By MARK GUNDERMAN | firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 10:00 am |
An earth mover does site preparation work at the Canadian Sand and Proppants pant site Monday. The company has begun work on the controversial project and expects to be operational in about a year. Photo by Mark Gunderman
After being on hold for months, the Canadian Sand and Proppants project is underway, with earth moving equipment doing site preparation work and the company seeking new employees.
CSP Vice President of Operations Ronda Ficke said that the company started installing erosion control fences a week ago before the heavy earth-moving began.
“They started moving dirt last week Thursday,” Ficke said.
Action at the plant site off County S on the city’s northeast side is driven in part by necessity. The city has a conditional use permit authorizing the company to exceed normal city building height restrictions that would expire June 1 unless some work was underway, Ficke confirmed.
But CSP is apparently ready to get going. Even though the company had received all its necessary permits for the controversial project months ago, the project was on hold for financial reasons. Expected investors delayed commitments as the economy soured and the price of oil remained low, decreasing demand for the sand the plant is to produce.
“We’ve had some positive financial things take place. We’re 99 percent there. We’re excited,” said Ficke.
The plant has been controversial since plans for it were announced two years ago.
Opposition first sprung up in the town of Howard, where CSP planned to mine the special sand for use in fracturing oil wells. Ordinances were passed and legal challenges initiated.
An organized group called Concerned Chippewa Citizens formed to oppose the Chippewa Falls plant, where the company planned to process the sand before shipping out on rail.
Contacted this week, Concerned Citizens President Patricia Popple declined to comment on the latest developments with CSP.
The company was able to collect its permits and overcome the legal challenges, and had been waiting for investors to proceed with the plans.
And that includes hiring people. The company began running a display advertisement in the Herald and elsewhere for employees to fill positions, including transload manager, accounts positions, finance manager, data entry clerk, human resources specialist, construction mechanic, and other positions.
The company is working with the Marc Harding group, a Chippewa Falls consulting firm, on filling its positions.
However, it will still be a while before the plant is in production. The preliminary earthwork will go on for about 30 days, Ficke said.
“The earthwork will be continuous as we move forward with the stormwater plan,” she said.
Although some foundation work could begin soon, facilities construction is still months away.
“We actually have preparation and engineering to do prior to building any structures,” Ficke said.
The company must close a well and remove a building owned by the property owner who sold them the land.
Local firms are finding work with CSP. Haas Sons Inc. is the contractor for the earthworks. Cedar Falls Building Systems from Menomonie is the general contractor, and engineering services are provided by the Chippewa Falls office of Short, Elliot and Hendrickson.
Ficke said the target time for opening the plant for operations is 12 months.
CSP may still have some issues to settle in the town of Howard before opening the mine. The town passed an ordinance and the company was seeking a permit under the ordinance before stopping and challenging the ordinance’s validity.
The ordinance was declared an improperly adopted zoning ordinance, which was invalid because it was not approved by the county.
Howard has since adopted a new ordinance. CSP has not yet applied for a permit. Ficke said the company has looked at the ordinance and is consulting with attorneys on it.
The company will also be approaching the city of Chippewa Falls once again about buying a little more land from the city.
CSP wanted to buy three more acres to add to the 93 it already owns. The city council rejected the company’s offer to buy the land last year, apparently on price grounds.
The company renewed the request with a higher offer last month. However, the council rejected it again 4-1, this time because the council was holding its last meeting before a new council was seated and the members wanted the new council to take up the issue.
Ficke said the request will be before the council a third time May 18.
Posted in Local on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 10:00 am Updated: 10:03 am. | Tags: Canadian Sand And Proppants, Sand Plant, Ronda Ficke, Concerned Chippewa Citizens