Town of Howard approves frac sand borehole ordinance

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD — Anyone prospecting for frac sand in the Town of Howard will now be required to obtain a license and to properly close the boreholes.

Following a public hearing October 7, the Howard Town Board approved a non-metallic mine exploration license ordinance.

Before prospectors can begin boring for frac sand, they must get a license, and they must tell the Town of Howard when and where they are planning to prospect, said Tom Zwiefelhofer, town supervisor.

The exploration license ordinance applies to the drilling of one of more boreholes to a depth of ten feet or more.

The Town of Howard has received reports from area residents that frac sand prospectors have opened boreholes and have left them open.

The concern is that unsuspecting people, wildlife or livestock could step in one of the holes and break a leg or that the borehole could allow contaminants to get into the groundwater.

The Town of Howard also has received reports that prospectors have drilled boreholes on property where they did not have permission from the landowner to look for frac sand.

The ordinance applies to non-metallic minerals that include, but are not limited to, stone, rock, sand, gravel, asbestos, beryl, diamond, clay, coal, feldspar, peat and talc.

The application for an exploration license is required to include the name, address, telephone number and e-mail address of the operator of the mine exploration operation, and the name, address, telephone number and e-mail address of all owners or lessors of the land on which the exploration will occur.

In addition, the application must include written proof that the landowner has consented to the exploration and has consented to inspections by the Town of Howard.

The application must also include a certified survey map and parcel identification numbers, dates when the exploration will start and when it will conclude, the number of boreholes that will be drilled and the fee established by the Town of Howard to cover the township’s administrative costs.

The mine exploration licensing ordinance includes requirements that the operator must give the Town of Howard ten days advance notice of when the boring will start and 24 hours advance notice of the filling of a borehole.

Any authorized officer, employee or representative of the Town of Howard may inspect the premises to determine compliance with the exploration license ordinance.

All boreholes must be abandoned in accordance with Wisconsin Administrative Code NR812.26(7) within three days after work at the borehole has concluded.

Within ten days after the borehole has been properly abandoned, the prospector must file a report with the Town of Howard certifying that the boreholes have been properly abandoned.

During the regular meeting that followed the public hearing, the Howard Town Board approved the non-metallic mine exploration licensing ordinance and appointed Eric Suvada, town constable, as the borehole inspector.

Fees

During the regular meeting, the Howard Town Board also approved a license fee of $250 for non-metallic mine exploration.

The inspection fee is $15 per borehole.

The amount of the administrative fee will be determined in the event that the Town of Howard must hire an engineer or another consultant, and the fee assessed will cover the town’s costs.

The administrative fee will include $20 per hour for Suvada to cover the cost of the inspection.

Prospectors who drill a borehole with no license will face a fine of $1,500 per hole.

The fees established by the Howard Town Board include $500 per hole if the prospector fails to properly abandon the boreholes.

Dachel property

The Howard Town Board has received a letter from EOG Resources outlining the proposed plan for the Edward Dachel property.

Dachel has alleged that blasting at the S&S mine across the road from his property has damaged his home and other buildings.

The proposal includes an inspection of the Dachel house, hiring an independent blasting engineer, taking a seismograph of the blasting, writing a report, and submitting the report to the town board.

Howard Town Board members agreed to send a copy of the letter to Dachel.

Sikora property

Town of Howard residents Dale and Sandy Sikora contacted the Howard Town Board last summer to say they believed their property should be included in the property value guarantee for the EOG Resources S&S mine.

Their property is closer to the mine than some of the other properties included in the guarantee, the Sikoras said.

At the September meeting, Howard Town Board members agreed that the town’s attorney should work with the EOG Resources attorney to obtain a property value guarantee for the Sikoras.

Zwiefelhofer reported that the town’s attorney is working on the issue with EOG Resources.

Sandy Sikora noted that she wanted the property value guarantee to be based on the fair market value prior to the mining operation starting in the Town of Howard.

At the September meeting, town board members reported that during the 14 months it took to negotiate a mining agreement, EOG Resources had submitted a list of properties the company would agree to include in the property value guarantee and would not consider adding any other properties.

NRB petition

The Howard Town Board approved a resolution supporting the petition to the Natural Resources Board asking for a strategic analysis of frac sand mining.

Midwest Environmental Advocates wrote the petition, and along with signatures from area residents, plans to submit the petition to the NRB  in October or November.

The Howard Town Board meets next on November 11.