Trout stream setback permit and silica sand reclamation rulemaking projects move forward

(Released August 8, 2013)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is moving forward with two projects directed by recent silica sand legislation: the silica sand trout stream setback permit and rulemaking on the reclamation of silica sand mines and facilities.

Several laws were passed in the 2013 legislative session to address potential environmental and health concerns related to silica sand mining and processing.

The DNR was directed to create a new permit for silica sand facilities within an ecological region called the Paleozoic Plateau, which encompasses the southeastern portion of the state where silica sand bedrock is exposed at or near the surface.

The area also hosts pristine watersheds that provide critical cold water habitat for trout.  Proposed silica sand facilities within 1 mile from designated trout streams must now apply for a DNR trout stream setback permit.

The permit application will require a hydrogeological evaluation to adequately assess potential impacts from a proposed mining operation to trout streams and other hydrogeological features, including private and public drinking water supplies.

“The department will use this permit process to ensure that trout streams in southeastern Minnesota are protected,” said Steve Hirsch, director of the DNR’s Ecological and Water Resources Division. “If springs or other sensitive resources are found during the evaluation, adequate buffers and setbacks will be required.”

Written comments and requests for information about the setback permit can be directed to Tom Hovey, DNR water regulations unit supervisor, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4032, 651-259-5654 or tom.hovey@state.mn.us.

Mining reclamation
The rulemaking process for silica sand mining reclamation was initiated July 22 with the publication of request for comments in the State Register. The considered rules are intended to control possible adverse environmental effects of silica sand mining, protect natural resources and encourage planning of future land use.

The rules may also address other reclamation issues that come up during the rulemaking process. “Silica sand is an important issue to Minnesotans,” said Jess Richards, director of DNR’s Lands and Minerals Division, “one that has grass roots beginnings, so public and stakeholder involvement is a vital component of the rulemaking process.”

Interested people or groups may submit written requests to receive a draft of the rules when the document has been prepared or may submit written comments and questions about the silica sand rulemaking process to Heather Arends, silica sand rulemaking coordinator, DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4045, 651-259-5376 or heather.arends@state.mn.us.

To stay informed on the rulemaking progress for reclamation of silica sand mines (Revisor’s ID Number R-04198), go to http://mndnr.gov/silicasand.

Several Minnesota state agencies, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Environmental Quality Board, are involved in implementing the 2013 legislation regarding silica sand mining, processing and transportation. An interagency website is in development and will be used to help track progress across all agencies. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.