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

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

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

Comments

​ Kerr County's Bridge to NOWHERE




Kerr County Conscience has learned of another old Kerr County bridge scheduled for replacement. This low water crossing at the Guadalupe and Ehler Lane actually goes to nowhere. The road sign on East Highway 27 warns of "no outlet". After crossing the bridge there is a turnaround in a dirt field with a closed ranch gate and a distant house in site.
DSC02767
The bridge is in Texas Department of Transportation plans and funding has been completed. Total cost of this one bridge replacement is $804,727.76. Engineers have already spent $44,881.80 on the project. Because this is a traditionally funded bridge the county pays a portion of the cost. State funded road projects originate at the local level with your elected county commissioner, in this case Jonathan Letz, Precinct 3. Do not blame TxDOT for this questionable expenditure, they will not proceed with any project not requested by the responsible commissioner and approved by the commissioner's court. TxDOT depends on elected County Commissioners to inform their constituents and hold public hearings to secure public opinion prior to beginning any project. How many voters in Precinct 3 have heard about the bridge replacement on Ehler Lane? How many county resident's had an opportunity to offer their opinion?

Yes, your county property taxes are going toward replacement of this bridge.


Ehler Lane

Is this the best use of your tax dollars? Could this bridge replacement have been delayed while Commissioner Letz was posturing over expenditures for EMS/Fire protection and opposing library funding? Who will benefit from this bridge to nowhere? You can offer your opinion to TxDOT at http://www.txdot.gov/contact_us/form/ and the Kerr County Commissioner's Court at commissioners@co.kerr.tx.us.


F. Lovett
KCC
Comments

Open Letter to Kerrville Daily Times

Mr. Armstrong,


Thank you and the KDT for your continued coverage of water issues. I hope you will be able to correct a statement in yesterday's edition. Specifically, "restrictions imposed by the state on how much water the city can pull from the Guadalupe River have curtailed the city's safe operating capacity". Actually, there is almost no water in the Guadalupe River to pull. TCEQ only requires the city to maintain the same river flow out of Town Lake that flows into the lake during periods of low flow. During periods of above normal flow the city is required to simply maintain normal flow over the dam. There has been very little flow into Town Lake for months and the TCEQ cannot produce additional river water. The city of Kerrville has free access to all the water in Town Lake they simply must assure that the same amount flows over the dam as flows into the lake.

You should be aware that Charlie Hastings, Director of Public Works, has blamed the TCEQ's watermaster program for Kerrville water restrictions in previous years by promoting the idea that the city is being punished. Your article implies that untruth is being promoted again. The TCEQ (state) does not dictate anything beyond assuring the river continues to flow. I hope you will take a critical look at the facts surrounding river pumping and provide a factual analysis to your readers.

The Kerr County Conscience website provides historical data from the USGS gauges located along the river in Kerr County. I believe a brief check of this data is invaluable to understanding that our current river water situation is indeed a crisis which we cannot blame on the state. Click here to view this data.

Frances Lovett

East Kerr County

Comments

A QUARRY NEIGHBOR'S QUANDARY

A Sunday morning drive along Center Point’s River Road ain’t what it used to be.


The drive from east to west still begins beneath the stunningly beautiful canopy of old pecans, oaks, elm and cypress. The undergrowth opens up in a few places to give the driver a few peeks at the Guadalupe River—just teasers leaving you wishing for more. Trouble is, the bigger view opening up on the other side of the road is a quarry neighbor’s nightmare. Thistles, thistles, thistles. Everywhere, musk thistles.

And what have our neighbors, the gravel quarries, done to stop the explosive proliferation of these awful weeds?

Martin Marietta Aggregates has made no attempt to control thistle growth on their property that adjoins River Road and Sutherland Lane. White seeds are drifting in the wind to all parts of the county. And beyond.

Drymala Quarry seems to be mounting a late poisoning of their thistle forest on Sutherland Road. Probably a high-powered chemical since Roundup® won’t kill thistles that are that tall. This quarry neighbor guesses they have a license to purchase those potent, federally regulated chemicals in large quantities, since Drymala obviously used a lot of whatever noxious chemical it is.

Do the quarries’ neighbors have a right to know what chemical compound Drymala has sprayed?

The runoff from whatever they are, those herbicides or herbicide, seeps directly into the river and is undoubtedly detrimental to the downstream neighbors as well as to fish and to river plants.

Could there have been some drift onto neighbor’s property or onto the roadway as they sprayed…?

Let us return to our tour.

Take a turn back onto River Road and you see the backside of Drymala’s quarry.

Oh, no!

While county crews have mowed their side of the fence, the right-of-way, the quarry’s neglect presents a stark contrast.

Musk thistles run amuck on this part of Drymala land.

A monumental travesty will undoubtedly unfold next spring. These thistle seeds are already drifting across River Road. They drift, spreading hundreds of thousands of seeds, each one eager to bloom into a tall stalk of sharp thorns. Thorns that injure livestock and wildlife, while ruining the land, be it recreational, agricultural, or residential.

I see the wedge of ground that has been scrapped and gouged into an ATV-motocross facility. All the vegetation has been removed from the surface, leaving bare dirt. Prime river bottom dirt.

Can a thistle seed ask for more?

I know there is relief ahead. I am almost to TEXAS MONTHLY Magazine’s #3 swimming hole in Texas, the Brinks-Reese-Guadalupe crossing. But there’s no relief for me. This popular recreational spot, a haven for man since the days of the Native Americans, has not been spared. Musk-thistle seeds have made their way to the riverbank.

Thankfully, those weeds have not germinated in huge numbers. Not yet. Were they seeded from the unattended quarry berms a few feet above the river?

A return to Highway 27 is encouraging. Martin Marietta has removed thistles along this heavily traveled roadway. Well, maybe not so encouraging. Neighbors wonder why this international corporation controls the musk thistle at their high profile front fence that runs alongside the highway, but ignores the infestation beyond the view of Highway 27 motorists.

Then there is Wheatcraft, situated on the river bank.

Neighbors suspected the berms along Highway 27 were strategically located to hide the dismal reality inside the pits. These berms have now become a seedbed for the musk thistle. Wheatcraft Materials Incorporated has also made a sloppy attempt at control with herbicides.

Do neighbors have a right to expect more appropriate thistle control, given the high risk of chemicals soaking into the soil, the river’s alluvial system and the main river stream?

Quarry neighbors also suffer from unattended quarry thistles, and nearby farmers and ranchers lose the productivity of their land, since these weeds aren’t suitable as agricultural feed and they are sharp and tall, poising injury to livestock and wildlife.

Removal is impossible with the annual seeding from the quarries as well as the seed bank lying dormant from previous years. Any method of control is labor intensive, time consuming, expensive and frustrating. Neighbors can attempt to pop a few out of the ground but this is impossible when faced with a blooming bumper crop. Do we spray and kill everything in site? Do we mow and destroy the wildflower seed bank forever? Unfortunately, the musk thistle blooms and seeds in sync with our native wildflowers.

The quarries are not operating on this Sunday but thistle seeds are still blowing in the wind, soon to land and germinate.

Wouldn’t it all be better, if gravel quarry owners would simply make concerted efforts to control thistles on their property, before they morph from seeds to weeds?

~Frances Lovett

Comments

Show more posts