Silica sand operation looking to purchase 40 acres in NB ESSBY Business Park

Superior Silica Sand, a frac sand operation, has submitted a letter of intent to purchase 40 acres of land in North Branch’s ESSBY Business Park off 400th Street.

At the North Branch City Council meeting Monday, City Administrator Bridgitte Konrad said a purchase agreement with the business is likely months away. Before that time, the city’s Economic Development Authority would hold a public hearing to solicit feedback from residents about the potential project, and the Planning Commission would also host a public meeting to discuss the division of the land.

Konrad, reached by phone the next day, explained Superior Silica Sand would be looking to set up a trans-loading station on the acreage. At that station, sand would come in on trucks, be loaded into railcars and then shipped out of town.

Councilmember Kathy Blomquist said she’s heard some concern about potential businesses that have a trucking component using highways 95 and 61 to get to and from their businesses in ESSBY.

She said the council should discuss at an upcoming work session putting together a comprehensive document that would detail the city’s need for bypass from Interstate 35 into and out of ESSBY.

State Rep. Brian Johnson, who represents a portion of Chisago County, was at the meeting and joked, “It takes two acts of Congress and three acts of God to get those things done.”

He said if the city had approached him earlier, even a week ago, he would have been able to present an amendment to the state’s transportation budget to get talks started about a bypass.

Konrad said North Branch had not received the letter of intent from Superior Silica Sand until Thursday.

Johnson said he’ll gladly present the idea next session, but he noted, “It takes four to five years to get this process started.”

He added: “I can see the great need for it because Highway 95 is real tough for getting through North Branch; Highway 61 is, as well. I think a bypass would be good for everybody and good for the development of North Branch.”

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