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home : opinions : opinions February 26, 2015


9/11/2013 1:37:00 PM
Economic juggernaut
The Rice Lake Chronotype

Much has happened since The Chronotype published its first special section on the frac sand industry 2 years ago, which in part is why we decided to follow up with another section focusing on what has taken place since that time.
With nearly 7 square miles of the county now either owned or leased by frac sand companies, it's clear predictions that frac sand mining would have a major impact on Barron County were correct. The mining activity is not only changing the hundreds of acres of fields and forests that are being mined at this time, but changing local economy as well. Tens of millions of dollars have been poured into the county to buy or lease land and build processing plants. Millions more are being paid to those who operate the mines, build and run processing plants and haul the sand between the mines and the plants. The injection of those additional dollars flowing through the local commerce has helped the county weather the recent economic doldrums that has affected much of the nation in recent years.
The most recent best estimates indicate that frac sand mining contributes some 560 jobs to the county's workforce. That number is far less than the 8,200 working in agriculture-related endeavors or even the 1,300 tourism employs. But it's remarkable how fast the number of frac sand jobs has grown in just 2 years.
The frac sand build up is the principal reason why Barron County was one of the leaders in terms of property value increase this past year, even though the state as a whole saw declining values. Because most of the investment in frac sand is taking place in just a few of the county's most sparsely populated townships, the impact of that development is magnified. We are only just beginning to see a shift in property taxes brought about by the many millions of dollars of manufacturing property now going onto local tax rolls. The shift should bring about substantial real estate property tax relief to homeowners and others.
But the other major reason for our frac sand follow up this week is the many issues surrounding this industry that haven't changed much in 2 years, including unanswered questions about the potential health and other environmental concerns. Town boards are still getting too little help from state or federal government in trying to protect the health, safety and livelihood of local citizens. Neighboring property owners are seeing the value of their properties undermined, and finding themselves having to live with the disruptions of noise, dust and increased traffic that go with the mining.
The frac sand boom is in some ways akin to the logging boom that brought the first settlers to this region back in the 1860s. It took more than 50 years before that boom faded, but there are many more uncertainties surrounding hydraulic fracturing that would make it doubtful that this boom will last as long. In that case it would be wise for the county-especially the townships where frac sand mining and processing has taken a strong foothold-to plan ahead for when the boom goes bust.

[The editorials that appear weekly in this space are the views of the newspaper as determined by The Chronotype's editorial board. All editorials are written by one or more members of the board, which consists of Warren Dorrance, Sam Finazzo, Gene Prigge and Eileen Nimm.]

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Article comment by: Randall R. Kniess

Again the Democrat biases of the editorial board paints the truth and then stumbles into the Progressives pig stye.

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