Last-ditch effort to ‘Save Lake LBJ’ fails: LCRA adopts commercial dredging ordinance

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CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — Communities along the Highland Lakes systems are getting some new neighbors after a commercial dredging ordinance was adopted by the Lower Colorado River Authority board by a 8-6 vote.

The Highland Lakes Dredge and Fill Ordinance is all tied to the demand for sand.

Believe it or not, sand is crucial for construction, making glass for windows, television screens, computer screens and semiconductors.

But the thought of commercial sand mining, however, has neighbors who live along the Highland Lakes System protesting potential noise, traffic and damage to their way of life.

In a last ditch-effort to oppose the commercial dredging ordinance in the Highland Lakes, a group called Save LBJ chartered a bus to take residents to a board meeting Wednesday where the vote was held.

“Commercialization would absolutely destroy the aesthetics and pristine nature,” said Virgil Yanta.

The sandy beach views along the Llano River is something Yanta is pushing to preserve. He lives on an arm of the Llano River where residents with Save LBJ have put up signs in protest of the commercial dredging ordinance.

“Who would benefit from this?” said Yanta. “The people of Texas sure would not.”

Yanta’s group formed last year after Collier Materials announced a plan to establish a sand dredging plant just West of the RM 2900 bridge in Llano.

The application approval was delayed by the LCRA, because the entity didn’t have an ordinance in place for the commercial operation, but now LCRA board members are considering a vote to put one in place.

“The dredging may not remove soils from below the original lake bed. We have amended this standard after public comment to include regulations adopted by federal, state and local governments pertaining to the identification and protection of areas with historical or cultural artifacts,” said an LCRA member. “They must comply with all of the discharge restrictions and Texas code.”

There’s newly-defined documents that establish the permit guidelines for a Tier 3 Commercial dredging operation. Those guidelines were presented by a LCRA Water Operations Committee during a Tuesday board meeting.

“When the permit is granted, that is the decision of LCRA,” said Phil Wilson, LCRA general manager. “If those expectations are not met, then we have this tool kit to stop that process and program where they are for whatever violation.”

On top of that, there are thousands of dollars in permit fees associated with operating on LCRA land.

Yanta worries it won’t be enough.

“I just would hate to see the devastation it could ensue,” said Yanta.

The new ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1 and will affect Lake Buchanan, Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls and Lake Travis.

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