Posted on July 4, 2022
A March 22 letter that recently came to light from Stan Collier of Collier Materials Inc. to Lower Colorado River Authority General Manager Phil Wilson has Lake LBJ advocates concerned. The letter requests that the LCRA extend dredge-and-fill zones in two locations, including one that would cut away part of a popular sandbar known as LBJ Island.
The island formed during the October 2018 flood and is a magnet for boaters and swimmers.
Collier sent the letter to Wilson asking him to extend the downriver line of Zone D on the Llano River arm of Lake LBJ by 3,000 feet — a request the general manager fulfilled on April 1, but by only 1,800 feet.
In his response to Collier and during an LCRA Board of Directors meeting June 15, Wilson said the decision was based on an independent review by LCRA staff that looked at both safety and navigability.
The LCRA approved a dredge-and-fill ordinance in December 2021 giving the general manager authority to designate and modify zones on the Highland Lakes where such operations could occur. In January 2022, the LCRA announced four zones: one on Lake Buchanan and three on Lake LBJ.
The Zone D extension in April caught off guard some people who have homes in the vicinity of the Llano River arm of Lake LBJ.
On June 14, Kingsland resident Kathleen Neely wrote her own letter to Wilson highlighting the lack of public notice.
“I only learned of the updated dredge zone last week as I was trying to print a copy for a neighbor, who had asked me the approx(imate) location of the original zone,” she wrote. “Well, imagine our shock and anger to see that the zone had been modified within a few months of being published. No one would be aware of this, unless they were logging into the LCRA website daily, to look for anything new.”
In his March 22 letter, Collier notified Wilson that his company would begin work in Zone C first — if permits are granted. Commercial entities have to go through a permitting process before work can start. As of July 1, according to the LCRA website, Collier Materials has not yet filed permit applications for either zone.
Zone C includes a section of Lake LBJ just downriver of the Colorado and Llano river confluence. Collier stated in his letter that work would include removing the upper portion of a sandbar that formed in the bend to a minimum navigable depth of 6 feet.
One concerned resident involved in a fight to keep Collier from setting up a permanent dredging operation on the lake said he would like to see a committee formed to include representatives from the public, commercial dredging operators, and the LCRA. The committee would decide on temporary dredging locations.
“There’s sand all around the lake, so why not set up a dredging operation where we dredge three to six months and then move to another part of the lake?” said Fermin Ortiz, a Llano County rancher and businessman who has been active in battling the industrialization of the Highland Lakes for a number of years. “The public benefits because it’s a temporary dredging operation that trucks the sand to an already established processing facility, not one that’s built on the site or on the lake.”
Ortiz said he understands the importance of removing sand and making a profit but doesn’t want profit put before the health of the lake.
The problem of getting such an idea off the ground is having the LCRA listen to residents before making decisions, he said.
“Our LCRA representative out here (in the Lake LBJ area) does a good job of keeping us informed, but that’s part of the problem,” Ortiz said. “We’re being informed, we’re not being engaged. We don’t get to comment on something until it’s already been decided.”