On Feb. 11, the fight to save Chalk Mountain continued with a town hall meeting updating residents on the status of efforts to save the iconic landmark from being ground in to bits of dust and gravel.
The fight began Aug. 14, 2008 when a public notice ran in the Glen Rose Reporter saying Tommy Davis of Slick Machines in Brownwood applied for the permit to move a rock crushing operation to 11209 Highway 67 in Somervell County.
Larry Parham of Erath County owns the property.
On Jan. 14, a second notice was placed in the Reporter, signaling the continuation of the permit’s progression through the ranks of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Concerned residents raised a number of issues at the first public meeting in October, including questions about required supporting documentation missing from the application.
The documentation was supposed to accompany the application and be posted along side it at the Somervell County Library in Glen Rose.
Darrell Best, president of Chalk Mountain Foundation, said of the 20 infractions that were pointed out during the October meeting, he has not received any response from TCEQ regarding a single one of those concerns.
When he questioned the TCEQ reviewer about problems with the application, Best said the reviewer hadn’t looked into it yet.
“We want the TCEQ to come here and tell us why we’re not being treated according to their rules and regulations,” Best said during the town hall meeting. “I want the TCEQ to come down here, look us in the eye and tell us why we’re being ignored.”
Best also said one small community has been successful in deterring a rock crusher from setting up camp in their town.
Center Point, in Kerry County, confronted a rock crusher ultimately resulting in the withdrawal of the air permit application.
That application was submitted in August 2005 - three years before the application submitted in Somervell County.
“It’s fairly easy to lose momentum during the process,” Best said, warning supporters that the fight may take years to win. “The technical review, the thing that just happened to us, happened there in August 2006.”
The small community of 168 people fought for three and a half years to save their cityscape from the crusher. They created the Guadelupe River Environmental Action Team (GREAT) to keep supporters organized and informed.
“We’re not going to give up, we can’t give up,” Best said. “One of the problems we face is Tommy Davis crushes rock for a living. He knows what he needs to do.”
Best said David Frederick, the Austin attorney that worked with Center Point, has agreed to take on Chalk Mountain’s case. Also, a group of students from the University of Texas law school, has taken the case as part of their semester project.
Craig Johnson, one of four UT students assigned to the case, attended the meeting and offered supporters some advice.
“If you can make their (TCEQ) life a nightmare, they’re going to make his (Davis’) life a nightmare because it’s his permit they’re dealing with,” Johnson said.
Johnson said form letters are good because they show officials that the community cares. He added that personally written letters are also good and hand written letters are even better.
“They are duty bound to respond to every letter received on time,” Johnson said.
Individual letters will slow down reviewers, forcing them to spend more time on a single permit.
“It’s got to start somewhere and it normally starts with complaining,” Johnson said.
One obstacle the community faces is the lack of case law, or precedent. But supporters are hoping to get as many governmental facets involved as possible.
State Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) has agreed to request a second public meeting, as well as State Senator Kip Averitt (R).
Congressman Chet Edwards is also monitoring the situation.
Chalk Mountain is home to two birds on the endangered species list, the Golden Cheek Warbler and the Black Cap Vireo.
Best said the birds should start migrating in around mid-March. He hopes to capture video footage of the birds on the property to get the Texas Parks and Wildlife involved.
Other long-term options to protect Chalk Mountain and the surrounding area would be to designate it an Important Bird Area (IBA) or part of the National Trust.
Best said for now he is focusing on the immediate future and efforts. A fundraiser is in the works to help foot the $400 an hour attorney fee.
“But the number one thing we need more than money is community support,” Best said.