Winona County votes on first frac sand mine since moratorium

Winona County commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of allowing the first frac sand mine in the county.

The initial application for the 20-acre mine in Saratoga Township was denied after the county imposed a moratorium on frac sand mining in 2012. A second application was submitted after the moratorium expired.

The county commissioners approved a permit that includes 37 conditions such as air quality requirements, road use restrictions, and times of operation.

This comes two months after commissioners voted to pass on an intensive environmental review sought by some residents. Twelve residents are appealing that decision to a state court.

Commissioners say they have to follow the rules on paper and can’t give preferential treatment because of how the sand will be used. “They meet those requirements they need to be allowed to do it, or we need to go back and change the zoning ordinance or the rules and regulations that we work with for all the citizens, not just one industry versus another,” said Winona Co. Board Vice Chairperson Marcia Ward.

Protesters gathered before the meeting and released a statement which says in part, “the board failed to take into account the potential cumulative impacts of the Nisbit mine together with the other mines proposed in the immediate area. In these circumstances, it would be wrong for the Board to approve this permit.”