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No environmental impact statement needed on Forada gravel pit

Residents of Forada gathered at the Douglas County courthouse the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 12 for a meeting about the potential gravel pit near the town. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)

The Douglas County Planning Advisory Commission  recommended Tuesday that no environmental impact statement was necessary for a potential gravel pit near Forada.

The commission met Tuesday, Dec. 12 at the Douglas County courthouse to determine whether more documentation about the effects of the gravel pit on the environment were needed. Because the potential gravel pit would be less than 40 acres, the environmental impact statement is not required but can still be done if deemed necessary.

Director of Douglas County Land and Resource Management Dave Rush began the meeting by summarizing the concerns Forada residents had voiced during a comment period held from Aug. 29 to Sept. 29.

In all, 67 comments were received. According to Rush, the comments were grouped by category and addressed that way.

“The next step is that based on those responses, the county has a decision to make and that’s really what this whole process is about,” Rush said. “The purpose of an environmental assessment worksheet is to provide a decision-making body with a complete review of a proposed project.”

These were common concerns raised and responses to them:

  • Noise: Many Forada residents were concerned about the potential of disruptive noise, particularly black up alarms. Rush explained that as distance increases, noise decibels decrease, so those in homes with distance between the gravel pit won’t be as likely to be bothered by the noise. He also stated that objects between where a noise originates and where it carries can affect the decibel level.

  • Road traffic increase: The concerns about traffic had to do with how it would affect road conditions and safety in the area. According to Rush, County Road 4 would be the most heavily traveled for the operation, but the traffic would increase only by 10 to 14 percent.
  • Decline in property value: Rush stated it would be difficult to determine what happens to a property value when a gravel pit opens nearby, but that in looking at other properties near gravel pits, a value decrease did not appear to be the case.
  • Dust: Mining operations are known to create dust, and residents are concerned since this potential pit is near residences. However, according to Rush, much of what would be mined would come from below the water table, meaning it would come up wet, limiting dust output.
  • Crystalline silica exposure: This is a naturally occurring material that can become airborne in sand and gravel mining. Breathing in the dust can cause scar tissue on the lungs, a condition called silicosis. Rush says the mining of aggregate does contain silica but the operation will not crush or grind the material to create a hazard.
  • Groundwater: Many expressed concerns about how ground water in and near Forada would be affected by this mining operation. Rush explained that there isn’t potential for depletion or disruption of wells in or near Forada, but that there are potential issues with pollution from mining.

Based on the concerns and Rush’s comments, the Planning Advisory Commission made the recommendation that no environmental impact statement is necessary, should a formal application for the gravel pit be submitted.

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, Rush will make that recommendation to the county board.

About the proposed gravel pit

The proposal for the gravel pit was submitted by Minnerath Investments LLC, owned by Joe Minnerath, who also owns road contractor Central Specialties Inc. It states that the company would mine the agricultural land for gravel.

The proposed 39.9-acre site for the gravel pit is in Hudson Township, next to the city of Forada. An entrance and exit would be built on County Road 4 at the north end of the site. It would operate from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday from April through November, and trucks would be making an average of 10 trips to the gravel pit per hour.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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