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Critics want trout streams buffered from sand mining operations

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Sen. Matt Schmit
Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, holds a cut-out illustration of a trout as he speaks with opponents of frac sand mining. About 50 people, mostly from southeastern Minnesota, visited Schmit and other Senate leaders Tuesday, May 7, 2013, to push for a requirement that silica sand mines be located at least a mile from trout streams and related water bodies.
MPR Photo/Stephanie Hemphill

About 50 people from southeastern Minnesota gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday to sway legislators to require frac sand mines be located at least a mile away from trout streams and related waters.

The measure was removed from the game and fish bill, but chief author Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, told supporters he will try to reinstate the requirement when the bill comes to the floor.

"We've got this really unique geography. We've got the bluffs. We've got the trout streams. We've got the river. We've got really healthy economics," Schmit said. "We've just got to make sure that if we see an uptick in silica sand mining in southeastern Minnesota that we've been deliberate, we've thought this through ahead of time, and that we're prepared for it."

Schmit also wants a regional cumulative impact analysis of the industry.  Silica sand is used to extract oil and gas from underground in a process called fracking.

Tuesday's critics confronted Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, who has said the distance buffering mining operations from trout streams is arbitrary.

Members of the group said that issue would have been clarified had he supported a statewide moratorium and a generic environmental impact study of the industry. Miller said that he "did not have an opportunity to vote on that provision."