On March 26, Yucatan Township resident Amanda Griggs told Houston County commissioners that their wish has been granted. The State of Minnesota is taking over the preparation of a three-county Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a series of frac sand mines proposed by a single prospector.

On March 20, members of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) voted unanimously to name itself as the responsible governmental unit (RGU) for the EIS.

Eleven proposed Minnesota Sands sites will be covered by the study. They include the Erickson, Tostenson, Olson, Chapel and Johnson mines in Houston County, the Boyum, Dabelstein, Kesler, and Wadewitz mines in Fillmore County, and the Dabelstein and Yoder mines in Winona County.

Four of the Houston County mines would be located in Houston Township. They include the Olson property (160 acres of proposed mining activity), the 35.90-acre Tostenson mine, the 80-acre Chapel mine and the 39.50-acre Johnson mine.

The fifth Houston County mine has already sparked a lawsuit, since Minnesota Sands attempted to convert the 19.11-acre Erickson mine (Yucatan Township) into a frac sand facility despite a county moratorium on new silica sand mines.

According to county staff members, that case is no longer being pursued in the courts.

Fillmore County hosts four Pilot Mound Township sites. The Boyum and Dabelstein mines would each include 50 acres. The Kesler and Wadewitz mines would be 30 acres apiece.

To the immediate north, Winona County's Minnesota Sands mines would both fall within Sarasota Township. A second Dabelstein mine would cover 36.50 acres, while the Yoder mine would include 84.30 acres.

Staff members wrote, "Because the EQB's mission is multi-agency and multi topical, and because the EQB brings together the expertise of multiple agencies, EQB staff's opinion is that the EQB itself is the most appropriate RGU."

Griggs attended the EQB meeting in St. Paul. "There were two different parts of the meeting," she reported. "They went over the EIS, and they went over the silica sand report."

Griggs provided links to the two documents from the meeting.

Discussions on the EIS covered 29 annotated pages from the agenda and encompassed input from several sources, including Houston and Fillmore County commissioners.

The EQB "final report on silica sand" is a hefty 92 pages long and repeatedly references areas where further study may be appropriate.

Those areas included everything from the impact on nearby property values and tourism, to water quality and quantity issues (including drinking water), air quality, traffic projections, public and private transportation terminals and more.

"I just wanted to point out that there were many areas where they said they just did not have enough research," Griggs said.

"It just speaks to the complexity of what is going on in the industry in regards to our safety and health.

"I was really caught by the fact that the total acreage in Houston County is more than Winona and Fillmore put together."