Moratorium Vote Held Off on Allamakee County Frac Sand Mining

By Chris Earl, Reporter

WAUKON, Iowa – On an evening of frozen land and thoughts of silica sand, dozens of people talked about why Allamakee County leaders should approve a proposed moratorium to keep silica sand mining out of the county until at least July 2014.

"I am for the moratorium and so are the 800 signatures I have with me," said Robert Nehman, of New Albin, as the open forum for the first reading of the proposal was held at the Allamakee County Courthouse in Waukon on Thursday evening.

Over the hour-long meeting, about sixteen different people offered their opinions. County Supervisor Larry Schellhammer said no one came out to publicly stand against the moratorium.

Schellhammer said the board will take up the vote on the moratorium on Monday at its 11 a.m. meeting.

This issue has come up in Allamakee County after a property owner near New Albin expressed interest in offering part of his acreage for use to mine silica sand. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, the mining of this particular sand, commonly called "frac sand", is part of the hydraulic fragmentation process. The sand is extracted from the ground and transported elsewhere for use in oil and natural gas production. This silica sand carries a high market value as it is ideal for easing the process to pull the fossil fuels out of the ground.

The property owner's application has since been withdrawn but has also stirred the intensity of those in Allamakee County who do not want sand mining.

"With the amount of sandstone in the area, there will be a huge rush for it," said Nehman.

The reasons for supporting the moratorium and opposing the sand mine also varied. People that stood up spoke of concerns about what will happen to the mined areas once all of the sand is taken out.

Others talked about the health issues, such as dust particles in the air while some pointed out having the mining industry could harm the county's tourism industry.
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