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Senate committee rejects measure to distance frac sand mining from trout streams

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The Minnesota Senate Finance Committee rejected a plan Tuesday to protect trout streams in southeastern Minnesota from potential impacts from proposed frac sand mining.

The measure in the game and fish bill was defeated on a mostly party-line vote, with Republicans and two Iron Range DFLers opposed. It would have required silica sand mines in far southeastern Minnesota to be located at least a mile from any spring or trout stream.

The requirement would essentially halt the sand mining industry in that part of the state, Peder Larson of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council told committee members.

"I've had a chance to talk with one of our consultants over the interim here, and she said it's pretty darn hard to find a place in large parts of Minnesota that aren't a mile from a spring where there might be sand," Larson said. "So we really consider one of these provisions to be a virtual moratorium in this part of the state on mining."

Trout angling is a billion-dollar industry in the region, John Lenczewski, a member of Trout Unlimited, said to the Senate finance committee. The DNR has invested heavily in habitat work.

"Without the cold water from the springs, the trout fisheries disappear, the investment is wasted, and thousands of jobs that are dependent on this industry are lost," Lenczewski said.

The DNR says one stone quarry near Harmony in Fillmore County disrupted the groundwater system, resulting in dramatic warming of the stream water.

Another provision prevented the Department of Natural Resources from granting any water use permits for silica sand mining in southeastern Minnesota. The area is especially vulnerable to disruption of surface and ground water systems because of its geology.