Developing rules and regulations for frac sand mining underway

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

The first meeting of the Houston County Frac Sand Mining Committee took place April 11. County Commissioner Jack Miller was elected committee chair and County Planning Commissioner Glenn Kruse was elected vice-chair.

The committee is made up of two county commissioners (Jack Miller and Justin Zmyewski), two township officers (Arlyn Pohlman and Dick Gulbranson), two planning commission members (Glenn Kruse and Bruce Lee), County Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinski, County Environmental Services Officer Rick Frank, County Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan and four members of the public (Rich Schild, Kelley Stanage, Steve Beach and Eric Johnson).

Zmyewski was not able to attend the meeting, so County Commissioner Teresa Walter attended in his place.

County Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan walked the group through the existing county ordinance that deals with mineral extraction. As Scanlan reviewed the various sections of the nine-page document, members of the committee posed questions and brought up concerns.

The major portion of the two-plus-hour review of the current ordinance was spent discussing how the health, safety and general welfare of Houston County residents could be protected.

Scanlan and County Environmental Services Officer Rick Frank explained that with all mining applications, a number of conditional use permits (CUP) must be approved.

While several members of the committee were under the assumption that frac sand mining could be put in a separate classification, Frank, Scanlan and Planning Commission members Glenn Kruse and Bruce Lee explained that type of mining can’t be singled out. Instead, the committee must come up with the necessary conditions that will permit that type of mining while still protecting the health, safety and general welfare of Houston County residents, as well as the environment.

Lee explained that during his many years serving on the planning commission, that board has spent the vast majority of its time making sure that the guidelines outlined in Subsection 4 of the ordinance, which deals with health, safety and general welfare, are all met.

Scanlan and Frank also pointed out that there are many state and federal regulations that mining companies must adhere to, in addition to the county ordinance.

“If more than one acre of land is disturbed, all kinds of state and federal regulations kick in,” Frank said.

It was also brought up that if more than 40 acres of land are involved, an assessment study must be conducted.

Miller said he didn’t feel the committee needed to re-invent the wheel. With other counties (Winona, Fillmore and Goodhue) in the area already working on the frac sand mining issue, the county should be able to obtain quite a bit of information from these sources.”

The general consensus of the committee was that the health and safety of the general public, the preservation of the natural beauty and aesthetic values of the county and having proper reclaimation plans in place were the top priorities that need to be addressed.

Frank is in the process of lining up a field trip to Trempealeau County so committee members can get a first-hand look at a frac sand mine in operation. The tentative date is April 25.

The next meeting of the committee has been scheduled for May 3.