Trempealeau County mining moratorium expiring before study results released

After a year long moratorium, new sand mines will be allowed to once again set up business in Trempealeau County.

That temporary ban on industrial sand mines is expiring at the end of the month. It was put in place to allow health officials time to study the impacts of mining, but the study won’t be done until after the moratorium runs out.

The Trempealeau County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to put the moratorium in place last August. Last week the board of health committee, who asked for moratorium originally, asked to extend the expiring moratorium a few more months, but the county board voted down that idea 8-7.

Over the past few years the amount mining in Trempealeau County has boomed. At times 25 percent of the mining in Wisconsin is done in this county.

“The increase in applications, the increase in the scale of the projects, you know, increased the concerns and so you saw that moratorium vote come forward,” Trempealeau County board member Jon Schultz said.

Schultz says he wasn’t on the board at the time of the moratorium vote, but he applauds that board for passing it and approving the health study.

“You know it’s not about waiting for perfect answers, it’s about asking the right questions,” Schultz said.

The health study is expected to be finalized on Sept. 2. The same day applications for new mines will become available, which Schultz says could make things difficult.

“Pace of work could be, could be a challenge. If there’s vital need to change certain ordinances we’re going to want to do that as quickly as possible to ensure they’re locked in moving forward,” Schultz said.

During the moratorium there were no new mine permits accepted so there is no way of knowing how many applications will come in next week.

So for now Schultz said all he can do is wait until the study is finalized.

“Read the data, read the survey results, we’ll make the changes we feel we need to or that the public tells us that we need to. It’s their county, it’s their landscape and it’s pretty much up to them you know through us on the board,” Schultz said.

Schultz said before the moratorium the county board approved 28 out of 30 permits for mining.

The county Department of Land Management says there are nine operational and 22 mines permitted through the county as of Tuesday.

In the meeting minutes from last August county board member Sally Miller, who supported the health study and moratorium said, “Trempealeau County has the notorious honor of being the county who permits wildly.”

The health impact study will be presented for the first time at the Land Use Committee meeting on Sept. 10.

The next Trempealeau County board meeting will be Sept. 22.