Allamakee County residents concerned about frack sand mining

Moratorium up for vote Monday

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, in Northeastern Iowa, on Thursday evening.

Over the hourlong meeting, though some 16 people offered their opinions, no one came out publicly against the moratorium, County Supervisor Larry Schellhammer said.

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

Last fall, a property owner near New Albin, along the Minnesota border, expressed interest in offering part of his acreage for use to mine silica sand.

The mining of this particular sand, commonly called frack 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The property owner’s application since has been withdrawn. But the initial intent has stirred reaction 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,” Nehman said.

Reasons stated at the forum for supporting the moratorium and opposing the sand mine varied. Speakers noted concerns about what will happen to the mined areas once all of the sand is taken out.

Others mentioned 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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