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Minnesota River Valley site eyed for protection likely to be mined

OLIVIA -- A rock outcrop in the Minnesota River Valley being eyed for inclusion in a protective easement program is likely to be mined instead.

The Renville County Board of Commissioners was told Tuesday that the county's Planning Commission had unanimously recommended approving a conditional use permit to allow hard rock mining at the approximately 40-acre site in Section 28 and Section 33 of Flora Township.

Mark Erickson, director of environment and community development for the county, said the Planning Commission found that the mining proposal met county and state requirements. It heard no opposition at a Jan. 26 public hearing. He said a number of neighbors of the site attended the hearing but had no comments, which he described as "somewhat unusual.''

Duininck Bros. Inc. of Prinsburg and the site's owner, Thomas Breitkreutz, of Renville, are seeking the conditional use permit to allow hard rock mining operations there. The site will have a projected 20 years of use, according to Erickson.

The Planning Commission is recommending its approval with conditions. They include limiting blasting to three or four times a year, and that traffic from the site be restricted to County Roads 15 and 3 in the vicinity of the quarry.

The operators will also need to replace a small wetland on the site.

The county is not requiring that an environmental assessment worksheet be completed on the project, but it had earlier asked the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to conduct an assessment of the site. Erickson said the DNR reported that the area to be mined holds a number of plant species that are "unique'' to Minnesota, but none that are currently listed as endangered.

The site is in the Minnesota River Valley, but outside of the boundaries of the corridor designated as Wild and Scenic, an area in which hard rock mining activities are prohibited by state law, according to Erickson.

The Renville County Soil and Water Conservation District had identified the site as one it would like to have included in a protective easement program, according to Tara Latozke of the Soil and Water Conservation District staff.

There are endangered plants on rock outcrops being protected near the site proposed to be mined, she told the commissioners.

Renville and Redwood counties have been using state grant funds to acquire easements from willing landowners to protect rock outcrops in the Minnesota River Valley. The effort aims to protect the outcrops for their scenic beauty as well as the unique and rare plant communities that exist on them.

The County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on the conditional use permit at its next meeting.