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New Amendments Target Frac Sand Moratorium

The Winona, Wisc., City Council approved a number of changes to the way it regulates the frac sand industry as it prepares to stay ahead of a one-year moratorium set to expire in March, according to the Winona Daily News.

Following a lengthy public hearing, the council approved all four primary amendments, which relate to the city’s existing mining ordinance, the moisture level of frac sand trucked through and processed in the city, portions of the existing permitting process for mining, and studying the traffic impact of trucks hauling the sand.

Some of the changes were technical, while others attempted to address more broadly how to regulate the industry that’s swept through the region and created significant controversy.

One primary change will require that all frac sand must have a minimum moisture content of 2.5 percent. That was changed from an earlier recommendation of 1.5 percent.

Another will require all mining-related businesses with more than 200 proposed truck trips daily to conduct a traffic impact study. The city plans to work out road-use agreements with companies primarily on a case-by-case basis, but could ask companies to pay for road upgrades or repairs.

Other changes include:

  • All structures that hold processing equipment and sand piles must be located a minimum of 200 ft. from a residential district.
  • Requiring that no part of a mining operation be located within 2,000 ft. of a residential district, instead of just restricting the distance of powered equipment.
  • Set hours of operation between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. The ordinance previously allowed operation until 10 p.m.
  • Requires that mine operators monitor groundwater at least twice a year.
  • Allows site blasting and crushing only at the explicit approval of the Board of Adjustment.
  • Setting detailed plans for reclamation once the mine is closed.

The council also upheld a Board of Adjustment decision to allow as many as double the number of frac sand barges that can be loaded by CD Corp. each month at the Winona port. The Board of Adjustment late last year approved a plan to let CD Corp. process up to 48 barges each month, a decision that a local group, Citizens Against Sand Mining, appealed to the council. The council agreed that the decision was appropriate, but did decide to up the minimum moisture content on sand moving through the port to 2.5 percent, up from 1.5 percent.