Fishery expert cites habitat concerns in Sandy Creek dredging plans

STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY

The fate of a waterway dredging operation hangs in the balance as Llano County residents assemble groups to try to defeat a plan for a mining company to remove sand from a portion of Sandy Creek. Courtesy Photo

LLANO COUNTY — Construction company owner Steve Nash believes striking a deal with Collier Materials to dredge a portion of Sandy Creek on his property will prove beneficial and should dispel any concerns by area residents against the proposed operation.

Nash is working with Collier Materials to acquire an air quality permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to launch the operation on his land adjacent to Sunrise Beach just off Texas 71 in Llano County.

“It’s a win-win venture for the community particularly Sandy Harbor and Sunrise Beach,” Nash said. “Safety and soundness are considerations in everything we do.”

The long-term plan involves erecting a so-called “vertical impact crusher” for on-site processing of the material extracted from the creek bed and potentially shipped in from other Collier sites.

“We remove (the sand). We wash it. We clean it,” Nash said. “Sand is a much-needed natural resource that left unchecked can be a silting issue in the lake.”

Retiree Wallace Klussmann, who worked for Texas A&M University’s fisheries department, spent 30 years researching and assessing the health of ponds and lakes throughout the state. He lives at the headwaters of Sandy Creek in Prairie Mountain where the Llano River flows into the creek.

He has reservations about the plan to dredge the creek and called for research preceding permission to do so.

“I’ve seen Sandy Creek at flood stage. That amount of (dredging) disturbance to Sandy Creek, the amount of turbidity (silt) going into the lake, will be considerable,” Klussman said. “An environmental study needs to be done by a reputable company to determine what kind of impact that disturbance is going to have.”

He said at issue is primarily the habitat at the mouth of the creek where it empties into Lake LBJ in the Sunrise Beach area.

“They (Collier will) take the sand out and when it is washed put the silt back in. That silt is going to go downstream,” Klussmann said. “In terms of a fish standpoint, if muddy water goes down Sandy (Creek) and settles in the bottom of the lake, and it occurs during the spawning season (bass and sunfish), it could cover up the spawning beds.”

He believes the outcome could have a negative ripple effect on the rest of the lake’s habitat.

“From what I can understand, there’s not one thing that could be positive environmentally or fishery wise,” he said. “We need at-least a year-long study.”

Sunrise Beach City Council recently approved a resolution, opposing the operation.

Nash believes the operation, which he said may eventually include buy-in from his neighbors downstream, will expand the depth of the creek and increase the size of lake frontage due to less sand deposits into Lake LBJ.

He added that progress dictates the need for the project.

“Sand is essential to making concrete, hot mix asphalt. . . tile,” Nash said. “We’re taking something that is a problem (because of the sand bars), and catching the sand before it gets to the lake (LBJ).”

connie@thepicayune.com

5 Responses to “Fishery expert cites habitat concerns in Sandy Creek dredging plans”

  1. Bob says:

    Take it all (sand and silt) out and maybe an argument can be made for the benefits of the dredging. Do the crushing somewhere else!

  2. David Hernandez says:

    Now all the sudden Steve Nash is qualified to say wether or not sand that flows with the river naturally and has for longer than he has walked this Earth, is somehow a problem and his solution is to dredge all the sand out so he can sell it. No amount of money will ever satiate this family’s thirst.

  3. Steve says:

    They mention flooding in Sandy creek and are worried that silt could flow into the lake. News flash. When floods happen. Anything and everything can potentially flow into the lake. And if one takes a look at Sandy creek via Google earth you can see that normally there is more sand then water. And if they dredge where they claim it will be there would still be a long stretch of sand bar before the lake. I,m am surprised that hsb has not stepped in and voted on a resolution opposing this if it is such a bad idea.

  4. Jeff says:

    I’m surprised the all mighty LCRA isn’t doing something to prevent it. LCRA gives us all grief for silt and other run off going into the lake on commercial property. TCEQ is a joke, progressives. The only people for this are the ones who will benefit financially.

  5. ktex says:

    The won’t just be “taking” the sand – they will need to DRY it and process it in other ways. They could also choose to dig a huge pit and there’s nothing that would stop them once permitted by TCEQ. I don’t have anything against Colliers but I feel that this operation puts a lot of wildlife at risk. Glad some others are seeing the concern to wildlife habitat.

    For those who think they are in support of the dredging, It is completely unfeasible that one company dredging a small portion of Sandy Creek is going to make some great difference in the amount of sand coming down from MILES of Sandy Creek that extends VASTLY beyond the scope of this proposed site. It won’t. It would take literally hundreds of thousands of truckloads removed (and they say they will only have about 20 a day, right?) to make even a dent in it for more than one season. They will just take “the good stuff” after separating and moving it around with loud diesel powered equipment, and dump the silt back into the waterway or on the land to be washed into it thus destroying the habitat.

    The sand, which is part of the natural eco-system, is going to continue coming down the stream FOREVER due to the continual erosion of rock, which is an endless cycle of Mother Nature that will extend far beyond the next few generations.

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