Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

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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Geology of Correlative Rights

Whose water is it? What's it worth? Well owners rights, new laws and the reality of geology. Click this link for the informative article Geology of Correlative Rights.

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***TAXPAYER WATER ALERT***

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, October 19 to gain public opinion on Headwaters Groundwater Conservation District board member Pratt's proposal to switch the cost of well sample collection and analysis from new subdivision drillers to the HGCD thus the taxpayers of Kerr County.

Attention Private Well Owners: Calls to Kerr County Conscience indicate a continuing pattern of misinformation by the usual suspects i.e. a few unscrupulous developers, realtors and investors in Kerr County. The unfortunate pattern is to convince private well owners the HGCD is trying to meter, regulate pumping or assess fees to current or new private wells. That is not the issue.

The Issue: If Mr. Pratt's proposal passes the cost of well samples and analysis for large well permits (new subdivision/commercial/industrial development) will become the responsibility of the HGCD and thus the county taxpayers. Under current rules the driller/developer pays the cost of collection and analysis.

Background: Development, whether residential or commercial needs to take place where there is an adequate well water supply. Unlike surrounding counties our Kerr County Commissioner's Court does not require new subdivision developers to establish a reliable water source before building. The HGCD is largely dependent upon well samples to determine areas of future sustainable water sources within the county. This information is currently obtained by securing well samples during the drilling of new large permitted wells which are usually for a new subdivision and public water supply for the subdivision. The information collected does not affect the well being drilled but allows for mapping of availability and future planning and wise development within the county. A fee for the collection and analysis of the well sample is $4000 to $6000 currently paid by the driller/developer. There is no such requirement for domestic well drilling only those developments/new public water systems with multiple connections or pumping huge amounts of water.

Questions: 1) Should the county taxpayers bear the expense of well samples for large water systems who will be selling the water for profit to the new subdivision residents thus making a profit from the same taxpayers main water supply--- the Trinity Aquifer?
2) Can you expect private well owners as taxpayers to bear the expense of well samples and also live with the new subdivision residents next door pumping their aquifer to the point of depletion?
3) Do county residents deserve appropriate data collection to assure reasonable growth where there is a reliable water source?

Beware: Board member Pratt has been joined by board president, Gordan Morgan, in suggesting we may not need this information at all. Just stop collecting the samples.
1) Would the absence of any absolute scientific information on groundwater stores in the county lead to the same unplanned growth and water shortages Kendall County is experiencing.
2) Is it fair to sell new county residents property without a reliable water source supported by scientific data?

Taxpayers should attend this meeting to voice their opinions. Developers, realtors, and investors will be there in force and they carry a lot of weight with some board members.

October 19th 1:30pm UGRA building

F. Lovett

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Do quarry neighbors have rights?


Our recent rains have been great, but KCC folks have been in the county a goodly many years, and we know that with summer upon us, the dust and noise from our neighboring quarries will soon pick up again.

There’s nothing we can do about it.

As our county officials support the industrialization of the Highway 27 corridor, and while all that dust and noise billows up from the quarry properties, mine owners are allowed to do whatever they choose. They are big business. I’m just a private landowner.

Over here on my property, I breathe nasty air, and I can’t even enjoy a peaceful evening, relaxing in my own home, much less by the river, not with the quarries pounding away, day and night, night and day.

At a town hall meeting in New Braunfels, over in Comal County, I heard a Martin Marietta lobbyist boldly state that their company adheres to all state laws. Yet some Comal County residents had unanswered complaints about broken windows, cracked foundations and caved-in wells from blasting at the neighboring Martin Marietta mine.

In actuality, there are no Texas state laws regulating quarry operations.

Also, that lobbyist failed to inform the audience that he and other powerful quarry lobbyists had successfully defeated a modest regulatory bill previously introduced by Texas State Senator Troy Fraser. The only piece of the bill to survive was a clause stating that all gravel loads on a public road must be covered.

Texas does have laws specific to air quality which govern emissions from any industrial operation. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) applies these laws to quarry operations in an effort to control emissions of particulates and dust into the air. A drive down Highway 27 from Kerrville to Comfort will verify the absence of enforcement as the ground dries out and summer operations crank up.

Dust billows from the pits and on-site roads. White dirt builds up on the highway at the pit entrances. Quarry neighbors ought to be able to expect a few neighborly courtesies from the pit owners.

All this particular landowner is asking for is a sensible, decent, and neighborly approach to their business model. This would include...
  • reasonable hours of operation,
  • noise control,
  • dust control from the mining operations and on-site roads,
  • reasonable protection of the river, river bottom and floodplain; and,
  • remediation when the mines are depleted.
Moreover, we need our local government’s help.

Our elected officials should report to water authorities, such as the TCEQ and HGCD, the amount of river- and well water that is being used to facilitate mining, gravel-washing processes and dust control.

We also need an objective assessment by those officials on the short term tax gain vs. the long term loss of land productivity, river tourism and road repairs caused by heavy truck traffic. They should regularly monitor the particulate matter that is emitted into the air from the cluster of five quarries within our small area.

Finally, we need law enforcement and protection from the speeding trucks and flying gravel.

I think we need a Quarry Neighbor’s Bill of Rights. That might get someone interested in our plight. But the rain today is so nice. I could just sit here and look at the dust on my shelves, at the pictures of my loved ones and at my precious knickknacks. Why not look outside and enjoy the beautiful Hill Country? Because just across the fence, I can see what the miners are doing to these beautiful hills…and it’s the pits!

Frances Lovett

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