Learning from the experience of others.

That's what the Winneshiek County Protectors (WCP) hope to do during the county's 18-month moratorium on the issuance of conditional-use permits for frac-sand mining.

At Monday's Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors meeting, Attorney David Williams of Lanesboro, representing WCP, submitted a sample ordinance regarding silica-sand mining.

Williams was involved in the creation a Fillmore County, Minn. ordinance regarding frac-sand mining.

"It is not the intention to interfere with current mining activity," said Williams, referring to existing mining for materials utilized for roads and agriculture.

"This is not an attempt to try to regulate silica sand as a product. The only purpose is to try to regulate silica sand mining land-use activities."

In the proposed ordinance, companies would be required to come up with a mining operation plan and reclamation plan and would have to fill out an initial environmental assessment worksheet.

"It would prohibit any processing of silica sand which utilizes flocculants (a chemical substance added to a suspension to enhance aggregation of the suspended particles, chemicals or water,)" said Williams, adding only dry screening and sorting would be allowed.



Requirements

During his presentation to the Board, Williams explained Fillmore County has set up requirements like ongoing reclamation plans. For example, if a company mines 20 acres, it is required to start reclaiming (restoring) those 20 acres before it mines any additional acres.

Williams explained Fillmore and Winona counties have also developed a road-impact fee, where companies are charged 22 cents per ton per mile for hauling sand.

"I don't think you can impose that in Iowa," said Williams.

Williams explained in Minnesota, the state authorizes the counties to collect those fees at their discretion.

"Are you aware of any organized effort to go to the Legislature to provide a source for road-impact fees?" asked Board Chair John Logsdon.

"Not that I'm aware of," said Williams.

Supervisor Dean Thompson added although Iowa is not allowed to impose a tax or assessment, it can negotiate a route with a mining company.



Status quo

Williams said the proposed ordinance "doesn't touch existing quarries."

Rather than reworking the county's entire zoning ordinance, Williams said this proposal could "just be plugged into the existing" one.

According to Lyle Otte of the WCP, existing mining companies, such as Bruening Rock Products and Wiltgen Construction, will be provided with a copy of the ordinance for review.

"We want them to be able to study it also," said Williams.

"It's a good starting point for discussion."



Delighted

Following the meeting, Thompson said he was "delighted" with the proposal.

He said as a land-use attorney and Minnesota township official, Williams "has considerable expertise, in local government."

He said while Fillmore County is the basis for the approach, the proposed Winneshiek County ordinance also accounts for environmental concerns, such as trout streams.

"I've looked at a lot of ordinances and I think the Fillmore ordinance is where you start ... What Mr. Williams has done is put together the framework to start to talk in real detail," said Thompson.