Tuesday, October 16, 2012

U.S. Silica Plans 800- to 1200-Acre Sand Mine in Town of Grant


The new location for Thursday night's town of Grant meeting is:
St Mathew Church
4285 US Hwy 12

U.S. Silica, which is building a large sand mine in the city of Sparta, is trying to build an 800- to 1,200-acre sand mine in the town of Grant.

The proposed mine would straddle Highway 12 and Interstate 94 and would also border Aspen Avenue. U.S. Silica is looking at private land and land that Monroe County owns in the area. Many local residents are concerned about the impact a sand mine would have on water in a township where there are many cranberry growers and popular fishing spots, such as Robinson Creek, a Class A trout stream.

There are also concerns about heavy truck traffic and dust. The proposed site is near railroad tracks, always attractive to sand mines because they prefer rail to trucks.Jeff Jahn, a U.S. Silica representative who was instrumental in the development of a 700-acre sand mine in the city of Sparta, made a presentation about the proposed mine to more than a dozen town of Grant residents last Thursday. He said that some land has already been committed to the mine, pending permit approval. Jahn, said in a response to a request for a comment from MonroeCountySandMines.org, said the U.S. Silica that continues to look for potential opportunities throughout Wisconsin and is in what he described as "the very early stages of evaluating one in in the Town of Grant."

Also last Thursday, about 50 people attended an information session about sand mines and the impact they have on the surrounding community. Sand mine activist Patricia Popple spoke to the group, as did Ken Schimdt, from the town of Howard in Chippewa County. Sand mine development in Chippewa County is about a year ahead of sand mine development in Monroe County and the town of Howard enacted a non-metallic mining ordinance that other townships have used as a blueprint. Popple has become one of the leading authorities in the state about sand mines and their impact.

 The town of Grant is holding a special meeting at 6 p.m. in the town hall Thursday night, Oct. 18, about a proposed sand mine ordinance. Concern is running high about whether or not the proposed ordinance will offer the kind of protection at least some town residents want from these mines. The town of Grant has a moratorium in effect against sand mines. It will expire on Nov. 7. Doug Lambert, chairman of the Grant town board, said that Thursday night's special meeting is an opportunity for residents to make comments and ask questions about the proposed sand mine ordinance, which he said is modeled on ordinances created by the town of Howard, the town of Garfield and the town of New Auburn, all in or near Chippewa County.

Lambert said that board will vote to pass or not to pass the ordinance; he said that state law prevents any major modification to the proposed ordinance. Lambert said that he is expecting a crowd. The town hall (pictured above) has a capacity for 50 people.The town hall is located at 19460 Bittersweet Ave.

There are four sand mines in operation or being built in the county; a 1200-acre sand mine would be the largest in the county. The two largest are between 700 and 1,000 acres. Other potential sand mine sites have been proposed in the townships of Angelo, New Lyme and Little Falls.

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