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LaSalle County Board votes to allow sand mining near Starved Rock

January 12, 2012 at 05:03 PM

The State Journal-Register

The LaSalle County Board approved a zoning change Thursday afternoon that would allow sand mining on 350 acres of farmland just east of Starved Rock State Park near Utica.

Mississippi Sand LLC of Maryland Heights, Mo. proposes to mine St. Peter sandstone for use in the oil and natural gas industry.

Opponents say the mining operation and the truck traffic, blasting and dust that goes along with it, would be a threat to tourism at the state’s most popular park.

They also says mining would cause ecological harm to natural areas and wildlife.

Mississippi Sand LLC president Tony Giordano has promised his company will be a “good corporate citizen” and work to minimize effects on Starved Rock.

The board considered a request from Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon to table the vote until her office had time to review transcripts and other information from meetings of the LaSalle County Zoning Board of Appeals.

Simon is head of the Illinois River Coordinating Council.

“I respectfully request that the County Board delay any action on the ZBA’s recommendation at this time,” she wrote. “It seems that prior to any final decision, the public, including the staff members in my office, should be afforded an opportunity to thoroughly review the public record.”

The board voted not to table the measure and then approved the special use permit.

The Department of Natural Resources owns and manages Starved Rock State Park and also administers the mining permit process – the next step for Mississippi Sand.

“Under the DNR umbrella, the office of Mines and Minerals serves as the state’s permitting authority for mining activity and continues to follow all laws governing the decision of whether to approve or deny any mining permit,” said Chris McCloud, DNR spokesman.

“While this particular proposal is unique in that it involves the agency as an adjacent land owner, ultimately the laws that govern the permitting process will be followed as they always are, and a decision will be made without bias or influence.”

McCloud said DNR already has made recommendations to the county board that would protect a high quality natural area in the vicinity of the mine.

Don Goerne of the Starved Rock Audubon Society was disappointed in the results of Thursday’s meeting.

Starved Rock Audubon has worked to rally opposition to the mine.

“There’s a dark cloud over Starved Rock today,” he said. “That’s just how I feel.

“I just hope DNR maintains strict oversight over the permit process.”

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.

Related stories

Sand mine near Starved Rock up for a vote Jan. 12

A sand-mining operation slated for land next to Illinois’ most visited state park has sparked controversy in LaSalle County. Mississippi Sand LLC of Maryland Heights, Mo., wants to mine St. Peter sandstone from a 350-acre parcel of farmland just east of Starved Rock State Park.

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