Sand-gravel mining in Janesville proposed—again

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Sunday, May 9, 2010
— A proposal to mine sand and gravel on Janesville’s south side is back on the table after lying dormant for nearly four years.

The operation, which would be located south of Delavan Drive near La Prairie Park, would offer 20 to 24 jobs, mostly truck drivers and operators of extraction equipment, said Eric Gilbert of Hartford, who owns the property with members of his family.

The jobs would pay $50,000 to $70,000 a year, plus benefits, Gilbert said.

Gilbert and partners who are no longer involved eventually abandoned their plans after they proposed them in 2006.

“It’s a real down-scaled project from 2006,” Gilbert said. Gone are the concrete-block manufacturing plant, the asphalt plant and plans for a wider extraction area.

Still, there’s so much sand and gravel just below the surface on the site that it could take “decades and decades and decades” to remove it all, said Gilbert, whose family operates sand/gravel mines near Hartford, Mukwonago and elsewhere.

The operation would bid to supply sand and gravel for local construction projects, but its main focus would be supplying the Chicago area. That area has a shortage, and the proposed MH Materials site has a rail line next door for cost-effective delivery, Gilbert said.

A major hurdle could be the opinions of neighbors. A residential neighborhood bounded by Delavan Drive and Beloit Avenue borders the property.

Company officials said the operation would be 1,450 feet from the nearest of those houses. And, an existing hill and planned berms would screen the operation.

“Down here in this neighborhood, I really don’t feel they’ll hear much, see much, smell much,” Gilbert said.

Extraction equipment runs on electric motors and is very quiet, Gilbert said.

The entire site is 316 acres, but only about 70 acres is slated for mining.

The Hughes family mined sand and gravel in the same place for many years, going back at least to the 1950s, company officials said. A wide swath of exposed sand and gravel from the earlier mining is still apparent.

Company officials met with a Gazette reporter on the site Saturday.

The operation would need a well to supply water for dust-suppression sprayers and for drinking, but there would be no high-capacity drawdown of the water table, said Dave Anderson, the project’s environmental, health and safety manager.

Anderson has heard from neighbors who fear dust, noise and what would happen to the land after the mine is exhausted.

Anderson said sand/gravel operations are highly regulated by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. Regulations also require used-up mines to be restored for future use. The city’s plans for the area are industrial, Anderson said, so the goal would be to restore the land for that future purpose. Topsoil and subsoil would be stockpiled and replaced when the mining ends.

The company is required to post a bond so that restoration would go forward if the company goes bust.

MH is proposing to build a retention pond and a channel around the residential area to solve an ongoing runoff problem, officials said. The runoff project would simply be a gesture of goodwill and would not benefit or interfere with the mine, officials said.

Officials said they want to be good neighbors and to flourish with the community as the economy rebounds.

“A good operation is one where the neighbors barely notice you’re there,” Gilbert said. “You run an operation that way, you’ll be allowed to continue and do even more with your land. That’s the way you want to operate.”

The eastern half of the property is in the city of Janesville. The western half is in La Prairie Township. Gilbert said he will apply to have the property annexed into the city and for a conditional-use permit for the sand-and-gravel mine.

Gilbert said he does not have a goal for when he wants to start the operation. He has not yet made a formal application to the city.

Anderson said he has received DNR air and water permits, and MH officials have met with city planners, who asked that they hold the informational meeting for neighbors as a first step.

Mule Hill, for which the company is named, is the hill closest to Beloit Avenue, which is used for sledding in the winter. It would not be mined, officials said.

Last updated: 1:53 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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