Pepin County (WQOW) - On the eve of the unofficial start of summer, a unique proposal to protect tourism. That proposal is for a "Frac Free Zone" in Pepin County.
Dozens of people turned out Thursday night to give their two cents.
Two Pepin County board members brought forward an ordinance to prohibit frac sand operations along Highway 35, also known as the Great River Road in Pepin County. That stretch of the highway runs right next to the Mississippi River.
"I came here because of the beauty and because of the water, but I survive here because of the tourists," says Dockside Mercantile owner Dorothy Thompson.
Tourism is what keeps some Pepin County businesses like Dorothy's afloat.
"For 20 years, people have been working on tourism in this area and building up that industry, and it provides the majority of jobs in Pepin and in Stockholm," says Thompson.
They say the beauty of the area is what drives tourists here. A proposal by two Pepin County board members, and the Lake Pepin Partners in Preservation, is designed to protect that.
"The purpose of it is to preserve the aesthetic qualities of this area, to kind of retain the tourism jobs. The tourism economy is the strongest economic engine in this area, and to help protect property values," says Pepin County Board member Bill Mavity.
The Great River Road Preservation Area would prohibit frac sand mining operations in this area next to the Mississippi River.
"The tourism economy is dependent on this area, they come on bicycles, they come on motorcycles, they come in car clubs. They wouldn't be coming at all if they've got 400-500 sand trucks on the roads everyday," says Mavity.
Dozens turned out a public hearing Thursday about the proposal, with a majority voicing their opinions in favor of the proposal. But for some the proposal goes too far.
"Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer protection and many others watching over our actions. Why would a landowner want to voluntarily put another noose around his neck," said one Pepin County resident.
The final say will be up to the county board.
Supporters of frac sand mining point to jobs and other investments. The Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association says the industry employs thousands of people, and says companies are making significant investments, generating hundreds of millions of dollars, which impacts the economy. The full Pepin County Board will take up the proposal in June. The county has one active sand mine.
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