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:
Below is the link to go online to see the facility site map for Wheatcraft:
Dear Eastern Kerr County Residents:
Attached are two photos of the dust streaming from Martin Marietta's Bedrock Mine gravel crusher, taken at 7:48 a.m. on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
There are several homes and ranches within the immediate area where elderly residents live, with respiratory problems--is it any wonder? They are limited in income and have no power in our political system--in other words, they are expendable. This is a travesty.
Kerr County Conscience is dedicated to stopping the horrifying environmental consequences of the numerous gravel mines still allowed to operate in eastern Kerr County. We are also working to stop, at federal, state, and local levels, ANY PERMITS FOR NEW MINES and any renewal permits for existing mines.
Please help us in this effort. Renew your membership by sending $5.00 to: Kerr County Conscience, P.O. Box 127, Center Point, Texas, 78010--and volunteer to work on the mining project. Only by working together can we make a difference.
Very truly yours,
Kerr County Conscience
KERRVILLE CITY COUNCILMAN BRUCE MOTHERAL: ENGINEERING CONSULTANT TO THE GRAVEL QUARRIES
- Does Kerrville City Councilman Bruce Motheral have conflicting interests by supporting river preservation and tourism downtown, and facilitating river destruction when his engineering fees secure him money?
Since the City of Kerrville doesn’t pay its Council a salary, in order to be a City Councilman candidates have to be independently wealthy—or find the time to practice their professions on the side.
This hasn’t been a problem in the past, since many of the elected City Councilmen are self-employed entrepreneurs and developers. In fact, being a City Councilman—acquiring an intimate knowledge of the way the City works and rubbing elbows with the local power brokers—could be very convenient, if the Councilman is an Engineer and his clients are the local gravel quarries.
Could anyone, living in the Kerrville area, travelling on Highway 27 to Center Point, or driving down “scenic” Sutherland and River Roads, not be aware of the curse of gravel quarries in this area, disfiguring the landscape and polluting the Guadalupe River? The land of the closest quarry, Rountree, is owned in part by developer Richard Colvin: it is located right in the city’s backyard, in the ETJ (the City’s Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction). Ever wonder where all that dust comes from, as you approach the airport travelling east? This quarry is a major air polluter, although you can’t see the actual facility from Highway 27. Travelling east, the next quarry encountered is just south of the airport, on the south side of the highway. A new quarry, it’s only been open a few years, on land owned by wealthy developer Max Duncan. It’s leased by mega conglomerate Martin Marietta Materials Southwest, Ltd. Immediately adjacent to the east is another quarry, owned by Joe Drymala, who also mines for gravel in the Comfort area—in fact, right in his own front yard. East of Drymala is the Bedrock Sand and Gravel Plant, owned and operated by Martin Marietta. Next time you are on Google Earth, check out the huge blotch on the landscape caused by this facility. Then we all know about the controversy several years ago over the expansion of Wheatcraft east of Center Point. Surely eastern Kerr County and the City of Kerrville’s Hwy. 27 “Gateway” could be given another name—“Skid Rock Row.”
Much of the gravel located immediately south of Highway 27, east of the airport, comes from a major tributary to the north, “Nowlin’s Hollow” (more on why this is called Nowlin’s Hollow later.) Nowlin’s Hollow actually travels at a slant on its insistent run to the Guadalupe River, running from the NE to the SW. So much water cascades down the hills east of the airport that the resulting gravel has made the mine owners millionaires several times over. There are several locations where the water flow is so heavy that TXDOT has expansive culverts underlying Highway 27; in the 1978 flood the highway in this area was completely covered with water, and impassable.
A few weeks ago, people living in the area east of the airport noticed some heavy duty bulldozing and construction going on, right next to the highway, in the area of one of these culverts—on property owned by Joe Drymala. Since the area under construction is located in the 100-year flood plain, before any work was done, Drymala needed a Floodplain Permit from Kerr County Floodplain Administrator John Hewitt (technically, since the construction area is in the ETJ, the City of Kerrville should be conducting the floodplain permitting, but since the City and the County are fighting over development jurisdiction in the ETJ, this area has been given to Kerr County for floodplain review.) No permit application had been made to Hewitt, and his office had no idea what Drymala was proposing. However, we were informed that Drymala would be preparing the proper study and technical information and it would come from his Engineering Consultant—Kerrville City Councilman Bruce Motheral.
Since the proposed development is within the City’s ETJ, other reviews and permits could also be required. It’s very possible that the Kerrville City Council, or one of the City’s Boards, like Planning and Zoning, will be reviewing this construction. Do you think that, under these circumstances, it is a conflict of interest for Councilman Bruce Motheral to serve as Drymala’s Engineering Consultant?
This is not the first time that Motheral has been involved in engineering studies and floodplain permitting—both as a privately-practicing engineer, and as a City of Kerrville official. In 2006, when Martin Marietta Materials Southwest, Ltd. (MM) made application to expand their mining activities to a new site immediately adjacent to the H.M. Naylor Ranch Historic District, and just SE of the Kerr County Airport, Bruce Motheral wrote the engineering study that said it was okay for MM to “demolish” Nowlin’s Hollow tributary and build a road right across the floodplain. At that time, Motheral wasn’t on the City Council—but he was the Chair of the City of Kerrville’s Planning and Zoning Commission. In 2006, the City had the zoning ability to stop Martin Marietta’s expansion. Do you think that under these circumstances, it was a conflict of interest for the Chair of the City of Kerrville’s Planning and Zoning Commission to also serve as Martin Marietta’s Engineering Consultant?
Just one more fact about Councilman Motheral. After knowing this area so well, Motheral, during his tenure as a Kerrville City Councilman, also was a strong proponent of Richard Colvin’s disastrous plan to develop a 280-unit RV Park on the flood plain SW of the present quarries. Old timers talk about this plain, during the big floods—1932, 1978—and most of the plain was covered with water from Nowlin’s Hollow, except for one prominent knoll. Atop this knoll is an ancient live oak tree, the site of the Wellborn family cemetery, where five members of the Wellborn family, in the 1860s, were buried. Colvin planned to completely destroy this family cemetery in his RV development. At the Planning and Zoning Board’s hearing, Motheral could be seen huddling with Colvin, shaking hands, offering his support.
This development would have happened—and may still happen—but appears to be on hold, perhaps the only good thing to come out of the recession.
No doubt, when and if it comes up again, Bruce Motheral will be pushing for it—if he wins re-election to the City Council on Saturday.
Please click here for the PDF file for documentation accompanying this article.