STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
SUNRISE BEACH VILLAGE — Sandy Creek, which flows about a mile through the property where Llano County resident Fermin Ortiz lives, has served as a valuable resource, not only for his own family but a number of other residents around the waterway.
“It’s as God made it. It’s been serving its purpose way before we got here,” Ortiz said. “The creek belongs to nature, and we get to borrow it as needed and not destroy it.”
As a result of plans to mine the waterway’s riverbed for sand, Ortiz joined a looming battle against a requested rock crushing permit by Collier Materials Inc.
The company is seeking an air quality permit by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to launch an operation to dredge a portion of the creek on private property just off Texas 71 adjacent to the city of Sunrise Beach Village.
A public commenting period with the state agency ends July 17.
Collier Materials Vice President Kevin Collier has stated that the operation involves “crushing wet sand,” which “will all but eliminate the dust.”
However, aside from potential air quality issues, several residents, including Ortiz, and two Llano County commissioners have raised concerns about potential gravel truck traffic and water resource issues.
A municipality also vowed to weigh in.
Sunrise Beach Village City Council called a special meeting to discuss a possible resolution opposing the proposed “sand plant.” The meeting is 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, at City Hall, 124 Sunrise Drive.
Ortiz and three other residents launched a group called Save Sandy Creek to rally residents county-wide against the planned operation.
“It’s a sole source of water for lots of people,” he said. “It hasn’t ever tried to be commercialized.”
In one week, Ortiz attended two public meetings to assess the community’s response, gathered hundreds of contacts, and assisted in coordinating an online presence for the group.
He believes the two biggest threats to the area are a “dwindling” water resource as well as an increase in mining industry traffic.
“To pull thousands of gallons of water to clean sand for commercial-grade concrete, it’s going to use an immense amount of water,” he said. “There’s a lot of ranches that will all be adversely affected. We don’t have any way of replenishing that water resource.”
Collier Materials said in a statement that the operation would be a “positive thing for people on LBJ downstream from us.”
“By taking the sand out upstream, it will reduce the sand being deposited into the lake,” the statement read. “We’re not anticipating an increase of truck traffic on (Texas) 71 because we’re already supplying the concrete plants on 71 from our Llano location, (so) it will actually reduce the traffic west of Sandy Creek on 71 because those trucks won’t be traveling all the way to Llano for their sand.”
The owner of the property in which the dredging would take place was unavailable for comment.