The Austin Chronicle

The Floods Hit Sandy Creek

Sustained rains bring trouble to Llano County site

By Mike Clark-Madison, October 26, 2018, News

"Sandy Creek peaked at over 40,000 cubic feet per second," says Llano County rancher and activist Fermín Ortiz, who's leading opposition to a planned sand and gravel mine on and in the creek, adjoining his family's property. ("From the Banks of Sandy Creek," July 13.) The ongoing Central Texas flooding has hit the area hard and created new wrinkles for the controversial Collier Materials project.

Among the few local supporters of the plant are waterfront homeowners on Lake LBJ, whose docks fill up with sand and silt that Collier would instead be mining; the company has also promised to dredge the lakeshore, even though the plant itself would be two miles away. These same owners, Ortiz notes, worried on social media that without Collier's efforts, "the next time it floods they will drown. I haven't seen any such statements since the flood and no one [in that area] has drowned." Rather, the flood showed that the existing Collier plant on the Llano River, which the Sandy Creek facility would replace, "had no impact on reducing the flow of sand or water nor on the resulting damage."

The next milestone for Collier's plans is a Texas Commission on Envi­ron­ment­al Quality public hearing on Nov. 13, ostensibly focused on air quality impacts but likely to feature a wider dialogue. That hearing was scheduled to take place in Kingsland, which is now cut off from the Sandy Creek area after the flood destroyed the FM 2900 bridge; TCEQ will be facing the public in Llano instead. "People have to realize that nature never loses," Ortiz said. "She is undefeated."

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