Southern Utah News Articles
We must stop the SRS sand mine
In spite of the lack of in-depth analysis and meetings that left more questions than answers, the Kanab City Council and the Kane County Planning Commission have approved key requirements for the Southern Red Sands (SRS) frac sand mine to move forward in setting up operations in Kane County.
The most unfortunate aspect is their abandonment of responsibility to safeguard and manage county and city resources and put their blind faith in a company that has no answers, told partial on the spot answers, or told half-truths to the most pressing questions surrounding their sand mine proposal.
Mayor Robert Houston and the Kanab City Council said they would rely on a study they had commissioned through the Utah Geological Survey (UGS) to inform their decision before entering a 50-year contract to lease city water to Southern Red Sands. The UGS representative at the meeting stated UGS had not prepared a study for Kanab and the water drawdown model they had provided to the city was preliminary and should NOT be used for decision-making.
Best Friends also provided results from its own independent study that indicated there is cause for concern from proposed SRS wells and more investigation is warranted.
Faced with this information, instead of tabling the matter to get more data, the mayor and council relied on the literature review of a professional engineer who is designing the access road for Southern Red Sands, and used a reference from an old study that there were large amounts of water recharge for the area.
They blatantly disregarded the advice of a hydrogeologist and professional geologists and relied on a selective data point and the recommendations of an SRS employed engineering firm. Why even contact UGS in the first place if their expertise, knowledge and recommendations would not be considered?
The County’s Planning and Zoning Commission wasn’t much better. They made a decision without all the information.
Kane County Attorney Rob Van Dyke emphasized that the Conditional Use Permit was purely advisory to SITLA, and the county doesn’t have any control over what occurs on SITLA parcels. This is contrary to SITLA documents that state prior to mining operations, the permittee MUST contact the local county and obtain a Conditional Use Permit and MUST comply with all filing and regulatory requirements of the county.
Also, where is the strong Kane County that wants to defy the Federal government and control Federal land within the county, but rolls over and refuses to assert any authority over SITLA property in the county? Reading the conditions applied by county planners was laughable. Every one of them was boilerplate verbiage to get a permit from a regulator and comply with it.
None of the conditions asserted ANY county authority or required ANY remedy to fix future adverse impacts to county residents or private property. Most saddening is that despite the obvious mistruths of Southern Red Sands, the Planning Commission looked the other way and approved the project. What were the mistruths? Please read on.
Jobs: SRS has been touting this project as providing large job opportunities. Up to 200 jobs if you read the January letter to the Kanab Irrigation Company. The reality briefed on Tuesday and Wednesday… 20 shift jobs that would employ 40 people. So now we are going to risk our groundwater aquifers, for 40 jobs and $160,000/year in leased water revenue to the city?
Traffic: SRS said they would just be shipping sand north. SRS CEO, Chad Staheli, admitted that the market would determine where sand would be shipped and that would be north through the Valley or east through Kanab.
In January of 2019, Goodrich Mud Company out of Vernal, Utah opened a new frac sand mine. I’m not sure why Uinta basin frackers would ship sand from Kane County when they can get it from Vernal.
SRS stated trucks would number 40 per day with very large weights (I doubt it will be that low since their original statements were 80-180 trucks per day departing the facility). We need to be concerned since the eastern route through Kanab goes through Arizona, which has lower truck weight limits. That means more trucks going through Kanab.
Also, don’t forget empty trucks returning for the next load, so double whatever number they tell you. SRS’s entire narrative on traffic has been filled with evasive answers justified by “market forces.”
Number of sand silos: The public notice said two 120-foot sand silos. This changed in the meeting to six silos. Chad Staheli said it was a misprint. The day prior at the City Council meeting, Staheli didn’t clarify the misprint when he was briefing the site lay down.
No. I believe this was a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts to minimize potential concern.
The most damning part was when County Planner Shannon McBride stated that SRS had originally asked for eight silos and had settled for six silos. The question then arises as to why did the county only list two silos in the Public Notice Information packet last updated the day before the meeting? And how much did county staff know that they did not share in their public notice?
Sand mine site: All along, Staheli has stated that SRS only wanted to mine the SITLA parcel. SRS only had mineral placer claims on 12,000 acres of BLM land to prevent competition from setting up shop and ruining their investment on the SITLA parcel. This story has been bought hook, line and sinker by many people.
What did Staheli say on Wednesday?
He stated if it makes economic sense, SRS would seek to mine to the east of the SITLA parcel onto BLM land. Ahhh... the truth comes out. SRS plans to mine their BLM placer claims. Fifty years of water service agreements gives them more than enough time to work through BLM bureaucracy.
Responsible reclamation: Initial claims from SRS were that after mining they would reclaim the mined areas and reseed them.
Now we find out only 10 percent of the mined material will be returned to the site and used for recontouring. The sands, which allow filtration of water, will be replaced with fines and clays and mulched vegetation. A 60-foot deep sand dune will be replaced with a six-foot deep sand dune. Despite SRS’s claims, the mined areas will be irrevocably changed and not for the better.
In reaching its decision, planning commission members “hoped” SRS would work with them to minimize impacts to the BLM grazing parcels. They stated they needed to “trust” SRS to do the right thing. I don’t know how you can trust a company that has not been transparent as the many times referenced above.
Southern Red Sands doesn’t have a good record of being forthright. Now that the county has decided to not hold them accountable in any way at all, why do they think SRS will listen to them in the future?
While I disagree with the results of last week’s votes, the most outrageous statement from either body was made by Council Member Michael East.
After listening to two hours of comments from concerned citizens, he dismissed all of their comments, all of their concerns and all of their requests to collect more information before voting.
Instead, he said, “enough with the stupid signs,” and that the only way tourists will know about the sand mine is because we were talking about it.
I assume he doesn’t realize that a 55-acre sand washing facility, and six 120-foot sand silos will be visible from Hwy 89, from a good portion of Hwy 9, including Zion Mountain Ranch, from Diana’s Throne, and along the Glendale Bench.
No Mr. East, if you stick your head in the sand, the mine does not go away!
I don’t think decisions that have the potential to negatively impact our quality of life for the next 50 years should be made under a cloak of secrecy and vagueness.
Please speak out and let our elected leaders know this is unacceptable. Write SITLA and let them know we do not want this sand mine in Kane County. Let the BLM know they should analyze all indirect impacts of the Red Knoll Access Road Environmental Assessment.
Most importantly, tell the Kane County Commissioners, the County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Kanab City Council we insist all decisions be made in the light of day. Backroom dealings and sweetheart deals may have been okay in the past, but they are unacceptable now and in the future.
Please go to https://keep kanabunspoiled.org/ to find out how you can help stop this project.