Proposed gravel pit mines could mean changes for small, rural Lincoln County communitySubmitted: 04/28/2015

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TOWN OF SKANAWAN - A pair of gravel pit mines could significantly change one area in Lincoln County. The proposed mines would cover around 125 acres in the Town of Skanawan, southeast of Tomahawk. Experts believe the area has an extremely rich deposit, but some people worry the project will hurt the environment and grow larger than what the county could approve.

Wally Horabik and his wife live on 20+ acres along County Highway S in the Town of Skanawan. Horabik says he was raised in southern Wisconsin, but wanted to live in the rural north someday.

"We always wanted to get out in the country, that's where I was, we built the barn and we were going to get animals, and we did," Horabik said.

Horabik has lived at the home for 30 years, but he says he'll move if Lincoln County approves the mining projects.

County Materials Corporation (CMC) and American Asphalt, which is a division of Mathy Construction, want to dig two gravel pit mines next to Horabik's property. CMC is working with Daigles Oak Hills LLC to dig a 45-acre non-metallic mine and a wash plant, according to Lincoln County records. American Aspalts is proposing a 77-acre non-metallic off of County Road S.

Both organizations are applying for a conditional use permit (CUP) to operate in the county for a prolonged period of time.

Meanwhile, Horabik says he has lived at his home when workers used nearby gravel. He says it was for a Highway 51 expansion. He says a dump truck would drive by his home every 35 seconds during the busiest stretch of work.

"Just rumbling because they're full heading this direction, so they're trying to get up this hill, and they're speeding up coming the other direction because they're trying to get filled back up," Horabik said.

According to Lincoln County Land Service Committee minutes, there wouldn't be that much truck traffic. A CMC geologist told the Lincoln County Land Services Committee in April that the maximum number of daily truck loads would be 25 a day when they were hauling. That would only be fore only one of the two possible gravel pit mines, and Hoarbik can only remember his experiences years ago.

"You couldn't walk out around the street, you couldn't ride your bike, and you couldn't walk," Horabik said.

County meeting records show the two projects would be just east of Lake Skanawan. If the CUP is granted, CMC would agree to a deal to hold the mineral rights for seven-40 acre plots connected east of the lake, while Daigles Oak Hills LLC would retain the surface rights on the proposed properties. That arrangement would not follow through if the CUP isn't approved, but members of the Daigle LLC told board members they would reclaim the property after the mining and use it as hunting land.

Opponents don't think the land will look as pristine or beautiful after any type of reclamation. They also argue it will grow and consume the entirety of the seven-40 acre plots.

"To me it would be just a shame," local property owner Michael Heise said when asked about the possible project.

Heise has owned land nearby since the 1960s. He believes the gravel pits will destroy the area's beauty. The local landowners say they're committed to reclaiming the land after it's mined, but Heise doesn't believe that will happen.

"[It would] just [be] a travesty, to be able to see this beautiful area of nature right in the center Town of Skanawan just being destroyed like that," Heise said.

A legal representative for Heise argues that the proposal only benefits the Daigle LLC and the two gravel pit companies. In an argument to the board, opponents argued that the gravel pit mines can't be allowed under current ordinances.

The area where the two sites are proposed is zoned as a rural 4 district.

According to Lincoln County ordinances, the district is intended to preserve rural character and promote continued low-intensity and open space uses in areas of the County not envisioned for intensive agricultural or commercial forestry use. Appropriate uses include continued low-impact farming and forestry where viable, single family residences up to a density not exceeding 4 dwelling units per 40 acres owned, and associated home occupations and other limited compatible business opportunities.

Opponents say that's why it shouldn't get approved. They also argue it will lower their property values.

According to county records, the Town of Skanawan approved, on a 3-0 vote, its recommendation for approval of the request. The committee members didn't take any action on the matter at the April meeting. However, county board members could discuss that decision at a meeting in May.

Related Weblinks:
April Meeting Minutes

Story By: Adam Fox

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