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Frac sand company re-submits application for Glenwood mine

A Texas-based company that withdrew its application for a frac sand mine in St. Croix County last summer is again asking for a special exception permit to open a mine.

On Jan. 7 Vista LLC submitted its second application to mine on about 500 acres in the Town of Glenwood, just south of Glenwood City, said Alex Blackburn, a county land use specialist. The property is now zoned agricultural-residential and falls under county zoning, which requires a special exception permit for non-metallic mining.

Last summer Vista submitted its first permit application for the property but withdrew it when county staff found deficiencies.

"We reviewed it once before and found (the application) wasn't complete," said Blackburn.

The new application is expected to go to the county's Board of Adjustments for action either Feb. 28 or March 28, said Blackburn. He and colleagues Tammy Wittmer and Steve Olson are currently reviewing the three-inch thick document to determine if it is complete and see if it fits with the county's non-metallic mining ordinance.

They expected to meet Jan. 29 to decide if they want more information from Vista.

If the three-person team agrees the application is complete, they will make a recommendation to the Board of Adjustments Feb. 28.

If the team needs more information, a public hearing on the application will probably be set for March 28.

During that meeting, whenever it's held, the board has several alternatives. It can approve, conditionally approve, table or deny the permit.

The hearing notice, said Blackburn, will be published in the newspapers in the two municipalities closest to the site, Baldwin and Glenwood City, and on the county's website. Adjacent landowners will also be notified.

While Vista is asking for a permit for about 500 acres, under county regulations only 20 acres can be mined at one time, said Blackburn.

"They're going to have to reclaim as they go," he said.

Blackburn explained that at any given time, all mining activities - including stripping top soil, digging, processing, washing and piling - must be confined to 20 acres. Then the top soil must be replaced and that 20 acres reclaimed.

As the process proceeds, the 20 acres of active mining can move from place to place on the full site, said Blackburn.

Copies of the permit application will be mailed to the town of Glenwood, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Transportation for input and comments.

Since frac mining involves heavy truck traffic, the DOT will look for traffic bottlenecks at the intersections and potential travel routes, said Blackburn.

The mine will use high-capacity wells, and the owners need a DNR permit for those. Blackburn also said county ordinance requires that mines not cause a permanent lowering of the groundwater table or adversely affect surface water.

Frac mines and processing plants produce a hard, fine-grained sand needed for a type of oil and natural gas drilling, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The sand is used to prop open fractures in bedrock, allowing oil or natural gas to flow through.

The Vista mine application is available for public to read in the Planning and Development Office of the St. Croix County Government Center, 1101 Carmichael Road, Hudson.

Once staff determines the application is complete, the full document will be posted on the county's website:

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.