A Texas-based company plans to build a sand mine in the Juneau County town of Orange this year.
“If everything goes well, it will be up and running by the first of the year,” said town Chairman Mike Keichinger.
The venture is the first of what could be several mines built in the area in coming years to tap rich deposits of the sand needed to exploit oil and natural gas reserves in states west of Wisconsin.
Keichinger said the town of Orange board wrapped up negotiations with Shadowland Operating last November and granted the necessary town permit.
A company official did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment. The county has scheduled a public hearing today on the company’s request for a special exception permit related to the project.
“It falls under the county’s shoreland protection ordinance,” said county Zoning Administrator David Donnelly.
The proposed mine site is west of the village of Camp Douglas along county Highway C near the border of Monroe County, where one or more sand mines are already operating.
Donnelly said part of the project abuts an agricultural drainage ditch that, under the proposed industrial use, is considered a navigable waterway under state law.
County shoreland ordinance specifies that industrial projects within 300 feet of a navigable waterway need a permit to operate, Donnelly said.
The decision to grant the needed permit rests with the county’s five-member Zoning and Wetlands Adjustment Board, Donnelly said.
Last March, in response to feelers from sand mining companies, the town of Orange passed Juneau County’s first ordinance regulating nonmetallic mining.
The target is sand with the precise characteristics of size, shape, strength and purity that make it ideal for the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
In fracking, oil and natural gas drillers inject a mixture of sand, water and chemicals into oil- and gas-bearing rock far underground to release the fossil fuels it holds.
Fracking and the mining of the sand used in fracking are separate and different processes. No fracking takes place in Wisconsin, but the geology of a broad swath of the state, including Juneau County, created large deposits of sand ideal for the purpose.
County Conservation Administrator Greg Lowe said he has reviewed the permit the town of Orange granted the company.
“It’s a very good control plan,” Lowe said.
But Lowe said the company has yet to secure needed permits from the state Department of Natural Resources and noted that the drainage ditch near the proposed project is actually a small stream that was straightened in the past.
Keichinger said that, while the negotiation with the company involved give and take on both sides, he is satisfied that the permit the town granted the company protects the environment and residents’ safety.
“By state law all we really control is health and safety,” Keichinger said.
Among other things, the permit regulates water quality, noise and lighting.
“It’s a pretty in-depth contract we have with them,” Keichinger said.
The public hearing on the company’s special exception permit request is scheduled for 5 p.m. today at the Juneau County Land, Forestry and Parks Office at 650 Prairie St. in Mauston.
847-7341, ext. 237