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Clifton adopts nonmetallic mining law

After a nine-month moratorium on frac sand mining, the Clifton Town Board adopted a nonmetallic mining licensing law at its June 4 meeting.

Nolan Wall of Stevens Engineers in Hudson explained during a public hearing that demand for frac sand and its availability in this region has forced towns to be proactive instead of reactive.

The Planning Commission hosted monthly meetings while writing the law with the help of Stevens Engineers. It recommended to the Town Board that the law be adopted at its May meeting.

According to Wall, Pierce County, the DNR and the state have regulations concerning nonmetallic mining licensing. The town's plan is tailored to follow the county's process, but is more restrictive when it comes to performance standards of operation.

Towns with no zoning authority of their own can pass their own laws, according to the state.

The county also regulates reclamation plans, because it has the personnel and expertise to do so, Wall said.

The law covers things like licensing and renewal procedures for operators and performance standards.

Performance standards include monitoring hours of operation, noise, lighting, groundwater and air quality, safety, bonding requirements (especially for town roads) and many others.

"If you're going to go after frac, you're going to have to meet high environmental performance standards," Town Board Supervisor Joe Rohl said.

When asked by Stuart Henning, W12210 742nd Ave., if there is an acreage limitation on new mines, Rohl said a lot of land is needed to make a mine worthwhile.

"I don't think you'd open one up less than 50 acres," Rohl said. "It's not economically worth it."

Town Board Chairman Leroy Peterson confirmed some bore tests have been done in Clifton, but no one has been approached by any mining operations that he knows of.

"I don't think they've found anything to pursue," Peterson said.

He went on to say the sand found in Clifton is too deep below a layer of limestone.

Wall said mining operations look for large tracts for potential sites that are close to roads and have sand close to the surface that's easy to extract.

Wall emphasized that Clifton has approached the frac-mining issue by respecting both sides: 1) People should know they have the right to mine this valuable mineral; and 2) The town also has the right to protect its environmental resources, residents and infrastructure.

The new law is not meant to target anyone, Wall said.

Peterson agreed, saying careful consideration was taken so as not to hurt existing pits.

Existing nonmetallic mining operations will be "grandfathered" in under the law as long as their reclamation plans don't change and the business doesn't change hands, Wall said.

Mine reclamation restores land to a natural or economically productive state after it has been mined.

If a reclamation plan changes due to changing the footprint of the mine or if the business is sold, the law considers it a new mine and a new permit is needed from the town. A new conditional use permit is also required by the county.

Under the town's new fee schedule, adopted at the meeting, an operator's license will be $1,200. An administrative base fee to review an application will be $10,000.

If the whole $10,000 is not used for the review, the rest will be refunded to the applicant. This includes existing pits that change ownership or reclamation plans.

"This is not meant to be cumbersome to existing operations at a small scale," Wall said.

Rohl agreed, saying he would rather encourage the growth of existing quarries by an acre or two than new large-scale operations.

The Town Board also voted to amend the citation law regarding violations of the nonmetallic mining licensing law.

First and second offenses will be $5,000 plus court costs.

In other business, Henning, Todd Helland, W12055 742nd Ave., and Peter Bocwinski, W12060 742nd Ave., asked the board to look at their road.

The three said the shoulders of the road have been eroding since Pierce County last did work there. They said sand and gravel is washing out into their lawns and they fear water going under the road will crumble the road bed.

Heated arguing ensued between Peterson, Clerk/Treasurer Judy Clement-Lee and Henning. The board and Henning have a history of disagreeing on the condition of 742nd Avenue.

Henning was upset because no one has inspected the road yet this spring.

"I want it on the record that it is done once a year in compliance with the county," Clement-Lee said. "Weather hasn't been wonderful for looking at roads."

Finally, Rohl offered to meet the three men at the road to inspect it.

Rohl also suggested to the board that it follow the county paving management plan. Roads are done on a need basis, not a political basis with the plan, Rohl said.

Clifton building permits were issued to:

--William Markert, W126 714th Ave., new home

--Jared Schickling, N7616 1126th St., new home

--Churchill Storage, W12300 State Road 29, new storage facility

--Brandon Dosch, W11951 757th Ave., deck

Class B Retail Licenses were approved for Clifton Hollow Golf Club, W12166 820th Ave., and Clifton Highlands Golf Club, N6890 1230th St.

Bartender's licenses were approved for Clifton Highlands employees: Susan M. Smith, Thomas D. Brown, Margaret Bloom, Ryan Timm, Robert Magnuson, Paige Hood, Joe DeRose, Carly Jerry, Gwen Lysne and Todd S. Hauschildt.

Bartender's licenses were approved for Clifton Hollow employees: Mike Tschida, Heather M. Lee, Chuck Egeberg, Michael Sampson, Sierra Becker, Adrianna Tri, Lindsay Van de Water and Jim Farrell.