SPRINGFIELD – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is advocating for more transparency and public input as a proposal to open a sand mine on 300 acres of farm land adjacent to Starved Rock State Park moves ahead.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is only required under state law to hold a public hearing on the proposed Mississippi Sand, LLC mine if a hearing is requested by the LaSalle County Board, Simon said. IDNR is not expressly required by law to hold a public hearing at any other party’s request.
Simon sent a letter today to the LaSalle County Board urging it to request IDNR hold a hearing on the project’s reclamation plan. The plan explains how the mine would be used in 40 years, after the sand is exhausted. Mississippi Sand, LLC proposes to fill the mine with water and turn it into a recreational lake.
“Your action in demanding the hearing will show your commitment to an open, public process that serves all citizens of your county,” Simon said in the letter addressed to LaSalle County Chairman Jerry Hicks. “Democracy is not speedy, and it works best when as many people as possible, representing all sides of an issue, can provide input.”
Simon serves as chair of the Illinois River, Mississippi River and Ohio and Wabash Rivers Coordinating Councils, advisory bodies comprised of citizens and government agency officials that work with local communities to raise awareness of watershed issues. The Illinois River Coordinating Council adopted a resolution in February to promote public input into the mine proposal and ensure local, state, and federal agencies consider fully all impacts of the proposed mine.
Starved Rock State Park is located along the south side of the Illinois River, one mile south of Utica. Known for its hiking trails and eagle watching, the park celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2010 and set an attendance record in 2011, attracting nearly 2.2 million visitors.
Mississippi Sand, LLC is seeking a permit for phase one of the project, which would mine sand from 80 acres near the east entrance of the park. The proposed sand mine would create 39 jobs.