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

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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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Kerr County Quarry Meeting

SHOCK AND DESPAIR DESCRIBE VICTIMS OF MARTIN MARIETTA

January 28, 2016, from Kerrville, Texas

Gravel Giant Martin Marietta (MM) Rushes Ahead

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

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

Victims in Shock

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

Moser Censures Testimony

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

Bureaucrats and Martin Marietta Allowed to Speak and Given Much Time

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

City of Kerrville and Mayor Pratt Offer Hope

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

Trevor Hyde, President of Comanche Trace, Speaks Against MM

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

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

Fate of Depleted Mines an Issue: Remediation

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

Adjacent Property Owners Sued MM in 2007

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

Further Actions

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

By Mary J. Matthews for Kerr County Conscience

www.kerrcountyconscience.com

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Quarry Questions

Martin Marietta Hwy 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do we go for answers?

Frances Lovett

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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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Water Availability Studies

Kerr County is the only Texas Hill country County that does not require water availability studies for new developments.

I pulled up a newspaper article from 2006 (wow can't believe I found it) that says a little more about it. Read the articlehere.

Let's hope Bandera County doesn't copy us in this regard as well.

Later,

Mary J. Matthews for Kerr County Conscience
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OVERHEARD

Hill Country Alliance Discussion Session, Oct. 20, 2011, in response to comments by various Kerr County community leaders that downstream metropolitan water usage is the cause of Kerr County's water crisis:

"We in Kerr County can negatively affect downstream by overpumping our groundwater and the river--but, in general, we are not affected by what downstream users do [there may be rare exceptions]. Poor watershed management in our region affects our groundwater and springflows. The effects of overpumping groundwater and/or droughts, depletes our springs, which are the main sources of our creeks and the Guadalupe River."

Mike Mecke,
Native of the area (San Antonio), grew up during the Fifties Drought; a retired Water Planner, San Antonio Water System. Retired Water Specialist TX Water Resources Institute @Texas A&M - covered from Region J (Kerr Co.) and across all of West Texas. Current member of Guadalupe River Environmental Flows Committee and Advisory Board for Hill Country Alliance. Co-founder and Advisory Board, Texas Riparian Association.
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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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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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River bank destruction continue

A permit is required for construction in any flood plain. The owners have not applied for a permit. Kerr County Conscience informed the flood plain administrator, John Hewitt, in January. He informed the property owner by certified mail of flood plain violations. The racing, deafening noise, excavation and river bank destruction continues.
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