- Posted February 15, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Augusta, WI takes on frac sand mines
In an age where small town business is dying, the town businesses here are thriving…but threatened. Ironically, the biggest threat comes from what lies beneath the business district and all of the surrounding area--the very sand the town is built upon.
The number of sand companies that have bought land around the town of Augusta now is headed toward a dozen. Prospectors are sending letters to farmers offering big dollars for the family farms. Some properties are sold at 7-10 times their market values.
The newest proposition is for a frac sand mine to be built on a property adjoining an old dump site and to truck the sand directly through town. This sand mine will also be within 300 yards of the Eau Claire River. The downtown is lined with century-old, structurally unique buildings that may not withstand 350 eighty-ton truck passages per day. The sand mines provide no new revenue sources for the city and no tax dollars, but will run on roads of which the city bears 50% of the cost of repairs. 60-year-old sewer lines run underneath these streets. These, too will require fixing or replacing given the increase in traffic. Repairs alone could bankrupt the town. The city government is legislatively unprepared to handle the challenges arising from this new booming business. Yet, they have little recourse.
Governor Walker has been focused on bringing in the mines, adding jobs and increasing revenues for the state. Given the state’s pro-mining mindset, the town of Augusta and its businesses are left to fend for themselves with no laws on the books, no big city experience and no support from the state. The battle has been waged and sides chosen. Those in favor of preserving Augusta are determined to win.
A meeting will be held on the third floor of the Unity Bank building at 7PM on Monday, February 18, 2013 where city leaders, town board members and sand executives will square off and decide the ultimate fate of the little town and its sand.