FRAC SAND FRACAS: Taylors Falls braces for truck traffic - KMSP-TV

FRAC SAND FRACAS: Taylors Falls braces for truck traffic

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TAYLORS FALLS, Minn. (KMSP) -

The regular hustle and bustle of one of Minnesota's most popular tourist towns is about to get turned up several notches, but residents aren't thrilled that a lot of the extra traffic will be for shipping sand for fracking projects.

Taylors Falls is a small community on the St. Croix River, but although the historic town only has about 1,000 people living there, an estimated 300,000 visitors stop by each year to take in the scenic views. Now, some are worried that an increase in truck traffic could have those travelers choosing other routes.

"There's just been a real uptick on what's coming through town already," Julie Hildebrand explained.

Locals say anyone who sits along the main drag can't help but notice the constant parade of trucks hauling frac sand from pits in Wisconsin to rail lines in Minnesota -- but they fear the worst hasn't even hit the road yet and the frac sand fracas is now unfolding on Facebook. 

FACEBOOK: Taylors Falls says NO

Hildebrand began the grassroots fight online after the mayor announced Monday that Superior Silica Sands -- which operates a brand new plant near Barron, Wis. -- wants to buy 30 to 40 acres to build a station to get the silica sand from trucks to the rail line in North Dakota. The only problem is that the route from Barron to North Branch goes right through Taylors Falls -- and that could put up to 200 more sand trucks through town each and every day.

"Our fear is it would be very busy and very dangerous and very loud," Hildebrand explained.

When the city first met with representatives from Superior Silica Sands two weeks ago, it was really just a courtesy because, legally, there's nothing anyone is doing wrong. That has left residents in Taylors Falls feeling a bit powerless, but the city administrator in North Branch told Fox 9 News that they understand residents' concerns and plan to hold public hearings while they negotiate with the company.

60 TRUCKS PER DAY TO NORTH BRANCH

Superior Silica Sands officials said they would be running trucks between Wisconsin and North Branch, Minn., initially on a test basis, with about 60 trucks per day.

“They said they would run one about every 10 minutes, and they wanted to know what we thought about that,” Taylors Falls Mayor Michael Buchite said at a city council meeting. “Of course, our response was we’re very concerned about one truck every 10 minutes going through our city because you’re not looking at just one truck every 10 minutes – you’re adding one truck every 10 minutes on top of the traffic that’s already here.”

WILL 60 TURN TO 200?

Superior Silica Sands told the mayor they were willing to work with the city on a solution.

“We’re certainly willing to work with anybody because that’s the right thing to do,” Buchite said. “But how long is it going to be before you ramp up from 60 trucks a day to 100 trucks a day to 200 trucks a day?”

The ultimate goal of Superior Silica Sands is to link to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight line to deliver frac sand to the oil fields in North Dakota. The company also sees its sand hauling as a job creator, using independent truck drivers instead of one large firm.

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