Hi-Crush Partners of Houston, Texas, is getting close to making a public announcement about its latest frac sand mining project in western Wisconsin. The publicly traded company has been negotiating with property owners in Trempealeau County on hilly, agricultural lands between the City of Independence and the county seat of Whitehall.
On Monday of this week, six local property owners and Hi-Crush Whitehall LLC submitted a Petition for Direct Annexation by Unanimous Approval to the City of Whitehall. Tina Kay Sass, the city's administrator, said the company is preparing to present its plans in early September. The Hi-Crush project also would involve adjoining land that would be annexed by the City of Independence, directly west of Whitehall. Most if not all of the combined frac sand site currently lies in Lincoln Township, which would be compensated in some way for losing a chunk of its tax base under a possible intergovernmental agreement.
Hi-Crush was launched in mid-2011 as a frac sand supplier to the oil and gas industry. It has become a major player in Wisconsin, the nation's No. 1 frac sand producing state, by operating mines located in Wyeville (600 acres) and Augusta (1,000 acres.) The size of the Whitehall-Independence site could possibly rival Augusta in size.
The Trempealeau County Board of Supervisors this week adopted a moratorium of up to one year against additional permitting of frac sand facilities, but it's not clear if the temporary ban would slow the Hi-Crush project. For instance, there was testimony at the public hearing for the moratorium that cities within the county could continue to issue new frac sand operating permits. Annexation of frac sand sites by cities has become a hot topic in Trempealeau County and elsewhere in Wisconsin because it undercuts county control of a major new land use and robs townships and counties of important tax base.