Within the past 8-10 years Hydraulic Fracturing has become more prevalent in the United States as we try to keep up with our countries energy demands. Dan and I did not completely realize or appreciate the indirect impact that Hydraulic Fracturing is having on our countryside, our health, our communities and even our pocketbooks.
Even though Hydraulic Fracturing in not being done here in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the driftless area in these states is sitting on a gold mine of sorts…Golden Silica Sand. The sand used in the process of Hydraulic Fracturing is sitting below the bluffs and rolling hills in this region. Dan and I have known about the discrete underground sand mine located in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin for sometime now. Frac Sand mining became more of an issue last year as the demand for this “Golden” sand has increased. The residents of the small town of Diamond Bluff, Wisconsin, lost the battle with a large corporation and the underground mine in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin wants to expand its territory substantially. There is also a proposed mining site just outside of Red Wing. All of this activity spurred us to start educating ourselves more on the sand boom. One side saying “Sand = Jobs”, the other “Save our Bluffs;” there is certainly a very easily discernible differences in each camp’s way of thinking. I am not here to say what is right or wrong or force anyone to have the same beliefs as I do. I will, however, encourage people to become informed on the practice of Hydraulic Fracturing. Please take the time to increase your awareness as to what these communities are facing and more importantly, how our environment and wildlife is currently being effected. What is our future going to look like after the sand is gone?
Last year, Dan and I started hearing about the battle that concerned citizens and business owners were facing just across the river from our home in beautiful Red Wing, MN. We started to educate ourselves on how the whole Hydraulic Fracturing process worked, what the majority of this “Golden Sand” is being used for, what the effect of Frac Sand mining has on our environment, our health and wildlife, and watching the documentary “Gasland” & “The Price of Sand.” Knowing that these mines provide employment for local families certainly complicates, as well as ignites, the passion surround the arguments on both sides. Many states are being affected by this procedure whether it be the Frac Sand mining (both underground and strip mining), or the Hydraulic Fracturing itself. Again I encourage you to become more aware, educate yourself and others you care about and most importantly, get involved. The real issue here isn’t necessarily Frac Sand mining or hydraulic fracturing itself, it is our country’s insatiable thirst for fossil fuels. But until that very issue can be addressed, we need to find a better way – a more responsible way – to extract these energy sources.
Please take a trip with us to the beautiful land of surround Augusta, Wisconsin in Eau Claire County. We had originally set out to photograph farm animals, abandoned farmsteads, wildlife, barns and the surrounding community. What we actually saw troubled us and sparked the need to know more about this sand boom. Driving along the rolling hills near Augusta, we were shocked at what we saw in the middle of this picturesque farmland. Turning a corner, we noticed a towering object that extended as far as our eyes could see. We had never ran into anything of this sort in our travels; our curiosity and wonder drew us closer. We passed by an Amish family in a horse drawn buggy as we came closer to a section of the contraption. In one picture, please notice how close the settling ponds and plant is to the Amish farm. How will the Amish community in that area be affected? How will this affect all of us?
Only time will tell; and tell it is indeed. Story after story is surfacing in local news outlets and social media. Economic and environmental harm is never too far from one of these mining operations. What is the magic equation here? How many jobs is worth what amount of harm to our economy and/or environment? This is quite a predicament we find ourselves in.
Sneak a peak at Dan’s post on this subject: The cost of an unsightly landscape companion.