November 16th, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013 @ 6 p.m.
Goodhue County PAC Meeting
Silica sand ordinance
The packet for this meeting wasn’t posted as of Friday, so county staff sent it right away. Their system needs help, not only was the packet not on the county site, but on the “Events Calendar” it said the meeting time was 7 p.m. NOT GOOD.
But on the other hand, the packet has some glimmers of hope. It’s a hearing on the Save the Bluffs application for a Overlay District to protect natural resources. Here’s the packet:
What’s on the table is EVERYTHING and then some:
- The original Application: Save the Bluffs’ Application for Zoning Ordinance Amendment
- The “Four Points” as presented in the Aug. 11, 2013 PAC Packet:
The MSC met on September 4, 2013 to discuss these requests. The Save the Bluffs representatives provided the following four items instead of the ones provided to the PAC: [Alan's emphasis added]
1. 1 mile setback from high population areas, such as cities, hamlets, and residential subdivisions;
2. 1 mile [setback?] from the high water mark of the Mississippi – which protects the Great River Road and related tourism;
3. Prohibit the use of flocculants (or better yet, permit only dry processing); and
4. Set harsh penalties (such as canceling the permit) for violations.” [The Staff Report uses the above language.]
The items called out in the PAC agenda (“public hearing”) for Monday are different still:
a. No frac-sand operations (mining, processing, washing, trans-loading) within 1 mile of cities, R1 zoned districts, and campgrounds;
b. No frac-sand operations (mining, processing, washing, trans-loading) within a mile of the high water mark of the Mississippi;
c. Prohibit the use of flocculants in the washing and processing of frac-sand.(permit only dry processing so chemicals won’t get into surface or ground water and far less water is used), and;
d. Set harsh penalties for mining, processing and trans-loading violations (such as canceling the permit). The means of these different version seem similar but not identical and some of the differences could be important.
- The MSC’s Recommendation (remember, they’re merely ADVISORY, as is the PAC):
- Any combination you like, one from Column A, one from Column B… it’s wide open.
And I’m rather attached to that “Any combination you like, one from Column A, one from Column B…” option. First, the map, above. And there are more in the MSC Report. Here’s a map showing Setbacks, but it’s only PART of Goodhue County, we need the whole County mapped:
Here’s a map with the StB “four points” 1 mile buffers (why is this map such poor quality?):
So “Any combination you like, one from Column A, one from Column B…” to me means to take these maps, put them together, and what do you get? Pretty good protections of the natural resources of our County!
This is a good start on the request of the original application. Not the be-all and end-all, but a good start!
October 25th, 2013
And Jordan Sands, Unimin, etc., were putting out a lot of dough and a lot of time in their multiple representatives at the EQB meeting in Mankato at the Blue Earth County Library. Coming it, it looked well attended. But after a look around, it was apparent that at least half were industry toadies, like my buddy Dennis Egan:
On the other hand, several direct neighbors of the recently permitted Jordan Sands project, and a township official were there and spoke eloquently of their concerns. Scott County’s environmental crew (3) was there and told of their silica sand mine permitting experience.
I was handing out flyers to help people put in Comments on point about the statutory Standards and Criteria, specific ones that might be meaningful and might be taken into account — it’s hard to get people focused. But my ink jet ran out so I only had a handful. Here it is:
Ag Commissioner Fredrickson and MPCA Commissioner Stine were on hand, as well as DNR Commissioner Landwehr, and others too:
It was a public meeting, in an open house and also presentation/Q&A format where the EQB was soliciting input for the silica sands Standards and Criteria, as directed by last session’s 116C.99:
(i) any residence or residential zoning district boundary;
(ii) any property line or right-of-way line of any existing or proposed street or highway;
(iii) ordinary high water levels of public waters;
(v) designated trout streams, Class 2A water as designated in the rules of the Pollution Control Agency, or any perennially flowing tributary of a designated trout stream or Class 2A water;
(vi) calcareous fens;
(vii) wellhead protection areas as defined in section 103I.005;
(viii) critical natural habitat acquired by the commissioner of natural resources under section 84.944; and
(ix) a natural resource easement paid wholly or in part by public funds;
(i) applicable groundwater and surface water appropriation permit requirements;
(ii) well sealing requirements;
(iii) annual submission of monitoring well data; and
(iv) storm water runoff rate limits not to exceed two-, ten-, and 100-year storm events;
(4) air monitoring and data submission requirements;
(5) dust control requirements;
(6) noise testing and mitigation plan requirements;
(7) blast monitoring plan requirements;
(8) lighting requirements;
(9) inspection requirements;
(10) containment requirements for silica sand in temporary storage to protect air and water quality;
(11) containment requirements for chemicals used in processing;
(12) financial assurance requirements;
(13) road and bridge impacts and requirements; and
(14) reclamation plan requirements as required under the rules adopted by the commissioner of natural resources.
Here’s a chart to give people a format and idea how to submit comments — for this exercise, we need to file specific ideas for particular standard/criteria (in the middle column), and it’s very helpful to list whatever supporting documentation or authority you have for this criteria (right hand column), such as a local ordinance, or health studies:
Below is a prior comment I’d sent in for Winona County CASM with some thoughts tossed together — well, at least the EQB used the format I proposed!
Now, back to process — here’s the schedule established at the most recent EQB meeting (last week), Will Seuffert said he was working on that earlier this month…
(ja, the light in there was awful) …and voila, the schedule, here it is:
EQB’s sand site: http://silicasand.mn.gov/
I’m concerned about the focus on SE Minnesota, evidenced by the statutory language, and listening to the words used by the toady from Unimin, that “SE IS UNIQUE” and so it is special, and implying that an open door along the Minnesota River is just fine… NOT! Earth to Mars, frac sand mining is NOT unique to SE Minnesota. Here’s the map:
and from the DNR:
Think about where the major spill has been — INTO THE FEDERALLY PROTECTED WILD & SCENIC ST. CROIX RIVER!! Not even close to SE Minnesota. Where did they start up a processing/transport facility with no permits? Harris, MN (is Loren Jennings involved in this???).
And that much is clear from the many who did show up on a Friday afternoon in Mankato, by the permits issued already, Jordan Sands in Mankato, and as addressed by the Scott County environmental guy and other staff people who had just completed an intense permitting process there. Scott (Frenchette?), Scott County, raised a few state statutes, such as Minn. Stat. 103H.01 focused on ground water degradation, 116D.04, Subd. 6 (you all recognize MEPA by now, EH?), 103I and Minn. R. 7060 regarding protection of ground water. He asked about these statutes, all related to state permits, and rhetorically wondered what a local government is to do, is there protection offered in these statutes?
Time to get to work!
Send comments on Standards and Criteria to:
firstname.lastname@example.org, and copy:
Deadline is November 12, but the sooner the better, give them some time to incorporate in your thoughts!
October 4th, 2013
On September 18th, the EQB sent staff back to the drawing board to rewrite model Standards and Criteria for silica sand mining… so NOW is the time to be filing comments on your ideas for EQB Standards and Criteria. New EQB Executive Director Will Seuffert has said that at the next meeting he will trot out a schedule for these festivities:
Here’s an example — the Comment drafted on behalf of Winona Co. CASM:
So, what to do? How do write your own comments? Here’s a format and form that may prove useful, see below for suggestions:
Send comments ASAP (the sooner the better) to:
The legislation passed last year, Minn. Session Laws Ch. 114, sets out categories for these Standards and Criteria (remember, this is NOT rulemaking, not any specific procedure for doing this). They’re needing your thoughts on Standards and Criteria, and there are so many categories that you’re bound to have some thoughts on this.
Many people have said this is just too complicated, and what I suggest is to take it in small pieces. For example, if you care about protecting the bluffs, just select that one row:
One way to do this is to work it backwards, do your research and work from right to left:
1) “Support for language” column, where you’d list the studies that support protection of the bluffs, i.e., “DNR Eco-Regions Subsections map” (with a copy to attach to your comment);
2) “Proposed Language” using that info as basis for language, from a map, studies, state statutes, local ordinances, figure out how bluffs could be protected, such as a prohibition of mining in bluffland areas as depicted by the dark green/grey of this map:
Your comment would look like this:
Or if you’re concerned about water, again, working backwards:
1) “Support for Language” column: Goodhue County map showing Sensitivity to Pollution of the Uppermost Bedrock Aquifers (with copy of map attached to Comment):
2) “Proposed Language” column: Prohibition of mining in areas with Very High or High sensitivity to pollution of the uppermost bedrock aquifer.
Your comment would look like this:
And another example:
The catch in all of this is that your comments have to specifically relate to the legislatively mandated development of Standards and Criteria — it’s not enough to give vague generalities and rah-rah no frac sand mining here statements. And working backwards seems to be the best way to develop this, to do some basic googling and find studies. Check the Save the Bluffs reference page for some ideas:
Again, here’s a format and form that may prove useful, see below for suggestions:
Send comments ASAP (the sooner the better) to:
|Standards & Criteria (from statute)||Proposed language||Support for language|
|(1) Setbacks or buffers|
October 1st, 2013
Here is a copy of the map at issue at the Goodhue County Mining Study Committee (see below too):
(a similar federal one can be found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Minn_ecoregionsmap.pdf, for origin, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ecoregions_in_Minnesota)
This map was presented to the County Mining Study Committee at its last meeting. At issue is how this would be used — the DNR’s boundary is clear, and more specific on other maps somewhere, and a more detailed map with additional layers is likely within the county resources already. Is it a matter of:
- a prohibition of all mining in the grey/green; or
- prohibiting silica sand mining in the grey/green; or
- more intense regulatory scrutiny of proposals in the grey/green; or
- some other option?
I’d vote for the first, with the second as a fall-back.
Use of this map as guidance is a big step forward because it isn’t an arbitrary boundary (a distance is arbitrary), instead it’s one delineated by the DNR (and a good reference for the EQB Standards and Criteria), not just an arbitrary distance. The County is sensitive to the need for this support because of the issues over the wind 10 RD setbacks and loss at the PUC and Appellate Court. They need to be able to refer to something and say, “This is why!” These maps do just that. It’s based on science, it’s based on research of the state agency with the expertise, it’s easy to establish whether something is or is not in the zone, and it’s supportable and defendable in court.
In addition, there’s this “Sensitivity to Pollution of the Uppermost Bedrock Aquifers” map which I’ve not seen before. It’s on the County site, and look at the red “Sensitivity level – very high, hours to months” which should be referenced (it’s similar to, but more dramatic, than the MN Dept. of Health map about nitrate contamination):
Kristen Eide-Tollefson has told me that there’s a Water Sustainability Framework Report, and with directions, lo and behold, I found it (still downloading, must be very large with the maps, won’t download as pdf, grrrrrrrrrrr, firefox has locked up twice):
When you look at big picture, which our aquifer is, there’s nearly universal support for protecting the aquifer, and it’s pretty hard to credibly argue against protecting it. There’s a lot of good information, various maps and studies, to support protections, and that’s important because if the county’s ordinance is challenged, as it has been before, it has to be defendable. Protection of the aquifer is the protection of our natural resource that does something for the entire county.
The Mining Study Committee seems to be on a good track here, looking at bigger picture and stronger regulation moving toward prohibitions.
These maps are also oh-so-relevant information that should be considered by the EQB for the Standards and Criteria that they’re reworking.
September 29th, 2013
So I’m looking into aquifer recharge in relation to silica sand mining, as protection of the aquifers is a primary necessity. Try googling, and try finding maps that show these areas. Try finding a recharge map! Is it that in Minnesota it’s presumed that we’ll always have water?
The short version is that the last map on this post does indeed have a lot to say about permeability and logically sets out areas of concern that should be protected. This map has been around for a long while, it’s the same map I used to find likely spots for nuclear waste when NSP wanted to put nuclear waste in Goodhue County, and by eliminating the karst areas, and co-locating with rail and the other criteria, voila, Florence Township was the target. This map, and versions of it, go way back. The Goodhue County Mining Study Committee has it, it’s posted online, so why is this taking so long? Why is it so difficult to characterize the areas that should be protected from pollution from frac sand mining? Protection of water is primary on almost everyone’s agenda. Without a safe and clean water supply, where are we? It’s our drinking water, and we’re an agricultural county. Geology is complicated, hydrogeology is even more complicated, but it is not rocket science.
I started looking around… What I learned first is that here in Red Wing, we’re part of the Rush-Vermillion watershed. I had no clue! Here’s the map:
Looking at this map, and how it extends southwest of Lakeville, along the Minnesota River and presumably into Scott County, this demonstrates the importance of protections along the Minnesota River, given all the silica sand mining activity there. And look how far it extends north… does it reach the silica sand mines in the Chippewa River Valley?
Now, for the Minnesota Groundwater Provinces (click for larger version):
Now for something completely different, Minnesota’s Watershed Districts, designated under Minn. Stat. Ch. 103D. There aren’t that many, only 46, and much of the state is not covered:
But look where they are! Look at the locations, smack dab in the crucial areas of SE MN, i.e., Belle Creek, Bear Valley, Stockton-Rollingstone-Minnesota City, Crooked Creek, and the contiguous Shell Rock River/Turtle Creek/Cedar River watersheds. These designated Watershed Districts could provide some regulatory protection, maybe a lot, for these areas.
How to protect with an overlay district the area without a lot of geological overlay, the areas between the river and up on top of the edge of the paleolithic plateau, and I presume a bit into the plateau as a setback? Here’s a 2011 Slope Map from a Nitrate-Nitrogen Probability study by the MN Dept of Health:
And a map of hydrogeologic sensitivity of the water table aquifer from the same study, although the study does note that it only addresses vertical migration and not horizontal migration, which is an issue with frac sand mining contaminants as well as the nitrates in the study:
I’m reading… this is complicated stuff:
Next stop — quest for maps and info directly from the Land Use horse!