Big River Magazine
Mississippi River stories and news

September-October 2012

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From September-October 2012 Big River

Frac Sand Update

• Red Wing, Minn. — State senator John Howe has asked Minnesota governor Mark Dayton to order a General Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) of the silica sand mining industry in Minnesota and for $1 million to fund the study. Howe said that small towns and communities are “not used to dealing with something on this scale.” Besides, he said, there is not enough information or expertise available “to make the important decisions which affect the health and safety of the citizens of my district.”

Several mining moratoriums are set to expire in the next few months. Howe thinks the state senate is not likely to take up the issue in an August special session, which means the legislature isn’t likely to discuss a GEIS this year. (Minneapolis Star Tribune 7-24-12)

• Washington, D.C. — By a vote of 256 to 160, the U.S. House passed a bill (HR4402) to ease environmental rules and limit lawsuits in order to quicken agency reviews of applications to mine on public land in the West. The bill will also speed action on permits for sand and gravel mining, designating them “infrastructure projects” to make them eligible for fast-tracked government reviews. (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 7-15-12)

• Caledonia, Minn. — In July, the Houston County Board decided an old sand mine could continue to operate under an existing permit, even though the mine has changed ownership and the scale of the operation has expanded. The board gave the mine an exception to the county’s year-long moratorium against new mines, established in March. In August, citizens opposed to the mine presented a petition to the state Environmental Quality Board, asking for an environmental asessment worksheet (EAW) to be required of the Tracie Erickson mine, which archeologists say is likely to contain Native American burial sites because it overlooks areas on the Root River.

At press time, the board had yet to decide whether to require the EAW. At a late July meeting, the board amended the moratorium to halt all sand mines, not just new ones, except for the Tracie Erickson mine.

The operator of the Tracie Erickson mine intends to mine 2 million cubic yards of sand before its current permit expires in January, and transport it to Winona for processing and shipping.

• St. Paul — Citizens of the St. Anthony Park neighborhood have raised the alarm about the open cars of sand that sit in a nearby railyard. Officials from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad have insisted there is no health hazard, because only wet, unprocessed, raw sand is carried in open cars, and processed sand is always carried in covered cars. The neighborhood is asking for independent air monitoring. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6-27-12)

• St. Charles, Minn. — Amish people rarely discuss political issues openly or attend political meetings, but 60 Amish families have joined other St. Charles citizens to voice their concerns about Farm2Rail, a proposed, 300-acre sand processing and rail center. The proposed center is a few miles away from several major sand mines and Amish farms. Farm2Rail aims to become a regional transportation center for the frac sand industry, receiving 400 to 800 trucks per day. Amish families who live, have schools, and drive horse-drawn buggies and wagons on Highway 37 say frac-sand truck traffic would destroy their way of life.

Farm2Rail developers have agreed to an environmental review of the project. (Winona Daily News, 7-25-12; Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7-12-12)

See earlier Frac Sand Updates: July-August 2012 May-June 2012 January-February 2012 •  Read Sand Dollars — Mining Frac Sand in the River Valley (pdf) from July-August 2011.


Paddle & Shoot

The Friends of the Upper Mississippi River Refuges is looking for paddlers’ eye views of the river, and they’re sponsoring a photo contest to bring together images that best “capture the spirit of paddling the Mississippi River.” The only requirements are that the photos must be taken on the Mississippi and have a canoe or kayak in them — at least a portion of one.

Photos from amateurs and professionals will be accepted through November 16, 2012, by mail or in person at the Winona offices of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, 51 E. Fourth St., Rm. 101, Winona, MN 55987. Download the Summer of Paddling Photo Contest Entry Form and rules (pdf) here.

For more information, call Cindy Samples, 507-494-6216, or visit the refuge website.

The contest is part of the Summer of Paddling 2012 celebration being sponsored by organizations in 10 states.

Exhibits: War Paint & Watercolors

St. Paul — The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 was a violent, six-week struggle that horrified Dakota people, settlers and the nation, and ended with the hanging of 38 Dakota men at Mankato, Minn., the largest mass execution in U.S. history. On June 30, 150 years after the event, the Minnesota History Center, in downtown St. Paul, will open a new exhibit about the war.

The war, also called the “Dakota Conflict” and the “Sioux Uprising,” followed decades of deceit and broken promises made by the government to the Dakota people, and its effects are still felt today. The exhibit includes many points of view, and is part of a broader initiative called a “truth recovery” project involving Dakota people and descendants of original settlers.

The History Center will sponsor events and activities at many historical sites related to the war.

To read more Mississippi River news and stories, order this issue or find Big River at one of these retail outlets.


Go to Previous River News (July-August 2012)

Go to Previous River News (May-June 2012)

Go to Previous River News (March-April 2012)

Go to Previous River News (January-February 2012)