The city of Scandia approved a significant step in the proposed Tiller/Zavoral gravel mine on Sept. 25. The city council voted 4-1 to accept the proposal’s environmental impact statement (EIS), which says the mine will not have any “significant impacts.”
The mine would be located on a bluff above the St. Croix River at the intersection of Highways 96 and 97. Local residents have been protesting the mine plan, emphasizing concerns about heavy truck traffic in the rural community, noise which could be heard on the river, and the possibility of water pollution.
Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway experts raised issue with the noise the mine would cause, as Minnesota Public Radio News reported:
Jill Medland, with the National Park Service, said the environmental review is inadequate because it ignores noise standards designed for the National Scenic Riverway, and instead uses state standards.
“Those particular noise standards would allow for such an increase in noise levels on the riverway that two people canoeing side-by-side would not be able to carry on a conversation,” Medland said. “We believe that clearly, such an increase in noise levels is not applicable to the riverway.”
The Forest Lake Times reported:
All who spoke at the public hearing urged the council not to accept the EIS, saying it failed to adequately address traffic, noise and water quality concerns.
Before voting, the council made sure that any future conditional use permit for the mine could include additional mitigation measures, not just those listed in the EIS.
Council members also discussed mechanisms for halting mining, in case something catastrophic happens or the city is dissatisfied with the operation. In addition to a conditional use permit, the city issues an operating permit each year. The annual operating permit can be withheld until problems are resolved.
Council members who voted yes indicated that they question some conclusions in the EIS, but felt that it is time to move on.
The debate is not over yet, though. The company must now apply for a conditional use permit. There will then be a public hearing held by the city’s Planning Commission, the earliest possible date for that is November 7. From there, the permit would go to the full city council.