Buffalo County (WQOW) - Lawsuits have been filed, 200 people show up at a meeting and another frac sand project hangs in the balance. All of it happened this week in Buffalo County.
At stake Thursday night was a permit for a mine and wash plant in the Town of Montana, which is south of Gilmanton. A few weeks ago, the Buffalo County Board of Adjustment denied permits for a dry plant and rail loading facility in the county. The permit that was under consideration Thursday calls for trucks to haul sand on Highway 88, a road that has a lot of twists and turns. After a six-hour meeting, the board tabled a vote on a permit. It wants the DOT to study county roads U & C. The proposed wash plant would be located off of U.
Road safety has been a hot topic in this county.
This week, civil lawsuits were filed by, among others, the Cochrane-Fountain City School district against the board of adjustment.
The plaintiffs are upset about a separate mining project approved by the board in June. They claim the board approved the permit before a traffic safety assessment on Highway 88 could be finished, and they want that decision thrown out.
As traffic flows on Highway 88, there are questions about how the road would handle trucks making hundreds of trips a day. There are lots of curves, and you may not know what's around the bend. That's why the DOT stepped in to examine whether the road would be safe enough.
"We haul load after load after load of compost material up to our compost site on that road daily. Just being able to drive out of it, in front of the traffic, if they were coming every minute, like it would be... it would be very difficult to have a farm, to be out on the road," says Nettie Rosenow, a property owner in the Town of Montana.
After doing a crash analysis and examining how the curves could handle truck traffic for one mining project, the DOT determined that Highway 88 is not, by its own department standards, an unsafe road.
Rosenow doesn't agree, she says, "Well, if you read the study, all you have to do is read it and say to yourself, if there are 30 some places where the trucks can't stay in their own lanes, how can that be a safe road?"
"We've looked at the traffic issue on Hwy. 88 extensively and of course there are always room for improvements on any state highway. We believe we can safely operate on this route," said Glacier Sands Attorney Brian Nodolf. Glacier Sands is working on various sand mining projects in the county.
The DOT says road safety improvements could still be made. That's why the department is asking a consultant to look at potential changes. "A key in this system is to use professional drivers and state of the art trucks. That's the type of project we are looking at doing," says Nodolf.
The traffic assessment was finished about a month after the board of adjustment approved a permit for a mine. Those who are suing claim the board said it would wait until the DOT report was done. "We need people who are influential, who have connections to stand up and say, 'We need to stop this for awhile and find out how to put these things in the right places and how to do it right, not to go driving 400 hundred trucks through people's lives,'" says Rosenow.
Nodolf says, "We appreciate all comments and we realize people have concerns and we address those and we're not insensitive to other people's concerns and we all ultimately have to work together and live together as a community."
The DOT wants to make it clear; this assessment was only based on the extra trips generated by one mine. The more mines there are, traffic safety could be affected and the state may have to look at it again.
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