|1/29/2015 3:58:00 PM|
Superior Silica Sand not pursuing plant in North Branch; trucking routes,
bypass still need study
Superior Silica Sands CEO Rick Shearer says the opening last month of the company’s Arland, Wisconsin facility has allowed SSS to “move on.” But, county and local officials are still considering undertaking a truck hauling study originally meant to resolve issues related to a Superior Silica Sands project proposed in North Branch.
Shearer told the Press, “...not to say we’ll never be back (looking) at North Branch” but Superior is pursuing “other options” for accessing rail lines.
SSS (a subsidiary of Emerge Energy Services) opened its 2.5 million ton plant in December at Arland, in Barron County, and Shearer explained that this is working out for transport of sand mined in west Wisconsin.
SSS found itself at the hub of too much community conflict, according to Shearer. He added, “We pride ourselves on being positive contributors to the local communities where we operate,” and the political turmoil over the potential for heavy truck traffic between Wisconsin and North Branch, via Taylors Falls, was enough to put the North Branch project on the back-burner.
North Branch city officials had asked SSS executives for some time to work things out with neighboring communities on the haul route, leaving no real option but for SSS to pull back. He added. “It made a lot of sense to us at the time...we were very interested in the terminal at North Branch.”
The MN PCA confirms there’s no SSS permit review happening in-house for a facility in North Branch.
With Arland, and dry plant operations at Independence, Superior has signed multi-year contracts, with 8.2 million tons (sand) annually under contract, according to a news release.
Shearer observed that the prospect of intensive use of routes by sand trucks hauling to North Branch, is not going to resolve itself, as other mine operations look to transport silica sand out of North Branch. Mines not affiliated with SSS, “...continue to feed the North Branch sand processing facility,” he added.
Perhaps the current sand hauling presence is less intense than what SSS had proposed, or trucks are currently avoiding downtown Taylors
Falls, or have dispersed haul trips onto more than one main route-- but transport on Chisago County routes is ongoing, he said.
The county engineer, county administrator and various city and township officials, between the Wisconsin border and North Branch, have met once, to discuss doing a study of trucking routes and a “by-pass” project to skirt mainstreet Taylors Falls.
According to county administrator Bruce Messelt, the county is probably going to be lead agency for the study, along with contracted consultants.
County Engineer Joe Triplett, in his monthly report to the County Board, also explained, “...there is still plenty of interest in the potential implications brought about by(the first Superior plan).”
Administrator Messelt described local officials desiring a “30,000 foot view” of truck routes throughout Chisago County, due to general growth in interstate trucking and the potential for silica sand stockpiles on county routes because of our proximity to mines.
County Commissioner Mike Robinson asked last week, after Messelt presented the concept of a study, whether the Board was being requested to authorize the study now.
Messelt said that it was just for County Board information at this point, and he’s asking commissioners to think about spearheading the study.
Robinson responded, “Good, because if I was voting now I’d be voting no.”