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Frac sand mine permits await results of review
Bridgeport proposal on hold
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“What I am looking over is the Pattison reclamation plan to make sure it complies with Town of Bridgeport ordinances and their comprehensive plan,” said Dan Dreessens of Delta 3 Engineering in Platteville. “My goal is to have a rough draft by Friday for review by the town board and Pattison to make sure the documented facts are correct.”

Delta 3’s review is the current step being carried out with Pattison Sand Company’s pending non-metallic mining permit and conditional use permit applications for a frac sand mine in Bridgeport Township on land leased from Rod and Sandra Marfilius, Earl and Amber Pulda, and Lee and Joan Pulda.

The engineering firm can only ensure compliance and cannot review the applications beyond the parameters set by township ordinance.

Dreessens planned to meet with the township counsel, Todd Infield, on Tuesday, Jan. 15, to make sure the review did not overstep legal bounds.

The engineering firm, which works largely with municipalities and businesses on site work, was chosen based on their reputation for work with municipalities, according to Bridgeport Township Clerk and Plan Commission Member Linda Smrcina. Smrcina believes the review will be complete by the end of the month and will be discussed by the plan commission at their February meeting.

The proposed mine has run into local opposition with the formation of Bridgeport Concerned Citizens, which has gathered approximately 150 signatures in opposition to the mine from Bridgeport residents, and another 40 or 50 from people outside the township, primarily from Crawford County.

“Agendas weren’t being posted with enough time for the community to find out about the meetings,” said Edie Ehlert, Executive Director of Crawford Stewardship Project, a locally based environmental organization seeking to support the Bridgeport group. “We are pleased at the formation of this group of stalwart citizens, who are seeking to work with local government to ensure a thorough review of the application and to educate members of their community. They are really working for more open government.”

The applications have more hurdles than local government to clear. They still have to receive approval from the Lower Wisconsin Riverway Board, as portions of the proposed mine reside within their purview. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has assigned an attorney to discuss legal questions about the boards authority and Riverway regulations pertaining to nonmetallic mining. Clarification is being sought, as there is a conflict in interpretation of the law and administrative code.

Specifically, LWRB is seeking answers to the questions of “whether a prohibition on new non-metallic mining is still in force” and if not, “is the LWRB required to issue a permit to the Pattison Sand Company if the standard conditions are met regarding the visibility of the mine operation from the Wisconsin river when the leaves are on the deciduous trees?”

The LWRB board will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 29 in Muscoda to meet with the attorney.

“Right now everything is on hold,” said Arnie Steele, one of the organizers of Bridgeport Concerned Citizens. “The application has been delayed temporarily while the Riverway Board sorts out legal issues. We had an attorney from Eau Claire, Mr. Stoddard, who reviewed the town ordinance and mine applications and found that the ordinance does not allow frac sand mining in Bridgeport.”

That attorney, Glenn Stoddard, wrote the Nonmetallic Mining Ordinance for the Town of Cook upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Feb. 8, 2012.

Stoddard stated in his review that the township could not grant the conditional use application as it was asking for variances based on self-imposed hardships and that frac sand mining was not in accordance with the purposes and intent of the Town of Bridgeport zoning ordinance.

That opinion has been turned over to Infield, the town’s attorney, for review as well.

Steele is hopeful that his group can achieve their goal of stopping the mine from happening and that they will see greater transparency from the township government.

“After talking with one of the (township) board members, he said he would vote against the applications if the majority of the township didn’t want it,” Steele continued.  “So, we’ll have to keep working on getting out there and talking to people, making sure they are heard.”

Several members of Bridgeport Concerned Citizens were nominated in last week’s caucus for positions on the town board, according to Steele.

“I guess we’ll see what that means come April,” Steele said.

For now, everyone involved is in a waiting mode. Until the reviews are complete, the next plan commission meeting will not be set, nor is the town board expected to discuss or act upon the applications.

“It’s hard when you’re just sitting in limbo,” said Smrcina, the village clerk. “You want to be able to move forward, however that is. Until we get the report from Delta 3 Engineering and hear from our attorney, we can’t do anything.”