Scandia Council OK’s release of draft EIS for mine

Comments from the public are due by May 18

Mary Bailey
Scandia Reporter

A fourth alternative was added to the Zavoral Mine proposal in the draft Environmental Impact Statement released by the Scandia City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

With the new option, all mining at the site would be completed in one year.

In exchange for the shorter duration, residents would experience more trucks per day, more hours per day of trucking, and mining activity in every season.

The council approved release of the draft EIS for public review at a special meeting held in the large hall at the Scandia Community Center.

Freezing rain may have affected turnout. Besides city officials and Tiller representatives, only about 10 residents attended.

4 Alternatives

The first alternative presented in the EIS is for the mine to operate for five to 10 years, six to 12 weeks per year, with five 10-hour days per week.  This is the choice preferred by Tiller Corporation.

The second option is for the city to deny reopening of the mine.

The third choice is a reduced time frame.  The mine would be open from 3.3 years to five years, operating 12 to 18 weeks per year, with five 10-hour days per week.

The fourth option further reduces the time to one year, with Tiller operating five 12-hour days a week for 30 weeks.

Mike Caron, director of land use affairs at Tiller, said with the one-year option the mine would probably be open from February to November or December, with pauses for rain, snow, and spring snow melt.

Council member Chris Ness asked if the process could be completed during winter months, avoiding the main season for river recreation. “Not in one year,” Caron said. “Maybe in two years.”

History

Before the council voted to release the draft EIS, project manager Leslie Knapp of AECOM and Trudy Richter of Richardson, Richter and Associates summarized the project.

It was November of 2008 when Tiller applied for a conditional use permit to reopen the sand and gravel mine. The part that is in the St. Croix River District would not be mined.

After each part is mined, the land would be graded, spread with topsoil, and seeded or planted. Six shallow depressions would be built and surface water directed to low areas, in order to recharge the ground water.

In December of 2008 Scandia completed the first step in studying the proposed mine’s environmental impact, the Environmental Assessment Worksheet. The council determined that further study was needed and in March of 2009 authorized the EIS.

The scope of the larger environmental study was laid out by April of that year, and in August the city signed a contract with AECOM to prepare the EIS.

The project advisory committee was also established.

In December of 2009, Tiller revised the mine proposal to remove all washing, processing, and stockpiling of sand and gravel at the Zavoral site. Instead, Tiller would haul the material to the company’s other mine in Scandia, located at 22303 Manning Trail, or directly to construction sites.

In January of 2010 the city revised the scope for the EIS.

The preliminary EIS was presented to the PAC for review in November of 2011.  Based on input from the PAC and public comments, the document was revised.

The draft EIS was delivered to the city council on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

How Many Trucks?

Trucks already haul sand and gravel through Scandia for Tiller Corporation.  Class C aggregate, the type found at the Zavoral site, is currently brought from Franconia and Osceola, WI, to the Tiller mine on Manning Trail.

If the Zavoral mine is opened, Class C aggregate from Zavoral only, not from Franconia or Osceola, will be trucked to the Manning Trail site. (Classes A and B will still be brought in from other locations as needed.)

The total amount of aggregate removed would be the same whether the mine is operated for 10 years or for one year, as would the total gravel tax paid to the city, estimated at $72,000.

The number of truck trips per day, however, would be higher for the one-year operation.

For the five- to 10-year alternative, at most 300 trucks might make at most 600 trips each day, for up to 12 weeks of each year.  The three- to five-year alternative has the same number of trucks, but for up to 18 weeks of each year.

The one-year alternative calls for a maximum of 368 trucks making 736 trips per day for 30 weeks of the year.

Hauling could occur from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. As Ness pointed out, that’s about one truck every two minutes.

If the one-year alternative is chosen, the truckers would need to use Lofton Avenue after dark. Currently trucks going to and from the Scandia mine on Lofton are restricted to daylight hours.

Next Steps

The EIS will be published in the EQB Monitor, a biweekly publication of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board that lists descriptions and deadlines for environmental assessment. It will also be mailed to government agencies.

By March 19 two Washington County libraries will have a copy: the Hardwood Creek Branch in Forest Lake and the Marine Library Express located in the Marine City Hall. The city office has two copies for public use.

Between now and May 18, public comments can be written, faxed, or e-mailed to the city. Oral comments will be recorded at the April 3 planning commission meeting.

The city is required to respond to any substantive comment. AECOM will use the comments to prepare the final EIS.

Then commenters will have a 10-day period to decide if the response was adequate.

Finally, the council will decide whether the EIS is adequate and recommend one of the four alternatives.

If the council votes to let the mine open, the conditional use permit application will be reviewed in a separate process. Mitigation measures suggested in the EIS can be incorporated into the conditional use permit to minimize the impact on noise, air and water quality, and home values.

The suggestions include building a new driveway access and right turn lane, installing warning signs at the intersection of the two state highways, and reconnecting the bike trail.

A maximum height is suggested for soil being piled for later use in restoration.

Monitoring the black ash swamp wetland, locating fuel tanks more than 500 feet from surface water, and placement of berms are also recommended.

The maximum amount of water used over 10 years is 10,000,000 gallons, because of a state limit of 1,000,000 gallons per year. The shorter durations would use less total water, but more water per year.

Also, the shorter the time frame, the lower the probability that a major storm would occur while the mine is operating.

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