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Cargill Mine

After a public hearing last month the Lansing Town Board unanimously approved a surface site plan for the Cayuga Salt Mine's #4 Shaft project.  Following a short presentation explaining the project, seven people spoke, six of them Cargill employees, who stressed that the project is for the safety of miners and employees who work in the mine, 2,500 feet below the site of a new shaft that will bring fresh air and electricity to the current mining area, as well as reduce the commute time for miners and provide a closer, safer escape route in case of medical or other issues inside the mine.

"Safety is always our top priority," said shaft operator Douglas Smith, who has worked for Cargill for 27 years.  "As a hoist operator the #4 shaft project is most important to me, because it provides more clean air for the workers, and also it's my job to bring my fellow coworkers in and out of the mine shaft safely so that they can be home with their families by the end of the day -- like we provide salt for the roads so that you can go to work and comeback home safely to be with your families at the end of your day."

The local mine employs 200 people, 150 of whom work under ground in the deepest salt mine in the United States.  Employees spoke about safety issues the new mine shaft will address, especially the fact that it will bring fresh, breathable air to an area that it is increasingly hard to service with air from the current shaft on Portland Point Road.  Mine Manager Shawn Wilczynski noted that 1.8% of the Town is zoned Industrial/Commercial, and noted the 12 acres being used for the shaft project only adds 0.03% to the total.  But he said the company's contributions to the local and wider communities is much larger.

"Although it's a small acreage, I want to remind people of the larger economic impacts that Cargill brings to the area," he said.  "An independent study in 2014 showed the local economic impacts to the Town of Lansing at 4.6 million; to Tompkins County $173 million; to the State of new York 220 million per years.  That's coupled with $150,000 of annual local giving and charitable local contributions, and 4,500 hours of volunteer time from our 200 local employees, many of whom are local volunteer fire fighters."

cargill shaft bldg rendering

Senior Mine Engineer Dave Plumeau addressed the impact the project will have on neighbors and the surrounding countryside.  The Ridge Road facility will use 12.3 acres well nestled inside a 58 acre plot to help mask the facility from neighboring properties and roads.  The buildings are designed to look like farm buildings.

"Cargill has always tried to do the right thing so we began meeting with the neighbors five years ago to explain what we planned to do and to hear their concerns," he said.  "We've tried to address those concerns in the best way possible in the design of the facilities and the planning of the construction.  We've addressed noise, traffic, visual impact, ground water and other possible impacts to our neighbors and developed the facility to minimize or eliminate those impacts.  The project meets or exceeds all the codes required by the Town and the State, and we've tried to design the site to be as invisible to the local community as the barns and businesses that are nearby."

The only speaker who is not employed by the mine was Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, whose property borders the new shaft property site.  She praised mine officials for being forthright with neighbors, hearing and addressing neighbors' concerns, but asked them to voluntarily put sound proofing insulation in the collar house that will enclose the actual shaft, and to keep temporary storm water mitigation measures in place even after the construction is completed.

Local protesters who have argued that mining under Cayuga Lake should be halted did not speak.  Those issues are under the jurisdiction of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which granted a permit, largely to allow the underground portion of the project to go forward.  The Town's jurisdiction is limited to the surface portion of the project, which includes four buildings that will enclose the shaft and its equipment, an administration building with a locker room and showers for workers, and a small shop, as well as storm water management.

Lansing Town Board and Planning Board members and officials toured the mine last September to gain a better understanding of the reasons for building the new shaft.

"I want to thank Shawn and his crew for the personal invitation to the mine tour that some of us took," said Councilman Robert Cree.  "I'm more of a visual person, so you can tell me ten times, but if I experience it once it really sinks in.  The diligence that you go through regarding safety really hit home for me when I experienced it.  The 'OMG moment' when I got down there and realized how long it takes from your current point of entry to your proposed point of entry  really hit home.  it helped me better understand the needs that you've been having to deal with."

Before the vote Councilwoman Andra Benson said, "I had no idea how many years you worked on this plan.  And also the heartfelt talk by all the employees.  It's amazing to hear employees speak so wonderfully about their employer even though it;s a huge corporation.  To know they really care about these 200 employees who work in our town is really, really heartening."

The resolution conditionally approving the site plan improvements and special use permit was approved 5-0.  The resolution notes that the project is permitted under Lansing's Land Use ordinance (RA Zone), that the DEC had delivered a 'negative declaration' of significant environmental impacts, that the Planning Board has reviewed a sketch plan, requires that a full Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) has been designed, and that procedures have been fulfilled.

In April mine officials said they hoped the shaft would begin operation by early 2020.

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