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Local

Landowners seek peat-mining permits

Some residents protest operation

A former pump housing sits in a flooded peat mine next to a field in rural Morrison owned by Bernie Baar. The field is pumped while the excavating is taking place, then the pump is removed and moved. The water table then floods the mine.
A former pump housing sits in a flooded peat mine next to a field in rural Morrison owned by Bernie Baar. The field is pumped while the excavating is taking place, then the pump is removed and moved. The water table then floods the mine.

MORRISON – Whiteside County is looking at a request to mine topsoil and peat for commercial sale – an activity that has drawn opposition in recent months.

On Thursday, the county's Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to consider the issue and make a recommendation to the County Board, which has the final say.

Landowners Mark Stichter and Jeff Hanson want to start the mining operation on Fenton Road, north of Garden Plain Road.

For the last few months, resident Sandra Hamm has spoken out against the planned peat mining, which she lives near. Others also have objected.

Hamm said the operation appeared to have started earlier this year. Digging has taken place, she said, but nothing has been hauled away. After she and others called attention to the issue, she said, the landowners decided to get a permit.

Stuart Richter, Whiteside County's planning and zoning administrator, said mining operations need special-use permits. Those are the same kinds of permits that wind farms get.

Peat mining has taken place for the last three decades in western Whiteside County. Peat is in the ancient riverbed of the Mississippi, which changed course thousands of years ago. Farmland is purchased to remove the topsoil.

After the mining, the land is no longer good for farming. Pools of water remain.

Hamm opposes the operation because it destroys prime farmland. Other residents, she said, will bring up issues such as traffic and noise from peat mining.

"I'm against destroying farmland forever," she said. "I was told they shouldn't get any closer than 500 feet to my house. What are the rules and regulations for that? We need someone with the knowledge, the expertise and the wisdom to tell us how far from your house this should be."

She suggested the landowners seeking the special-use permits pay for such studies.

The landowners couldn't be reached for comment.

To attend

The Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the County Board's chambers at the Whiteside County Courthouse, 400 N. Cherry St. in Morrison.

For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings or more information, go to www.whiteside.org or call 815-772-5100.

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