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Mason County News
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"Pardon My Dust" - It's Only Business
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 • Posted August 24, 2011

As of last week, an approaching complication in the lives of folks in the Katemcy area became a reality. Proppant published the first of their notices in the paper announcing their intention to construct a sand mine in the middle of the community.When the initial land purchases were being made almost a year ago, the general assumption was that it might be up to five years before they actually began moving forward with the steps necessary to make the project a reality. Apparently, the financial incentives are great enough to have accelerated that time line.The idea of a large, open-pit mine in my back yard (literally) is not something I wish to entertain. My family has lived on our property since the early 1930s when my grandparents moved from Grit and began making a home in the north end of the county. Katemcy's deep soil, ample water and tight-knit community were the perfect place to grow up, for my dad and aunts, and then for my siblings and I.We grew up swimming in irrigation tanks and in Katemcy Creek. There were impromptu baseball games down at the park, climbing in the granite domes that dotted the south end of the valley, engagement showers over at the Peter's Prairie schoolhouse. In every aspect, it was a community of friends, relatives and neighbors, preserving their heritage and ensuring a future for their offspring.There were many changes in just the 50 years I've been around as a resident. For decades, the predominant crop was peanuts. As the viability of that crop wavered, there was cotton, watermelons, hay and seed crops. In the last decade, residents have taken advantage of the fertile soil and ample water to increase grazing access. Dove and deer hunting have become mainstays of the local economy. Through it all, the Katemcy/Camp Air area of the county remained one of the beauty spots with its pink granite domes, lush green fields and grape vines starting to dot the area.Now, Proppant proposes constructing a sand mine in the middle of that community, on a prominent hill top overlooking all those that have chosen to remain. An open-pit mine would be constructed on top of the primary recharge zone for the Hickory Sand Underground Aquifer, affecting water levels and water quality, not just for Katemcy; but, also affecting the water for everyone that draws from this water source. The permit in last week's paper was for the TCEQ Air Quality Permit, so we haven't even reached the point of figuring out the water issues; but, we need to be thinking about it now in order to be adequately prepared when we reach that juncture.Sand mines have been in the Voca area for almost 50 years. I remember visiting them when I was a teenager and being awed at their size. I also remember the blasts from the mining operation rattling our house, miles away. I've watched the Voca operations slowly expand and cover more area. Mountains of sand now stand taller than many of the surrounding hills. The creeks that once ran through the area no longer carry water all the way to the San Saba River, only adding to the loss of flow for downstream water users.It has been said that the next battles in Texas would be fought over water. Currently, Llano and Robert Lee are facing catastrophic water problems. Mason has been fortunate enough to have prepared in advance for our water needs; but, if the Hickory Aquifer should be adversely affected by mining operations, communities like Mason, Brady and others could find themselves in similar dire straits.I keep telling myself that this is only business. Proppant is a company trying to produce frac sand for a robust oil and gas industry that, as they have done for years, will eventually scale back production. When they do, the open pits and the mountains of sand will remain, even if the jobs have disappeared. If the water is gone, the residents that remained will be surrounded by an artificial sand desert that could conceivably feed upon itself and grow. It has happened in Oklahoma, Maine, Australia and the Sudan. There is no reason to think that we would be the ones to escape unbridled stripping of our landscape.Maybe it's just business for them; but, for me it's the life I've known and loved. It's the life my parents and grandparents lived, and they found a way to work with the land to survive. They found a way to improve the landscape while making a living, and also working with their neighbors to make a community. A comment was made to me that no one has really opposed the development of sand plants in the past because the offer jobs and tax benefits to the area. I would offer that no one has ever tried to build a sand plant in Katemcy and Camp Air, and so past reactions are no indication of the opposition they will face with this attempt.It's just business to you; but, it's my heritage and my life and I have no intention of giving it up without a fight.

It’s all just my opinion.

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