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Howard resident alleges sand mines not closing bore holes

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD —  With the ever-increasing number of sand mines in Chippewa County — and continual prospecting for potential sand mines — a Town of Howard resident says the sand mine companies are not properly closing the bore holes.

Ken Schmitt of Colfax spoke to the Howard Town Board at the August 5 meeting about the improperly closed bore holes.

The Town of Howard should have an ordinance requiring companies to get permits to prospect for frac sand, and the ordinance should include an inspection process to make sure that the sand mine companies are properly closing the bore holes, Schmitt said.

The holes are being left wide open, chimed in Edward Dachel, who lives across the road from the Schindler and Sikora mine on county Highway B.

One of the open bore holes is 70 feet deep, Schmitt noted.

Is the state Department of Natural Resources aware of the open bore holes? asked Susan Haake, town clerk.

The DNR is aware of some of the open or improperly closed holes but not all of them, Schmitt said.

Because of the amount of prospecting for frac sand that is going on, the Town of Howard should have a map for the location of the bore holes, said Vernon Schindler, town chair.

The town board should have a map, and the bore holes should be closed properly, Schmitt said.

In Trempealeau County, the sand mine lease agreements say that the landowners are responsible for closing the bore holes, but the Howard ordinance should require the drilling companies to close the bore holes, he said.

“They are poking holes all over, and I would like to see it on the agenda for next month,” Schmitt said.

Paul Van Eijl, a representative for Northern Sands who is proposing a 2,000-acre sand mine in the Town of Howard, wondered about the location of the open bore holes or the improperly closed bore holes.

“The DNR will find one 70 feet deep, and (some of those) are holes your men bored,” Schmitt replied.

“The test holes should be closed up … why should we have to follow them around?” Schindler said.

“We have known for three years that they have not been closing the bore holes properly,” said Tom Zwiefelhofer, town board supervisor.

The subject of improperly closed bore holes for frac sand prospecting is expected to be on the Town of Howard’s agenda for September.

Property value

During the communications portion of the town board’s agenda, Haake read a letter from Dale and Sandy Sikora dated July 28.

According to the letter, with the recent sale of the Gilmore and Jan Sikora property to EOG Resources, Dale and Sandy Sikora realized that the Town of Howard’s property value guarantee with EOG does not include their property.

The Sikoras say their house is closer to the sand mining operations at the S&S mine than other properties, and yet, their property is not on the list.

Dale and Sandy Sikora attempted to contact EOG Resources about the property value guarantee but received no response.

When the Sikoras contacted Schindler, they were told that their property had been “overlooked” and that they were “out of luck,” according to the letter.

An attorney whom the Sikoras contacted said they should request an amendment to the mining agreement between EOG Resources and the Town of Howard.

Dale and Sandy Sikora indicated in their letter that they were asking the town board to make an amendment to the mining agreement to add their property to the property value guarantee.

Amending the mining agreement is not an easy process, Schindler said.

EOG Resources is asking to increase the number of tons mined from the S&S mine, and if the agreement is amended for increasing the tonnage, perhaps that would be the time to add the Sikora property, he said.

Haake said she would contact the township’s attorney to find out about amending the agreement and that the issue should be on the agenda for the September meeting.