Updated: Vote expected Monday in Homer on first water request for mine

Updated: Vote expected Monday in Homer on first water request for mine

Updated 4:43 p.m. Friday to add a copy of the proposed contract and attorney's memo to the village board.

HOMER — Village board members expect to vote Monday night on a final draft of an agreement between the village and Sunrise Coal for treated water and sewer services at the proposed Bulldog coal mine in Vermilion County. But the raw-water discussion is on hold pending results of an engineering study.

Homer Mayor David Lucas said "everything is set for Monday."

He said a final draft of the contract for treated water and sewer services should be finished Friday and a copy should be posted on the village's website Friday afternoon. That agreement will spell out legal terms of the village supplying Sunrise Coal's proposed mine with up to 20,000 gallons per day of treated water in addition to sewer services.

Sunrise, based in Terre Haute, Ind., has also asked the village to consider supplying 325,000 gallons per day of raw water, which would increase to 540,000 gallons per day as the mine ramps up operation.

Both requests have sparked opposition from residents in the Homer area, who have various concerns, including how a large withdrawal of water might affect local underground water and surface water resources as well as environmental concerns associated with coal mining. Village officials have mentioned that the Salt Fork River could be a potential raw-water source or the village could build an additional underground well. Homer's water supply comes from underground wells west and north of the village.

Lucas said village board members looked over a draft of the proposed agreement recently and made final suggestions on what to keep or drop, and it was sent back to the village's attorney to put into final draft form. Lucas said he hopes there will not be any last-minute problems.

"I think we have everything pretty well ironed out," he said.

The village board holds its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the village building, 500 E. Second St. in Homer. Lucas said the meeting likely will not be held in its regular spot in the lobby of the building, but will be moved into the larger space, the Jackson Ellis community room, to accommodate the public.

One of the seven board members, Guy James, is expected to be absent, Lucas said. In a straw poll vote last month, James was one of three board members to vote against an agreement with Sunrise Coal, and the other four members voted in favor of the agreement.

Lucas had asked the board members to take the straw poll vote at that January meeting, so the board would know if there was enough support to move forward with more work on the proposed agreement.

Lucas said the village board will need four yes votes for the agreement to be approved Monday night.

Whether James is at the meeting or not, Lucas said, he believes the outcome should be the same as the straw poll.

"I tried to encourage board members to think about that vote before they made it, so it was a true feeling of their position," he said.

Lucas said the agreement will be at the top of the agenda, so the rest of the village's monthly business will come afterward. He said discussion of Sunrise's raw-water request will not be on the agenda.

He said an engineering study, authorized by Sunrise Coal, is being done on acquiring the raw water, and a lot will depend on the findings in that study.

Suzanne Jaworowski, communications director for Sunrise, said an engineering study is under way. She said she cannot confirm specifically who's doing the study, but the purpose is to evaluate options for raw-water access. Jaworowski said she cannot go into what those options are, but the study is helping to evaluate the coal company's options, so Sunrise has a good choice that works for the community and the coal mine. She said the results of that study should be available "in about a month or so."