etc. for frac sand has an 18-month moratorium in effect for Allamakee County."

The problems don't end there.

"This mine is within about two miles of Houston County," Pogodzinski warned. "Impacts to groundwater sources are not just going to affect Fillmore (County)."

"Surface water drains down the Root River Valley. We don't want the Root River becoming any more polluted than it already is.

"It would also be nice to see what their air emissions report says as far as impacts.

"Odors, noise and dust won't be an issue for us as long as the trucks are tarped, but the report did not talk about the trucks being fully contained.

"We should also put in there (Houston County's response) that they should contact the city of Spring Grove and the city of Eitzen so that they get to comment," Pogodzinski continued.

"Houston County was not notified by the contractor or by a letter from Fillmore County," Pogodzinski stated. He was told verbally about the EAW by Fillmore County staff at a frac sand meeting in Winona about two weeks ago.

The impact of Hwy. 44 construction this summer is also missing from the haul route.

The EAW states that the primary haul route is to the city of Winona.

"If they don't have enough capacity in Winona, that's when they're going to go down to New Albin," Pogodzinski stated.

"These comments will be sent to Fillmore County through zoning," Frank said. "The county would send a letter back stating how they would address our concerns.

"Ultimately, it's up to them to approve or deny the EAW," Pogodzinski said. "We don't have a say in what they do."

Neighboring counties are still hammering out plans to address joint impacts, Frank added.

"We realize that a lot of these companies are going to utilize county roads and township roads maybe. We need to make sure that the applicant comes to the next county or city that they're affecting."

Commissioner Dana Kjome asked that the EAW address diesel fumes from trucks passing just a few feet Spring Grove's public school.

That comment was added to the sample response, as well as notifications for Spring Grove and Eitzen.

The document already raised concerns over water and air quality impacts.

Commissioner Teresa Walter made a motion to send the list of concerns to Fillmore County. Seconded by Kjome, it passed by unanimous vote.

County's moratorium extended

Frank stated that Houston County's frac sand mining moratorium will officially expire on March 20, and he urged commissioners to extend the interim ordinance for up to one year so that county planners can complete the task of drawing up new mining ordinances (see the Herald's Feb. 20th edition for more details).

"We've still got a ways to go before we're there yet," Frank said, "to make sure it's going to address all the issues that we have."

Walter made a motion to hold a public hearing on Tuesday, March 5 at 9 a.m. to extend the moratorium. The clear consensus of the board is that the moratorium should be extended to complete the task. The vote to proceed was unanimous.

On a related note, commissioners voted to approve the replacement of two alternates to the Frac Sand Research Committee who can no longer attend due to time constraints.

Tom Lisota and John Griggs will be leaving the group, while Bets Reedy of Money Creek Township and Kent Holen of Houston Township will join the discussions.