Is sand mining coming to Crawford County via Bridgeport Township? Pattison Sand Company and a small group of farmers are making plans.
Pattison is in negotiations with four Town of Bridgeport farmers–Earl Pulda, Lee Pulda, Alan Flansburgh, and Rod Marfilius. Not all of them have signed contracts with the company at his point.
Alan Flansburgh is still talking to the Pattison Sand Company and has not yet signed a contract to lease his lands to the mining operation.
“It’s a big decision to make,” Flansburgh said. “They can do what they want with the land for 60 years, which is why we haven’t done anything yet. Sixty years is a long time.”
Flansburgh said his land could be used for farming again afterward, based on the reclamation plans, if he should choose to take it out of farming now and lease it for mining.
The Town of Bridgeport may be ideal place for Pattison to begin mining in the county. The township has chosen to not adopt the mining ordinance recently circulated by Crawford County. The proposed ordinance was a result of the county’s research during the six-month moratorium on new or expanded non-metallic mining operations, which ended Wednesday, Oct. 17.
The Town of Bridgeport chose instead to adopt a reclamation ordinance modeled on the existing county ordinance after deeming their zoning adequate to meet the demands of accommodating a new industry.
A conditional use permit for the proposed mine has not been received by the township at this time, according to Bridgeport Town Chairman John Karnopp
“They (Pattison and the farmers) will be coming to the next township meeting,” Karnopp said. “I don’t know if they plan to make an application by then, or what they plan to present.”
The meeting will be held on Thursday, Nov. 15 in the Bridgesport Town Hall at 38626 Troy Drive. The township meeting when Pattison representatives are scheduled to speak follows the committee meeting which begin at 5:30 p.m. Karnopp estimated 7 p.m. as the beginning time for that meeting, though he noted it could be earlier or later depending on how the committee meetings progress.
But before the township hears from Pattison, the sand mining company may have already cleared its first hurdle: the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway permit approval.
Of the possible 191 acres Pattison hopes to lease, over 100 of those acres are within the Riverway’s boundaries.
Kyle Pattison and Beth Regan spoke with the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board on Thursday, Oct. 11 at a public hearing to discuss their proposal.
“It was a well attended meeting,” said Mark Cupp, the Executive Director of LWSR. “Fifteen people made public comment in addition to Pattison and the landowners.
“Pattison was able to show that the excavation, materials, and equipment would likely not be visible,” Cupp said. “But, the board chose to delay a decision until more information was received.”
The board wants to review reports on endangered species and archeological resources before making a decision. They have also instructed Cupp to tour a frac sand mining operation and reclamation areas before they reconsider the application at their November 8 meeting to be held in Spring Green.
Cupp noted that LWSR’s jurisdiction did not allow them to address possible impacts of sand mining not directly impacting the Riverway.
“Noise, light or air pollution would have to be addressed by the Department of Natural Resources or the Town of Bridgeport,” Cupp said.
Rod Marfilius, one of the landowners working with Pattison Sand Co., also sits on the Bridgeport Township Board. When contacted by the Independent-Scout, Marfilius chose to make no comment on the project. He directed questions to Beth Regan at Pattison Sand for more information.
Marfilius’ response made it unclear if he plans to recuse himself from consideration of the permit once an application is made with
Bridgeport Township. Township clerk Linda Smrcina did say Marfilius abstained from voting on the reclamation ordinance.
If the mine receives its permits, it will be the first frac sand mine operation in Crawford County. Eighty-seven frac sand operations are currently operating in Wisconsin.
The relatively new industry brings a number of concerns, which were raised at the LWSR meeting. Those concerns include environmental degradation, air pollution, traffic problems and highway damage, and health risks due to carcinogenic fine particle silica dust. Crystalline silica dust, a byproduct of processing frac sand, has been linked to the lung disease silicosis and cancer.
Regan offered some description of Pattison’s plans.
“We have a built-in 500-foot setback from the Wisconsin River,” Regan stated in an e-mail response to the Independent-Scout’s questions. “We are also setback from Highway 60 with the highway’s Scenic Easements.
“The operations are proposed for 24/7/365 pending market demand,” Regan stated. “Full operations would produce about 50 trucks within a 24 hour period. Noise should not be a problem due to the rolling terrain and the distance from adjacent property owners and the river.”
Regan estimates the project would create 30 jobs over a 20-60 year period, depending on demand.