Editorial briefs

Study silica impact before calling for ban

Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commision member Tom Watson's publicly stated preference for a ban of silica sand mining is somewhat premature.

Last week, the commission recommended an extension of the county's moratorium on silica sand mining for another 12 months. The recommendation, as well as one calling for new rules governing the permits for all other mineral mining, will go before the county board of commissioners on Tuesday for final approval.

"I would like to approve (the new ordinance) except for the silica sand, then keep silica sand a separate issue," Watson said. "Personally, I’d like to look at a way to just ban it."

We appreciate Watson's concern for his constituents, many of whom believe the rush "to make a quick buck" through sand mining will destroy the beauty of the blufflands. But one can also argue that it's much too early to begin talking about an outright ban on silica mining.


Two requests have been sent to Gov. Mark Dayton regarding silica sand mining. Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, has asked for up to $1 million in funding for a Generic Environmental Impact Statement. The Mississippi River Parkway Commission of Minnesota has asked Dayton to adopt a statewide moratorium on new silica mining operations to study the cumulative impact of trucking.

Let's wait until these requests play out before dismissing an opportunity to diversify Goodhue County's economy — or any other county's economy — through the mining of silica, a much-prized natural resource in the burgeoning hydraulic fracturing industry.

A well-positioned wind company

While the debate continues over the viability of wind energy, the success of Capital Safety, a Red Wing-based company that makes wind turbine products, is particularly impressive.

Capital Safety, which has about 500 employees, recently introduced a lighter harness designed to more evenly distribute the weight of workers who climb the towering structures several times a day. The company's new product will become publicly available in September.

That's not long before the expiration date of a federal tax credit that has subsidized the wind energy industry since 1992. A recent study from Navigant Consulting estimated that 37,000 wind-related jobs will be lost if the tax credit isn't extended when it expires at the end of the year.

Oliver Hirschfelder, the company's global wind energy director, is confident the new product will be successful even if the production tax credit isn't renewed. "I don't see that it would influence our business too much," Hirschfelder said. "These people still need to go out to those turbines and maintain those things."

With more than 20,000 onshore wind turbines in the United States and even more overseas, Capital Safety, which also provides training for turbine service technicians, is well positioned, regardless of the tax credit. This company's success is also clear evidence that — despite what skeptics might say — the wind energy industry is significant job creator in Minnesota.


Clock ticks on pool issue

For those of you who believe in the adage "What can go wrong will go wrong," we'd offer this counterpoint: The swimming pool at Silver Lake Park in Rochester remained functional through one of the most brutally hot summers in history.

It's a small miracle. For year's we've been told that the pool's now-54-year-old filter system is on its last legs, but somehow it keeps limping along. Granted, the pool doesn't have the bells and whistles found at other public pools in Rochester and several surrounding communities, but it still is an important amenity for nearby families.

But the miracles will end at some point in the near future, and Rochester officials and residents will need to answer a big question question: Is one public pool enough for a city that will soon top 120,000? The fact that the Soldiers Field pool reached its capacity of 700 swimmers during this summer's heat wave would indicate otherwise.

As we've stated previously, swimming pools aren't money-makers for any municipality but contribute significantly to a city's quality of life. For some low-income families, their only options on hot summer days are public pools or one of Rochester's free "beaches," where they'll find murky water and no lifeguards.

Is that where we want kids to learn to swim?


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