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Dan Voss of Quality Sand Products responds to a question from Larry Happ, a member of La Salle’s planning commission, Wednesday night. QSP requested a zoning change for a 147-acre property north of Interstate 80 to start a sand mining operation.
This map shows the area of a proposed Quality Sand Products sand mine in La Salle, north of Interstate 80. The colored area is where the mining operation will be located. The blue area depicts an 80-acre section that will become a lake after the sand reserve is depleted. The roughly 20-acre yellow area would become available for redevelopment, based on current reclamation plans. The mining operation is expected to last 25-30 years. Submitted image
A new sand mine could be opening in La Salle in less than two months. La Salle’s planning commission met Wednesday night to consider a request from Quality Sand Products to rezone a roughly 147-acre property north of Interstate 80 near Route 178 in order to develop a sand mining operation. Unlike recent sand mine developments near Starved Rock State Park, this request received no opposing arguments from the public and received the planning commission’s positive recommendation after roughly three hours. The city council must now approve it before the project moves forward. The property’s location may have played a part in the relatively easy approval process. Surrounded primarily by farmland and with little topsoil above the sandstone, “It was a perfect piece of ground for this,” said Dan Voss, who runs QSP with his son, Josh. Commission members Alissa Gearhart and Jack Sadowski abstained from voting. All other members present voted in favor of the request. Gearhart said the commission didn’t have enough time to read all of the supporting evidence provided by QSP during the meeting. Sadowski declined to comment. A Joliet-area investment group currently owns the farmland property, but Voss will close on the sale once his project is approved by the city and relevant state agencies. Along with 25 years of experience in sand and gravel mining, the Vosses have operated a QSP sand drying plant in north Peru for about a year. The proposed sand mine is expected to produce 500,000 to 800,000 tons of sand each year, which will be hauled by truck to the Peru facility. The majority of it is shipped out of the area by train for industrial uses, particularly in the natural gas fracking industry. In order to move all of that sand, three trucks will be driving between the two QSP locations around the clock along I-80 once the mine is fully operational, which could be as early as this fall. Voss said initial work could begin by mid-March. “We look at this as a plus for our city for an area that would take a long time to be developed,” said Alderman T. “Boo” Herndon.
Improvements to the property Aside from the cost of purchasing the property, QSP will be investing about $7 million in the project. “We’re here to stay, this is not an in-and-out,” Voss said. Currently a small frontage road leads to the property past the defunct Frontier Lodge property and Hickory Hollow Campground. QSP will invest more than $600,000 to upgrade that roadway. Once completed, the company will pay the city 15 cents for every ton of product that leaves the mine with a 2 percent annual increase. Voss also said he intends to pay for half of any future roadwork in front of the site. “We’re going to maintain and plow our part of the road so the city doesn’t have to get back in there,” he added. There also likely will be more than $1 million spent on structures at the mine, including the wet process sand separation facility, a small office and a heated workshop. Although in a tax increment financing district, QSP will not be seeking TIF or enterprise zone benefits.
Working with the neighbors Voss said he has already spoken with neighboring property owners, including owners of Hickory Hollow Campground, which is directly east of the potential sand mine, about the project. Tree-covered berms will surround the property to prevent the mine from being an eyesore to neighbors. He also has spoken with neighbors about blasting at the site. It takes less of a charge to break up sandstone than limestone, Voss said, calling it “bumping” more than blasting. Still, neighbors will be notified of planned blasting days, which would occur about once a month. “The blasts last probably five seconds or something like that,” he said. In response to questions, Voss said he hasn’t had problems with the blasting at his other mines impacting neighboring wells. Kevin Heitz of Chamlin and Associates is the civil engineer for the project. He said they also have met with local water and soil preservation groups to discuss their goals of preserving the quality of the Pecumsaugan Creek corridor, which stretches through the western portion of the property. “It’s very important to La Salle, it’s very important to all the people here,” Heitz said. Voss said the property directly surrounding the creek will remain pasture land, which he will use for his horses.
New jobs The mining operation is expected to create 16-18 new jobs. “They’re good jobs, we’re somewhere in the $30 an hour range,” Voss said. Generally his workers undergo an apprentice program before reaching that pay-grade, he said. Because the mining process is highly technical, it can be expensive to train new employees. “When we get an employee we want a guy who is going to be there the full 30 years,” Voss said.
When the sand is gone Although the property is full of sand today, Voss estimates they will clear the site in 25-30 years – about three acres per year. Since the overburden soil above the sandstone is less than 10 feet and the mine will be clearing less than ten acres per year, a formal reclamation plan does not have to be filed with the county, but Voss and his team explained their plans for the site after the sand is exhausted. The mined area will be left as an 80-acre lake while the roughly 20 acres near the frontage road will be available for future commercial development. “Twenty acres would be a good-sized site,” said economic development director Don Aleksy in response to questions from the commission. The city will be allowed to have input on the reclamation plans, which will likely begin early in the mining process, Voss said. “You don’t do mine reclamation at the end. That’s the old way of doing things,” he said.
Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by:
This situation, that those not showing up to these meetings have no recourse to actions taken by leadership, strips the constituency of their voice and their power. Elected officials represent ALL the people, I thought. Is this assumption incorrect? This argument has been used at least twice in recent times, and I find it appalling and discriminatory. Because someone is working, incapacited, caring for their family, etc. they are denied their voice and representation? Silence is not tacit consent. This bullying by those who are elected to protect and provide for the common good is inexcusable. And I AM not the only voice in the public who tinks this way. Awaken to the needs of all, and blessings and abundance will flow to all, including you. We are all in this together.
Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
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These articles speak to those who have experienced the effect of local sand mining in Wisconsin and other areas: "Family Called “Collateral Damage” in Frac Sand Mining District" Posted on November 20, 2012 by Heidi Herron http://wivoices.areavoices.com/201
Is this what La Salle wants to be noted for? Although there was no representation at the meeting, there are many who are aware of the continued damage to the environment, people, animals, businesses and reputation.
We have the choice of what businesses we promote. Is this wise leadership for all?
We hold these people and companies accountable for the effects, good and bad, in the future. We are all responsible for what we create for ourselves and others.
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