Houston Co. weighs permanent ban on sand mining

  • Updated: February 2, 2014 - 9:58 PM

CALEDONIA, Minn. — A southeastern Minnesota county is exploring a permanent ban on new frack sand mining.

Houston County commissioners have voted to extend a moratorium on new sand mining through March 2015. County commissioners also are asking state officials for guidance on how to implement a permanent prohibition.

Commissioner Justin Zmyewski says his constituents are concerned about heavy truck traffic from sand mining, as well as any environmental impact on trout streams and other natural resources.

“We’re very concerned. Our environment can’t handle it, our infrastructure can’t handle it, our tax base can’t necessarily handle it,” Zmyewski told Minnesota Public Radio News.

“So the board is very much looking at the potential for a ban. We’ll err on the side of caution. And there’s plenty of places in the United States that are digging sand,” Zmyewski said. “We just don’t know that Houston County is the most appropriate place to do so.”

Zmyewski said he’s not sure the county, with its small tax base, will be able to raise the money needed for road repairs if truck traffic causes damage.

“There’s a lot of information that we don’t have or that’s not available,” Zmyewski said. “We would like to just slow down. This is an industry that if it is a good, bona fide industry, it’ll be here for years to come. We don’t want to rush anything and get caught behind the eight ball 10 years from now and say, `boy, we really shouldn’t have done that.’ ”

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