TXI Mines Another Headache for Webberville

Residents don't want a gravel mine in the neighborhood

After an unsuccessful effort at the Legis­lat­ure this session to prevent the city of Austin from building a landfill near Webber­ville, residents of the small village in eastern Travis County now face the additional prospect of a gravel mine rumbling to life in their back yards. The national cement and mining company TXI hosted three nights of public forums earlier this month on its proposed sand and gravel mine west of Webberville. The company is trying to secure several permits before mining operations can begin. The county requires a basic development permit, while Austin requires a site development plan. The Texas Commission on Environ­ment­al Quality would also have to revise a permit allowing the company to begin operating a 4-mile conveyor belt, which would be used to transport the material.

TXI's plans call for a seven-phase project on nearly 2,000 acres. The controversial vote to incorporate Webberville in 2003 was in part born out of opposition to TXI's long-running plans to begin mining operations. In July 2008, TXI purchased the Travis Aggregates plant one mile west of Webberville, which alleviated the need to put a new processing plant near the site.

Each of the three nights of public meetings brought in a few dozen citizens and elected officials, including Travis Co. Commissioner Ron Davis, and representatives from Rep. Dawnna Dukes' office. Citizens are concerned that the new project, which is scheduled to begin in 2011 and continue at least through 2025, will degrade local well water quality, create noise and dust, and depress land values.

Three TXI employees and hydrologist Darrell Peckham explained how this particular mine should not be a cause for concern. They said TXI would voluntarily undertake a "reclamation" mining process, filling in the mined holes with unused dirt and material. The conveyor belt, they said, should prevent excessive truck traffic in the area. "The modeling that has been done and the assessment ... have shown that there's not going to be an adverse impact to natural groundwater in the surrounding wells," TXI spokesman David Perkins said. And TXI insists that its method of watering down the material will prevent excessive dust.

Davis, whose precinct includes Webberville, remains skeptical of TXI's assurances. "We want to make sure that the questions coming from Travis County and the public are addressed in a thorough manner, but right now the process is still ongoing." Davis has promised that the item will soon come before the Commissioners Court for debate, although Texas counties still have very limited control over such matters. Citizens, meanwhile, continue to organize against the mine. "It's not a done deal," Davis told them. "There's a process we're going to go through here."

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TXI, Webberville, Ron Davis, Dawnna Dukes

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