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Goodhue County board ponders extension to mining moratorium

RED WING - Goodhue County staff is already predicting it might need an extension to the one-year moratorium approved last September to allow for research before anyone develops a frac sand mine here.

The Mining Study Committee is studying the effects of a mine, but deciding whether to contract with experts is slowing progress down.

Interested in hiring professionals to help collect data, Goodhue County Land-use Management asked the Goodhue County Board at its Feb. 7 meeting to approve contracting with Summit Envirosolutions.

The issue was tabled after commissioners expressed concern over the fact that Summit has previously dealt with Windsor Permian, an energy company that purchased 155 acres of land in Hay Creek last winter and is suspected of wanting to develop a silica sand mine.

The board received a motion and a second to deny working with Summit, but ultimately decided to gather more information before committing to a decision.

Following further discussion at a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday morning, the motion remained tabled to give staff the opportunity to communicate more with Summit regarding the perceived conflict of interest. Summit already has agreed to refrain from preparing or advising on any conditional-use permits throughout the county's moratorium, but county commissioners feel that may not be enough.

"I think an agreement with our consultants should go beyond our moratorium," Commissioner Ted Seifert said, suggesting Summit not be allowed to work on any sand mine permits in the county for an entire year after the moratorium expires.

Since continual tabling of the matter is dragging the process out, there's a chance that not everything will get accomplished by September when the moratorium is scheduled to end.

"If we delay this a little bit we might have to come back to you and ask for an extension," Land-use Director Lisa Hanni told the board.

Still, commissioners told staff members to take the time they need to develop a satisfactory contract with the professionals. Although the board would prefer Summit not work on any permits until well after the moratorium expires, Hanni had concerns about the company's willingness to agree.

"We're the customer," Commissioner Jim Bryant said. "If they don't want to abide by what we want, then they can go down the road."

Hanni is working with Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher on finalizing the wording of a contract with Summit.

"We're getting pretty close," she said.

The matter will again come before the board March 6.