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Residents have a chance to comment on UMore project

There were several questions but not many specific answers at an open house last week to discuss sand- and gravel mining in Empire Township and Rosemount.

The University of Minnesota held the meeting Thursday night to give residents a chance to get information and ask questions about plans for mining on the university-owned land known as UMore Park. The mining would be one step of a project that could ultimately lead to development of a 25,000-resident community. The university has identified gravel mining as one source of income to pay for that development.

Last week's meeting, which was attended by about 55 people, was part of an environmental review of the project, which would take place on roughly the western third of the 5,000-acre property.

Residents who showed up Thursday raised concerns about traffic associated with any mining operations and the dust the heavy trucks would raise. They were also concerned about what the mining operation might do to their view.

"My view (of the area) is not blocked," said one woman who lives near the property but declined to give her name. "I don't have a house in front of me. I look right at it."

But university representatives on hand at the Rosemount Community Center said it's too early to get into specifics about what the mining operation might eventually look like. The university does not expect to get through the environmental review process and apply for permits until 2010. The permitting process could take a year, and it would take more time to get the mining operation set up once it's approved. Construction of homes likely wouldn't start for another year beyond that.

The university is currently reviewing proposals from mining companies interested in working on the project.

"We are not immediately close to selecting a partner or plan right now," said Charles Muscoplat, the university's vice president of statewide strategic resource development.

So, what do we know now? The gravel resources are deepest -- about 140 feet -- along County Road 46. Near 145th Street the gravel reaches 70 to 80 feet deep. For the purposes of an environmental impact statement the university is planning to mine to the full depth of the gravel.

Last week's meeting was mostly a way for the university to find out what people think of the project. Resident comments and questions will become part of an environmental assessment and will affect how the university plans its project.

"That's going to change how we design restrictions on the people who are developing it," said the U of M's Janet Dalgleish. "We might make them make a nicer berm. We like our wild grasses."

The comment period for the environmental assessment closes Feb. 16. Residents with something to say can mail Steven Lott, University of Minnesota-UMore Park, 1605 West 160th St., Rosemount, MN 55068 or e-mail

A draft environmental review will be available by fall.