Wednesday, November 19, 2008



On the Issues - Straight Talk with Hank

The Trans-Texas Corridor - Paving over Texas

...I know what a skunk smells like in the barn. And we got a big skunk in the barn. ...

Hank Gilbert

Transcript of Straight Talk with Hank on the Trans-Texas Corridor

The Trans-Texas Corridor is basically a transportation issue and there's are a lot of different aspects to the Trans-Texas Corridor that go far beyond Texas. And go far beyond the United States.

But, you know I grew up in rural Texas where you expected a man to look you in the eye when he talked to you. You expected a man's word to be his bond. And when our governor has made a deal with a Spanish company over major roadways in our state over a 50-year time period. A deal in which this foreign company is going to collect tolls for 50 years. But more importantly, the governor; the foreign company; and the American company that brokered the deal, Zachary Construction; will not release the full contents of the contract to the general public. Something don't smell right. And I know what a skunk smells like in the barn. And we got a big skunk in the barn. So obviously, there's issues they don't want us to know, which automatically makes it bad.

The worst thing, from an agricultural standpoint is this first proposed highway, TTC-35. It is supposed to ease congestion on IH-35, from Laredo to the Oklahoma border north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. It is going to take, under it's proposed route, or recommended route, going to consume over 100,000 acres of prime farmland.

For the people that don't understand the different types of soils we have in the state of Texas. The best growing soil we have period, bar none, is blackland soil. And it's basically riverbed soil that's come through river basins. Very rich soil. A 100,000 acres of this we're going to lose in the state of Texas. This is where we predominantly grow a lot of our grains in the state: corn and milo. Where we grow a lot of cotton. And in some areas it's good grassland. In the beef cattle industry, when a calf comes off the cow and before it goes into the feedlot, they graze these cattle on grass for months to develop a larger frame. Consequently they can add more muscle to that frame when they get them in the feedlot. We're going to take a lot of that grassland out of production, which hampers our overall beef market.
The biggest thing about the TTC-35? Actually there's a couple of things other than taking the land out of production. Taking that land out of production is going to relate to millions of dollars of lost revenue in the agricultural industry. It's going to relate to millions of dollars of lost revenue in our state's economy. It's going to relate to thousands of agricultural jobs lost in our state.

Agriculture is the second largest industry in the state. Agriculture puts over $80 billion a year into the state's economy. The Trans-Texas Corridor is going to take a big chunk of that money out of it.

And when you take land off the tax roll, for a statewide project, everybody in the state pays higher property taxes because of it. It doesn't matter if you live in Bellaire. If you live in El Paso. If you live in Pearsall, Texas. You're going to pay higher taxes because of this land being taken off the tax roll. So it's bad.

A question I have posed to TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) in these meetings deals with their 4,000 page study. Of course they are not answering questions in these hearings, and they let you know that right off the bat. This is just a time for you to express your opinion, they will not field questions. They have a 4,000 page study. Four thousand pages sounds like a lot. Well, you pick up a box of paper. An entire case of paper is 5,000 pages. The Bible was a lot less pages and is a lot more informative. Four thousand pages of documentation. Millions of dollars spent on researching this project through environmental impact studies. And they used absolutely none of the environmental study. Its effects on wildlife. Its effects on the environment itself. Its effects on creeks and streams. Its effects on the total ecosystem. The entire data they used to develop this route was transportation patterns, regardless of environment.
That I have a problem with. Every Texas should have a problem with this approach.I question how much, how many millions of dollars? How many pages of documents? And how many thousands of man-hours did they spend in researching, expanding our existing roadways. Land they already own easement to. That they already own the rights to. And that we have plenty. There's more easement ground associated with our interstate highways than there is actually ground under pavement. So they can more than expand them, a 100% of what they are, that wasn't even considered in this project.

So there's a lot that we don't know about it.

From what they are telling us at these meetings, our legislature I thought, I haven't researched it to make sure, but I thought I remember our legislature last year passing legislation doing away with "eminent domain" because of the case in New Jersey. However, this legislation, that was adopted by our House and Senate, actually was co-authored by my opponent in the senate, calls for eminent domain if they cannot agree to an appraised value with the landowner.

They'll send out an appraiser, a contractor for the state, which by the way my opponent is in the land appraisal business also. They'll send out a contractor for the state. And if you and that appraiser cannot work out an agreement - they can take your land through eminent domain by this legislation.

There's some waterline issues. There's big water transmission lines within this corridor. The state, when they take that land they also get the rights to that land. And what bothers me is that Water District "C," which is basically the Dallas-Fort Worth area, owns 67% of the state's water rights. And we're going to bed with Mexico on this corridor. What's going to happen to our water through East Texas and Central Texas. Is it going to be sold or bargained to the highest bidder - in Water District "C" or into Mexico? This is the best kept secret of this corridor that they are not talking about whatsoever. And one that really concerns me from an agricultural standpoint.

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