Success seeks TCEQ records of YFZ Ranch environmental inquiry
Wendy Cooper, an attorney in the Dallas office of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, confirmed this week that a field report filed by investigators from the agency's Region 8 field office in San Angelo, regarding environmental violations at the YFZ Ranch has bee been has been forwarded to TCEQ headquarters in Austin. "Basically all I can tell you is that I am aware of the report and I know it has been sent to the enforcement division," Cooper said Tuesday. "I really won't deal with it until it gets into litigation."
Other details regarding the report were not available to the Success on Tuesday and the newspaper filed an "open records" request that same day for the material as provided for by Texas Open Records Act.
TCEQ investigators paid a visit to YFZ Ranch on April 15 of this year, three weeks after news broke in Eldorado that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a sect of the Mormon Church that encourages the practice of plural marriage, or polygamy, was erecting large buildings on a ranch four miles north of town. That inspection, and a subsequent follow-up investigation revealed a number of violations of the state's environmental regulations. At that time, inspectors reported finding air quality violations at a cement bulk plant near the construction site. They also indicated that water and waste water rules had been broken.
TCEQ cites YFZ Ranch for environmental violations
State inspectors found a number of environmental concerns at the YFZ Ranch, including one that poses a threat to groundwater, according to documents released last week by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
TCEQ inspectors visited the ranch twice, first on April 16, 2004 with a follow up investigation ten days later, on April 26. Both times the investigators noted compliance violations.
Among the violations is the alleged illegal use of a concrete batch plant without proper registration or permit. Documents acquired by The Eldorado Success under the Texas Open Records Act, indicate that on April 26 investigator Mark Newman ordered that a rock crushing and concrete plant be shutdown until appropriate authorization was obtained by the ranch.
Arizona man says Prophet stole his family
Richard Holm, 51, of Colorado City, Arizona, an admitted polygamist, says he never expected to find himself fighting for custody of his children. Much less, did he think the court battle would involve the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). As a faithful member of the church and loyal follower of its prophets, Holm says he was stunned to learn that he had been excommunicated by new FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs.
Holm, a respected businessman and longtime member of the Colorado City, AZ City Council, said he thought life was about as good as it could get. He and his two wives, Lorena and Alice, and their seven children owned and operated a Motel in the twin cities of Colorado City and Hildale. Holm also provided transportation for the church's former prophet, Rulon Jeffs.
Holm says that new prophet Warren Jeffs secretly recorded meetings his father had with church members. Among those recordings are audio tapes of confessions that church members believed were meant only for the ears of their former prophet. Holm says those tapes are now being used to blackmail and intimidate FLDS members into following the leadership of Warren Jeffs.
"He is a sinister man," Holm said of Warren Jeffs. "Only an evil man would tear apart a man's family this way."
YFZ officials ignore TCEQ warnings
A cement bulk plant and a rock crusher appeared to be running full steam ahead last week, well after a shut down order issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Aerial photos taken on Wednesday, June 9, 2004, also revealed another large foundation being constructed adjacent to five other structures already built, or nearing completion. Additionally, a metal barn had been built nearby.
Ricky Anderson, TCEQ Region 8 Director, told the Success on Tuesday that YFZ officials have applied for a permit to operate a rock crusher, but that no such permit has been issued. Additionally, the state's order to halt operation of a the rock crusher and cement bulk plant remains in place.
YFZ Ranch officials want to drill for water
YFZ Ranch officials are apparently interested in drilling at least one additional water well on ranch property, some four miles north of Eldorado.
Cindy Cawley, General Manager of the Plateau Underground Water Conservation and Supply District says that she was contacted by Paul Allred regarding the need to drill for water on the ranch. Cawley, who was at a meeting in Austin when she received Allred's call, made arrangements for assistant manager Virgil Polocek to visit the ranch.
Cawley notes that while Polocek was given access to a water well near the ranch entrance, he was denied access to a second well on the north side of the ranch property.
Are Utah problems prompting FLDS to build new Texas town?
Construction continues apace at the YFZ Ranch, four miles north of Eldorado, even as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) finds itself under increasing pressure in the Arizona and Utah borderland. That pressure comes in the form of heightened scrutiny from the Utah Attorney General's office, and a series of setbacks in Utah courts. Add to the mix the fact that the region's only bank, the Bank of Ephraim, a strong supporter of the FLDS community in Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT, failed last week.
But things aren't all rosy for the FLDS here in Texas. After the group's cover story was exposed in March, and Eldoradoans learned that their new neighbors were more interested in building a town than a corporate hunting retreat, the operation at the YFZ Ranch began attracting more than media attention --- it caught the eye of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.