BY IVAN RACONTEUR
Herald Journal Editor
BUFFALO, MN In response to a petition from residents, Wright County Board, during Tuesday’s meeting, directed staff to draft a resolution ordering the preparation of an Environmental Assessment Worksheet for a proposed gravel mining operation in Franklin Township.
The vote was 3-1, with commissioners Mike Potter, Darek Vetsch, and Christine Husom in favor, and Commissioner Charlie Borrell opposed. Board Chair Mark Daleiden was not present.
The proposed location of the mining operation is 5836 65th St. NE. The property is owned by the Delano Sportsmen’s Club.
Assistant Wright County Attorney Greg Kryzer told the board the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) forwarded a petition to the county July 10 for an EAW for the Delano Sportsmen’s Club gravel mining conditional use permit (CUP).
Under EQB rules, the county board, as the responsible governmental unit (RGU), has 30 business days to review and make a final decision on the petition for an EAW.
Kryser noted that Minnesota Rule 4410.1100, subpart 6 requires the RGU (county) to “order the preparation of an EAW if the evidence presented by the petitioners . . . Demonstrates that, because of the nature or location of the proposed project, the project may have the potential for significant environmental effects. The RGU (county) shall deny the petition if the evidence presented fails to demonstrate the project may have the potential for significant environmental effects.”
Factors that the county must consider include:
• type, extent, and irreversibility of environmental effects;
• cumulative potential effects;
• the extent to which the environmental effects are subject to mitigation by ongoing public regulatory authority; and
• the extent to which environmental effects can be anticipated and controlled.
In a memo to the board, Kryzer noted, “Staff has reviewed the petition along with plans for gravel mining within the fallout zone for the trap shooting range. It was represented during the public hearing for the CUP for the gun range that most of the shot from the trap shooting range will be lead. Staff is concerned about the environmental effects that could be created from lead shot being placed into an area that will be mined for borrow material. Staff is also concerned about the reclamation process as lead will be shot into the area and then potentially covered with clean fill. Mining and reclamation normally occurs over an extended period of time (in this case the proposed activity is for 10 years) and arguably during this time the gun range will be operating and depositing lead into the mining area. This creates a situation in which the borrow material may become contaminated with lead or where the reclaimed area has stratified layers of lead as it is slowly reclaimed. Staff is also concerned about the creation of wetlands potentially being within the fallout zones for the shooting range. In either event, these actions would appear to contradict the guidance from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency on the handling of lead shot within the fallout zone.”
During the board’s discussion, Potter noted 43 of the required 100 signatures on the petition are from people outside the area. He indicated is more concerned about the opinions of local residents than those from elsewhere.
Vetsch countered, saying environmental impacts travel, and suggested residents outside the area may be concerned about how the operation could affect them.
Vetsch said by ordering an EAW, the county would be doing its due diligence.
Husom said she was not in favor of an EAW for the trapshooting range when that came before the board, but she is in favor of one for the mining operation.
“I’m more intimately involved with this, sitting on the planning and zoning board,” Borrell noted. He said the members of the sportsmen’s club have been good stewards of the land, and have taken precautions with the lead, and have done mitigation within its resources.
Potter agreed that the members of the sportsmen’s club have been good stewards of the land, but noted he supports an EAW.
“I believe the EAW is going to show little or no effect to this. You’ve got to go through the process,” Potter said, noting that if the board were to deny the petition for an EAW, and the petitioners appealed, it could cost the county more in legal expenses.
After the board voted to direct staff to draft a resolution ordering an EAW, Kryzer said he expects the resolution to be on the board’s agenda for its Tuesday, Aug. 14 meeting, which meets the deadline for board action under EQB rules.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• approved conveying two tax-forfeited parcels in the City of St. Michael to the city for the public purpose of use as a bike path.
• approved out-of-state travel for a member of the maintenance staff to take training on hardware and locks that are installed in the jail. The cost is $1,375 for the week, plus about travel and lodging cost to take place Tuesday to Friday, Aug. 14 to 17.