Monday, October 21, 2013

Proposed State Sand Mine Bill Would Limit Town Board Powers

Little Falls town board hearing on sand mining last summer
A proposed bill that would take away a tool that townships have used to regulate sand mining is getting a thumbs down from local town officials as well as the head of the Wisconsin Towns Association.

"I think it stinks," said Wayne Tuchalski, chairman of the planning commission for the Town of Little Falls, which has an ordinance governing sand mines.

"I think it's a bad idea to take away power from the townships," said Gail Chapman, chairman of the town of Adrian. Chapman said he had sold land to a sand mine.

"I oppose this very much, it just don't make any sense that they'd want to step in now," said Steve Witt, former town chair of the Town of Greenfield. Witt was instrumental in negotiating an ordinance that includes payments of $250,000 annually to the town based on the mine's production, said:

Witt said that he was "90%" sure that the town's agreement with Unimin would stand even if the bill passes.

And Rick Stadelman, executive director and attorney for the Wisconsin Towns Association, said that the association was having a conference call today about the bill and that he would recommend opposing it.

"Clearly the pre-emption of local control is something we can't agree with," Stadelman said. "There are several provisions that cause great concern to us based on the pre-emption of local control."

Stadelman said that the implications of the bill extend beyond sand mining.

LRB 3146, proposed by Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R) would limit townships' abilities to regulate nonmetallic mining, the category into which sand mining falls. According to an analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau, towns will not be able to enact an ordinance  that applies to nonmetallic mining, unless it were through a zoning ordinance or a nonmetallic mining reclamation ordinance. Thirteen of the 24 townships in Monroe County do not have zoning, meaning the law would eliminate their ability to regulate sand mining.

Licensing ordinances have been a highly effective way for municipalities to regulate sand mining. The town of Little Falls is one example of a township that has used licensing as a way to regulate a sand mind that Mathy Construction is building in the town.

Tuchalski, who was instrumental in creating the Little Falls sand mining ordinance, said that one of its most important provisions is water quality.

"Our ordinance was that no sand mine can come in and undermine the water table," he said. "If they pass that bill, that'll be exempt. And if we don't have decent water up here, no one can live."

Concerned? Here's contact information for your state representatives:

Monroe County
Sen. Jennifer Shilling
Sen. Julie Lassa, 608-266-3123,
Amy Sue Vruwink, 608-266-8366,

La Crosse County

Jackson County 
Senator Kathleen Vinehout, (608) 2668546,
Amy Sue Vruwink, 608-266-8366,
Chris Danou, (608)

If you're outside those areas, please go to and punch in your zip code to find out who your senator and representatives are. 

Click here for additional coverage.

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