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Frac sand mining leaves devastation

I commend The Daily Iowan for attempting to provide coverage of the recent presentation by the Allamakee County Protectors, which has been raising an alarm about the threat to our natural environment posed by the relatively sudden emergence of “frac sand” mining in Wisconsin and Northeast Iowa (DI, “Group Resists Fracking,” Dec. 11).

However, readers of the article might have been a bit confused about what is actually already happening and what is threatening to happen in the near future. The actual fracking process has been adopted in a number of areas such as Texas and North Dakota to extract oil and gas from the ground. This process has been controversial in its own right, but that is not quite what is happening in our area.

Instead, what we are seeing is the mining of fine sand from the hills and bluffs of Wisconsin and Iowa to provide the particular kind of sand used in the fracking process in other parts of the country.

What this means in practice is the complete removal of hills and bluffs, some of them hundreds of feet high, and their reduction to desolate gravel pits. There were five of these mines in Wisconsin in 2010; today there are 115 mines, and the number is likely to grow. And this “mountain-top” removal mining is happening in Clayton County and threatens to advance in Allamakee County.

In addition to the obvious threat that this poses to the extraordinary natural beauty of northeastern Iowa, this destruction threatens both air and water quality, poses risks to the aquifers we all depend upon for our water, and undermines property values for property owners in the vicinity of these mining operation.

We are told that these operations will provide jobs, but how many and for how long? Once these limestone and sandstone hills and bluffs have been obliterated, the mining will go, leaving a shattered, devastated landscape, a once-beautiful country reduced to a vast gravel pit. Is this what we really want for our state? For our environment?

Iowans who are concerned about this issue need to contact www.allamakeecountyprotectors.com; check out the video “Frac Sand Land,” and contact local political leaders and the Governor’s Office to let them know: We do not want to allow northeastern Iowa to be physically and permanently destroyed. Say no to this planned destruction of our natural environment while there is still time.

Scott R. Grau

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