Arland could see sand mining operation

No definite plans have been made yet, but property in the Town ofArland has been targeted for the site of a potential $30-million sand mining operation that may employ more than 25 people at a rate of $12-$16 per hour.
Ray Rischette, chair for the Town of Arland, said a public meeting was held Dec. 9 to discuss the proposal that could have a significant economic impact for the area. No interested company was named, he said, but the possibility of bringing a sand mine to the Arland area was communicated via consultants for a number of potential investors. These investors were still in the process of deciding whether there was enough demand for the sand to make the project worthwhile financially. For the focus of last week’s meeting, the consultants wanted to see if locals were receptive to the idea of a sand mine moving into town, and Rischette indicated that the vast majority of those in attendance (approximately 15 people) seemed to be supportive. From the town’s perspective, a major concern was to ensure that its roads would be protected from heavy truck traffic. Assurances were made that the investors would have money set aside to compensate for any road damage, Rischette said. The sand sought from the Town of Arland properties is a particular variety used in conjunction with high-pressure pumps to aid in extracting oil from the ground. These valuable sand resources were identified to be present on lands owned by two of the town’s officials-Clerk Pam Fall and Supervisor Robert Nelson-along with properties owned by Sandy Bruder and Kenneth Larson. Pitching the sand mine idea to the town were consultants Mel Bollomand Richard Kibbe. According to a story posted on the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation Web site,Bollom had introduced a very similar sand mine proposal in the ChippewaCounty community. The story, which ran May 29, reported that a company called Canadian Sand and Proppant was in negotiation with landowners in Chippewa and Barron counties regarding sand extraction. The company planned to ship the sand via rail. Barron County officials have approved funding to refurbish rail lines connecting Chippewa and Barron counties, and there have been efforts to identify businesses that would be interested in taking advantage of rail service. Dave Miller, economic development director forBarron County, said he fully supports anything that will bolster rail services in the county. He said he was not at liberty, however, to speak directly about the Town of Arland proposal.The Town of Howard, located in ChippewaCounty, has run into recent controversy with a sand mining operation there. Under dispute is whether the company-Canadian Sand and Proppant-needs a permit to operate there, according to a Nov. 16 Dunn County News story. The town had passed an ordinance to regulate the creation of a sand mine in its jurisdiction, but the legality of the town’s ordinance has come into question since some say it’s really a zoning ordinance that would require county approval. Most concerns that would normally come before a zoning committee-such as questions about an operation’s possible impact on noise levels or air quality-won’t have a venue in Barron County if the Town of Arland proposal goes through, said county conservationist Dale Hanson. Hanson attended the town’s Dec. 9 meeting and noted that the Barron County Soil and Water Department would end up covering administration duties for the DNR if the mine were to be created. The county is in charge of administering any non-metallic mining operation, such as a sand mine or gravel pit. Since the Town of Arland is not zoned, he said, a proposed sand mine would not go through county zoning committee scrutiny. Such operations do have to file a reclamation plan with the county, however, before a pit is established. The plan outlines how an entity will return the land to a “near natural” state once they’ve extracted what they’re after. The entity is also required to post a bond, which acts like a security deposit to ensure reclamation costs will be covered if it abandons a mining operation early. Further explaining how a mining proposal is handled in townships like Arland without zoning, Hanson said that letters are sent out to affected landowners informing them of the proposal. If someone has a concern about the proposed reclamation plan, then a public hearing is required. Hanson indicated that the Town of Arland proposal is still in its infancy because the county has not received any bonding or reclamation plan for it.

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