Will there be a freeze?
Construction of underground pipelines discharging wastewater into waters in Faribault County could be put on hold.
And, that could affect Buffalo Lake Energy’s plan to pipe water used for cooling at its ethanol plant in Fairmont to the Blue Earth River in Faribault County.
The proposed moratorium is the result of nearly a one hour closed-session the five-member county board held on Feb. 25 by telephone with attorney Jay Squires of Ratwik, Rozak and Maloney in Minneapolis.
“It’s a way to protect ourselves and the county. We’ll disclose as much as we can of what was said,” Commissioner Tom Warmka said before closing the meeting to the public.
Also in the meeting behind closed doors with the commissioners were County Attorney Troy Timmerman, County Auditor-Treasurer John Thompson, Michele Stindtman and Brandee Douglas of the Soil and Water Conservation District Office.
When the meeting was re-opened, Timmerman would only say the strengths and weaknesses of legal strategies was discussed.
On a motion by Commissioner Tom Loveall, the board voted to schedule a public hearing at 1 p.m. March 17 in the commissioner’s meeting room to allow public comment on the proposed moratorium.
Following the meeting, Loveall hinted one option to the county may be to draft an ordinance for pipelines discharging wastewater.
“This has highlighted a weakness in our ordinances in that we don’t regulate underground pipelines,” he says.
Commissioners have a good indication how the public feels about the pipeline.
Commissioner Greg Young says he has received a lot of phone calls.
“Everyone I have talked to is opposed, 100 percent,” he says. “The impression people have is it’s Faribault County against the bad guys. It’s a universal thing and has unified the county.”
District 3 Commissioner Bill Groskreutz says while the pipeline would not affect the district he represents, many residents in Wells have contacted him.
“They’re really concerned, especially the sportsmen,” he adds.
Loveall says people who snowmobile along the river wonder if the wastewater could create a safety issue.
“I’ve gotten calls from people in Fairmont concerned about this,” he adds.
Bob Crockett, plant manager of the ethanol plant, was among the public at the meeting.
Crockett says a letter to the editor printed in the Feb. 28 Faribault County Register addresses any concerns the public may have.
“We don’t have anything additional to say. As we continue to gather facts we’ll have some to say in the future,” says Crockett.
Commissioners could decide whether to impose a moratorium at the March 17 hearing.
Loveall doesn’t believe discussion of a moratorium is a stalling tactic.
“It’s like a pause on your remote. It’s time for us to study the issue and the implications,” he says.
Warmka adds, “This is not to stop the pipeline. We have to study it.”
Loveall says the moratorium could be implemented for one year and extended for another.
“We’re following through the public process as it’s allowed.”