Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

The New Martin Marietta Quarry: My View by Mary Matthews

GRAVEL QUARRIES: 11 POINTS

After reading the headline in the Kerrville Daily Times for March 9, 2016, “Martin Marietta: We Will Fight City Control,” and reading about the spectacle of a private corporation standing up in Council Chambers and speaking—with such disrespect, indeed almost contempt—dictating to, and threatening, the Kerrville City Council—I felt compelled to write this editorial.

Members of the Kerrville City Council are the elected representatives of the citizens of Kerrville. They are elected to enact the wishes of their constituency and to do what’s best for the entire city of Kerrville—NOT to support a private industrial development that is, without question, NOT good for the city of Kerrville, its growth, or its residents, including its ETJ. To me, the speech by Martin Marietta’s (MM) Chance Allen at the City Council Meeting on March 8 was insulting, and a challenge: “Who Owns the City of Kerrville and Kerr County—The Citizens, and Their Elected Representatives, or Corporate Bully Martin Marietta?”

Unfortunately, many people have not taken the time to support their City Council representatives, who have vowed to fight MM over the onerous quarry proposal that MM has forced onto the city and homeowners in the ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction.) The City is correct in its decision to NOT support MM on its choice of a quarry site. This site is eminently unsuitable for industrial development!

No matter how hard Chance Allen tries to sugarcoat MM’s mining operations, GRAVEL QUARRIES ARE UGLY, COSTLY, AND DEADLY. The only people who benefit from the gravel mining industry are the mining companies and their shareholders and landlords, who become MILLIONAIRES, many times over—AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PUBLIC. Here are 11 reasons why everyone should fight Martin Marietta on this site: Reasons that are based on facts and on actual evidence, from their mining operations currently working east of the City of Kerrville.

  1. Horrorific Guadalupe River Valley and riparian-area destruction, with no legal requirements imposed by the State of Texas to remediate. This wholesale destruction, and then abandonment, hurts the value of all neighboring properties AND hurts the City of Kerrville: The ugliness of gravel mining has a severe negative impact on local tourism dollars. That’s why, although these mines are a necessary evil, in other states they are placed in industrial-zoned areas out of sight of residences. The Guadalupe River Valley is a major natural attraction of Kerrville and Kerr County. Both the City and the County should be jealously guarding its scenic beauty and its environmental health.
  2. Hazards to Health: The dust and dirt produced by this mine will be unbelievable. Residents who listen to Allen’s propaganda about “working with neighbors” are living in a fantasy. NOTHING will stop the dust and dirt from this mine from getting into homes and affecting the breathing of everyone living in them. MM is counting on the fact that residents are too poor and too uneducated to afford legal counsel, when this air pollution kills the elderly and disables the young. And make no mistake: TCEQ does NOTHING to mitigate this baleful haze, just ask those living around the present quarry sites. Better yet, see for yourself—when driving west on Highway 27, travelers can’t miss the huge dust cloud smothering the river valley—it’s from the MM Bedrock Quarry, and other quarries operating here, including Drymala. In fact, Kerr County is Gravel Quarry Heaven—because, in the past, the Kerr County Commissioners Court and the City of Kerrville have done nothing to stop the devastation.
  3. Irresponsible, self-interested control over large sources of water: Quarries waste water; take water that should be shared with other landowners—for life!—divert waters from replenishing the river; pollute rivers and streams with silt and run-off; and sell waters for profit (It is known that MM sold water from its other operations—water taken from private neighboring landowners and Nowlin’s Hollow, a major tributary of the Guadalupe River—to the Kerrville/Kerr County Airport.) Has anyone ever checked on MM’s business activities to see how they have managed their water rights? For their own profit, to be sure, and at the expense of the public, surrounding property owners, and the City of Kerrville’s tax base. Citizens have a voice in water usage because they vote for their City Councilperson, Kerr County Commissioner, and Headwaters and UGRA representatives. But they have no voice in the immense abuse of water by these gravel quarries—all so MM can become even wealthier.
  4. By choosing this site, MM maliciously and purposefully ignores the PROPERTY RIGHTS of all of the people who own homes, and live, around the MM quarry site. MM has NO respect for these people, and for this reason we should have no respect for this company! With the operation of this quarry, it is guaranteed that property values around the site will be ZERO. It is hard to understand politicians who continue to spout the worn-out “property rights” slogan—that only applies to MM--to defend MM. MM is the latecomer to this site; they are not the only entity entitled to “property rights.” What about all of the homes surrounding the site? What about THEIR property rights? The right to enjoy their homes and families, free from a rock crusher in their front yard? Why does Chance Allen keep bringing this subject up? Because he has found that it has hit home with some unthinking leaders, and because NO ONE stands up to defend the private homeowners and THEIR property rights.
  5. Damage to local roads requires continual maintenance, paid by the taxpayer—all to benefit the gravel quarries. What a travesty that on top of everything else, we pay for MM’s roads! Yet NOT ONE PERSON spoke up against MM at the Kerr County Commissioner Court’s hearing on new load limits for Split Rock Road. And there’s more, on the subject of Kerr County Road and Bridge (KCR&B). Clearly, KCR&B, its Director Mr. Charlie Hastings, and its Flood Plain Administrator John Hewitt, all have a giant conflict of interest in any business they transact with MM and the other quarries. Not only is KCR&B the entity that hands out the permits necessary for the mining companies to mine in the floodplains—but it also buys gravel from the very businesses it is supposed to be regulating—the quarries! Seriously, is KCR&B going to jeopardize the deals they make with local quarries for road gravel, just because a gravel quarry destroys a few homes and a few people? All taxpayers should see the excellent, like-new quality of the blacktop road that runs next to MM’s Bedrock Quarry—take a drive down Sutherland Lane—you will see that KCR&B takes very good care of MM’s transportation needs, at taxpayer expense.
  6. It is a well-known fact that quarry trucks are a major cause of highway accidents—just Google it! At the new Split Rock Quarry, semis will be going in and out of the site, onto Highway 27—“24-7.” This is right across from a high school, on a highway MM will be sharing with teens just beginning to drive—teens that are precocious, impatient, impulsive, and dare-devil. Children will be killed, and when that happens, it will be too late to complain. Why is the administration and parents of Our Lady of the Hills High School not attending these meetings, and picketing MM? (See two photos, one of a gravel truck accident on Hwy. 27 just east of the airport, and another showing congestion with trucks pulling in and out of the MM Bedrock facility on Hwy. 27.) How many accidents each year are caused by gravel trucks, in Kerr County? TXDOT has the statistics on this, someone should find the answer.
  7. After the next big flood—when people lose their homes, their property, their pets, and their lives—the flooding will be called “An Act of God.” But God is not responsible for flooding caused when MM and other gravel quarries alter the floodplain, with permits granted by Kerr County! Engineers are not Gods. The streams and tributaries to the river in this area—and they are many—have not even been mapped. FEMA maps along the Guadalupe River are wrong, and the officials know they are wrong; but Kerr County Floodplain Administrator John Hewitt refuses to sensibly ask FEMA for help in remapping, because that would affect the ability of developers to mine and build in the floodplain. Local officials, including the UGRA, have no idea how much water is going into the river from these tributaries, because many of them are flowing underground—the entire area is karst topography, including the Airport. In the next flood, how much water will there be in these streams, and at what point will it reach the river? What effect will these streams have on a rise downstream? Since so little is known about this, it’s simply impossible that John Hewitt can grant permits to MM to completely destroy the natural drainage and the floodplain, and still be confident as to what impact this will have on neighboring land and the river. And don’t let the County say “There is nothing we can do.” The County can regulate gravel mining, in spite of County Attorney Stebbins’ insistence to the contrary. The local government agency AND the community are supposed to decide floodplains, based on history as well as engineering. The City already has zoned out mining within its limits (but not in the ETJ.) The County could deny floodplain permits to mining—but they never do. And remember, “God helps those that help themselves.”
  8. Before MM bought the Bedrock facility, it was locally owned and mined. This local gravel company actually destroyed a registered Kerr County Cemetery, the Moore Cemetery, that was situated in the middle of the Bedrock mine site. In spite of the complaints from family members, written in letters to Commissioner Bill Williams, their pleas were ignored, and THE CEMETERY AND EVERY GRAVE AND GRAVESTONE WERE GROUND UP FOR GRAVEL.
  9. Every day, gravel mines grind up the irreplaceable historic and pale-ontological heritage of Kerr County. This is a remarkable scientific heritage that our children will never see. I know for a fact that MM—in the Bedrock mine east of our ranch—ground up an enormous Columbian mammoth skeleton, with incredible tusks. I know this because a brave MM employee from Center Point went back to the mine after dark and salvaged some of the skeleton and tusk from the mine’s sidewall, and I was given a piece of the tusk for the Naylor Ranch archives. Rumor has it that another Pleistocene megafauna skeleton, a sabertooth cat, probably Smilodon fatalis—was dug up at the Wheatcraft Mine in Center Point. This is one of the most interesting creatures of the Pleistocene, 14,000 years ago, that lived right here in our area, and probably encountered the first humans who entered the river valley. After some research it was found that if there really was a sabertooth cat skeleton, it was extremely rare and valuable—there is not another such skeleton in the entire state of Texas, in spite of the fact that the name Smilodon fatalis and the best examples come from this state! Skeletons that the public can see are in the collections of the La Brea Tar Pits in L.A., the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. How awesome that would be, to have this skeleton displayed at the art center in downtown Kerrville! But the public will never see any of these Paleolithic treasures.
  10. The convenience granted to local contractors to be able to buy gravel, almost in our front yard, does not provide enough public benefit to offset the negatives. What will these contractors do when every gravel site on the river has been destroyed? Why doesn’t the City or the County erect a concrete recycling plant in an outlying, industrial area? A concrete recycling plant would offset starting new gravel pits.
  11. The City of Kerrville has the right to support and protect the city’s interest with planning and zoning that will insure the future economic viability of the Kerrville community. What retiree would want to buy in the City or the County when their investment in their home and land could be undermined, and destroyed, any day, by the placement of a gravel mine—an INDUSTRIAL use—next door? During a drought, when small landowners’ wells go dry, because these gravel quarries are taking the water, what options are open to them? The answer is NONE, unless they can afford an attorney, become annexed by the City, or have the funds to afford to drill deeper (an option that which not too far in the future will not even be available!) Are these same retirees aware that during times of severe drought there is not even enough water to fight fires in certain areas? Realtors who are loathe to support the effort against MM should pay attention to the fact that at the present time, it is not safe to buy any land located on a river or major stream in Texas, due to the dominance of the gravel industry. Luckily for the real estate business, this basic fact is not advertised extensively right now—but with the anger and frustration residents feel over the quarry issue, it could become a major ad campaign.

The above “Gravel Quarries: 11 Points” should bring home that unregulated gravel quarries are a terrible, destructive evil with only one purpose: to make the mining companies rich beyond belief, at everyone else’s expense. Each responsible, conscientious person should do everything they can to see that MM does not win the Split Rock Quarry battle against the City of Kerrville and its ETJ neighbors.

Mary Matthews

“FOR EVIL TO TRIUMPH IT IS SUFFICIENT THAT GOOD MEN DO NOTHING.” Edmund Burke, Political Theorist and Philosopher


Comments

Quarry to Reservoir Questions

During closed meetings between the Upper Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) and the Kerr County Commissioner’s, the possibility of converting the Martin Marietta gravel pit on Highway 27 to a water reservoir has been discussed. On February 8, 2016, the Commissioner’s Court voted unanimously to complete the application for state loans to study the project’s feasibility. Commissioner Letz noted, “We have to go $250,00.” If approved, principal and interest will be deferred for eight years after which the county will budget annually to pay off the loan.

Mike Mecke, a Kerrville resident and retired water specialist with Texas A&M University offers the following alternative and comment. Frances Lovett

___________________

February 9, 2016

County: why is the County spending approx. $125,000 of our tax money on a proposal to convert old MM pits into water holding ponds? Where and what makes that part of the Kerr County Commissioner's Court mission and budget? Or even UGRA’s? They are not water purveyors [yet?]. Such an action would potentially save MM hundreds of thousands by taking real property restoration out of the “plan” and make them good guys by donating the pits to hold water for...............? maybe Kerrville [uphill pipeline], Center Point, even Kendall County/Comfort? or other not yet public plans? As a retired natural resources manager and water specialist, I can say that normally gravel and sand pits are the least likely sites to hold water - leak like sieves. And the engineers could go down to the Kerr County USDA offices and get a county soil survey on aerial photo maps and find out what soil materials are in the pit and the area quickly and for free, plus the NRCS would come out and do and on-site review most likely- also free. Both of those water permit desiring agencies should have copies of that Kerr County Soils book on their desk if they are not totally asleep. Almost every county in the USA now has that mapping expertise along with engineering and other advice for each soil found it each county. On many counties, the survey can now be found on-line as well........ courtesy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), US Dept. of Agriculture. Located across Water Street from our CITY Library, which we county taxpayers can use if we pay and annual fee - but, that is another issue.

If UGRA and the County still insist they need a Quarter of a Million Dollar engineering analysis of the site to tell them a good, mining grade liner will be needed to hold water in those MM pits, then some good public explanations need to be made to all of us dummies out in the county. And then, explain why are these pits the best option - in these locations, losing what NRCS guys? maybe 8 to 10 feet of water a year to evaporation and subject to damage from floods and infusion of flood waters.

I disagree with one answer given in the last meeting that the pit(s) are NOT in the Guadalupe River floodplain. If not, we would not have the rich, deep and easily minable gravel on those sites - laid down by the river and previous floods. I bet the 100 yr. floodplain is up to Hwy. 27 or even on the northside of it. So, publish the floodplain maps too and quit dodging good questions with vague or no answers such as at the Public Meeting. I have never heard upper level managers of such a highly reputable, national company claim to know so little about their issue and their local business operation? Very strange.

Mike Mecke

Comments

Flood Protection Inadequate in Kerr County

If you are new to Kerr County, and even if you have lived here for some time, you may not know that you live in “Flash Flood Alley”—an area that has some of the worst flash-flood prone land in the world. In the past 83 years, Kerr County has had some truly horrifying floods. The one most remembered for our area, for the deaths and the property devastation, was the August 2, 1978 flood—but other major floods occurred in 1932, 1946, 1952, 1987, 1991, 1997, and, the last big flood, in 2002.

While most people believe that they won’t be affected by a big flood, the truth is, they are wrong; if anything, the chance of experiencing a disastrous flood in the Hill Country has increased. Global warming has created extremes in weather, resulting in more severe tropical storms sweeping in from the Gulf of Mexico. The drought that has plagued the Hill Country since 2006—with the terrible, worst year of 2011—has denuded terraces, and swept away topsoil, exposing the bedrock of the ancient seas. Water flows faster across these devastated landscapes.

There are many issues involved in floodplain management, and in the next few weeks we intend to explore these issues and explain why, at the current time, protection from killer floods is not being handled properly in Kerr County. (See “Old River Road RV Park Being Built in the Special Flood Hazard Zone.”)

Altering the floodplain of the Guadalupe River, as well as the floodplains of its major streams, changes the way that water flows and is allowed to drain. Under federal law, FEMA—the Federal Emergency Management Agency—is responsible to insure that citizens have protection from flooding. FEMA enters into contracts with local governments to carry out floodplain management. Kerr County’s floodplain management is carried out by Road and Bridge, and the county hires a part-time engineer, John Hewitt, as the “Flood Plain Administrator” (FPA.) The City of Kerrville has its own FPA, and manages the floodplain within its city limits. Even though there are many issues with floodplain management right outside the city—in the ETJ (Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction), these areas are managed by the county.

Today, more than ever before, the politics of floodplain management place people at risk. It’s all about money. Developers do not want to be told that they cannot build in the floodplain. Cities and counties don’t want to be told that they will not receive tax revenues from a particular land parcel because it is in the floodplain, and should not be developed. Private property owners do not want government interfering and telling them what to do with their land. Sadly, there are corrupt engineers that manipulate the floodplain to allow developers the maximum use of their property—at the expense of the public.

Do you live in an area that has flooded in the past? In the final analysis, you should find out. Subdivision developers won’t tell you, realtors won’t tell you, and most of the time, local government won’t tell you. The lives of your family, your pets, and your property may depend upon taking the initiative yourself and preparing for the next big flood.

Areas that we will be exploring:

  • Why does eastern Kerr County—the Ingram, Hunt, Kerrville, Center Point, and Comfort communities—experience such deadly flash floods? What climatic forces are at work that create record rainfalls in short periods of time?
  • Have we learned from the floods of the past? “Historic Floods in Kerr County”
  • Eyewitness accounts of flood survivors
  • Floodplain Administration: How are floodplains determined in Kerr County? FEMA requires that communities be involved in floodplain determination. This hasn’t happened in Kerr County.
  • As a citizen, what rights do you have, and what access to local government do you have, if you are concerned about flooding around your property?
  • Between Kerrville and Comfort, there are several major streams that flow into the Guadalupe River. In the past, these streams have contributed significantly to death and destruction by floods; yet most of these streams are unrecognized, not studied, and not taken into account when developers want to build in the floodplain.
  • Much of Kerr County has FEMA maps that are old, hurriedly put together in the first place, and are just plain wrong. What can we do to update these maps?
  • As a community, what can we do to insure that floods of the past will not be forgotten, and that newcomers are more aware of the dangers of living in “Flash Flood Alley?”
  • Without adequate scientific information, floodplain decisions cannot be made accurately. How can we all work to insure that confluence water rises, cresting heights, and water inflow from streams are gauged and recorded?

Mary Matthews

Comments

Martin Marietta in Kerr County and Texas


Letters to the Editor continue the accurate listing of the negatives of the new Martin Marietta gravel mine - outside of a dozen jobs and some taxes paid by MM there are few positives. And those jobs may not be nearly as desirable or beneficial to Kerrville as the potential harm to the airport business community and surrounding housing developments. Maybe the paychecks do not even stay in Kerr County - a lot of things down TX 27 seem to be sliding or being pushed towards the Comfort and Kendall County economy. Yet, local politicos keep voting for these projects? Good to see our Chamber finally speaking out and taking a strong and logical position against this particular site - not MM, but the location they chose.

Sand and gravel mining in Texas is likely a lot more profitable than in other states which have good state laws and regulations regulating sites, operations, community welfare, environmental protections and, importantly, a state agency that enforces the letter and the spirit of laws protecting our waters, air, land, wildlife, neighbors and the business community. Until Texas legislators stand up and pass such laws we will continue to be the profitable target of both local and out of state projects taking full advantage of weak or non-existent laws and enforcement.

WE have to push our Texas senators and representatives to do their job to protect Texas for the future - not just for immediate profits and election donations. Be involved in the present election of our new state Senator - after they are elected, it is hard to remove any of them. Get it right now. Our beautiful Guadalupe River, the Kerrville valley and the watershed all need our oversight and involvement or soon it may not be the attractive town and county we now enjoy.

Mike Mecke

Comments

​Martin Marietta Quarry Fact Sheet

  • As per the resolution by Kerr County, quarries are detrimental to the environment - air, water, noise, landscape, and can impact property values in a negative way.
  • Kerr County says Martin Marietta (MM) has a positive impact on economy. Kerr Central Appraisal District (KCAD) has the valuation of their current property in Center Point at $1,837 million in 2003. During the years between 2005 and 2008 it increased to a peak value of $3,486 million. By 2015 it had declined to a valuation of $1,692 million. There is no sales tax revenue collected locally on their product. Obviously, the property value has declined to below what it was valued when they purchased it in 2002; approximately $150,000 lower and trending downward. This is standard for the industry (to lower their property values), and has been verified.
  • The current Kerrville property was purchased for approximately $5 million in Dec. 2014, about 13 months ago. Obviously, there is a great disparity between the 2015 appraisal valuation and the market sales price; KCAD should adjust the appraised value to reflect the correct market value. There was a For Sale sign on this property. It does not appear to have been listed in MLS prior to the sale, so it must have been a private transaction. KCAD has access to MLS data but would not be obtainable if a private transaction.
  • Why is MM moving forward when they have publicly stated they want to visit with the citizens, and annexation is in process? Annexation is a standard practice with municipalities. We have knowledge of a company similar to MM which has had property annexed, while in operations in 2015, and another site is currently in annexation in another town. This municipal action will freeze their work. There is a social and moral responsibility to stop when the County has passed a resolution, the City is annexing the land, the Chamber of Commerce is considering making a stand against it, adjacent neighbors and businesses have expressed their scorn for this operation. There is a high school within 400 ft. of this site, the Guadalupe River as a water source borders the property, and the airport has air traffic 200 ft. over the site. This, obviously, is not an appropriate place for a quarry. They knew they would be up against a fight when they bought a property within the ETJ. The photo on the back of this information shows what the property in Center Point looks like after being mined.
  • The MM representative stated at the January 12th City council meeting they are regulated by TCEQ. TCEQ has stated they are only required to inspect this type operation once every three years, unless there are complaints. The MM Center Point operation is not inspected by TCEQ, but MM has been approved for self-regulation. The last inspection was in June, 2014, by MM and not TCEQ. I have spoken to representatives of TCEQ in San Antonio on the telephone and have been impressed with their responses and taking notes to respond to questions. I was told this (Split Rock) property was not inspected, nor was it required to be prior to issuing the permit to MM.
  • Mining of this type is probably one of the least regulated industries. As a real estate developer, I would have to go through more regulation to increase property values and enhance the property versus destroying it.
  • Can the TCEQ permit be rescinded? If so, how and why? We need details. Has TCEQ ever rescinded similar permits before?
  • Will MM get a permit for mining in the flood zone area and a rock crusher similar to their current site down the road at Center Point?
  • How much money in materials will MM see out of this site? How long will the mine be at this site, if approved? The application shows 194 acres results in 227,000 tons of gravel. What else will be mined and sold from this site?
  • 227,000 tons of gravel is equivalent to 17,000 dump truck loads.
  • 1 acre dug to a depth of 20 feet is 32,000 cubic yards of material
  • 175 acres quarried to a depth of 20 feet is 5,600,000 cubic yards of material, or 700,000 dump truck loads
  • Does MM have any pending lawsuits? Has MM ever been found to be in violation of any TCEQ rules?
  • How many quarries does the San Antonio region have? Approximately 200. How many TCEQ inspectors for storm water runoff? Only 1.
  • Does TCEQ have permit restrictions when a quarry site is located within 1,000 feet of structures, such as schools, homes, or a major river?
  • Reputable businesses should be socially responsible in the community. Clearly, MM is not wanted this close to our town, residents, schools, businesses, airport and river. It is time to act like a reputable company.
  • Lastly, the 6 to 10 jobs they create is not a large impact to this community when you compare with what James Avery Jeweler (360), Fox Tank (60+), Our Lady of the Hills High School (20+) and Mooney International (55+) bring to the immediate area, and all are in the city limits.

Trevor Hyde

President, Comanche Trace

Comments

Kerr County Quarry Meeting

SHOCK AND DESPAIR DESCRIBE VICTIMS OF MARTIN MARIETTA

January 28, 2016, from Kerrville, Texas

Gravel Giant Martin Marietta (MM) Rushes Ahead

On Wednesday evening, January 27 at 6 p.m. at the Kerr County Livestock Pavilion, a tragic event unfolded as residents of Kerr County attended a “town hall meeting” scheduled by Precinct Two Commissioner Tom Moser. Many people attended; the parking lot at the pavilion was full and all of the chairs were taken in the vast hall. The subject was corporate mogul Martin Marietta’s new Kerr County gravel mine, which has been established in the ETJ (extra territorial jurisdiction) of the city of Kerrville, amidst subdivisions, heavy Highway 27 traffic, and across the street from Our Lady of The Hills Catholic High School.

In spite of the meeting scheduled last night and ongoing efforts to stop the mine, MM chose to ignore local, county, and state officials, and began excavations on the property the week of January 18th.

Victims in Shock

The mood could be described as one of shock and despair as surrounding property owners and those affected by the mine wandered in and out of the meeting. As revealed by some public questions, the large majority had never been involved in such a conflict before, and they were ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of fighting the gravel mine. Several asked “Will Kerr County buy the property after it is mined?” Obviously the answer to this question is “No.” Many were bitterly resigned to the fact that their homes, the result of a life-time’s work that they hoped to pass onto their children, were suddenly rendered worthless. One attendee, Mrs. Donald Oates, had lived in her house for 40 years, and had already given it to her children; now instead of the beautiful Guadalupe Valley river view, the property would be overlooking a gravel mine, with all of the attendant dust, dirt, noise, and traffic.

Moser Censures Testimony

The meeting was sponsored by the Kerr County Commissioner’s Court. Tom Moser, Commissioner for the gravel mine’s precinct, planned the “Town Hall Meeting.” This meeting, with rules set down by Moser, was not a public hearing--which would be subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act, and a matter of record. Attendees were told that they would not allowed to give testimony or to speak but had to write questions down on cards which were then read by Tom Pollard, the Kerr County Judge. Moser’s handling of the issue included cautioning the attendees that their testimony should remain “cordial” and that an armed Kerr County sheriff’s deputy had been stationed at the back of the room to maintain order.

Bureaucrats and Martin Marietta Allowed to Speak and Given Much Time

An endless parade of bureaucrats and Martin Marietta’s well-funded public relations division droned on for over an hour: Mike Coward from TXDOT; Ray Buck of the UGRA; John Hewitt, the discredited Kerr County Flood Plain Administrator (see an article about Hewitt’s conflict of interest when he worked for the Old River Road RV Park, on this website); TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality), who granted MM’s permit the same day that it was submitted last week; Kerr County Airport Administrator Bruce McKenzie; and Tom Pollard, Kerr County Judge. MM’s Chance Allen stated in his presentation that MM “appreciated working in Kerr County, and that’s why we are here.” Moser was elected to the Precinct Two post on a campaign platform to put an end to the quarry depredations; his term will be over soon, with this promise unrealized, and no real effort to make it happen. Earlier newspaper articles quoted Moser as defending MM’s “property rights,” but Moser did not mention the property rights of the many residents so negatively affected by the mine—his own constituency.

City of Kerrville and Mayor Pratt Offer Hope

Mayor Jack Pratt of the City of Kerrville offered hope for MM’s victims, and he was the only elected official that spoke out forcefully against the gravel mine. Citing the loss of property tax revenues from the surrounding area’s diminished values, the quarry’s enormous groundwater demands, and the property rights of the adjacent homeowners, he said that the City of Kerrville had started annexation proceedings and would move forward with their plans to annex the MM property and its surrounding suburbs and stop the mining. MM’s past record in similar situations insures that they will probably sue the City of Kerrville. Pratt is up for re-election in May, and he and the city will need all the citizen support they can muster to win such a battle.

Trevor Hyde, President of Comanche Trace, Speaks Against MM

Jay Colvin Sold the New Quarry Site to MM for Five Million Dollars

By 8 p.m. Moser’s efforts to contain residents’ outrage had failed, and people began spontaneously demanding questions of MM and TCEQ. One of the most outspoken was Trevor Hyde, the President of Comanche Trace, an upscale subdivision nearby. Hyde handed out a 4-page publication (see attached) showing the new mine location as it looks today and an “After” photo of MM’s Bedrock quarry site on Hwy. 27, showing the utter devastation of the Guadalupe River and the landscape. According to Hyde, MM paid 5 million dollars for the new quarry site, which was purchased from Jay Colvin. Colvin is the brother of Richard Colvin, the former owner of approx. 400 acres further east on Hwy. 27. Richard Colvin was responsible for destroying the landscape and river with gravel mines, desecrating the Wellborn Family Cemetery, burying dead cows along the river, and planning an RV Park in the floodplain—before he lost it all in bankruptcy in 2010. Another handout showed the Bedrock facility clouded in dust, with a caption reading “Quarries in Kerr County DO NOT control dust, dirt, and noise, and TCEQ does nothing.” Krystal Henagan, Texas Field Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force (www.momscleanairforce.org) was also at the meeting, taking notes and talking to residents.

Fate of Depleted Mines an Issue: Remediation

MM stated that 45 acre feet of groundwater per year was purchased with the property (one acre foot is equal to 325,851 gallons, making MM’s yearly withdrawal 14 million six hundred sixty three thousand, two hundred and ninety five gallons—14,663,295 gallons—in an area of Kerr County known for its water depletion.) James F. Hayes, who formerly served as Director at Large on the Headwaters Groundwater Conservation Board, said that groundwater granted to MM by Headwaters violated regulations. Ray Buck, the Director of the UGRA, announced that the UGRA and the Kerr County Commissioners Court had recently completed an Interlocal agreement that would allow the holes created by the mines to be used as water “reservoirs.” This scheme has been criticized by water experts as not being feasible. At the very least, the reservoirs would hold water that should be going back to property owners’ wells and the Guadalupe River. The majority of other states place stringent rules and regulations on gravel mining, including complete remediation of the site after mining is completed. The state of Texas, largely due to well-funded corporate lobbying by entities such as the TACA, the Texas Aggregate and Concrete Association, allows gravel mining to destroy adjacent property owners with impunity, and then walk away from the eyesores left behind.

Adjacent Property Owners Sued MM in 2007

Martin Marietta expanded their Center Point Bedrock mining operation in 2007 when they started leasing a parcel just across Hwy. 27 from the Kerr County Airport, owned by developer Max Duncan. The 2007 mine is located at the NE corner of the historic H.M. Naylor Ranch, owned by J. Nelson Happy and Mary J. Matthews. After promises from then-Precinct Two Commissioner Bill Williams that MM’s floodplain permit would not be granted—promises that were reneged upon when all of the Commissioners voted FOR the permit to be granted—Matthews and Happy sued MM. A matter of public record, the lawsuit declared the gravel mine a “nuisance.” Two commissioners who voted for that gravel mine in 2008 are still on the Kerr County Commissioners Court: Buster Baldwin and Jonathan Letz. Former Commissioners Williams, Oehler, and Judge Tinley would undoubtedly still be serving as well, had they not died. Matthews and Happy settled with MM but the details of that settlement are covered by a confidentiality agreement. That parcel has now been mined out and Matthews and Happy are wrangling with MM over MM’s compliance with their agreement.

Further Actions

There are things that you, as an individual, can do. Kerr County Conscience advises citizens affected by the new Martin Marietta mine to unify into one organization and sue Martin Marietta. When combined with the city’s opposition, this may convince MM that mining this parcel is too big a price to pay. Even if a citizens’ lawsuit isn’t able to stop the mining, a lawsuit could force MM to only mine 8-5 during the week, no weekends or holidays, maintain dust and noise controls, control weeds and oak wilt, and after so many years of mining perform remediation.

By Mary J. Matthews for Kerr County Conscience

www.kerrcountyconscience.com

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Quarry Questions

Martin Marietta Hwy 27

Recent travelers along Highway 27, between Lions Camp and Kerrville-Kerr County Airport, observed the incremental crafting of a beautiful, although mysterious, limestone and wrought iron fence. The impressive pillars provide a boundary between the highway right-of-way and an open field to the south.

The barrier clearly signals a new tenant for the acreage. Possibilities and speculation abound. Will there be a school, park, shopping center, perhaps a housing development? What will fit into the plot’s surrounding community of single-family dwellings, a high school, and the Guadalupe River?

My forty-five years of traveling past this Hill Country real estate were initially rewarded with the pleasantness of a cattle pasture, then an apple orchard, followed by a vegetable farm and finally today’s open field. On one memorable drive past the site my preschooler excitedly pointed to a grove of trees along the fence line, “Look, Mamma, look, the man painted his tree red.” Fall colors flourished but one hackberry dominated with every leaf a brilliant red.

Now we learn that a quarry will emerge behind the fence. New mysteries await answers. How will adjacent homeowners adjust to the deafening heavy equipment noises? Will the mine operate around the clock, on weekends and holidays? How much dust will this mining endeavor add to the air? Four established gravel mines located within a mile and a half radius have poor records of dust control. Will anyone monitor the increasing concentration of dust and its effects upon asthmatics, the elderly and immature lungs of school children? Two of these mining operations, as well as the new quarry, are owned by Martin Marietta of the Lockheed Martin conglomerate. Can we expect better citizenship with their move into this populated area?

Where will the huge amounts of water required for gravel washing come from? Will anyone know the kind or amount of contaminants carried in the site’s runoff into the river, i.e. machinery oils, gas, chemicals and water from their washing operations? Will highway safety be compromised as gravel trucks rumble through the gate on this narrow stretch of Highway 27, especially motorists traveling eastward and descending the hill at the fence’s origin?

Landscaping and berms are planned to buffer the quarry activity from highway traffic. Does this mean our grandchildren’s only view will be from Google Earth? Will they see an extending moonscape of quarries which already dominate this section of the innocent Guadalupe? Will Martin Marietta restore the open pit when mining is complete? They do so in other states where remediation is mandated.

Where do we go for answers?

Frances Lovett

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​An Unsafe Septic System

The septic system under construction for Old River Road RV Resort bypasses safeguards for public health and safety. An onsite septic facility (OSSF) is being installed with tanks and drain-fields designated for servicing 25 people or less. OSSF’s are the usual residential systems.

The RV park’s septic system lies over the Guadalupe River’s recharge zone. Installing a septic system on the RV park site is not contraindicated. However, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has specific rules and precautions for RV septic systems, they are more expensive than an OSSF. The Environmental Protection Agency refers to such systems as large capacity septic systems (LCSS). The TCEQ standards are based on the 5000-gallon rule—any project producing 5000 gallons of sewage per day requires a large capacity septic system application and oversight by the TCEQ. The RV developers evade this rule and TCEQ oversight by dividing the 240 unit development into three sections, each needing less disposal capacity than 5000 gallons.

RV parks present specific problems for septic systems. In addition to the higher volume produced by the convergence of people within a small area, the waste is more concentrated because less water is used in RVs. Toilet contents are made more caustic by strong chemicals and deodorants used to control tank odors. These conditions accelerate corrosion and septic system failures. The LCSS rules are designed to extend the life of a septic system from the usual 15 years to 30 years. Still, RV septic systems often fail prematurely.

The septic permit issued to the RV park compromises the health of the Guadalupe. The riverbank, adjoining terrain and fields serve as a sponge, absorbing water during wet weather. Referred to as riparian, its water continually migrates through the soil toward the river. Seeps and springs from riparian zones replenish the river during drought and are essential to its continuous flow and health.

The RV park’s septic tanks and drain-fields are embedded in this riparian sponge. We can expect the heavier than normal bacterial count and untreated caustic chemicals percolating from the septic system to mix with the naturally migrating water and seep into the adjacent Guadalupe. The predictability of early tank corrosion and system failure presents the risk of surface pollution draining directly into the river. The health and safety of RV park occupants is in immediate danger with such surface contamination.

Survival of the adjacent public recreation area, Brinks Crossing, is questionable. This Guadalupe swimming hole named the third best in the state in a 2008 edition of Texas Monthly and again hyped in 2012, receives the runoff, seeps and migrating water directly from the RV park’s septic system. Additionally, the river will carry any fecal and chemical contaminants the short distance downstream to Lions Park Dam, a busy swimming destination for children. Is it possible river contamination at this site could sacrifice the Guadalupe as a statewide recreational attraction?

There are no public safeguards such as inspections for breakdowns, measuring river contamination or ensuring repairs when failures occur. Kerr County’s Environmental Health Department who issued the OSSF permit is not staffed for such monitoring. The department depends upon the public and owners to self-report failures. Can we expect this owner who is avoiding the safety of an LCSS system and TCEQ oversight to self-report?

Many Texas counties have specific rules for construction of RV park septic systems. Kerr County has no guidelines, nor do we have a licensed sanitarian available to counsel our county employees tasked with issuing the RV park’s OSSF permit. Of course, the accepted path of following the 5000 gallon rule would assure TCEQ oversight of planning, construction and maintenance through an LCSS permit.

Our county officials spent untold time and energy plus $3 million on the Kerrville South Wastewater Project designed to replace failing residential septic systems polluting a Guadalupe tributary. A similar plan, the Center Point Wastewater Project, will cost an estimated $44 million to replace deteriorating OSSF’s threatening the river. Now county officials ignore the RV park’s immediate source of contamination—drain fields leeching into the riparian’s recharge. The septic tanks and connecting systems are at high risk for failure long before their 15-year lifespan is reached.

Elected officials are aware of the project’s health and safety issues. They also know that TCEQ oversight of this septic system could prevent much of the damage. Does it seem reasonable for authorities to ignore or perhaps support the creation of another site, sure to require taxpayer funding for cleanup, while the Center Point project is still in the planning stage? Is it possible the RV park site will need cleanup before the Center Point project is completed?

Frances Lovett

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​RV Park Safety

The beginning construction of the Old River Road RV Resort presents several public safety concerns. The most urgent is the predictability of lost lives during flooding. Yes, predictable, because this RV park is located within a dangerous portion of the floodplain. The project sits at the confluence of the Guadalupe River, Turtle Creek and Nowlin’s Hollow which assures rising water during heavy rains. Whether deluges occur in Turtle Creek’s watershed to the southwest, the Guadalupe’s from the west, or Nowlin’s Hollow from north of the airport, each presents the probability of life-threatening water rises. A rain event involving any two or all three of these watersheds assures walls of water and overwhelming flooding within minutes. The view from Highway 27, just east of the airport, explains why. The site is a small, bowl-shaped valley, surrounded by hills on three sides. The remaining boundary is the river. Drainage is limited to the southeast corner along the Guadalupe’s narrow outlet. The potential volume of accumulating water is far greater than emptying capacity.

Historically, there are two landmarks on the valley’s eastern ridge, a family home and an iconic oak tree marking the site of the Welborn family cemetery. Edward Wellborn lived there as a child and recalls the 1932 flood filling the entire valley. Only the house and cemetery oak were visible above water.

Debris in cypress trees confirmed that Turtle Creek crested at 42 feet at this convergence in the 1978 flood. Photos of the Monkey Island area, adjacent to the park, show huge Cypress stumps uprooted and deposited there during flooding. A naked eye observation reveals the RV site resting on lower ground than the Cypress stumps. One Center Point resident recalls working as a young man to remove cypress trees and stumps deposited in the valley’s field during floods . . . the same field the RV Park will occupy.

In a Hill Country flood the valley will fill rapidly with turbulent floodwaters. Evacuating the planned 240 RVs and their occupants becomes a public safety issue. The only exit is the steep uphill entrance in the southeast corner at the convergence of water from Turtle Creek and the Guadalupe. How much warning is needed to avoid the chaos of a bottleneck at this exit, because it is only wide enough for one RV at a time? How many RVs will be disabled by even a few feet of water flooding into the park?

Many of those fleeing will be retirees and elderly, unable to meet the physical challenge of escaping rushing water and climbing steep hillsides. Rainwater cascading down the hillsides would only diminish their chance of survival. Will a quarry bordering the northeast corner of the Park fill with water from Nowlin’s Hollow and add to the chaos?

Any RV fortunate enough to drive out in time faces the possibility of being swept away. A right turn out of the park runs into a flooded low water bridge at Brink’s Crossing. A left turn carries an RV along the narrow River Road sandwiched between Drymala Quarry berms and the Guadalupe. A ditch draining water from the berms increases the likelihood of water washing over the road and possible washouts.

Kerr County’s Flood Plain administrator has approved a no rise certificate indicating that the RV park’s presence will not obstruct the normal flow of water during river rises. The purpose is to protect upstream property owners from back-up and higher floodwaters. Who considers the safety of the RV Park customers facing the same floodwaters, especially if a flash flood occurs at night?

Frances Lovett

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RV Park Update

The RV Park plan proposed by Richard Colvin in 2009 did not materialize. Financial hardship entered the picture for Colvin. When he was unable to obtain financing, Victoria National Bank of Corpus Christi, Texas foreclosed. In June 2011 the bank held an auction on the site, but a sufficient bid was not obtained. In November of 2012, the property was purchased by William Sturges, also of Corpus Christi. He moved forward with plans for another RV park, called Old River Road RV Resort.

Frances Lovett

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