Quarry plan faces more hurdles

(Photo courtesy of Anne Queenan)

A disputed plan to quarry granite along the Minnesota River in the western part of the state has moved a step forward. But it may also face a significant new hurdle.

The North Dakota-based Strata Corporation wants to mine the stone for use as aggregate in road construction and other projects. The Big Stone County Planning Commission Thursday evening recommended that the full county board approve the idea, if certain conditions are meet.

Darren Wilke, a county environmental officer, said the vote was 5-3 to recommend in favor of the project. But the planning commission also recommended that the county board require the company to address about a dozen environmental concerns connected to the project, for dust, noise, water quality and other issues.

Quarry opponents say it would cause irreversible damage to a scenic leg of the Upper Minnesota River near Ortonville, Minn. They're concerned the operation would harm wild animal and plant life in the area, lower property values and damage the region's tourism potential.

And there's another potential roadblock for the project. The Ortonville Township Board has passed a moratorium on new projects like the proposed quarry. The township plans to set up its own planning and zoning commission which would have to approve Strata's plans. Strata officials say they are reviewing the township action.

Several other agencies also must sign-off on the project, including the state Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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