Backwater mining permit for lower Grey Cloud in March 2 Council packet

Posted 3/2/22

CITY ATTORNEY LAND ANSWERS PUBLIC COMMENT FROM SHARON O’BOYLE MADE AT FEBRUARY 2 COUNCIL MEETING Meeting March 2 at the City Hall, Cottage Grove’s City Council is due to consider a resolution to …

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Backwater mining permit for lower Grey Cloud in March 2 Council packet



Meeting March 2 at the City Hall, Cottage Grove’s City Council is due to consider a resolution to publish an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) and Draft Scoping Decision Document (SDD) for a prospective mining permit off Lower Grey Cloud Island. Readers can skip below for more details on the mining matter. Before getting to Lower Grey Cloud Island, though, there’s open forum response from February 2 to consider.

Every public comment, deserves a response. And while the one chosen to respond for the city can vary as those who read the online council packets know, the respondent to comments made February 2 by Mrs. Sharon O’Boyle at a Council meeting, was the City attorney, Korrine Land. O’Boyle raised several concerns which attorney Land set out to answer.

“Dear Mrs. O’Boyle,” the open forum response letter starts, “this letter is in response to your open forum comments at the February 2, 2022, City Council meeting. During the open forum, you inquired about the following: (1) when Council Members need to recuse themselves from a vote due to a conflict of interest, (2) who would bear liability in the event of a lawsuit related to the development of the Mississippi Dunes Golf Course property (the “Property”), and (3) who would be compensated for any sand that is removed from the Property.”

Having established the grounds, Land then moves to provide some answers.

First, and pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 471.87, Council members are individually prohibited “from taking part in a sale, lease, or contract, if the Council Member would personally benefit from the transaction.” In such a case, or such that the member “believes they cannot remain fair and impartial” in a matter coming before them,” they must recuse or withdraw themselves form the vote. Land then goes on to cite the case of Lenz v. Coon Creek Watershed Dist., 278 Minn. 1 (1967), as furnishing a guide for the matter. So far so good. But not everything is as clear.

“It is impossible to predict who would be responsible in litigation regarding the redevelopment of the Mississippi Dunes Property,” Land writes to O’Boyle, going on to say that the deal is a private land sale contract and the city is not aware of any litigation.

“The city is not a party to that private land sale contract, nor would the City be responsible for the site grading, construction, or use of the Property after the Property is sold, Land writes O’Boyle. “The City will ensure that any redevelopment project complies with the City’s ordinances and regulations and may memorialize certain terms and conditions in a Development Agreement. But, rest assured that as far as the redevelopment of this privately owned Property, the City will not be conducting any activity on the Property, and therefore has no liability nor responsibility for the outcome,” Land closes out the answer to O’Boyle’s second inquiry.

Finally, as to “Compensation for Sand Removal” at the former Mississippi Dunes golf course, Attorney Land writes that the, “City is unaware of any current agreements to remove sand from the Property. If such an agreement exists, the terms of that agreement, including any compensation for the sand, would be between the private parties to the agreement,” attorney Land writes O’Boyle, then thanking O’Boyle for her contribution to “the public conversation regarding the Mississippi Dunes redevelopment.”

As to the matter of sand, meanwhile, there is one other item on the Wednesday March 2 Council agenda of geological similarity and nearby to the Dunes on the docket: a resolution to approve an EAW and other documents related to a prospective mining permit for backwater operations on the southern tip of Lower Grey Cloud Island, roughly bordered to the north by Camp Galilee, a church camp outpost of the Minnesota District of the UPC.

The sand to be mined just south, meanwhile, is listed to PAS Associates LP out of Eagan Minnesota, and is worth more than you might think. The geological processes of sedimentation and deposition having already taken place in glacial days, the unofficial value for said sand as based on unofficial GIS posted values for affected parcels included with the mining permit, yields a value approaching $900,000, or $887,400 specifically in fair market value. So what’s the deposition history of the land in question?

Glad you asked. It starts long ago with Glacial River Warren, for which Grey Cloud Island forms the partial outwash plain, the river itself having long since melted. To make a long story short, Glacial River Warren followed the Minnesota and Mississippi River paths several thousands of years ago (but on a much broader scale than the present rivers), as the terrace of Grey Cloud Dunes indicates), and dumped the contents of its journey at the end of the line, in Cottage Grove. All that sand, can approach some 200 feet deep—which brings us back to the mining permit before the Council this March 2. First the proposal!

“Aggregate Industries MWR, Inc. (Aggregate Industries) is proposing to move its mine area, which supports the existing Nelson Sand & Gravel Mine Facility, onto an approximately 395-acre parcel of privately owned land that the company leases in the backwaters of the Mississippi River on Lower Grey Cloud Island. “The planned shift in mine area would take place during a 20- to 25- year period. Aggregate Industries has been mining at the existing Nelson Sand & Gravel Mine Facility since the early 1950s when the J. L. Shiely Company (now known as Aggregate Industries) entered into a lease agreement with the private landowner. A form of this lease agreement remains in place between the private landowner and Aggregate Industries today,” the proposal document states. With the sand reserves expected to exhaust themselves within approximately five years “given the current rate of mining, market trends, and geologic variations at the site,” the project requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) per State law, “as it exceeds the thresholds identified in Minnesota Statutes 4410.4400, subparts 9B and 9C.

But while the Cottage Grove Council anticipates publishing a Draft Scoping EAW and Draft SDD in the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) Monitor this March 15, the March 2 Council agenda will limit itself to a consideration of Resolution 2022-034 authorizing distribution of the Aggregate Industries Scoping Environmental Assessment Worksheet.

Sounds like an interesting meeting, or else geology lesson— if you’re into land and have the time.

The Council meets to decide the issue of EAW and SDD publication along with many other matters this March 2 at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers.