Scandia releases Zavoral EIS

Mary Bailey
Staff Writer

Before an audience of about 35 residents, government officials, and mine representatives, on Aug. 8 the Scandia City Council voted 4 to 1 to release the final draft of the environmental impact statement for public comment.

The proposed Zavoral Mine is located east of the intersection of TH-95 and TH-97, between TH-95 and the St. Croix River.  Tiller Corporation proposes to reopen the dormant sand and gravel mine.

The question before the council was whether they considered the EIS adequate. “I still have misgivings about the traffic situation and mining depth,” said Council member Chris Ness after casting the lone no vote.

Mayor Randall Simonson and Council members Connie Amos, Jim Schneider and Sally Swanson voted to OK  the EIS.

Council questions

Schneider asked about the plan to leave 1.17 acres of paved road after the land is reclaimed.  City Planner Sherri Buss explained that persons monitoring the prairie and woodland need access.

Swanson asked about the mining depth average of 15 feet and maximum of 70 feet. The maximum was determined from the elevation at the deepest digging, according to AECOM, the city contractor hired to prepare the EIS.

Simonson asked what the “no build” option means: “Is anything going to change, or will it sit there as it is?” The AECOM response was that there are no known proposals for the site, and any proposal would have to go through a permit process.

Simonson also asked about the right-hand turn lane, for north-bound traffic on TH-95 going into the mine.

“What is the purpose?” he asked. “Trucks are going straight across.” Most of the mining trucks would be using TH-95 north of the intersection, TH-97 west of the intersection, and the mine entrance east of the intersection.

Mike Caron of Tiller Corporation said that was added by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “They said any time they authorize intersection changes, they require a right-turn lane,” he said.

Highway 97 already has a right-turn lane for east-bound traffic turning south onto Highway 95.

Public input

Kristin Tuenge, speaking for the group Take Action—Conserve Our Scandia, said “with all due respect to AECOM and the city, we are very disappointed in the document and in the responses to comments.”  Tuenge said comments were not taken seriously, and responses were not specific.

“We believe the EIS was prepared on behalf of Tiller, with their best interests in mind,” she said.

Bill Clapp, of the St. Croix River Association, asked about the proposed mining depth. The document does not explain how the projected average depth of 15 feet was calculated, he said, and does not clearly show how deep the digging will be, with different illustrations indicating 50, 60 or 70 feet.

“Whether 50, 60 or 70 feet, it’s a deep hole,” Clapp said.

He criticized the discussion of future land use, a cluster development of 20 single-family homes. “I think that is goofy,” he argued. “Put 20 homes in a 60-foot hole?  Nobody would want to live there.”

Clapp recommended the council not accept the document, but send it back for clarification of depth and end use issues.

Chauncey Anderson, who owns property on Quinnell Avenue near the mine, said trucks crossing TH-95  will need a stoplight.

Pam Arnold asked the council what it means for them to be the responsible government unit “for a decision that will impact a national park that is tantamount to Yellowstone?”

Next steps

The EIS will be published in the EQB Monitor, the biweekly publication of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board. It will be distributed in CD form to government agencies and everyone who submitted substantive comments on earlier drafts.

The final comment period is Aug. 20 to Sept. 10.

The council will hold another special meeting on Sept. 25 to determine whether the final EIS is adequate.

If so, the environmental review process for the mine will be complete, and the city can begin work on the conditional use permit application. If the council finds the EIS to be inadequate at that point, the city has 60 days to make revisions.