Feb. 24 meeting in Howard will ask for public opinion on DNR frac sand study

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD — If you have an opinion about what should be included in the state Department of Natural Resources strategic analysis of industrial frac sand mining, now is your chance.

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board gave the go-ahead for the DNR to conduct a strategic analysis of industrial frac sand mining on a unanimous vote at the NRB’s January 28 meeting.

The first step in the strategic analysis is to gather public opinion about what should be included in the study.

A public meeting to advise the scope of the DNR’s analysis will be held Tuesday, February 24, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Howard Town Hall on county Highway B about seven miles east of Colfax.

The strategic analysis will be a comprehensive, statewide study of the health impacts and environmental impacts of industrial sand mining.

Members of the public are encouraged to attend meetings scheduled in February and March to provide their questions and concerns about frac sand mining.

The meetings are free and open to the public.

In addition to the February 24 meeting at the Howard Town Hall, another meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 2, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Roger Marten Community Center, 120 South Franklin Street, Mondovi.

The decision to conduct a strategic analysis of frac sand mining began with a petition signed by more than 1,000 West Central Wisconsin residents that was submitted to the Natural Resources Board last fall.

Midwest Environmental Advocates drafted the 29-page document, “Petition for a Strategic Analysis of Frac Sand Mining,” which contains a number of technical references and citations and argues that the state Department of Natural Resources must gather and use scientific information to adequately regulate the frac sand industry to protect the health, safety and welfare of Wisconsin residents.

Five years ago, only a handful of frac sand mines were operating in this part of Wisconsin, but the number has now increased to more than 100 industrial frac sand mines covering tens of thousands of acres.

An application was recently submitted to Chippewa County for a reclamation permit for a 1,300 acre sand mine project in the Town of Howard that would include a rail loading facility and processing plant along with the sand mine.