WINONA, Wisconsin (WXOW) - It's a lulling quiet on Gathje Lane, bordering St. Charles, Minn.
There lies 20-acres of frac sand and at least, for a little while, it will remain untouched.
The Winona County Board can't get any peace as they debate back and forth, hour after hour, whether frac sand mining on that 20-acre parcel should be further reviewed.
"St. Charles will be the epicenter of this, so we need to make sure all the citizens realize their concerns have been addressed," said Mena Kaehler, chair of the Winona County Board. "Granted, there are people who if they don't get 100 percent of their way, they're gonna be upset. And those aren't the people we're trying to work with and show we're doing due diligence."
The 20-acre site in St. Charles would be the first in Southeastern Minnesota to allow the mining of frac sand, used to help mine oil and natural gas.
The county has already studied sand mining impacts on the environment, especially on air and water quality.
It passed all the county's criteria.
But a citizen petition is causing the project to halt. They're asking for an additional environmental review.
"Frac sand mining in Winona County does not benefit me as a citizen and a resident," said Jim Gurley, the petitioners' representative. "It's making some people very rich, but it splits our community."
"Now we come to the end and say we need to do one more study where the answers won't be any different. It's an indication of what an anti-business climate we have in Winona right now," said Jeffrey Broberg, the mine applicant's representative.
In a 3 to 2 vote, the Board agreed with the petition to allow another, brief, environmental review.
County commissioner Marcia Ward said the review is redundant.
"I don't think it's anything that's gonna add to out already detailed research, review and efforts to make this a good, responsible location," Ward said.
No matter how close the vote, Winona County will now dig a little deeper before they break ground.
There's no timeline to complete this environmental study,
Once it's finished, the public will have 30 days to review the findings.
The County Board will review public concern after those 30 days, then vote on whether to approve sand mining on the site.
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