County denies petition to require gun range EAW

By John Holler Correspondent

When it comes to determining whether or not a planned expansion or construction project could impact the local environment, the local county board of commissioners is responsible for setting the parameters and whether a more detailed study needs to be done before approval is granted.

At the April 17 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, the question as to whether or not a citizen petition requesting that a project be held up until an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) needed to be performed came before the board. The petition dealt with a conditional use permit being requested by the Delano Sportsmen’s Club with the county’s planning and zoning department to move/expand its current shooting range.

The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) requires that projects that would be likely to have significant environmental effects need to complete an EAW and it the body to which citizen petitions are filed. That was the question before the county board at its April 17 meeting – to determine if there was the potential for significant environmental effects related to the gun range expansion.

Wally Johnson of Delano, a representative of the petitioners seeking the EAW, said that the property in question has recently been rezoned specifically to allow the property to be eligible for a conditional use permit to operate a gun range along the Crow River and within a half-mile of approximately 90 residential properties. Johnson explained that state law and shooting range policy demand that an EAW be performed.

“It’s a very high-density, populated area,” Johnson said. “According to the Minnesota shooting range performance standards, any time you have a high-populated area, they are very concerned about the noise and the mitigation programs that are put in place. It’s also the concern with lead (from bullets) going into the wetlands and potentially into the river. If you read the Minnesota shooting range performance standards, it has four separate paragraphs that state that all ranges should have an environmental assessment conducted; that was my motivation.”

Johnson also said the noise mitigation was a concern and that the berms proposed were quite a distance away and no berms to the south of the ranges.

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