Mine-1.tif

An aerial overview shows the approximate location of the Skunk Hollow Mine and its stormwater features in proximity to Green Lake and surrounding water resources. Groundwater flows from the proposed mine site northwest, toward Green Lake.

The Skunk Hollow Mine will not move forward after a Green Lake County Board of Adjustment meeting today (Thursday).

Asphalt materials company Kopplin & Kinas proposed operating a quarry to extract limestone at the corner of County Highway K and Brooklyn G Road. The non-metallic mining operation would impact about 30 acres of the 40 acre site.

Ten acres would be an active quarry with limestone extracted to 5 feet above the elevation for the spring orifice on White Creek, or 5 feet above the sandstone layer underneath the limestone.

The Green Lake County Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the Skunk Hollow Mine in July, enabling the project to move forward.

Under state law, if a CUP applicant meets or agrees to meet all of the requirements and conditions in the town or county ordinance, the CUP must be granted.

The Green Lake Association (GLA), Green Lake Sanitary District, Green Lake Conservancy and local landowner Ernie Neuenfeldt filed a lawsuit to appeal the CUP.

Due to the appeal, the county Board of Adjustment met today to reassess the CUP and determine whether Kopplin & Kinas could move forward with the Skunk Hollow Mine. The board was required to rely on the testimony during the hearing to make a decision.

Environmental concerns

Chief among the concerns is the environmental impact on nearby Powell Spring, White Creek, Dakin Creek and Mitchell Glen, which is designated as environmentally sensitive.

Attorney Leslie Freehill, who represented the appellants, played a video indicating the Skunk Hollow Mine cannot be operated as proposed without adverse impacts on the health and welfare of nearby residents.

Hydrogeologist Steve Gaffield said the mine could disrupt groundwater levels and deplete local drinking water supplies.

Another issue raised was the potential for sulfide minerals within the limestone, as sulfide mining can release heavy metals – including lead, mercury and arsenic – into the environment.

The mine would include drilling and blasting, which locals said would create noise and potentially release nitrates into groundwater, which may be hazardous to health.

Craig Hungerford of Real Estate Dynamics said due to location, risk of flooding and groundwater contamination, 28 properties in proximity to the mine would experience a combined property value decrease of more than $1.8 million. Neuenfeldt’s property value would decrease by an estimated $199,500.

Developer’s response

Several experts spoke on behalf of Kopplin & Kinas, addressing each of the concerns and explaining the results of a number of studies that were completed to meet the conditions of the CUP.

Randy Douglas of Badger Engineering and Construction said studies showed the mine would not affect groundwater. He added that 195 samples tested at the site indicated there are no sulfides in the limestone.

Michael McConnell of Kopplin & Kinas said he operates 12 quarries and has never had neighboring residents' properties experience damage from blasting, adding that blasting noise and dust is regulated.

“Everything is done in a scientific and engineering manner with blasting,” he said. “If we don’t follow the rules, we get shut down.”

Screening berms would be put in place to limit noise and dust. Traffic in and out of the quarry would be limited to County Highway K.

Kopplin & Kinas representatives said there would be no discharge from the mines into nearby waterways and no water quality issues. Kopplin & Kinas also would implement a reclamation plan with erosion control measures.

Public comment

The majority of the public comments were against the Skunk Hollow Mine, with several residents stating the mine would negatively affect natural resources and impact the trout in nearby streams.

The proposed mine is located in a farmland preservation zoning district. Ripon resident and GLA President Stephanie Prellwitz said the mine should be located on a mining parcel.

Henry Conti, who has lived in Green Lake County for 35 years, owns property adjacent to the proposed mine location.

“People come to Green Lake and invest in Green Lake to enjoy the lake and enjoy the pristine surroundings,” he said, adding that the mine would be an eyesore.

Green Lake resident Mark Bierman spoke in favor of the mine, stating that he’s worked in the industry and water pumped from the mine would be cleaner than the body of water it's pumping into.

“We need the competition to keep the prices down in aggregates,” he said.

Oswald Kinas, who is one of the owners of Kopplin & Kinas, said the mine will support the community and keep it growing.

“We care about the community (and) we’re doing this for the community,” he said. “We’ve done research; we’ve asked these expert people that we’ve found. We didn’t just throw something off the whim of a hat to try to upset the whole community.”

Two representatives of the Ho-Chunk Nation said the land is a burial ground and asked for an archaeological survey to be completed and for the Wisconsin Historical Society to weigh in on the site. A Kopplin & Kinas representative said the Wisconsin Historical Society approved the site.

Committee vote

The board voted to uphold the CUP appeal, citing a number of requirements for the permit that weren’t met.

Board member Brian Zimmerman said there is no evidence that alternative mining sites were pursued or that the mine wouldn’t have negative effects on health and safety.

“You cannot operate that much machinery and not affect the harmonious appearance of the existing character of the land,” Zimmerman said.

The board agreed that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the mining operation would not be hazardous to existing or future neighborhood uses and it would be detrimental to properties in the neighboring vicinity.

The board’s vote overturns the previous committee's decision and indicates Kopplin & Kinas cannot move forward with the Skunk Hill Mine, pending legal action from itself.

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