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DNR gives sand plant preliminary OK (UPDATE)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Department of Natural Resources has given a timber company subsidiary preliminary approval for a sand plant in western Wisconsin that would destroy more than 16 acres of wetlands.

The department notified Meteor Timber of the approval Wednesday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The agency has set an April 18 hearing on the project in Tomah.

Meteor wants to build a sand drying plant and rail spur in Monroe County and a sand mine 14 miles away in neighboring Jackson County. According to Meteor, the facilities would be valued at $65 million and create 100 jobs.

The project would eliminate 16.6 acres of wetlands. Meteor has announced plans for conservation easements for 643 acres on the site.

The project still needs approval form the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The agency is reviewing the plans, according to Jeffrey M. Olson, a section chief for the Corps in northwestern Wisconsin.

“We want to make sure that the least environmentally damaging option is selected,” he said.

Olson said it could be several months before the agency completes its review.

The Corps met with a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, and representatives from the department and Meteor Timber in person or by phone Wednesday.

“Our office facilitated the meeting to help a potential Wisconsin job creator navigate the federal government,” said Ben Voelkel, a spokesman for Johnson.

Voelkel said the senator’s office hasn’t “weighed in on the approval process.”

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