Frac Sand Mining Looms Large In Southwest Wisconsin Senate Primary

Democrats Ernie Wittwer, Pat Bomhack Both Express Concerns About Environmental Impacts Of Mining

Above, a frac sand in southwest Wisconsin. Photo: Carol Mitchell (CC-BY-NC-ND).

For the two Democrats making a bid to fill the vacated seat of retiring state Sen. Dale Schulz, R-Richland Center, in southwest Wisconsin, the issue of frac sand mining looms large.

The 17th Senate District covers Wisconsin’s southwest corner and narrowly stretches up to Juneau County. According to the state Department of Natural Resources, there are currently no active frac sand mines in the district. Nevertheless, there are mines nearby and the district has silica sand deposits. Local officials have been studying and preparing for potential frac sand mining development.

One of the Democratic candidates for senate, retired state Department of Transportation budget director and Willow resident Ernie Wittwer, said the state needs to update its sand mining regulations and should research the cost, benefits, and impacts of mining.

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“We really ought to know more about the long-term environmental impacts of sand mining as well,” said Wittwer. “And on property values and other economic activities, like tourism.”

Attorney Pat Bomhack of Spring Green said that the district’s natural resources need to be protected, and that he has concerns about frac sand operations moving into the region.

“It’s getting too close for comfort,” said Bomhack. “We need to ensure we have a state senator who will protect and preserve our land. As state senator, I will ensure that we keep our strong local controls over frac sand mining.”

Whoever wins the primary will face state Rep. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, in the November election.

Listen to Ernie Wittwer’s full interview below. (Pat Bomhack declined to have his full interview made available.)