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Good-bye, Mill Creek By R. M J. Connally Austin County If Houston Lighting and Power Company has its way, the site of Stephen F. Austin’s original colony in Austin County will be submerged for cooling Texas’ first nuclear generating plant. Early in 1972 the utility company began buying the rich pastureland around Allen’s Creek, south of Sealy and about 50 miles west of Houston. Since HL&P dealt through realtors, the ranchers did not know to whom they were selling nor that their property had been chosen for a nuclear fission power plant larger than any of the 25 American plants now in operation. After purchasing agents for the project acquired almost 8,000 acres in Allen’s Creek, they moved on to the Mill Creek area, north of Sealy near Bellville, and there they met stiff resistance. Approximately 75 landowners and other concerned citizens formed the Mill Creek Environmental Protection Association. It’s goal is to “block construction of the nuclear power plant or, if that is impossible, to strive for more just compensation for the land than the 16 The Texas Observer Call PICK, Before You Pack 1 FOR SAN ANTONIO Enjoy real money-saving I value, and relax at the I ALBERT C MOTEL 96 N.E. Loop Expressway I Adjacent to San Antonio I International Airport Color TV. in every room Restaurant & Lounge Heated Pool Family Plan Free Parking ALL AT MODERATE RATES RESERVATIONS: CALL TOLL FREE American Express Space Bank 800AE 8-5000 11 awl me No MB Ns mg Ime Ns ow MN am company has offered.” \(One Mill Creek member said HL&P offered him $600 per acre while comparable land has been sold THE FARMERS and ranchers whose land is threatened are opposing HL&P for various reasons. Perhaps their basic motivation is heritage. Their families have worked the land for generations and they stubbornly refuse to move. Overgrown, secluded family graveyards hide in the brush. Mill Creek residents maintain that the fertility and productivity of the land mandate it for agricultural purposes. Most of the ranchers say their soil is so rich in potash and phosphorus, that they never fertilize. The creek floods two or three times a year seldom during harvest depositing layers of fecund silt. One rancher said his meadow had been in use for 80 years and has never been fertilized. The digestable protein from his grass is worth $25 per ton and he produced five tons per acre. From 12,000 to 16,000 head of cattle graze in the northern half of Austin County. After grazing a cow per acre, the land is still capable of producing hay to sell to feed lots. Due to its fertility, Austin County has become a chief hay producing area. There are 1000 to 2000 acres of Eastern Gamma grass growing in the Mill Creek bottomland, the largest concentration of Eastern Gamma left in the world, according to Dr. Fred Smeins of the Texas A&M Range Science Department. Mill Creek ranchers say it is excellent for hay because of its high protein.content. If the power plant is built and if HL&P employs the conventional water-cooled system for cooling the nuclear reactors \(all nuclear power plants in the U.S., except acres in the Allen’s Creek area would be submerged. Ranchers fear the same flooding for the planned reactors in Mill Creek. Leonard Kolodzjezyk thinks his land is even more productive than the soils in the Mill Creek area. He and his 75-year-old parents ranch 400 acres in the Allen’s Creek bottom and are of the few landowners in this area who have not sold to HL&P. He thinks that he will be unable to find land as rich as his. He says he would rather keep his land “than have a million dollars.” If necessary, he can subsist on his rich black and red soils. Besides grazing cattle on the feed that, he grows, he harvests peaches, plums, persimmons and citrus fruits. He does not irrigate because the soil holds the moisture from rains. Like the Mill Creek soil, his land has a high water table and artesian wells. Principally because the owners desire it to be, the land along Mill Creek has remained in its natural state. HL&P calls the land “undeveloped” and therefore suitable for their project. This reasoning irritates the landowners who think HL&P should locate the plant where nothing grows. Robert W. Abel, president of the Mill Creek EPA, says yupon, pinoak, ash, elm, willow, pecan, cottonwood, palmetto, the rare red wolf, deer, bobcat, fox and beaver inhabit the area. Concerned Mill Creek and Bellville residents have been participating in the local Wildlife Protection Agency’s programs, which have increased wildlife in the area for ten years. Many landowners here live in Houston and their land is undisturbed except during weekend visits. Farmers use very few chemicals, thus providing a favorable environment for wildlife. The Mill Creek EPA warns that if the land is submerged, wildlife migratory patterns to the east and west would be hindered. MEMBERS OF THE Mill Creek EPA think their cause would be strengthened if the historic significance of Mill Creek achieved recognition. Mill Creek is named for a mill built by James Cummings, one of the first colonists in Texas. The abstract, dated in 1824 and signed by S. F. Austin, states: “. . it being understood that I am ready to cultivate that which may be assigned me and that I offer to build on said hacienda a water mill for grinding grain and making boards . . . ” The result, according to Mill Creek residents, was Texas’s first Mexican land grant mill. Its foundation stones protrude in the creek. There are Indian artifacts in Austin County. Ground testing crews for the nuclear project reported to one landowner in the Allen Creek area that they drilled through skull bones in one place. This is no surprise to the rancher who prefers not to disclose the location of several Indian burial mounds on his land from which he has seen seven skeletal bodies unearthed during heavy rains. Toe and finger bones, pieces of skull, teeth, and points were discovered atop one mound in a brief examination. He has collected from his ranch a box of Indian jewelry, pottery shards, points made from West Texas flint and other artifacts, many of which are museum pieces. Besides objections to industrializing such productive rural land, most Mill Creek EPA members are concerned with the broader issue of safety and efficiency of current fission power plants. Most have become