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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Porterfield To Meet May 1 On Quarry Issue

Issue Date: April 26, 2018

Biehl Construction plans to develop and operate a sand mine/rock quarry (a non-metallic mine) in the vicinity of County G and State Highway 180 near the Menominee River in the Town of Porterfield.

At a public hearing on closure plans for the quarry, conducted by the Marinette County Land Information Committee on Tuesday, April 9, and again at the Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, April 17, several nearby property owners and residents expressed strong opposition to construction of the facility near their homes.

They will have an opportunity to further discuss the issue at a special Town Board meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 1, at the Porterfield Town Hall.

Lynn Lowis, one of the property owners concerned about problems she feels the quarry operation will cause for her family, said the Town Board agreed in March to schedule a special meeting on the issue. She understands the town board also would ask the town attorney to be on hand to answer questions about legal options.

Lowis said in May of 2017 the town board adopted a nuisance ordinance governing things like noise, dust, etc. and she feels this could mitigate some of the effects of the gravel pit operation.

At the April 17 County Board meeting, County Administrator John LeFebvre, who formerly headed the Land Information Department and served as Zoning Administrator, explained the county's only authority on siting of the gravel pit was to approve or disapprove the closure plan. He said the towns could possibly regulate siting of mines, but at this point the county cannot. He said towns also can regulate times of blasting, noise, traffic, setbacks, etc., under local zoning ordinances. The reclamation plan includes provisions for sloped sides to a small man-made lake or pond on a landscaped site when time for closure comes.

There also was brief mention of need for materials that the limestone quarry will produce.

Nearby residents who spoke against the facility at the April 9 Land Information Committee public hearing included August Beres, Ken Vista, Richard Boettcher, James Dzurick, Jr., Alexander Dzurick, Lynn and Jerry Lowis, Diane Woods and Peter Sterath. Concerns included noise, run-off, blasting, monitoring, dust, effect on groundwater, and possible arsenic.

Eric Bulin commented that noise is monitored daily, and groundwater and air quality are also monitored regularly.

The committee then voted four to three to accept the Reclamation Plan. Voting in favor were FSA Representative Mary Noll and supervisors Penny Chaikowski, Fred Meintz and Clancy Whiting. Opposing votes were cast by supervisors Ted Sauve, Gilbert Engel, and Robert Holley.

Neighboring residents who addressed County Board on April 17 were Kaye Boetcher, Augie Berres, Lynn Lowis, and Diane Woods.

Boetcher urged a close look at the reclamation plan, and noted it says when closed it will be used for a pond or man-made lake, but does not say just how. She said there are no hydrogeology studies about the effect a 20 foot pond would have on surrounding groundwater.

"When we bought our home on the river seven years ago, not even eaves of our houses could be too close to the river," she said, and added that now there will be a pit just 900 feet from it, and the pit is just 300 feet from a densely populated residential area. "The reclamation bar is set pretty low," she declared. "Please do what is right!"

Berres showed a map of the area near the proposed pit, with many riverfront homes and back lots nearby. He said letters only went to people whose properties were within 350 feet of the proposed quarry. He noted Biehl's plans call for removing 18 inches of top soil and then 20 feet of limestone. Blasting will be required, and there will be rock crushing operations.

"We do need these kinds of mines in Marinette County, but put them in a different area, not here!" he said, adding they should be located farther from homes and subdivisions.

Berres wondered how many supervisors had looked at the area in question and commented, "You're elected - we expect you to look our for our interests."

Lowis said the proposed pit is 300 feet behind the home she and her husband bought about 12 years ago, and will "affect our property value and our quality of life!" She said they can either stay and listen to the noise, or sell at a loss because their property value will go down. "I understand there is no ordinance in Marinette County to stop this," she said, "and all they need to do is apply for DNR and other state permits"I can't believe we don't have a say in this!"

Woods was also very concerned about the impact on their property value. "We can already hear the blasting from the Biehl pit at Twin lake," she said. She supposed they could sell to get away from the noise and the dust, "but who is going to want to live that close to a gravel pit?"

County Board took no action in response to those concerns, but did support an ordinance change that put a 12-month moratorium on permitting and/or development of all metallic mines to give the county time to decide if they want to enact land use ordinances to regulate this.

He said in response to a state mandate the county adopted a non-metallic mining ordinance about 14 years ago that looks at plans for closure and reclamation. He recalled at that time about 100 gravel pit operators attended a public hearing in Crivitz to oppose the closure ordinance, but it was a state mandate and was approved by the county.

He said over the years Marinette County has issued permits for about 120 of these "mines" (popularly known as gravel pits) and about 80 of them still operate. Most are community sites, owned by the county or municipality.

He repeated, "The only purpose of this ordinance is that Marinette County holds these people to how they will reclaim their mines"We want to make sure the final closing, after reclamation, will not affect water quality or quantity." He added they also want sloped sides, "so if someone falls in they can walk out."He said whatever costs you add to plans for closing will be passed along to the county and the municipalities in the cost of the gravel they buy. He repeated that the county ordinance only sets closing regulations, ""the rest, noise, dust, blasting" are all land use issues regulated by zoning, and that is a Town of Porterfield responsibility."

To questions from Supervisor Al Sauld, LeFebvre said he does not believe the county could zone out this non-metallic mine, " don't think we can even zone out a metallic mine."

Sauld commented that Wisconsin Act 184, passed by this session of the state legislature, "pretty much gives mining companies free will in Wisconsin." The new law removed many of the rules that had made it nearly impossible to start a sulfide mine in Wisconsin.

"I really felt sorry for those people this morning," Sauld commented. "Their homes aren't going to be worth that much (after the quarry goes in). Maybe they'll think about that the next time they vote."


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