Frack Sand Mining Stirs Up Controversy in Northeast Iowa

Feb 20, 2013

The Pattison Sand Co. in Clayton County, Iowa, is mining sand for use in hydraulic fracturing. Residents of neighboring counties are concerned mining may expand there.
Credit Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Controversy over so-called “frack” sand mining is heating up in northeast Iowa. A community meeting Wednesday evening in Decorah will focus on concerns about the possibility of mining development in Winneshiek County.

Fine sand can be used in the hydraulic fracturing process known as “fracking.” The technique is used to remove natural gas and oil from deep underground. There’s not any oil or gas fracking in Iowa right now – but there is a sand mine in northeast Iowa’s Clayton County, which is shipping frack sand out of state.

In nearby Winneshiek County, retired teacher Lyle Otte says some residents are concerned the area may be ripe for more mining.

"We’re concerned about damage to roads, damage to bridges, and just the beauty of the area," Otte says. "We live in a beautiful part of Iowa."

Ottte is helping organize tonight’s meeting at 7:30 p.m. at Decorah High School for residents concerned about potential environmental and quality-of-life effects of frack sand mining.

Officials in nearby Allamakee County passed an 18-month moratorium on frack-sand mining earlier this month.