County discusses possible mining agreementJuly 9, 2020
By CANDY NEAL
Solar Sources wants to continue mining near County Road 750 West, southwest of Portersville, but to do so, the road needs to be closed.
The county and the company are working on an agreement, though the Dubois County Commissioners are not in full agreement about letting the company continue to work.
“In the four years I’ve been here, we’ve had complaints on the road that we’ve had to go out with dirt,” Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said Monday, “and things being slower to get repaired, slower than it should have been. I don’t see the benefit outweighing the problems we’ve had with Solar Sources over at least the last couple of years.”
Commissioners Elmer Brames and Nick Hostetter were more in favor of trying to work out a new agreement.
“I don’t disagree with you about the difficulties,” Brames said. “But I think this [agreement] would be the best way to get [County Road] 750 [West] back into good shape.”
In the new proposed agreement, the county would receive $150,000 for future road repairs. The company would repair 750 West, local landowners would get a payment if the company uses some of their land and the company would pay some property taxes.
In exchange, 750 West would be closed for another year. The mining work would extend to near Portersvile Road West. That has some citizens concerned that the road will be damaged, Blessinger said.
County Engineer Brent Wendholt and Highway Supervisor Steve Berg want Solar Sources to work farther away from the road; the agreement stipulates 200 feet away from the road’s centerline. Solar Sources asked that to be reduced to 100 feet from the side of the road, because there is a narrow area the company would need to get through.
Berg doesn’t want to have the same problems at Portersville Road West that’s already happened at County Road 750 West.
A section of the road that has been mined is closed to traffic because of a hole that has formed on the east side of the road. Also in the mining area, the county has received complaints from neighboring residents that mud and debris was tracked through intersections with county roads 580 North and 450 North, which they use to get to and from their homes.
“In order to protect our road, it’s not asking too much to have them stay farther away from it,” Berg said.
Alex Messmore, manager of land acquisitions and permits for Solar Sources’ parent company White Stallion Energy, said the reduction was needed for the company to operate.
“It is a very narrow corridor as we advance to the west,” he said. “We’re trying to maintain the efficiency of the operation, but at the same time, protect the road. With the market, we need to maintain efficiency, so that we can mine the coal in an economic fashion.”
He explained that White Stallion has operated mines in Illinois for 20 years and has used that state’s regulation called lateral support for protecting a structure. “It’s an engineered number,” he said. “And we’ve found that is a very safe calculation.”
And adding another 15 feet to that engineered number would bring the calculation for Portersville Road to almost 100 feet from the road, he said.
“It doesn’t matter to me what you did in Illinois for 20 years. It failed here,” Blessinger told Messmore. “We have a road that was closed that wasn’t supposed to be closed. I know you can’t necessarily control geology and weather. But we lost a road that wasn’t supposed to be lost. So I don’t necessarily trust that what you do somewhere else matters here, because it’s failed here.”
Blessinger was not in favor of a new agreement.
“I don’t think this partnership is beneficial, he said. “My preference is fix the road and we part ways.”
Hostetter and Brames want to continue working on the agreement. Brames said that he wants to make sure the hole on the east side of 750 West is filled properly.
“I don’t know how you can get enough compaction in there, to prevent a problem on 750 down the road,” he said. “I think it all needs to come out and be put back in. Otherwise, I’m afraid we’re going to have some compromised fill on the east and solid ground on the west side and it slides east. We’re always going to be dealing with that down the road.”
Since two of the three commissioners still want to work out an agreement, Wendholt and Berg will continue working with Solar Sources on the details and bring a final proposal to the commissioners.
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