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Chippewa County approves reclamation permit for Albertville Valley sand mine

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD  —  The Chippewa County Department of Land Conservation and Forest Management has approved a reclamation permit for Northern Sands for the proposed 1,310 acre Albertville Valley sand mine.

The permit was approved November 18.

At the October town board meeting, Vernon Schindler, town chair, reported that Northern Sands/Red Flint Group had asked for a 60-day extension on the application for a reclamation permit.

The purpose of the extension was to allow Northern Sands to address issues that had been raised during the public hearing held by Chippewa County in July concerning reclamation standards included in the Wisconsin administrative code NR135 and the Chippewa County nonmetallic mining reclamation ordinance.

The 60-day extension extended the deadline until November 19.

Northern Sands/Red Flint Group is proposing to operate a frac sand mine southeast of  Colfax.

Dennis Dvoracek, town board supervisor, reported at Howard Town Board meeting December 1 that the company is expecting to apply for a mine license in the fall of 2016 and, and that if the permit is approved, mining could start in the fall of 2017.

According to the reclamation permit, post-mining land use would include the loading facility being used as a commercial or agricultural materials hub to potentially include grain storage and transfer.

Post-mining land use also would include wildlife habitat managed as native prairie and as woodland.

According to the reclamation permit, the mine operator must develop a site restoration and vegetative management plan for each plant community.

The plan also must include the methods that will be used to manage areas disturbed by mining and the methods that will be used to establish and maintain native prairie and woodland plantings as well as the methods that will be used to control weeds and invasive species.

The mine operator must also manage and maintain each reclamation planting for ten years to show that the intended reclamation is viable and to provide a basis for evaluation.

Chippewa County land conservation will determine if the reclamation is complete, and if it is not complete, the performance period will be extended.

If a lease is cancelled on a parcel of land that has not been certified to be reclaimed, and the mine operator has not purchased that parcel of land, the mine operator must immediately reclaim the parcel, according to the permit.

If the operator does not reclaim the parcel on which the lease has been cancelled, Chippewa County will claim the financial assurance and use that money to reclaim the mine site.


The 13-page permit includes a number of other conditions.

Here are some of them:

• The mine operator is required to provide signed certification from each landowner stating that he or she agrees with the reclamation plan addendum. Landowners are Kenneth and Sue Anderson; Ronald Anderson; John Bethmann and Nan Torgerson Bethmann; Robert and Lana Christoffel; Harvey and Audrey Dreger; Raymond Dreger; Beverly Geissler; Danial Geissler; Alan and Judith Grossmeier; Lee and James Jenson; James and Rebecca Kiesow; Sherry Lemler;  Daniel Rothbauer, Robert and Karla M. Rasmussen Trust; Daniel Svee; Donald and Colleen Swartz; Olav and Gail Svee Trust.

• The mine operator is required to have all permits and legal authorizations under applicable federal, state, or municipal jurisdictions before beginning any mining activity.

• The mine operator will use a process of continuous reclamation and will submit a report about reclamation to Chippewa County by January 31 of each calendar year.

• The mine operator will provide financial assurance for reclamation throughout the life of the mine, and amount of financial assurance will be enough to cover the cost of Chippewa County hiring a contractor to complete the reclamation.

• Excavation limits of the mine will be no lower than 1,025 feet above mean sea level.

• Mining is only allowed to within ten feet of the groundwater.

• An assessment of the biological resources at the mine site is required and must use the “Wisconsin Forest Habitat Type Classification System” or another system approved by the department. The assessment for Phase I and a written report must be submitted by July 31, 2016, or by an alternative mutually agreeable date.

Water and wetlands

• An inventory must be conducted of the seeps, springs, wetlands and surface waters located within the mine boundary and the adjacent properties. The inventory must be based on resource maps and verified through a field assessment, and a report must be submitted by July 31, 2016, or an alternative date agreed upon by the operator and the department.

• The locations of concentrated flow, waterways, wetlands and runoff area that convey water to Elk Creek and Eighteen Mile Creek and the corresponding jurisdictional authority to regulate those areas must be determined by Chippewa County, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and any other federal regulatory agency as established under the Clean Water Act and any other laws that may apply.

• A buffer zone must be established according to regulations in NR135.07 to be within 100 feet of the boundary of wetlands and the centerline of watercourses with a defined bed and bank. Mining is not allowed in the buffer zone. Markers must be set up to mark the buffer zones for the life of the mine. The buffer zones must also be documented on a map.

• The location of all wetlands within a mining phase must be determined.

• In circumstances where wetland mitigation is required, Chippewa County will encourage and support the concept of one-site in-kind wetland mitigation to be completed during reclamation.


• The operator must obtain a Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems (WPDES) runoff discharge permit, and a stormwater management system will be designed, installed and maintained to meet the standards in NR135.07 and 135.08. The system will be required to provide sufficient storage capacity and infiltrate runoff for rain events of up to 5.8 inches in a 24-hour period.

• Stormwater will be managed through infiltration and evaporation to prevent stormwater discharge from the mine site. Any stormwater discharge from the site will replicate pre-mining drainage from the area.

• The operator will routinely assess the sediment in the bottom of each stormwater pond, and if the sediment reduces the infiltration rate, the operator will remove the sediment.

• If changes to the stormwater management system are needed, the operator will retain the services of a professional engineer to re-design the system.

• For any areas greater than one acre, Chippewa County land conservation must be contacted 72 hours prior to clearing or stripping activities.

• All topsoil and subsoil must be stored onsite and cannot leave the mine site.

• Burning stumps at the mine site is prohibited.

• All residual woody biomass must be retained at the mine site, composted and used during reclamation as a soil amendment.


• The operator must install a groundwater monitoring well network to establish the groundwater elevation at the mine site and for monitoring changes to the groundwater elevation and chemistry.

• The monitoring well network with a minimum of 12 wells must be planned and designed by a professional hydrologist, geologist or engineer to determine the elevation of the water table and to determine the flow of the groundwater.

• Water table elevations must be recorded monthly during the first year of mining and reclamation and quarterly after that for the life of the mine.

• The operator will prepare a water conservation plan to limit the use of groundwater, and if monitoring shows that mining or reclamation have decreased the water table to the point of having an adverse effect on surface water or the quantity of groundwater, the operator will revise the water conservation plan to limit the use of groundwater.

• If the quality of the groundwater is degraded by mining or reclamation in excess of the standards set in NR140, the operator will mitigate the effects by changing the mining or reclamation operations.

• The operator will sample the monitoring wells two times per year, and half of the monitoring wells will be sampled between April 1 and May 31, and the other half sampled between September 1 and October 31.

• The operator has not proposed to install process water or settling ponds. If the operator installs process water or settling ponds, the operator must apply for water pollution control permits and any other applicable permits administered by the DNR.

• Reject material from offsite processing facilities may be returned to the mine site and used in reclamation. The operator must test for pH and a variety of substances such as total coliform, arsenic and residual materials of chemicals used in processing, such as acrylamide.

• Fueling within excavated areas of the mine site will be discouraged and limited to vehicles such as tracked equipment that cannot be easily moved to an off-site fueling station. Fueling more easily mobile equipment must occur in areas where there would be a reduced risk of groundwater contamination.