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MADISON – In an effort to expand the state’s management of natural resources in and around industrial sand sites in Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources has asked for two additional Air Program staff in its biennial budget request to the Department of Administration.
“We understand the growing concern for environmental protection as this industry continues to expand,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “We are committed to dedicating staff time and resources to ensure we protect Wisconsin’s public health and our natural resource treasures.”
Stepp noted that the two new staff will work in the Air Program on compliance and permitting issues at sites around the state, including industrial sand sites.
Sand and gravel mining has existed in Wisconsin for decades. However, a recent growth in the industry is occurring nationally, attributed largely to hydrofracking, a technique used by the petroleum industry to extract natural gas and crude oil from rock formations. The technique requires a certain quality of sand, known as frac sand, which is prevalent in Wisconsin. The high demand for the state’s sand resources has generated an equally high interest from legislators, local governments and the general public.
“With this high demand we’ve seen a significant increase in our air and water permitting programs, as well as an increase in requests for endangered and threatened species and archeological reviews,” said Tom Woletz, special projects coordinator in the DNR’s Water Division and the agency’s frac sand expert.
Woletz said state and local authorities have been working for more than two years on a number of management issues, including air, water quality and quantity and post-mine reclamation, which are typically administered by the counties with DNR oversight.
Sand mines must also follow the same state requirements as other nonmetallic mining operations in Wisconsin, said Woletz, including getting necessary air and water permits and following state reclamation laws.
“We’re also working with the newly formed Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association (WISA),” said Woletz. “By engaging this organization, along with other groups and the general public, we hope to keep an open dialogue that helps us provide the best management possible for the protection of our state’s public health and the environment.”
To learn more about frac sand mining, please go to the DNR’s web page dnr.wi.gov and type in the key words “frac sand.”