Oneida County committee to tackle mining ordinance revision
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
The Oneida County Planning and Development Committee will take a second look April 4 at a draft memo from William Scott, the attorney hired to identify deficiencies currently in the county’s metallic mining ordinance Wisconsin Act 134, the new state law which removed the mining moratorium, goes into effect July 1 and counties have until then to adopt zoning regulations related to the law.
Committee members received the draft just prior to a March 28 closed session meeting to confer with legal counsel regarding the ordinance. After returning to open session, committee chairman Scott Holewinski suggested scheduling another meeting for discussion.
“I don’t think any of us really know what we want to talk about until we read this and study it,” he said, adding that though he wants to keep “as much (of the ordinance discussion) in open session as possible,” the memo from the attorney could not be released to the public, he said, without permission from the entire county board. A resolution to give the Planning and Development Committee the authority to waive that privilege relating to the metallic mining ordinance update is on the agenda for the April 4 meeting.
County Corporation Counsel Brian Desmond explained that attorney Scott has identified some deficiencies in the existing ordinance that “need to be amended, changed or rewritten in some way, shape or form,” and also noted there are two or more possible routes the changes to the ordinance can take.
Desmond said one option is to include everything the committee wants to address, such as wetlands and financial responsibility, saying, “we can go through and include all of those regulations.”
Another route would be to include only a portion of the special areas of concern, Desmond suggested to the committee, and allow mining companies and towns to enter into “local agreements, whereby you can tailor your regulations to that mining project.”
Committee member Jack Sorensen said he wanted to go on record as being “vehemently” opposed to going into closed session on this matter and argued that property owners have a basic right to say no to mining on their property.
“I believe that Oneida County, as the owner of county forestland, could do just exactly the same thing,” Sorensen said. “By a decision of the county board, say no, you’re not gonna mine on our property.”
Several audience members, who had the opportunity to speak, also urged the county to prohibit mining on Oneida County land.
“The one thing you can do to save people in the county a lot of grief is to keep the county forests closed to metallic mining,” Karl Fate told the committee.
The site of the only sulfide deposit of any significance in the county is located in the town of Lynne. Resident Jeff Brown told the committee that in 2012 the board stated that “mining was no longer a policy goal in Oneida County.”
“There are 35,000 land owners (in the county) the way I look at it,” Brown said. “And maybe there are only 300 of us in that area but it is our back yard and we’ll fight hard for it. Other areas of the county will be affected just as soon as that water, that might be polluted, runs to Nokomis and leaves the Willow Flowage.”
“I’m just hoping you give some consideration to the fact that we’ve beat this horse to death,” Brown concluded to applause from the audience.
In 1990 Noranda Minerals reported finding 5.6 million tons of zinc, lead ore, gold and silver in Oneida County forestland in the town of Lynne. After that company backed out due to vocal opposition, Tamerlane Ventures took interest in mining exploration in 2009. In 2012, the board voted 12-9 in favor of no longer pursuing the mining process.