Howard expects to hold public hearing on Albertville Valley sand mine in October

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD   —  The Howard Town Board is expecting to hold a public hearing on the proposed Albertville Valley sand mine southeast of Colfax in October.

A notice will be sent out to all residents living within a half mile of the mine site, said Susan Haake, town clerk, at the Howard Town Board’s September 4 meeting.

 The township’s ordinance also states an engineering report on the proposed frac sand mine will be available 15 days before the public hearing, Haake said.

The engineering report will be uploaded to the township’s website so it can be downloaded by anyone who is interested in reading the report, she said.

Northern Sands Wisconsin is proposing to develop a 1,300-acre frac sand mine southeast of Colfax that would stretch north and south along the Chippewa County and Dunn County line directly east of the intersection of county Highway N and county Highway A.

The final engineering report is finished, but the Town of Howard does not yet have a copy of the report, Haake said.

Tom Gapinske, president of Northern Sands Wisconsin, noted he has a rough draft of the engineering report.

Hjordis Olson, who lives on the edge of the proposed Albertville Valley sand mine in Dunn County, said she was concerned about the rain predicted for later that night and said the standards for control of stormwater run-off should be “approached with caution.”

The stormwater ponds are regulated by the state Department of Natural Resources, and the Town of Howard has no authority to change the standards, said Ron Koshoshek, the township’s consultant on frac sand mining.

Although others at the September 4 meeting also had questions about the proposed Albertville Valley mine, Koshoshek and members of the Town of Board — Dennis Dvoracek, Supervisor 2, Tom Zwiefelhofer, Supervisor 1, and Vernon Schindler, town chair — said questions and concerns should be presented at the public hearing and not at the town board meeting.

Chippewa County held a public hearing on the reclamation plan for the Albertville Valley sand mine in July of 2015 and approved the reclamation plan in November of 2015.

The original deadline for Northern Sands to submit the reports required by the reclamation plan to Chippewa County Land Conservation was July 31, 2016, but the deadline was extended to December 31, 2017, along with the requirement that the assessments and inventories be started by October 15, 2016.

According to a letter to Gapinske dated March 13, 2018, from Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forest Management regarding the reports that had not yet been submitted, “our review has found that this submittal is deficient in meeting multiple conditions of Permit#2015-01.”

The letter states a partial wetland delineation was not conducted in the appropriate growing season and to meet the conditions of the reclamation permit, Northern Sands Wisconsin was required to initiate a state-recognized wetland delineation for all of Phase I no later than May 1, 2018.

The report must be completed and submitted to Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forest Management no later than August 1, 2018, the letter states.

The status of the Northern Sands Wisconsin reports required by the reclamation permit was not discussed at the Howard Town Board’s September 4 meeting.

According to the application for a mine license, Northern Sands Wisconsin plans to begin site preparation, topsoil stockpiling, storm water controls and access and roadway improvements during the first quarter of 2019. Rail yard and plant construction also will begin and site excavation and mine operations will begin as well.

Mining operations are expected to be completed in 2040 to 2044 with reclamation monitoring consistent with permit requirements. 

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