Committee backs hiring outside legal counsel to review county mining ordinance
Work estimated to cost $7,000 for analysis
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Oneida County’s Planning and Development Committee held a joint meeting Wednesday with the county’s Forestry, Land and Recreation Committee related to the county’s metallic mining ordinance and what effect a change in state law ending a moratorium on the issuance permits for sulfide ore mining might have on the ordinance.
A week earlier, the entire County Board attended a seminar for county and town officials in Minocqua that addressed the recent passage of that state legislation called the “Mining for America Act,” also known as 2017 Wisconsin Act 134 or Assembly Bill 499. Counties have been given until July 1 to adopt zoning regulations related to the law before it takes effect.
County Board chairman Dave Hintz provided the committee members present at Wednesday’s meeting with a cost estimate from the law firm of Mallery & Zimmerman that included having an attorney the county previously worked with related to mining law, William P. Scott, analyze the county’s metallic mining ordinance “to identify areas and instances of incompatibility” with state law, including the changes caused by Act 134.
Outside legal counsel is being considered to handle the matter because county corporation counsel Brian Desmond, who was also present for the meeting, said mining is a “fairly technical part of law” in which the corporation counsel staff would not have expertise.
“We’re not true environmental lawyers, as it were,” Desmond said.
As noted in the cost estimate from Mallery & Zimmerman, the analysis would be the first phase of work the firm could do for the county to determine where the metallic mining ordinance is unenforceable or vulnerable to a legal challenge. That work the firm estimates would cost $7,000.
The second phase of work the firm has offered to do is prepare suggested revisions to the ordinance for the county’s consideration and possible adoption with that work estimated to cost another $5,000 to $12,000.
Committee members discussed the possibility of looking at other firms and getting other proposals to see if the legal work could be done less expensively. However, given counties have five months left to adopt new regulations before Act 134 takes effect, members of the Planning and Development Committee unanimously supported the first phase to analyze the metallic mining ordinance and forwarded that recommendation to the county’s Administration Committee for its approval.
Mining had been an issue in the county more than seven years ago when a Mining Oversight/Local Impact Committee was formed with Tamerlane Ventures expressing an interest in exploring and possibly mining a mineral deposit on county forestland in the town of Lynne. That committee then disbanded with the company deciding not to pursue a mining operation there.