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A New Year and a New “Adventure”
Old 01-18-2010, 04:39 PM   #1
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A New Year and a New “Adventure”

I’ve been retired for almost five years and came to the realization I had allowed myself to become stuck in a rut. I’ve had disappointing experiences in a few volunteer gigs and and wouldn’t remotely consider trading the joy of retirement to return to w*rk, but I was definitely ready for a change. So in late December I decided it was time I broke the mold and sought some new adventures. Little did I know how much the old saw “be careful what you ask for” would come back to haunt me.

One of the areas I felt needed changing was how much time I spent on the forum, so I turned in my admin/mod keys to Andy R and Janet H effective January 1. I set a goal for myself to find new and equally worthwhile endeavors in the coming year, something that might stretch my horizons. I thought it would take weeks, maybe months, plus a number of failed attempts to find something to hold my interest. Unfortunately it took less than 12 hours.

On New Years day I received a call from a neighbor asking if I’d seen the notices posted (in the middle of the night) on the fence of the ranch that borders our Hill Country subdivision. Turns out the ranch owner is applying for a permit to open a limestone rock quarry and rock crushing operation literally in our back yards. Think dynamite blasts, constant noise of a huge rock crusher powered by a big diesel generator, massive amounts of dust, heavy truck traffic in and out of the location, 500,000+ gallons per year of water pumped from an already stressed underground aquifer. Add to this the fact the operation will turn a peaceful rural valley approximately a mile and a half long and three quarters of a mile wide into a gaping raw hole devoid of wildlife and vegetation. The valley is surrounded by three large subdivisions with 600 or more 2-20 acre lots. Roughly 200 of the lots have residences on them and perhaps 50 of those overlook the valley, some within a few hundred feet of the proposed quarry.

Before anyone thinks “What about zoning?” please recall what I’ve said about not moving to Texas. Once you are outside the city limits there are no zoning laws. The only entity in the state overseeing quarry operations is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) a state agency which I’ve learned was apparently set up by our legislature to give the appearance of caring for the environment and provide state jobs to well-intentioned but relatively powerless employees.

To make matters worse, the company planning the quarry has a history of problems with the environment. I won’t go into all the lurid details of “Mulchie”, the 75 foot high, 200 foot wide, 800 foot long pile of trees and debris that burned for three months in a small town bordering San Antonio. I will say the resulting environmental disaster, finger-pointing, and $3 million plus costs to Texas taxpayers to deal with the problem is still tied up in lawsuits. Yet the state says the environmental record for this company is rated as 'average' and they appear to be prepared to grant the permit saying “Zumwalt meets all the requirements and our hands are tied.” To say folks with properties surrounding the proposed quarry are outraged is an understatement.

So what is my new adventure? I joined forces with our homeowners association to help lead the fight to stop the permit. We’ve held two community meetings attended by 250 people in opposition to the quarry and declared “administrative guerrilla warfare” on the permitting process. In the past two weeks I’ve become an enthusiastic environmental activist and heard myself say things I thought I’d never, ever say, such as “we’re holding a press conference”, “I’m starting a blog”, “Senator, we need your support”, yes, I’ll agree to an interview”, “this is the environmental law firm we need to retain” and “yes, I’ll help solicit funds to pay legal costs for the fight.”

Here is one news story on the issue (no, I’m not one of the folks you’ll see on camera). If we aren’t successful the initial photo of the huge rock quarry is what we expect to see when we look out our back window (sorry about the commercial): Medina Co. Residents Fight Quarry

Since Jan 1 I’ve spent almost every waking hour working on this adventure. It really isn’t something I want to do but I’m so angry that the peaceful place out in the country hundreds of us purchased will be destroyed by the work of one man who could care less about his neighbors and the environment. I’m pissed and I’m committed to fighting this guy with every legal means we can muster and string out approval of the permit for years if need be. We’re understudying the tactics used by another county group which has held off a quarry in their area for almost 10 years. Our hope is Zumwalt will run out of money and enthusiasm before we do.

“Whaddya DO all day” my @ss…
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Old 01-18-2010, 04:48 PM   #2
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Wahoo!! Our REWahoo has found a worthy cause, indeed.

My sincere wishes for the best of luck in this!
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Old 01-18-2010, 04:51 PM   #3
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Wow, sounds like you are sure fired up. It is good that the homeowner's association has you on their side. I keep hearing that you need to get involved with things that you are passionate about and this is it for you. I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor.
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Old 01-18-2010, 04:52 PM   #4
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Quick REW.....find an endangered species out there!
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Old 01-18-2010, 05:00 PM   #5
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How ironic that it's up for approval right after the day for remembering a civil rights leader.
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Old 01-18-2010, 05:07 PM   #6
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Good luck with your new career. Other than that, the best I can offer is a new avatar:



The Hill Country is undergoing so much dramatic change that I suspect that this sort of dispute is going to become more frequent.
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Old 01-18-2010, 05:19 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo View Post
I’ve been retired for almost five years and came to the realization I had allowed myself to become stuck in a rut. I’ve had disappointing experiences in a few volunteer gigs and and wouldn’t remotely consider trading the joy of retirement to return to w*rk, but I was definitely ready for a change.

Since Jan 1 I’ve spent almost every waking hour working on this adventure..

“Whaddya DO all day” my @ss…

Is this the same ReWahoo who made fun of my ebay gig and called it work ? We all need a little change !
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Old 01-18-2010, 05:21 PM   #8
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Tactics that make politicians look bad can be effective. It all comes down to politics - local politics. If you can delay the permit, or delay the planning, or delay the first blast, it's a neighborhood victory. Keep at it.

Whew. Been there done that REW, with a local neighborhood battle with local neighborhood consequences, for ten years. Things are slowly turning around although the battle rages on.
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Old 01-18-2010, 05:24 PM   #9
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Martha, your post is worth a thousand words. Especially to this animal lover. But I may close my eyes next time I want to get on this forum.
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Old 01-18-2010, 06:00 PM   #10
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Best of luck to you in your fight, REW. This kind of thing is going on all across the country, so don't feel alone. A small group of us here in Upper Michigan have been fighting a greedy, unethical power company for the last 6-7 years now over an ill-advised (and actually illegal) development they had planned around one of their hydroelectric reservoirs not far from here. So far, we have won a few battles and the development is still on hold (in fact, the developer that bought the land from the power company sued them for fraud and breach of contract, and the power company now has the land back). So, these battles can be won, but it sure does take a lot of time and effort. I check almost every day for any news about what is going on with our situation here.....things could start happening again any day, and if so, we would be right back in the fight. If you want to protect the environment of the area that you have chosen to live in, you need to be vigilant regarding threats to it (which seem to come all the time), and be prepared to fight to defend it. I hope you succeed!

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Old 01-18-2010, 06:03 PM   #11
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Way to go, REW. It sounds like this is a very worthy cause which needs serious organized opposition. The preceding ennui that you described won't last long with your new mission underway. I have taken similar stands with big Pharma from time to time and I understand how powerful and unethical that kind of interest can be.

If a symbolic road trip is required, here is the page for an RV resort which until recently was known as Rock Crusher Canyon RV Park. Been there, liked it very much, and we'll meet you and your band of crusaders up there any time.
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Old 01-18-2010, 06:38 PM   #12
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Go get em REW. Is that Zumwalt related to the Admiral?
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Old 01-18-2010, 07:09 PM   #13
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Is that Zumwalt related to the Admiral?
I don't think so, but I suppose anything is possible.
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Old 01-18-2010, 07:44 PM   #14
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Neat. Able to get the Sierra club, or other similar big groups behind you?

Is there an equivalent to the Southern Environmental Law Center for your neck of the woods?
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Old 01-18-2010, 08:02 PM   #15
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Thanks to all of you for your words of encouragement.

FUEGO, no SELC but we do have the active support of The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. The quarry is located directly over the recharge zone for the Edwards Aquifer (the narrow ribbon in darker blue on the map) which is the sole source of drinking water for millions living in South Central Texas. They have been a great resource for information, references and have done a wonderful job in getting the news media to cover our issue.
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Old 01-18-2010, 08:20 PM   #16
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Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place (sorry, couldn't help myself). It sounds like a Pandora's box, in that what might get approved today is only the first horrible thing that could come flying out of the quarry in the future.

Good strategy to drag the approval process out for the guy. You can make it difficult enough and bad PR-edness for him that he may move on to the next place (maybe next door to his own home).

Best of luck in your efforts and keep on keeping us posted!
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Old 01-18-2010, 08:23 PM   #17
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I fully understand, REW; three years ago I got fired up, went on the radio, picked up a picket sign, marched around in a circle chanting, "two, four, six, eight, time for the city to investigate." A couple of weeks later the city did file a massive lawsuit. Our group has declared victory but it was economic forces that did in the enemy so quickly.

May you be as successful, it really is worth the fight. A few people can make a difference. Meanwhile, whenever you need a break, we'll be happy to hear your news and humor on the forum.
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Old 01-18-2010, 08:29 PM   #18
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ReW,

Been thru this once, in Washington State- we were fighting a planned incinerator ash dump in our backyard. Soon as the county figured out that we were literate, well-organized, well-funded, understood and had access to the media, and had legal representation in our ranks, they backed off and found another site- (actually shipped it out of state to a toxic waste dump, even though municipal incinerator waste; classified by the EPA as "special waste" can contain the same toxins that would classify industrial waste as toxic....

Good luck with this one. Private companies don't play by the same rules as local politicians. We prevailed because they had another option that offered the path of least resistance- your guy may not.
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Old 01-18-2010, 08:43 PM   #19
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Old 01-18-2010, 09:00 PM   #20
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I'm usually on the private business end of these deals. Actually I helped the owner with some pre-emptive engineering/PR stuff on a little tiny you-won't-even-know-it-is-there asphalt plant/sand mine today. It's going right next to his other existing sand mine and landfill. Poor neighbors, lol.

If they have to seek state enviro permits, try to find out which ones. If there is a public comment opportunity, have all the interested neighbors submit comments. And request a full hearing on the permit issuance if possible. Water (surface and ground) and air quality, noise, vibration, endangered species, traffic. I know it is Texas, but surely there must be SOME red tape in there somewhere.

Regarding traffic, see if the roads might not be able to hand heavy trucks hauling limestone. Very heavy trucks can damage roads much more than passenger cars and light trucks. Also check bridges along the likely access routes to see if they are weight rated strong enough to allow loaded haul trucks to cross them.
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