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

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

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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

Comments

Wheatcraft

Center Point citizens have become aware of another attempt by Wheatcraft gravel mining operations to obtain a permanent rock and cement crushing permit for their HW 27 quarry site. The mining operator originally applied for such a permit in 2006. Indeed the rock crusher construction had begun without a permit but the Wheatcraft owners were forced to dismantle the structure when a knowledgeable neighbor requested a TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) investigation.

During the subsequent permit application process citizens organized into GREAT (Guadalupe River Environmental Action Team) and opposed the approval of the application. Wheatcraft already had the gravel surface mining operation in full production. The mined area along the Guadalupe River banks had become barren with the riparian area stripped of vegetation and only a few cypress trees remaining. The large amount of water being pumped from the Guadalupe for the gravel washing process was evident with a noticeable decrease in flow below the Wheatcraft river pump. Holding ponds required to contain runoff from the gravel washing process were not up to TCEQ standards and required revision.

GREAT members called attention to the health hazards posed by a rock crusher at the Hwy 27 location. Concerns were voiced over airborne particulates posing a health threat to the nearby Center Point school children and the high concentration of frail elderly. Prevailing winds could carry the contaminates several miles from the site.

If granted a cement crushing permit the old cement would be arriving from distant locations with unknown makeup and a high likliehood of toxic material content including silicone, lead, mercury and asbestos. Particulates from these toxic materials could produce an even greater health threat including cancer, skin and lung disease.

Over a period of months GREAT established its tax free status by aligning with the Texas Rivers Protection Association, hired legal council, prepared for the local TCEQ hearing and began maneuvering the legal system. Wheatcraft withdrew their application immediately before a court hearing after errors in their application had been revealed.

In the interim 5 years Wheatcraft has continued the surface mining of the entire highway 27 site with the results visible from Highway 27. Previous farmland, grazing and wildlife areas have been destroyed. There are no plans for restoration. This previously quiet pristine section of the river has been deserted by recreational tourists. Fishermen, floaters and paddlers prefer to avoid the dust, noise and barren riverfront. Wheatcraft has pumped huge amounts of aquifer water for their gravel washing operations in the area of the county at greatest risk for dry wells.

In 2008 Wheatcraft began operating a temporary cement and rock crushing operation. They have now applied to TCEQ for a permanent permit. GREAT members and local citizens met on Nov. 1, 2011 in opposition to Wheatcraft's application for a permanent permit. Concerns were expressed over air quality, river contamination at the site, contaminants settling in surrounding soil and runoff into the river.

The public can comment on the Wheatcraft application and request a local hearing. The communication must arrive at TCEQ before Nov. 17, 2011.

Download your comment form here. Fill it out and send it to the link below.

Below is the link to go online to send in your form:
http://www.tceq.texas.gov/about/comments.html

Below is the link to go online to see the facility site map for Wheatcraft:
http://www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/hb610/index.html?lat=29.9436&lng=99.0183&zoom=13&type=r

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Motheral Conflict of Interest

KERRVILLE CITY COUNCILMAN BRUCE MOTHERAL: ENGINEERING CONSULTANT TO THE GRAVEL QUARRIES

  • Does Kerrville City Councilman Bruce Motheral have conflicting interests by supporting river preservation and tourism downtown, and facilitating river destruction when his engineering fees secure him money?


Since the City of Kerrville doesn’t pay its Council a salary, in order to be a City Councilman candidates have to be independently wealthy—or find the time to practice their professions on the side.


This hasn’t been a problem in the past, since many of the elected City Councilmen are self-employed entrepreneurs and developers. In fact, being a City Councilman—acquiring an intimate knowledge of the way the City works and rubbing elbows with the local power brokers—could be very convenient, if the Councilman is an Engineer and his clients are the local gravel quarries.


Could anyone, living in the Kerrville area, travelling on Highway 27 to Center Point, or driving down “scenic” Sutherland and River Roads, not be aware of the curse of gravel quarries in this area, disfiguring the landscape and polluting the Guadalupe River? The land of the closest quarry, Rountree, is owned in part by developer Richard Colvin: it is located right in the city’s backyard, in the ETJ (the City’s Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction). Ever wonder where all that dust comes from, as you approach the airport travelling east? This quarry is a major air polluter, although you can’t see the actual facility from Highway 27. Travelling east, the next quarry encountered is just south of the airport, on the south side of the highway. A new quarry, it’s only been open a few years, on land owned by wealthy developer Max Duncan. It’s leased by mega conglomerate Martin Marietta Materials Southwest, Ltd. Immediately adjacent to the east is another quarry, owned by Joe Drymala, who also mines for gravel in the Comfort area—in fact, right in his own front yard. East of Drymala is the Bedrock Sand and Gravel Plant, owned and operated by Martin Marietta. Next time you are on Google Earth, check out the huge blotch on the landscape caused by this facility. Then we all know about the controversy several years ago over the expansion of Wheatcraft east of Center Point. Surely eastern Kerr County and the City of Kerrville’s Hwy. 27 “Gateway” could be given another name—“Skid Rock Row.”


Much of the gravel located immediately south of Highway 27, east of the airport, comes from a major tributary to the north, “Nowlin’s Hollow” (more on why this is called Nowlin’s Hollow later.) Nowlin’s Hollow actually travels at a slant on its insistent run to the Guadalupe River, running from the NE to the SW. So much water cascades down the hills east of the airport that the resulting gravel has made the mine owners millionaires several times over. There are several locations where the water flow is so heavy that TXDOT has expansive culverts underlying Highway 27; in the 1978 flood the highway in this area was completely covered with water, and impassable.

From Highway 27From Highway 27
A few weeks ago, people living in the area east of the airport noticed some heavy duty bulldozing and construction going on, right next to the highway, in the area of one of these culverts—on property owned by Joe Drymala. Since the area under construction is located in the 100-year flood plain, before any work was done, Drymala needed a Floodplain Permit from Kerr County Floodplain Administrator John Hewitt (technically, since the construction area is in the ETJ, the City of Kerrville should be conducting the floodplain permitting, but since the City and the County are fighting over development jurisdiction in the ETJ, this area has been given to Kerr County for floodplain review.) No permit application had been made to Hewitt, and his office had no idea what Drymala was proposing. However, we were informed that Drymala would be preparing the proper study and technical information and it would come from his Engineering Consultant—Kerrville City Councilman Bruce Motheral.

Drymala 3From Highway 27
Since the proposed development is within the City’s ETJ, other reviews and permits could also be required. It’s very possible that the Kerrville City Council, or one of the City’s Boards, like Planning and Zoning, will be reviewing this construction. Do you think that, under these circumstances, it is a conflict of interest for Councilman Bruce Motheral to serve as Drymala’s Engineering Consultant?


This is not the first time that Motheral has been involved in engineering studies and floodplain permitting—both as a privately-practicing engineer, and as a City of Kerrville official. In 2006, when Martin Marietta Materials Southwest, Ltd. (MM) made application to expand their mining activities to a new site immediately adjacent to the H.M. Naylor Ranch Historic District, and just SE of the Kerr County Airport, Bruce Motheral wrote the engineering study that said it was okay for MM to “demolish” Nowlin’s Hollow tributary and build a road right across the floodplain. At that time, Motheral wasn’t on the City Council—but he was the Chair of the City of Kerrville’s Planning and Zoning Commission. In 2006, the City had the zoning ability to stop Martin Marietta’s expansion. Do you think that under these circumstances, it was a conflict of interest for the Chair of the City of Kerrville’s Planning and Zoning Commission to also serve as Martin Marietta’s Engineering Consultant?


Just one more fact about Councilman Motheral. After knowing this area so well, Motheral, during his tenure as a Kerrville City Councilman, also was a strong proponent of Richard Colvin’s disastrous plan to develop a 280-unit RV Park on the flood plain SW of the present quarries. Old timers talk about this plain, during the big floods—1932, 1978—and most of the plain was covered with water from Nowlin’s Hollow, except for one prominent knoll. Atop this knoll is an ancient live oak tree, the site of the Wellborn family cemetery, where five members of the Wellborn family, in the 1860s, were buried. Colvin planned to completely destroy this family cemetery in his RV development. At the Planning and Zoning Board’s hearing, Motheral could be seen huddling with Colvin, shaking hands, offering his support.This development would have happened—and may still happen—but appears to be on hold, perhaps the only good thing to come out of the recession.



No doubt, when and if it comes up again, Bruce Motheral will be pushing for it—if he wins re-election to the City Council on Saturday.


Please click here for the PDF file for documentation accompanying this article.
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