Minnesota Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit conservation group that works to protect coldwater fisheries, is among the voices asking for state interference to mitigate the expansion of industrial frac sand mining in southeastern Minnesota.
Besides holding vast reserves of the world's best frac sand, southeastern Minnesota also is home to an extensive network of ecologically fragile trout streams.
John Lenczewski, who heads the state chapter of Trout Unlimited, told a joint Senate and House hearing Tuesday that Minnesota's streams are spring-fed by the same drinking water that frac sand processing facilities want to pump out of the ground in huge volumes. Mining companies use the water to separate valuable silica sand from waste material. There are fears that the reserves will be depleted to the extent that stream flows are reduced, endangering fish habitat.
"The industry does not need to use our future drinking water to wash sand,'' Lenczewski said.
He also called on the Legislature to prohibit sand mines from digging within 25 feet of the water table. Some new frac sand mines in Wisconsin have been permitted to dig nearly all the way to ground water -- giving pollutants a direct path to aquifers.
In addition, Minnesota's trout anglers want the state to keep frac sand facilities far away from surface waters by writing new setback guidelines, Lenczewski said.
"The state does not have adequate regulation for our groundwater,'' Lenczewski said.
Tuesday's hearing was a listening session and legislation is still forming. For a more complete account of the testimony -- including assurances from industry that Minnesota already regulates sand mining with a far-reaching hand -- click here for the story.