In Wisconsin, state statute NR 135 specifies general standards for nonmetallic mining reclamation as well as performance standards for surface water and wetland protection, groundwater protection, topsoil management, final grading and slopes, and revegetation. For more details, see:
- Chapter NR 135, Nonmetallic Mining Reclamation, Wis. Stats.
NR 135 is administered at the county level. Counties review applications for nonmetallic mining permits, ensure that there is opportunity for public review and comment, determine if a reclamation plan is adequate under NR 135 standards, issue or deny permits, monitor and assure compliance, and ultimately certify reclamation has occurred. Applicants for a reclamation permit are required to provide financial assurance to cover the costs of reclamation. In towns that lack zoning or nonmetallic licensing ordinances, NR 135 may be the only mechanism requiring some form of public participation in the permitting process.
In communities dealing with frac sand mining, reclamation has been a controversial issue. Critics routinely point out that "you can't reclaim a hill," also arguing that soil or habitat restoration is a long-term process, perhaps lasting decades. They worry that mining companies offer empty promises.
Indeed, Dan Masterpole, the director of Land Conservation and Forest Management in Chippewa County, recognizes that many "first generation" reclamation plans (roughly 2008-2011) were often vague and lacking in detail. County officials likely underestimated the financial cost of reclamation and sometimes approved plans that lack clear goals for specific types of reclaimed land uses as well as criteria for measuring reclamation outcomes (public presentation at the Save Our Hills Alliance annual meeting, Menomonie, WI, November 7, 2015). Chippewa County is participating in a five-year project to study and improve the reclamation process. Having begun in 2014, the project also includes researchers from UW-River Falls and the participation of Onalaska-based Mathy Construction and Texas-based Superior Silica Sands.
- Dirr, Alison. With Frac sand boom in full swing, study to guide mine reclamation. WisconsinWatch.org, February 5, 2014.