Application submitted for mining operation on the Llano

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Application submitted for mining operation on the Llano

Post by maxh » Wed May 06, 2009 9:55 am

Just thought I would pass this on, something we should all be aware of and take a stand against. There is an address at the bottom to submit written comments to:

Hearing set for Llano River sand and gravel application
from the Llano News

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is being asked to permit the mining of sand and gravel along a nearly one-mile stretch of streambed in the Llano River.

Kingsland businessmen Joe Long and Mark Stephenson have petitioned TPWD to annually remove or disturb 240,000 cubic yards from an island in the middle of the river, approximately three miles above the Kingsland Slab.

Under state law, the TPWD manages, controls, and protects sand and gravel extraction in navigable rivers of the State. In deciding whether to grant or deny the permit, the agency must consider the project’s impact on fish and wildlife habitat, navigation, and in some cases, recreational activity.

According to Rollin MacRae, Program Leader for Watershed Conservation with TPWD, the agency has issued about seven of these types of permits statewide, mostly along the Brazos River below Interstate 10. There are no active permits on the Llano River; a permit issued to an operator along the North Llano River near Junction was surrendered back to the state about five years ago.

Sand and gravel operations do exist alongside the Llano River, above the ‘gradient boundary’, and therefore on private property. Mr. Long currently has one such operation near the petitioned site and Chanas Ranch has an operation upstream along Highway 29.

The gradient boundary, used to separate private ownership of the uplands and state ownership of the navigable riverbed, is a very confusing determination crafted in the 1920s as part of a boundary dispute between Texas and Oklahoma.

According to Mr. MacRae, the gradient boundary for Hill Country rivers such as the Llano is generally the lowest elevation of the persistent vegetation line for a given section of river.

The permit application states that the proposed sand and gravel operation will use conventional earth moving equipment to remove sand from a dry island in the riverbed, belonging to the State. The excavated sand is to be transported to a dry sorting and screening operation atop the adjacent southern riverbank.

According to Mr. Stephenson, the excavated material is to be sold to Interceramic in Dallas as well as local concrete and landscaping companies. “We are trying to provide an economic benefit to the community by keeping the cost of concrete and mortar mix low”. We employ from 3 to 7 people, said Stephenson.

Mr. Stephenson continued that they are trying to secure a back up supply of material for the existing sand and gravel operation. “This operation is one of the ways we are trying to keep the family ranch going. We don’t want to have to sell the ranch into five-acre tracts”.

Stephenson notes that they are trying to work with neighbors by not working on the weekends or too early or too late in the day. “We don’t plan to mess up deer hunting leases by running the operation in November and December,”

However, not all of the neighbors are happy with the proposed project. Seawillow Schmidt, who lives across the river from the site, is concerned what impact the project will have on turkey habitat and migratory wildfowl. She also has concerns regarding the impacts from the equipment used in the riverbed operation. “Most bulldozers leak something: fuel or oil. There will also be about 1,600 dump trucks a month in and out of the river and on the Slab Road”, Schmidt said.
Although State Law prohibits the operation of motor vehicles in the bed of navigable streams like the Llano, such prohibitions do not apply to mining operations.

John Robinson, who lives just downstream from proposed operation, knows the controversy surrounding motor vehicles in the river very well. He served on the statewide taskforce that provided citizen input to the 2003 Senate bill, prohibiting motor vehicles in the river.

“Before the bill was passed, we used to have 80 to 100 vehicles at a time driving up and down the river”, Robinson said. “We are just now seeing turkeys return to roost along the river. The heron rookery that was there before all the vehicles has never returned.”

“We need to leave our rivers alone. Water is very important to us and we shouldn’t be tampering with it”, concluded Robinson.

The Sedimentation Impact Statement associated with the application predicts that because sediment is removed from the riverbed at the site, there is the potential for reduced sediment flow into Lake LBJ. Such reductions, according to the Statement, could reduce turbidity, improve water clarity and potentially improve water quality.

Frank Heitmuller, with the U.S. Geological Survey, notes that there is the potential for the opposite to happen. Dr. Heitmuller, whose dissertation is on sedimentation processes of the Llano River, suggests that because sand is the most easily particle picked up during flooding, excavated areas could serve as a focal point for rapid erosion, resulting in a slug of sediment being introduced to the river and downstream to the lake. To accurately predict any result, however, would require additional study and modeling, Heitmuller said.
According to the permit application, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who enforces navigation and discharge of dredged materials into rivers under the Clean Water Act, has determined that this project does not require a permit from the Corps. A spokesman for that agency could not be reached for comment.

There is still uncertainty regarding the necessity for other permits. Erik Harris, Supervisor for Watershed Engineering and Planning with the LCRA is unsure whether the activity will be subject to the agency’s Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance. “We have not had an in-river application since the ordinance went into effect in 2007.” Harris notes that LCRA will be reviewing the permit application and formulating a response.

A public hearing on this application will be held May 12, 2009 at 10 am at the TPWD Headquarters at 4200 Smith School Road in Austin. Written comments must be submitted by May 17th. These comments or a request for more information can be submitted to Rollin MacRae at or (512) 389-4639.

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Post by stiles » Wed May 06, 2009 1:03 pm

Its the same old argument we've heard a hundred times: Let us mine or you'll force me to sell off this land in 5 acre tracts! Then you'll be really sorry.

Gimme a break.

~~~ ><Ǽ>

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Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:13 pm
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Post by rivergeek » Fri May 08, 2009 10:20 pm

This notice has been posted on one of the Texas canoe/paddling forums but it is not a section of the Llano that gets much paddling activity. Not that the canoeists won't protest also, but this makes it even more important that anglers speak up against this permit application. Having personally suffered the sedimentation from rock quarry mining on the Brazos west of DFW, we must stop this on the Llano.

Rich Grayson

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