BURNET COUNTY — Following criticism from landowners, a water regulatory board has approved a temporary 30-day permit for a quarry operation asking to pump up several million gallons of water per year from wells to handle expanded excavation, officials say.
Capitol Aggregates’s Delta site — located on CR 120 just outside of the Timber Ridge subdivision in Burnet County — requested a five-year permit Feb. 19 during a hearing before the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District.
The request for the right to pump 508 acre-feet per year (165 million gallons of water) from wells accessing the Ellenberger-San Saba Aquifer is the equivalent of the amount of water that would serve about 2,000 homes annually, according to conservation district hydrologist Mitchell Sodek.
The board denied the five-year permit but offered an alternative.
“(The) pumping capacity is quite large for this area,” Sodek said. “The board felt a necessary thing to do was to monitor several of those wells, including a few wells on Capitol Aggregate property, to monitor the levels and see if there is any negative impact from pumping those wells for 30 days.
“If there is some significant impact then there may be some changes being made to the permit itself,” he added.
Capitol Aggregate officials proposed activating two wells, one on the east side of U.S. 281 just south of Park Road 4. The larger well would yield a 950-gallon-per-minute pumping capacity.
Another smaller well activation is proposed on the west side of U.S. 281 closer to the Delta quarry site and would yield about 85 gallons of water per minute.
The quarry, which currently collects rainwater stored in an on-site pond, would use the well water to wash excavated sandstone and attempt to minimize dust.
“Capitol Aggregate made production equipment changes in 2014, and we began a second operating shift in 2015,” Capitol Aggregate spokeswoman Tara Snowden said in a statement.
“With the overwhelming public support and the passage of voter-approved Proposition 1 and Proposition 7, we have seen an increase in demand for the specific type of rock that we produce,” the statement read.
In November 2014, Texas voters approved a ballot measure that allots a portion of the oil and gas tax revenues to be deposited in the State Highway Fund.
About $1.7 billion was transferred to that fund in the 2015 budget. Those funds would go toward state road and highway improvements.
Capital Aggregate’s primary customer for the Delta site material is the Texas Department of Transportation.
The Delta facility employs 30 people with a payroll of $1.8 million per year, according to the company report.
Rancher and retired engineer Paul King, an adjacent property owner, began chronicling what he believed to be issues with allowing additional water for expanded quarry operations.
“We need to have a voice so they work hard to maintain the air quality and they wisely use our water resources,” he said. “It will affect the quality of life, especially if we lose our water resources. It will affect property values as well.”
King, who owns 300 acres about two miles from one of the proposed wells sites, lives on CR 340 between Burnet and Marble Falls. He bought his ranch in 2007 and watched quarries quickly expand in the area in the past few years.
“Before long, it’s going to be one long quarry between Burnet and Marble Falls,” he said.
King and three other property owners formed the Texas Hill Country Property Rights Coalition in response to several of the rock-crushing operations and quarries along U.S. 281 as well as the Delta quarry.
Click here to visit the group’s Facebook page to learn more about the coalition.
Along with the Delta site, Capitol Aggregate also owns approximately 3,800 acres on the east and west sides of U.S. 281 between Burnet and Marble Falls.
One of the properties extends to Park Road 4 to the north and CR 120 to the west.
Collier Materials, which primarily mines granite gravel, operates a quarry north of the Capitol Aggregate Delta pit and another quarry a few miles west off FM 1980.
Oldcastle Materials (a former Capital Aggregate property) has expanded operations near the intersection of U.S. 281 and FM 1855 (Fairland Road) to mine limestone and dolomite.
Hanson Aggregates operates a mine just north of the Oldcastle site on the east side of U.S. 281.
“They’re huge operations. We hear them day and night. They run a 24/7 operation,” King said. “We’re concerned about the air. We’re concerned about the water. We’re also concerned about the noise.”
He said his latest effort to call attention to newest water well permit request highlights the need for more monitoring of the fast-moving industry.
“I was a businessman, and I understand, but I think we need to be good neighbors and do things in moderation,” he said. “We need to think about the ones around us and their quality of life.”
If a five-year permit is granted, King estimated Capitol Aggregate would have the ability to pump 5-10 percent of the water available in the Ellenberger-San Saba Aquifer.
The Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District’s well-monitoring equipment is scheduled to be installed within the next 30-90 days.
“This is a very large permit for our area. The ultimate goal is to monitor the actual water levels,” Sodek said. “We’re going to be monitoring five or six different wells to get actual raw data and see what the impacts may be.”
The board is expected to re-consider the permit request after assessing the data.