|From: Rice Lake Online
12/24/2008 8:35:00 AM
|Town of Arland meeting focused on sand mines
Town of Arland Chairman Ray Rischette said Monday, Dec. 22 that he’s had a few telephone calls since the possibility of frac sand mining in his township has become widely known. He said some calls were from people seeking information, but one was “not so positive.”
Frac sand is used in the development of oil and natural gas wells. It’s a relatively rare type of sand because its grains are strong and round rather than jagged. The grains allow it to remain porous even after it’s pumped under high pressure into oil and gas wells to fracture rock. The property of remaining porous enables natural gas and oil to flow through it to the surface.
Earlier this year there were sand mining applications east of Colfax in the Chippewa County Town of Howard, along with speculation of frac sand deposits in Barron County.
Also in Chippewa County, there’s been an ongoing controversy about the construction of a $45 million sand processing plant at an industrial park in Chippewa Falls. Despite local opposition, a developer’s agreement there was approved on a 4-3 vote Dec. 16 for that plant. That plant is to be built by a company called Canadian Sand and Proppant.
Sand from sites in this region would be processed at the new Chipppewa Falls plant, including being mixed with resin, and shipped by rail to oil fields in Wyoming and elsewhere.
Currently there are operating frac sand mines at Maiden Rock and in Minnesota, Illinois and Texas.
The proposed frac sand mine in the Town of Howard ran into local opposition and became bogged own in a zoning jurisdiction jurisdiction dispute. The Town of Howard is not zoned nor is the Town of Arland.
The Town of Arland location was discussed at a Town of Arland Board of Supervisors meeting Dec. 9. The area of interest is in the southwestern part of the township.
Barron County Zoning Administrator Dave Gifford said that the county’s zoning jurisdiction in an unzoned township is only in the shoreland areas, which is 1,000 feet from a lake and 300 feet from a river or stream. He said Barron County Zoning does not have the authority to approve the operation of a gravel pit or sand mine beyond the shoreland jurisdiction areas.
Gifford said the owner or operator of a mine must comply with the provisions of state Department of Natural Resources reclamation regulations and that Barron County Zoning works jointly with the county’s Soil and Water Conservation Department in administrating the reclamation program.
A lot to be settled
Rischette said the people who met with the Arland Town Board said they represented mining investors but did not say which companies they represented, nor did they leave business cards. He said about 15 people were at the meeting and that “Most of the people were in favor of it.”
Rischette said he believed the mining would be good for the township as long as the roads were protected. He said the township didn’t have much in other resources, such as lakes and streams, and that the mine would create jobs there.
He said so far little is known about what will happen, but he doesn’t expect much to happen in the next few months.
“There’s a lot of stuff to be settled out,” he said. But he believes there will be more exploration in the area to determine the extent of sand deposits.
“They’ve just got to make sure there’s enough sand for a 25-30 year supply,” he said.
He said his interest in the matter would only be for a few more months. Rischette, a dairy farmer, said after over 20 years in township government he plans to retire from government.
Comments were made at an October meeting in Bloomer of the Western Wisconsin Rail Transit Authority that a million tons of sand could be shipped out of Barron County, but those plans were made before the cost of oil plummeted from $150 a barrel to under $50 a barrel.
The Rail Transit Authority, which has representatives from Barron and Chippewa counties, is charged with preserving railroads in the two counties. It is currently focusing on railroad transportation from Chippewa Falls north to Rice Lake and from Cameron to Barron.