Iron County Mining Impact Committee accepting reclamation ideas
HURLEY - Reclamation, the 2015 budget and a project update from Gogebic Taconite were discussed by the Iron County Mining Impact Committee Wednesday.
Committee chair Leslie Kolesar, of Saxon, said the goal is to have a reclamation plan in place by November to be included in the local agreement with G-Tac. Recently, the committee opened itself to ideas from county residents regarding reclamation at the proposed mine site near Upson.
"We already have some ideas coming in, which is exactly what we want," Kolesar said.
Ideas can be submitted to the county clerk's office by Oct. 11. They will be presented to the committee on Oct. 23.
Some ideas already discussed include use of the property for wind energy, a recreational vehicle park and non-motorized trails.
The challenge with reclamation, according to Kolesar, is ideas have to be "specific enough so the mining company knows what to do with the land, but broad enough to change things around if needed."
Another challenge is the waiting game.
"We have to be flexible in the local agreement, because you are not going to find someone wanting to invest now, but closer to the end of the project," Kolesar said.
Once an idea is selected, it will be presented to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to determine if it can be done environmentally, as well as to G-Tac, to see if it can be done economically.
Kolesarsaid she contacted Hurley and Mercer school districts to have students become a part of the process. Hurley eighth graders in earth science, as well as Mercer students, in the charter school, will include reclamation as part of their curriculum, and will come up with ideas.
"Let's keep ourselves open to recommendations on reclamation, and take it from there," Joe Pinardi, county board chairman, said.
The committee briefly discussed its budget request to the county. County clerk Mike Saari originally discussed changing the contractual services fee.
"Last year we had $100,000 in the budget and we only spent $81,000," Saari said.
After further discussion, it was decided to keep the request the same as the 2014 budget, totaling nearly $107,000.
The proposal will be presented to the Iron County Finance Committee for final approval before a budget hearing in November.
G-Tac president Bill Williams presented a project update, covering activities on the site since August.
According to Williams, weekly visits are made to bulk sampling sites by G-Tac and the DNR. Road construction has taken place, with the base rock and top coat in place from Moore Park Road to access monitoring wells at the site. And drainage work and erosion reduction efforts have been performed, per the design submitted to the DNR.
One topic of discussion was the field work on the site, which had to be cut short. According to Williams, plant and animal cataloging, delineation in wet areas, archeological classifications and data collection took place on site until mid-August.
Asked why the projects stopped, Williams said they couldn't be completed by deadline, often times meaning wasted time and funds.
"Basically, it was like trying to put eight pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack," he said. "We just tried to do too much."
Williams said the company had been busy providing tours of the site, including 16, with 117 visitors.
"We also participated in the Heritage Festival parade, by submitting a float, and sponsored various activities associated with summer events in the area," he said.