Last December I found the house of my dreams, on Osceola’s Ridge Road. I’d come to know and love the Osceola and East Farmington area, especially the St. Croix River bluffs and the Standing Cedars Land Conservancy trails, since buying a small farm in Osceola Township in 1987. The proximity to Watershed Café, my favorite restaurant in the world, and the many organic CSA’s and dairy farms nearby, added to the allure. 

But then, after having the house inspected, just when I was about to make an offer, a friend in Franconia, Minnesota asked me if I’d heard about the “frac sand controversy in Osceola.“ No, I hadn’t. “They’ve turned the Rybak gravel pit into a frac sand mine,” he said. I couldn’t believe my ears. After a few inquiries, I backed out of the purchase. 

I believe the North 40 frac sand mine should never have been permitted. The area’s groundwater, property values and quality of life are being destroyed by the mine. It’s too close to more than 20 nearby homes and the Osceola Medical Center (Ladd Memorial Hospital). It’s too close to Cascade Falls and the historic center of Osceola (less than a mile). It’s too close to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (just a quarter mile). 

The mine is an ugly, noisy, open pit, blasting, churning and digging (“wet-mining”) from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The miners dig below the area’s groundwater, the source of drinking water for all the homes on Ridge Road. The mine is a desecration of the Standing Cedars Land Conservancy, which is a sacred and historic meeting ground of the Ojibway and Dakota people. The frac sand mine is completely out of place in its present location. That the town is considering permitting North 40 to expand into the adjacent 200 acres, right next to the hospital, is an outrage. The mine should be shut down.

We are living through a global pandemic that some are saying may be worse than the Great Depression. We have no idea what kind of world there will be after this crisis, or what role, if any, oil and gas fracturing and frac sand mining will play in the future. It may not have any role at all. Half the frac sand mines in Minnesota and Wisconsin had gone bankrupt, or shuttered their operations, in the last two years, even before the Covid-19 pandemic destroyed the global oil and fracked gas business. The North 40 miners would be foolhardy to expand the mine, and the Farmington town board would be irresponsible to allow them to do so. 

Please help your neighbors on Ridge Road protect their groundwater, their property values and the scenic beauty of the greater Osceola and Farmington area. If you are a Town of Farmington resident, call your supervisors and express your concerns about having a frac sand mine in the Township. If you live in the Village of Osceola, participate (remotely) in their village board meetings. Ask your Village Trustees to implement Extra-Territorial zoning to shut the mine down. And please join the St. Croix River Communities Against Frac Sand Mining on Facebook to learn more. 

Eric Utne 

(formerly of Osceola Township)

now of Saint Paul, Minn.


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