Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sustainable St. Croix,
part of a continuing series
Chisago County sand bur

As soon as we settle on an "official" name for our Little Free Library, we'll be able to complete the registration process and do some more promotion. The corner where it sits has now been mowed and paving blocks make a path to the library. (I just hope the narcissus come back next Spring.) Maybe we can find some free or very inexpensive copies of Wilhelm Moberg's The Emigrants series to put on the shelf, or maybe one of the neighbors might leave some. That might help draw a small crowd.

A mowed front yard for the Little Free Library in the Woods
A mowed front yard for the Little Free Library in the Woods    © harrington

Speaking of neighbors, our neighbors in both Taylors Falls and North Branch might be interested to know that the Land Stewardship Project has produced a fact sheet on Frac Sand Mining A Threat to the Land, People and Communities. (full disclosure: I've been a member of LSP for years, ever since the had Wendell Berry here to do a reading.) On transport, the sheet notes that hauling is

A Threat to Roads and Safety

          Hauling frac sand from mining sites requires a major increase in truck traffic on rural roadways (loaded frac sand semi-trucks weigh up to 40 tons). Two mines proposed near St. Charles, Minn., would generate an estimated 1,200 truck trips per day, and they are among a cluster of other mines proposed in the immediate area by the same company. In the city of Wabasha, Minn., a major frac sand transfer facility is being proposed that would mean hundreds of frac sand trucks coming from Wisconsin and travelling through residential areas and past a nearby hospital.
          Besides crowding roadways, risking public safety, and producing massive amounts of diesel fume exhaust (considered a major human health risk), this increased truck traffic places an economic burden on already over-extended local units of government that are responsible for maintaining roadways.
As I've been working my way through the feasibility study for a National Heritage Area for the North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix, I note that one of the fundamental goals of such an initiative would be to:
 Create sustainable economic opportunities based on our region’s heritage to enhance communities, livability, and quality of life This would be accomplished by linking economic growth with resource stewardship and sustainable practices. Culture and recreation will be promoted as economic drivers, and a focus on heritage development will result in the creation of new jobs and innovative opportunities. One element of this is using shared heritage and stories to guide tourism and to thoughtfully attract visitors throughout the region to reduce impact on the special resources now more frequently visited and bring exposure and economic benefit to those areas that seek it.
There is also mention of a cooperative, regional approach to increasing economic development in the watershed. I think it would be really unfortunate if frac sand mining and transport turned out to be a skunk in the woodpile that stunk up the possibility of future cooperation among the communities in the watershed. The Taylors Falls folks who don't want more frac sand truck traffic have a Facebook page and a MoveOn petition. Some of the North Branch residents are reported to be in opposition also. Since North Branch already has an Industrial Sands drying and screening and rail shipping operation, and the folks that run that note on their web site that
In addition to processing our own industrial sands, Barton Industrial Sands is positioned to work with others to provide custom screening solutions to deliver products to markets in partnership with others.
I suppose it would be entirely too logical to hope that Barton and SSS could cut a deal. Of course, that wouldn't get North Branch their $1 million or so they hope to reap by selling some property to SSS.

Heritage Park in Taylors Falls overlooking the St. Croix River
Heritage Park in Taylors Falls overlooking the St. Croix River © harrington

As a resident of Chisago County, wherein both North Branch and Taylors Falls are located, I wish there were a mechanism (and some leadership) to negotiate some sort of a regional answer, kind of as a practice run for future cooperation. Or, do you suppose a threat to extend the Metro Council's Fiscal Disparities tax base sharing program to Chisago County would bring folks to their senses? Sand seems to have a way of bringing out less than the best in us, even according to Lillian Moore.

Mine

By Lilian Moore 
I made a sand castle.
In rolled the sea.
            "All sand castles
            belong to me—
            to me,"
said the sea.

I dug sand tunnels.
In flowed the sea.
            "All sand tunnels
            belong to me—
            to me,"
said the sea.

I saw my sand pail floating free.
I ran and snatched it from the sea.
            "My sand pail
            belongs to me—
            to ME!"


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