Proposed industrial sand facility would destroy acres of pristine wetlands
Jan 05, 2017
A new industrial sand facility proposed by Meteor Timber is getting a lot of attention for its plans for record-setting wetlands destruction, potential harm to threatened and endangered species, and the company's attorney’s political contributions and connection to Jackson County government.
The project first got our attention last summer when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a notice of its proposal to fill a very large area—over 16 acres*—of pristine forested wetlands. This includes 13 acres of pristine hardwood swamp, which provides “important ecological functions that are hard to duplicate,” according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Meteor Timber’s project is within the known range of several threatened and endangered species, including the Karner Blue Butterfly and the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.
Since 2008, the DNR has allowed 60 industrial sand facilities to fill 26 acres of wetlands. But if the Meteor Timber project proceeds as proposed, it would increase Wisconsin's loss of natural wetlands to frac sand facilities by 60%.
And while Meteor Timber insists that the project will have an overall net environmental benefit—pointing to proposals for wetland mitigation and environmental projects—we question any plans that would destroy pristine habitat in exchange for improving or protecting land that may never truly replace lost, natural ecosystems. Further, it is very concerning that some of the wetlands Meteor would destroy were just recently improved by the current landowner as mitigation for other wetlands that the landowner illegally destroyed.
As of now, Meteor Timber still needs to convince the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a permit to build over these wetlands. While the Corps public notice and comment process is complete, it has not yet issued a wetland permit to Meteor Timber. We sent comments to the Corps in partnership with the Ho-Chunk Nation this summer. In December 2016, the DNR requested additional information from Meteor Timber and indicated that the DNR would not put the application out for public notice until the DNR deems the application complete.
Meteor Timber’s full application and correspondence with the DNR is available on the DNR’s website.
For more information, check out recent reporting on Meteor Timber’s proposal. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on this proposed facility and its application to destroy wetlands and the Associated Press shared the news. We also spoke to WIZM talk radio in La Crosse. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported on political contributions by the attorney for Meteor Timber and a potential conflict of interest given the law firm’s simultaneous representation of both Meteor Timber and Jackson County, the county in which part of Meteor Timber’s facility will be located.
*An acre is about the size of a football field and its sidelines. The proposal's 16.6 acres of wetlands is larger than the land under the Wisconsin State Capitol (13.5 acres)