Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

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

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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

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​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

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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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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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Taxpayers Take Note!


Taxpayers Take Note!
You may soon be asked to pay for the cost of collecting data when developers are drilling privately owned permitted “public” wells in Kerr County. The term “public” just means that the well extends into the Trinity Aquifers. Up to now, the developer of the public well has paid for the data logging equipment usage and a geologists time to collect the data and submit it to the Headwaters Groundwater Conservation Board. Costs can range from $4000 to $6000. I believe both conservative and more liberal thinking citizens can agree that the developer, who will obviously benefit the most from a successful project, should pay for the data collection. Developers pay for other costs including streets, sewer, curb, park space, etc. that they recover from those who buy into or rent portions of their development.

Kerr County has one of the outstanding hydrogeological pictures of the aquifers and well water supplies of any county in Texas. HGCD has monitor wells in place paid for by taxpayer funds. They are monitoring several privately owned wells with the cooperation of well owners. The water in our deep aquifers may take 2000 years to recharge. We may now be in a 30 year drought cycle. Good science can help us manage our water supply. Present and new water users will pay to keep good data collection science in ongoing. Let’s have the developers pay to collect the data for new wells coming on line.

Mark your calendars for October 19(Hearing on Rescinding Rule 8.5) and November 9th(the HGCD Board will vote to Rescind Rule 8.5) I know that about 75% of the voters in Kerr County tend be conservative voters and desire to keep the individualistic entrepreneurial spirit alive. Now is the time to attend the above meetings and let the HGCD Board of Directors know that developers should pay their own way. If a $5000 data collection cost related to developing a $100,000 to $250,000 “public” well would nix a developer’s project then the developer should review the business plan. Spread over a 100 home project the cost is $50 per home. These seemingly minor costs passed to the taxpayer can result over time in less money available for your children and grandchildren’s education. Education in Texas is a better investment right now than providing more financial incentives to developers.

Gary C. McVey, Former Prec. 1 Director, HGCD

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​ 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
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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

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WILL GROWTH AFFECT OUR WATER?

By: Mike Mecke, Kerrville

Natural Resource Manager & Water Specialist – Retired


YES! It seems the destiny of Texas is to grow. We are exploding in population from within, from out-of-state – all together it is a very serious picture. Texas, for the most part, has limited water resources. Much of the growth is occurring along or west of I-35/I-37, which is a region known for frequent and often severe droughts. The semi-arid Central Texas’ Hill Country is where vegetation and climate from the East meets plants and climate from the West and the deserts beyond. And now, where old, largely German or just pioneer-settled towns meets tens of thousands of new comers…… us!

A high percentage of our new Hill Country newcomers came here from wetter regions or out of state. At least, that seems to be true in Kerr, Kendall and Gillespie Counties. Many of our younger or new Texans did not endure the Drought of the Fifties, as many older residents did. That intense seven to ten year drought (depending upon where you lived) was a character builder and a severe trial especially for Texas farmers and ranchers. Some turned to new irrigation afterwards. Many did not make it. You must read our Texas “bible” for those times by the late, great Elmer Kelton “The Time it Never Rained”. Elmer was at his best in that absorbing fifties novel of a family and a boy growing up and existing on a Texas ranch at that time. He makes you feel that hot, dusty drought and see the social conditions - they endure in your mind!

Growth and expanding population, home building and new businesses seem to be the main goals of most city officials, councils and the development community. That viral disease has seized even small town Texas and the Hill Country seems to be a major target area due to its beauty, climate, many rivers, springs and convenient location to major cities. We seem to be in the process of sometimes killing or destroying what we came here to enjoy and appreciate in these quaint small towns with their clear rivers, history and peaceful rural life.

The Hill Country and many areas of Texas cannot handle a lot of growth simply because there are not the water supplies to support higher populations, especially during prolonged, severe drought. Many new residents now want their homes and towns to resemble “back home” with large lush green landscapes, parks and golf courses. Years ago, water was not an issue in most cities and towns. Now it is!

There is little or no understanding of a term that is familiar to ranchers called“carrying capacity”. On a ranch or in a pasture, it means the numbers of animals, including livestock, deer and exotics, which can be maintained without damaging the desired rangeland vegetation. In good years and in drought these numbers will be managed to fit
the conditions. It is always limited by the production of desired forage and by rainfall.

2.
Mecke – Growth & Water


Personally, I think towns, cities, counties and regions also have a sustainable carrying capacity for people. Water is the limiting factor usually. There is a practical and ethical limit to how much water we can beg, borrow, buy or steal from adjoining neighbors without damaging either them or the environment. These issues are now facing Texans from Amarillo to the Rio Grande Valley and from El Paso east to Dallas, San Antonio or Houston.

Many areas of the state are now beginning to realize that our groundwater – aquifers– do not exist on county lines, so geographic groups of counties utilizing the same aquifers are forming Groundwater Management Areas (GMA’s). In Kerr, we are in GMA-9. This is an improvement in groundwater management and protection as people then work together to arrive at plans for water pumping and to derive a view of what they want their aquifer to look like in the distant future……maybe: the same as now, or wells averaging 20 ft. lower, or other standards? It is causing some heartburn for people in neighboring counties or towns with differing goals for their groundwater and their area’s growth. Some of us live in small towns because we like small towns. Others may want unlimited growth or financial rewards and would be happy to see a big city grow up in our Hill Country.

Too much well pumping affects groundwater levels and spring flows. This can be a disaster for our springs, creeks and rivers - especially in a long drought. All Hill Country streams arise from springs. Downstream bays and estuaries would suffer from reduced freshwater flow and nutrients. It is all connected isn’t it?

Excessive growth is becoming more and more important across the state as we continue to grow in often poorly planned or not well organized developments and communities. Get involved locally in water meetings. Texas needs to have smart growth. Water is NOT like any other “commodity” as there is no substitute!

Truly, Water is Life!

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