The town of Orange is the first in Juneau County to enact an ordinance regulating frac sand mining.
“We’re not creating a moratorium on it by any means,” said town Chairman Mike Keichinger. “But we’ve got residents in the town whose land values we have to protect. And residents that are close [to the mine site] — we have to protect them.”
The town passed an eight-page ordinance last month that institutes a permitting process that, among other things, requires mine operators to spell out what they intend to do and gives the town the right to restrict mining operations.
According to one of Juneau County’s top environmental watchdogs, town officials did a good job.
“It’s relatively substantial, it’s a good ordinance,” said Greg Lowe, administrator of the Juneau County Land and Water Resources Department. “It has every specific aspect that you want in there. It’s got the ground water, wind, noise, the time of day — all that stuff. It’s going to keep them under control so they don’t wreck the environment and mess up the living space for the people that are going to be close to it.”
The town of Orange is the only place within the county where a mining company is working on a mine, Lowe said.
Keichinger said his Town Board strove not to help or hurt any individual or company.
“We went out to protect the investment our property owners have without putting unnecessary restrictions on a sand company,” Keichinger said.
The town is adjacent to the area in Monroe County where several mines were opened or proposed last year.
Officials in at least one other Juneau County town — Necedah — have discussed the possible need to regulate sand mining.
Frac sand is sand with 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 to frac are separate and different processes. No drillers have identified commercially viable quantities of oil or natural gas here, but the geology of a broad swath of Wisconsin, including Juneau County, created large deposits of frac sand.
Keichinger and Lowe both said they did not know the name of the mining company that wants to operate in the town of Orange, though both have met with an official of a company that is operating as a middleman.
Lowe said the company is working with five or six landowners to buy or lease 600 to 700 acres of land for the proposed mine west of the village of Camp Douglas, north and south of county Highway C.
The Canadian Pacific railway tracks bisect the area, a convenience for the miner and a good thing for town roads, which will be subjected to far less wear and tear from truck traffic than they otherwise might suffer.
“They want to move it [sand] out by rail,” Keichinger. They don’t want to truck it because then they have to handle it again.”
The tentative plan calls for a railroad “spur” — a very short branch line — to move the processed sand from the mine to the main railway, Keichinger said.
“There’s no doubt it’s going to happen,” Lowe said, though he said he doubts the mine will be built this year.
Keichinger said his Town Board employed a Tomah attorney, who has already developed one or more ordinances for Monroe County towns, to draft the ordinance.
Town officials, Keichinger said, tried not to create a mine-killing ordinance. “But we don’t want a free for fall either with no regulations,” he said.
Download a copy of the town’s new ordinance by finding the link to this article at www.juneaucountystartimes.com.
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