Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Nov. 3, 2005Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 3rd day of November, 2005, there came on to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas (absent)
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas (absent)
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
|1||Wal-Mart Distribution-Return Center||Goods||Wildbird seed; leaf blower, weed eaters (return items)||$2,500.00|
|2||Concerned Landowners||Goods||Gasoline (debit card)||$1,200.00|
|3||Saltwater-Fisheries Enhancement Assoc. -San Antonio Chapter||Goods||Yamaha Generator Model EF 6600 DE||$2,950.00|
|4||Toyota||Goods||10 State Park Passes @ $60.00 each||$600.00|
|5||Rio Vista Ranch||Goods||2005 Honda (Rancher) 400 4X4 ATV Serial # 1HFTD290554107015||$5,500.00|
|6||Boy Scouts of America Troop 7777||Goods||12' wooden footbridge materials - wood, concrete, bolts, screws||$989.00|
|7||O.P.E.C. Legacy/Friends for Falcon State Park||Goods||Kioti Tractor Mod#LB1914 ser#1039-0004 w/weight kit (new)||$7,995.00|
|8||Woods Wise||Goods||Turkey calls for youth contest||$1,600.00|
|9||Academy LTD||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Lake Fork||$2,500.00|
|10||Austin Coca-Cola Bottling Company||Good||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Palo Duro||$5,000.00|
|11||Briley Manufacturing||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$2,500.00|
|12||Arby’s of Central Texas||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Palo Duro||$5,000.00|
|13||EZ Dock of Texas||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$1,722.50|
|14||Fiocchi Ammunition||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$3,500.00|
|15||Hill Country Wholesale||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Fin & Feather||$750.00|
|16||Mossy Oak Apparel||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Lake Fork Club||$16,380.00|
|17||Outdoor Cap Company||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$4,824.00|
|18||SmartShield Sunscreen||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$2,050.00|
|19||The Texas Zoo||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$3,000.00|
|20||The Dow Chemical Company||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Chairman Covey||$8,000.00|
|21||Winchester Ammunition||Goods||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$2,000.00|
|22||Benelli USA||In Kind||Tom Knapp show, 1 show/day||$4,000.00|
|23||Laser Shot||In Kind||Underwrite Kim Rhode appearance||$2,500.00|
|24||Last Chance Forever||In Kind||Birds of Prey Show (2)||$2,500.00|
|25||Triple Crown Dog Academy||In Kind||Retriever demonstration||$1,500.00|
|26||Big Fish Bowfishing Texas||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$1,500.00|
|27||Bowhunter Challenge||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$2,000.00|
|28||Careco Multimedia, Inc||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Lake Fork||$17,500.00|
|29||Clear Channel||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Chairman’s Covey Sponsorship||$25,000.00|
|30||Crosman Air Guns||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$4,500.00|
|31||Dallas Arms Collectors Assn, Inc.||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$2,500.00|
|32||Georgetown Farm Supply||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$2,400.00|
|33||Horton Manufacturing Company||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$2,500.00|
|34||La Invasora||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Chairman’s Covey sponsorship||$27,500.00|
|35||Lanford Equipment Co., Inc.||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$1,500.00|
|36||Lone Star Bowhunters Assn.||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associates||$2,500.00|
|37||Omni Austin Hotel — Southpark||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Palo Duro||$5,000.00|
|38||Time Warner Cable||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Chairman’s Covey sponsorship||$25,000.00|
|39||Anheuser-Busch (Parks & Wildlife Foundation)||In Kind||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Chairman Covey + TPWD/PWF agreement for Saturday BBQ for employees & volunteers, general liability insurance, meals for advisory committee||$26,000.00|
|40||Triple Crown Dog Academy||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|41||Academy LTD||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Lake Fork||$7,552.00|
|42||Admiral Nimitz Foundation||Cash||Reimbursement state park expense state park expenses for Iwo Jima special event in accordance with the instructions from Bob Cook that this event not negatively affect TPWD budget.||$1,716.93|
|43||Alcoa-Rockdale Operations||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|44||Andrew Delaney Foundation||Cash||For the Historic Sites Program within State Parks||$1,000.00|
|45||Aqua Water Supply Corporation||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associate||$846.00|
|46||Armand Bayou Nature Center Inc.||Cash||Cash donation for purchase of chemicals and travel for treatment of invasive aquatic plant species||$3,500.00|
|47||BP Corporation||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Lake Fork||$12,552.00|
|48||Boone & Crockett Club||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Palo Duro||$5,000.00|
|49||Casa Magoffin Companeros (friends of Magoffin Home)||Cash||Match TPWD costs for wallpaper (max amt $12,000.00) for installation of wallpaper at Magoffin Home SHS. TPWD has control of bidding, award of contract, and payment on completion of contract.||$12,000.00|
|50||Cemex Mexico||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Palo Duro||$4,074.00|
|51||Chevron Texaco||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Lake Fork||$7,552.00|
|52||PBS&J||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|53||Dallas Safari Club||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|54||Denton Parks Foundation||Cash||Cash Donation for Special Event at Ray Roberts - Isle Du Bois||$500.00|
|55||Edward Austin Blumberg||Cash||For the Historic Sites Program within State Parks||$500.00|
|56||El Paso Energy||Cash||HI-A-310 oil platform||$247,065.00|
|57||Gulf States Toyota (through TPWD Foundation)||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Chairman's Covey Plus sponsorship for Toyota||$44,485.00|
|58||International Boundary and Water Commission||Cash||Cash donation for removal of Aquatic weeds||$25,000.00|
|59||Magnolia Charitable Trust||Cash||To assist with the funding of the Passport To Texas Radio Program production||$3,000.00|
|60||National Rifle Association||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associate||$1,846.00|
|61||Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas||Cash||Cash donation to sponsor operating costs of the Budweiser ShareLunker Program & Operation World Record||$30,145.00|
|62||Princess Craft Campers||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associate||$846.00|
|63||RV Outlet Mall||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|64||Safari Club International - Paso Del Norte Chapter||Cash||Cash donation specifically for desert bighorn sheep management||$2,000.00|
|65||TMBC LLC (Waypoint Marine)||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Antler Associate||$846.00|
|66||Texas Operation Game Thief - TPWD Program||Cash||Cash donation specifically for desert bighorn sheep management||$58,750.00|
|67||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Cash donation for purchase of hunting and fishing license holders||$30,000.00|
|68||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Texas State Park Guide-third edition (approximately 500,000 copies)||$120,000.00|
|69||Texas Tech. University||Cash||Cash donation for Landmark Program Texas Buffalo Soldier||$600.00|
|70||Texas Wildlife Association||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|Infrastructure||Robert Singleton||Manager V||Austin, TX||33 Years|
|Inland Fisheries||Allen A. Forshage||Manager V||Athens, TX||35 Years|
|Admin. Resources||Rebecca A. Lucio||Accountant III||Austin, TX||30 Years|
|State Parks||Everett D. Byrd||Park Specialist III||Rusk, TX||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Garry K. Collins||Capt. Game Warden||Garland, TX||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Richard L. Herzog||Major Game Warden||Mount Pleasant, TX||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Forester J. Mills, Jr.||Game Warden||Fredericksburg, TX||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Daniel D. Villalobos||Sgt. Game Warden||Helotes, TX||25 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Robert R. Vega||Manager V||Corpus Christi, TX||20 Years|
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
November 3, 2005
Name/Organization Matter of Interest
Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., Ste. 237, San Antonio, Texas 78216, Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify - Against
George Cox, Cox Family Ranch Ozona, HCR 1 Box 4, Del Rio, Texas 78840 — Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — Against
Jackie Bob Cox, HCR 1 Box 4, Del Rio, Texas 78840 — Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — Against
Lynn Evans, Cox Family Ranch — Ozona, TX — 4002 Gaines Court, Austin, Texas 78735 — Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — Against
Richard Hardy, Motorcycle Industry Council, 807 Nueces, Austin, TX 78701, Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — For
Don Miller, Millspaugh Ranch, 512 S. Washington, San Angelo, Texas 76904, Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify
Marty Miller, Millspaugh Ranch, 1176 Rivercrest, New Braunfels, TX 78130, Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — Against
Mrs. Austin Millspaugh, The Millspaugh Ranch, 520 South Washington Street, San Angelo, TX 76901, Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — Against
Joe Will Ross, 301 W. Beauregard Ave., Ste. 200, San Angelo, TX 76901 — Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — Against
Ed Small, TSCRA, 100 Congress, Ste. 1100, Austin, TX — Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — Against
Carol L. Smith, TMTC, 1440 CR 270, Mico, TX 78056, Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — For
Nick Smith, TMTC, 1440 CR 270, Mico, TX 78056, Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — For
Steve Smith, 1904 Oak Mellon Drive, Round Rock, TX 78681, Item #6 — Action — National Recreational Trail Grant Funding (Motorized Trail Grant, Crockett County, Ozona) — Testify — For
Ellis Gilleland, “Texas Animals”, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766, - Item #10 — Action — Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Policy Amendments — Testify — Against
Jim Atkins, SEA, 510 Hopper, Corpus Christi, TX 78411 — Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify — Against
Tom Hall, GBGA, P. O. Box 750, Aransas, TX 78335 — Item #14 — Action - Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify
Howard Murph, Aransas County Commissioner Court, 301 N. Live Oak, Rockport, TX 78382 — Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify — Against
Mike Nugent, Port Aransas Bestmen, Inc. — P. O. Box 321, Aransas, Pass, TX 78335 — Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify
Capt. Mike O’Dell, Guides, 1104 N. Houston, Aransas Pass, TX 78336 — Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify
Joey Park, Coastal Conservation Association, P. O. Box 1206, Austin, TX 78767, - Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify — For
Mr. Rick Pratt, 639 E. Ave. B, Port Aransas, TX 78373 — Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify — Neutral
Diane Probst, Rockport — Fulton Area Chamber of Commerce, 404 Broadway, Rockport, TX 78382 — Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify
William Smith, City of Port Aransas, Box 405, Port Aransas, TX 78373, Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify — Against
Glenn Martin, Self, 136 W. Cotter, Port Aransas, TX 78373 — Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection n Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify — Neutral
Jim Smarr, RFA Texas, 1890 Ranch Rd. 1, Stonewall, TX 78671 — Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify — Against
Ken Kramer, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, P. O. Box 1931, Austin, TX 78767 — Item #14 — Action — Seagrass Protection in Redfish Bay Scientific Area — Testify — Against — (Mustang Island SP Lease)
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good morning. Call the public meeting to order and before proceeding with any business, Mr. Cook, you have a statement to make.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
So that everyone will have a chance to address the Commission today in an orderly fashion, we'll follow the ground rules as such: An individual wishing to speak before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission today must first fill out and sign a Speaker Registration Form, which we've got out here at the desk outside for each item on the agenda on which you wish to speak.
The Chairman is in charge of this meeting and by law it is his duty to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing, and recognize persons to be heard. I will be assisting the Chairman today as Sergeant at Arms. We have signup cards for everyone wishing to speak, and the Chairman will call names from those cards one at a time on the agenda item being discussed.
Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium, up front here, one at a time. When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name and who you represent if anyone other than yourself. And he may also call like an on-deck person, who's coming up next.
Then state your position on the agenda item under consideration and add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns. Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration.
Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I'll keep track of the time on this handy-dandy little stoplight thing-a-ma-jig here as soon as I can get it to operate and will notify you when your three minutes is up.
When your time is up, please resume your seat so that others may speak. Your time may be extended if a Commissioner has a question for you or if the Commissioners get into a discussion about the topic.
Statements which are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice. Shouting will not be tolerated. I ask that you show proper respect for the Commissioners as well the members of the audience.
You will not be recognized out of turn by raising your hand or interrupting others. If you have written materials that you'd like to give to the Commission, please give them to Carole Hemby or Michelle Klaus, who are seated here at my right. They will pass those materials on to the Commissioners.
Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob. Next, approval of minutes from the previous meeting, which has been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Commissioner Friedkin, second by Commissioner Ramos. All in favor, please say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Next, acceptance of gifts. It has also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Commissioner Holmes, Second by Commissioner Brown. All in favor, please say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Next are the service awards and special recognitions. Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen, we like to start each of our sessions with recognition of some of our employees who are either retiring or who have served the agency and the State of Texas well for many years. I appreciate your attention to this, and we certainly appreciate these folks and what they have done for Texas and for conservation across the state.
First of all, we have one retirement certificate to award, and it's to a gentleman who has meant a lot to a lot of us for a long time. From the Infrastructure Division, Robert Singleton, Manager V, Austin, Texas, with 33 years of service.
Bob Singleton began his 33-year career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1972 in the Master Planning Division. For the first 25 years, as a Licensed Professional Architect, he was responsible for preparing many environmentally sensitive state park development plans and overseeing them to completion, including the Texas State Railroad, Mustang Island, Guadalupe River, and Lake Ray Roberts.
Under the Infrastructure Division, during reorganization, Bob was the Acting Head of Master Planning until June of 1998, when he headed up the Infrastructure Division's TxDOT Memorandum of Agreement Program. Bob worked diligently with TxDOT and TPWD staff to provide TPWD and the appropriate planning design and completed construction projects through TxDOT to develop and maintain the road and parking systems for the various divisions within the agency until his retirement. Retiring with 33 years of service, Robert "Bob" Singleton.
MR. COOK: In our service awards group, the first gentleman, many of you know. Allen Forshage, an Inland Fisheries Division, Manager V, Athens, Texas, with 35 years of service.
Allen Forshage came to the Department in 1970 as a Biologist I with a District, Management, and Research Crew in Fort Worth, Texas. Within three years, he was promoted to Project Leader for the Research Crew. In 1976, Allen was promoted to Regional Fishery Management Supervisor in East Texas, where he has been involved in multiple assessments of Florida Largemouth Bass and helped establish its world-class stature in East Texas.
In 1996, Allen became the Director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas. Allen's leadership and innovation have helped expand and shape the Fisheries Center into a destination enjoyed by thousands annually.
The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is the home of Splash, the living world-record Blue Catfish, and the Budweiser Share-A-Lunker Program, where anglers donate their 13-pound or larger bass to TPWD to incorporate the genetic contribution of those fish into the fishes stocked throughout Texas.
Allen has also initiated Operation World Record that seeks to develop the biggest largemouth bass ever in Texas. His recent activities with the Friends of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center have resulted in over $2 million being raised for the construction of the new Educational Complex at the Center.
Allen is very creative, totally dedicated to providing the conservation message of TPWD to the public. With 35 years of service, Allen Forshage.
MR. COOK: I see that he brought his better half with him too, which we all appreciate.
MR. COOK: If you've ever been to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, you know what an incredible job Allen has done and all the folks who work there with him. And we appreciate it.
Next, from our Administrative Resources Division, Rebecca A. Lucio, Accountant III, here in Austin, Texas, with 30 years of service.
Becky began her career with the Department on October 1, 1975, as an Accounting Clerk III in the former Parks Reports Section. Becky was promoted to Supervisor within the Section in 1985. Her primary responsibility was to audit the revenue reported by parks and ensure its accuracy.
During her tenure, the way state parks reported revenue has seen many changes. In 1995, the Reservation System was developed, and Garner State Park was the first park to report online. Becky's input was extremely valuable in assisting with the change in the park revenue reporting process from manual to automated.
In 1999, the automated state park section was transferred from the State Parks Division to the Finance Division. At that time, Becky became the Assistant Supervisor. She continued to oversee the manual reporting of parks as well as the conversion of all parks' TPWD-owned checking accounts to Treasury-owned accounts as mandated by the State Treasury and Comptroller's offices.
On August 1, 2005, Becky transferred to the Financial Management Department as a General Ledger Accountant. She is currently responsible for processing legal settlements, donations, and other accounting duties as assigned. With 30 years of service, Rebecca A. Lucio.
MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, Everett D. Byrd, Park Specialist III, in Rusk, Texas, with 25 years of service. Everett Byrd began his career with the Department in October of 1980 as a Seasonal Park Ranger III on the Maintenance Away Crew at the Texas State Railroad. After a year, he became the Maintenance Away Ground Supervisor, and then in December 1981 he became the Maintenance Mechanic IV, Welder, at the Railroad Shop in Rusk.
In September of 1983, he received the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Pressure Vessel Welder Certification so that the Railroad could legally repair their own steam engine boilers.
In 1991, he became the Additional Duty Safety Officer and implemented the first Safety Program at the Texas State Railroad. In 1996, he was reclassified as Maintenance Mechanic V, and in May of the same year he became the Maintenance Supervisor of the Railroad Shop.
Presently, Everett is the Texas State Railroad Shop Manager. With 25 years of service, Everett D. Byrd.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, Garry K. Collins, Captain Game Warden, Garland, Texas, with 25 years of service. Garry Collins began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a member of the 35th Texas Game Warden Academy.
His first duty station was in Region IV, District 3, La Porte, in Harris County Texas, where he received recognition as Game Warden of the Year in 1983-1984 from the Gulf Coast Conservation Association and was also recognized as the Harris County Peace Officer of the Month Award in February of 1984.
In March of 1993, he was promoted to Sergeant, Region IV, District 3, and in February of 1998, he was promoted to Captain in Region VIII, District 1.
Garry Collins was among the first wave of game wardens to New Orleans to assist with the search and rescue efforts during — following Hurricane Katrina and among the first wave of wardens to assist with the Hurricane Rita recovery efforts in East Texas. With 25 years of service, Captain Garry K. Collins.
MR. COOK: Also from the Law Enforcement Division, Richard Herzog, Major Game Warden, Mount Pleasant, Texas, with 25 years of service.
Major Herzog began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a member of that same 35th Texas Game Warden Academy. His first duty station was in Region IV, District 1, El Campo, in Wharton County. In July of 1997, he was promoted to Captain and assigned to Harris County and was in charge of supervising the South Houston District office in Region IV, District 3.
In 2001, Dick graduated from our Natural Leaders Training Program. In 2003, he received the Employee Recognition Award for Leadership and was promoted to Major and assigned to Region VIII, Mount Pleasant, in Titus County. With 25 years of service, Major Dick Herzog.
MR. COOK: Also from that 35th Game Warden Academy, the Law Enforcement Division, Forester Mills, Jr., Game Warden Fredericksburg, Texas, with 25 years of service.
Game Warden Buddy Mills began his career as a Game Warden following graduation from the 35th Game Warden Academy. Upon graduation from the Academy on January 16, 1981, his first duty station assignment was in Colorado County, Eagle Lake, where he worked for almost 12 years before transferring to his present duty station in Gillespie County, Fredericksburg, Texas.
With 25 years of service, Game Warden Buddy Mills.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, Daniel Villalobos, Sergeant Game Warden, Helotes, Texas, with 25 years of service. Sergeant Villalobos began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a graduate of the Game Warden Academy in January of 1981.
His first duty station was in Port Lavaca, Texas, Calhoun County. In January of 1989, he transferred to San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. In October of 2004, he was promoted to the Special Operations Unit as a Sergeant Marine Theft Investigator.
Danny has served as a Region V Representative for the Texas Game Warden Association, and has been inducted into the Harlandale Independent School District's Hall of Fame for working with youth of south San Antonio, introducing them to the outdoors, and coordinating Youth Hunts for the underprivileged youth in that area.
With 25 years of service, Sergeant Danny Villalobos.
MR. COOK: Last, but not least, from the Coastal Fisheries Division, Robert R. Vega, Manager V, Corpus Christi, Texas, with 20 years of service.
Robert Vega came to the Department in September of 1985 upon completion of graduate school. While in school, Robert was very impressed with the work being done at the department fish hatcheries, and hoped to be part of that fisheries conservation movement. His dream came true, and he had the opportunity to work as a Fish and Wildlife Technician for a few years at the Coastal Conservation Association/CPL Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi.
Later, he worked as a Hatchery Biologist and served as a Hatchery Manager. During his tenure with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Robert received the 2001 Employee Award for Conservation for his outstanding work. He has served as the Marine Hatchery Regional Director and Program Leader while obtaining his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University.
He has been involved in the culture and release of hundreds of millions of juvenile red drum and spotted sea trout along the Texas coast and is currently involved in evaluating the performance of hatchery-reared fish released into the wild.
Educating the public about coastal conservation and optimizing hatchery operations. Robert Vega is nationally recognized as the leading authority and top research scientist regarding marine fisheries enhancement, fish stocking assessment, suitable nursery habitat for fingerling release, and post-stocking fingerling migration patterns.
With 20 years of service, Robert Vega.
MR. COOK: We have a special recognition to make at this time, and there are some gentlemen in the Audience that I definitely want to recognize, one of which I think all of you know. The other two, Mark and Ozzie Barrett, with Louis Stumberg today, Louis, we thank ya'll and we appreciate your participation. There's Andy Phillips. I didn't see you walk in, Andy. Glad you could be here.
This is the Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year, the Shikar-Safari International Award. Each year Shikar-Safari International recognizes Game Wardens across North America as Wildlife Conservation Officers of the Year. This marks the 26th year that this award has been presented to a deserving Texas Game Warden.
The Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year for 2005 is Raul "Pinky" Gonzales. Warden Gonzales graduated from the Texas Game Warden Training Academy in February of 1987. Pinky's first duty station was in Rockport, Aransas County.
During his tenure in Aransas County, Pinky was very active in what was then known as The Redfish Wars. This involved the prevention of gill-netting red drum and speckled trout for commercial gain. Pinky's efforts in this area are a contributing factor to the outstanding coastal fishing that so many of us enjoy today.
Pinky was also very involved in numerous water-related search and rescue operations. Once such rescue occurred when a boat capsized containing three Texans in Copano Bay in the late evening hours. One of the three men was found clinging to a wellhead a short distance from the capsized boat.
He later told Pinky that he was very tired and ready to let go of his grip, and had it not been for seeing the game warden's spotlight nearby he would have given up and drowned.
In 1992, Pinky transferred to Refugio County, where year after year he has consistently made numerous apprehensions of violators who take deer and other game from the public roads in Refugio County.
During the spring turkey season a few years ago, Pinky rescued three turkey hunters who were suddenly trapped on their hunting lease due to rising flood waters coming from neighboring Goliad County. Pinky was able to navigate his patrol boat inside the flooded property, maneuvering around trees, brush, and fence posts to make the rescue.
One young hunter, a frightened 11-year-old boy, was consoled by Pinky, who demonstrated great compassion by advising the boy that everything would be all right and giving him step-by-step instructions throughout the ordeal.
Earlier this year, Pinky was instrumental in solving a string of burglaries for the Refugio County Sheriff's Department, where a large amount of stolen property was recovered. This case was a direct result of the trust that Pinky has established in his community. A person, who would speak only to Pinky, gave him information that enabled Pinky and the Sheriff's Deputies to recover the stolen property and make an arrest.
Additionally, Pinky discovered that the suspect had killed two calves. Using crime scene investigative-type procedures and a DNA forensics laboratory, Pinky was able to identify ownership and the property from which the two calves were rustled, which led to a guilty verdict.
Pinky continues to contribute a column to the local newspaper that is well received by the community, and he conducts at least one youth hunt annually in Refugio County to introduce youngsters to the outdoors. Many of Refugio County's youth have taken their first deer on one of Pinky's annual hunts.
It is this consistent job performance and positive results like these that gives me great pleasure in recognizing Game Warden Raul "Pinky" Gonzales as the Shikar-Safari International 2005 Texas Wildlife Conservation Officer of the Year.
Louis, if you, Andy, Mark, Ozzie, ya'll come on up.
MR. PHILLIPS: Bob, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. It's a pleasure to be here again this year to present our Wildlife Officer of the Year Award.
Shikar-Safari Club International is a very small wildlife conservation and big game hunting organization. Only 200 members exist in the world, and it was founded in 1952. A short time after that, we decided we had to reach out to those men and women that help support wildlife conservation efforts worldwide.
We have worked significantly around the world in that arena, and one of the things that we are proudest of is recognizing Wildlife Officer of the Year from each of the 50 states and all the Canadian provinces. The unique thing about this award is that the recipient receives it based on the votes of his fellow workers, his fellow officers.
So you can enjoy and bask in the recognition that all the men and women that you work with decided that you deserve this award and they appreciate what you've done. We have for you today a letter from our Vice President, acknowledging your accomplishment. This pewter plate, which you can take home and display, identifying the fact that you are the Wildlife Officer of the Year winner, and most importantly, this pin, which is the only non-Parks and Wildlife-endorsed accoutrement that you can wear on your uniform on a daily basis, and we hope that you will do so every day.
We're proud for you. Congratulations, and we thank you for all your service.
MR. COOK: I asked our past chairman if he'd like to say a word to the group, and he's going to honor us with a word.
MR. STUMBERG: Commissioners, Mr. Chairman, Bob. You know, it brings back so many memories each year as I come here, because having been part of the building of this building and also a number of other things that hopefully have been for the good of the state, you know, you just feel so good about a department that, like this, great people, doing a marvelous job, a real asset to our state and a shining light for the whole nation as to how game can be protected in conjunction with the private landowners with lakes.
And I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and you, Bob, for each year welcoming us here. I'll tell you one funny story and then I'll quit. The Executive Director one time, after about two months on the Commission, he said, Mr. Stumberg, I've got to ask you something. He said, how can you sit up there and drink the amount of coffee that you do and never excuse yourself. He said, I finally found out. You're using that Styrofoam cup because you're chewing tobacco. Thank you very much.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Louis, Shikar-Safari, thank you very much.
MR. COOK: At this time, I would like to introduce Mr. Dick Davis, the Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. As you know, we just held our 14th Annual Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo, which you'll be hearing more about later in a briefing by Mr. Gammage.
As part of Expo, we also assist the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation in conducting their Expo Conservation Banquet. And as you know, one of our Commissioners always serves as the Expo Banquet Chair, and we had a great one this year, and we thank Mr. Parker. This year's banquet was a rousing success.
At this time, Mr. Davis would like to share with us some information about this year's banquet and make a couple of special presentations. Thank you very much.
MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Cook, Chairman, Commissioners. All of you know that we held the Expo for a couple of days in early October. The evening before the Expo was the banquet in the big tent just in front of this building, and it was a record-setting event.
I've only been here a few months, but I'm told it was one of the best ever, and it was a team effort. All of the Commissioners here today and those that are not here, a lot of our Board members, participated by providing auction items and attending and purchasing tables, and participating as bidders in the auction, and a great number of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff volunteered and gave a lot of their time, a lot of hours, and the Foundation is so grateful to the Department for the volunteer assistance. We could not have put this event on without their help.
But I think there is no doubt this morning that the real number one reason for this year's success was our auction. And the auction was such a great success because of its chairman, and that's Commissioner John Parker of Lufkin, Texas. And I just wanted to present him with a gift of our appreciation this morning.
He didn't be the Chairman and work so hard for any sort of recognition. He did it because of his love of this state and for his love of conservation and for his belief in this Department and what it does for conservation and the people of this state.
So Commissioner Parker, you weren't expecting this, but if you would come down, we'd like to present you with something this morning we think you will find handy during the current quail season.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I want to tell everybody that while I was the Chairman I had help this year, you know, I had so much help putting on that banquet. It could not have been done without all of the people that just rushed to give help.
MR. DAVIS: Larry Spasic, would you join us please at the front? Larry is the representative this morning of this year's banquet and auction beneficiary, the San Jacinto Monument and Visitor Center, and it's my privilege to present to you this morning what represents the net results of our auction, $110,000 check.
MR. SPASIC: I would like to say what an extraordinarily successful accomplishment you have had with this event. It speaks to your agency and your leadership and your efforts. To make such a positive impact on one of the world's most important historic sites is something to brag about.
Texas and Texans, Sarita Hixon, our Chairman, our Board of Trustees, our museum staff, all thank you and congratulate you. I wanted to add as a personal note that I had a wonderful time. I got back in home at about 2:00 in the morning. I came to Austin; my wife stayed at home.
She asked me how it went, and I said I had an incredible, fantastic time. I realized by the look on her face that might not have been the thing to say since she stayed and I came, and I immediately coughed and said, well it was okay. It was just one of those things, and boy, honey, I missed you. But my wife is at home today and I'm here, and I want to tell you I had a great time.
I realize we're recording this, and I hope this doesn't get back home. But there is a sign-in sheet and we could start there if it does. But I just want to thank all of you that worked on this program; this is something that you can be very proud of. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob. And thank you again, John, for that incredible job you did on the banquet. Make it tough for the next guy.
Let's see. Next up. Item One. Approval of the agenda, which we have before us. Is there a motion for approval.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Holmes, seconded by Parker. All in favor please say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Next order of business is Item Number Two: Election of Vice Chairman. We've lost our long-time Vice Chairman, Al Henry. Do we have any nominations?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I'd like to nominate Donato Ramos.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'll second that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Nominated by Holmes and second by Friedkin. Any other nominations? Hearing none, nominations closed. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Get over here, Donato.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: First of all, it's humbling for me to be named as Vice Chairman of the Commission because I realize all the talent that's up here, and I want to thank you all for the confidence and I accept the challenge. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The real reason was to separate those two.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: We're having too much fun.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We've got South Texas pretty well represented here.
The next order of business, Item Three, resolution commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of Texas Game Wardens. Pete?
MR. FLORES: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-chairman, members, Mr. Cook. For the record, my name is Peter Flores, Director of Law Enforcement, Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Conservation law enforcement in Texas pretty much began in 1895, by the act of the 24th Legislature, where I.P. Kibbe was appointed commissioner to enforce the Fish Laws and Oyster Laws of the state. It then evolved into the Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission, and then evolved to Texas Parks and Wildlife.
From a handful of game wardens, then known as Fish and Oyster Commissioners, to the 495 game wardens we have today in Texas. It's a rich history in conservation law enforcement that we wish to share with you. We also wish to point out in the lobby, with the gracious permission of Mr. Cook, we're allowed to display our long, rich history of conservation law enforcement, and we encourage you all and the members of the audience to take a look at the display and see how we've evolved over the years.
Representative Harvey Hilderbran, Chairman Hilderbran, assisted by Todd Kercheval, his aide, sponsored House Resolution 2110 in the 79th Legislature, which pretty much mirrors the resolution that we're asking you to adopt today, and if you'll bear with me, I'll read it to you.
"Whereas the Office of Fish and Oyster Commissioner was created by the 24th Texas Legislature in 1895 to enforce the Fish and Oyster Laws of the state;
"And whereas I.P. Kibbe was selected the first Commissioner at a salary of $150 per month, and the appointed Deputies included William Henry Sterling, one of the first conservation law enforcement officers in Texas, who earned a salary of up to $50 per month garnered from the sale of licenses and permits;
"And whereas in 1899 the Fish and Oyster Commission was given jurisdiction over all public waters, including freshwater streams, lakes and ponds, and four years later the Commission's duties were expanded to include commercial shrimping;
"And whereas the agency has undergone several name changes through the years, designated the Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission in 1907; Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission in 1929; Game and Fish Commission in 1951, it was renamed Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1963;
"And whereas two years later the professionals now known as Texas Game Wardens were assigned the duty of promoting recreational water safety for persons and property in all recreational waters of the State;
"And whereas in 1971 Game Wardens were formally recognized as Texas Peace Officers with full duties and powers to preserve peace within the State when the 62nd Texas Legislature extended that designation to all enforcement officers commissioned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission;
"And whereas the modern-day equivalent of those early Deputy Fish and Oyster Commissioners, Texas Game Wardens, have grown in number from six in 1919 to nearly 500 today, expanding their role to include water safety enforcement 40 years ago, these dedicated men and women, and their predecessors have played a vital role in wildlife conservation for more than a century;
"Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission hereby honor Texas Game Wardens for 110 years of service to the Lone Star State and commend them for their efforts to safeguard the natural resources of the State for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.
With the permission of Mr. Cook, as you noticed, we're wearing a different badge now, and on it, this is not really a new badge; it's really an old badge. It was the badge worn by the predecessors of — before we became Texas Parks and Wildlife, and as you can see, it says State Game Warden on it, and with Mr. Cook's permission we will be wearing it for one year to commemorate 110 years of service.
So our staff humbly recommends to the Commission that they adopt the resolution in Exhibit A.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Pete.
MR. FLORES: Yes, Sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Have a motion to that resolution? Moved by Commissioner Parker, second by Commissioner Bivins. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion carries. Thank you very much, Pete.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I'd like to make a comment. We can't recognize our game wardens enough. Really, they consistently go beyond the call of duty, so you need more than just a resolution commemorating you. We really are indebted to you all. A lot of the credit that we get sometimes is due to what you do in the field. So thank you for your efforts, everybody.
MR. FLORES: It's a very deep honor and privilege to be working for the people of the state as a game warden for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You do a great job. You all are everywhere, and as Vice Chairman Ramos says, no one has a greater visibility with the public than our wardens and you do a great job.
MR. FLORES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Next up? You're up, Pete.
MR. FLORES: I'm up again.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: This is something that I want you to pay attention to. This is an example of what Vice Chairman Ramos has been talking about: a briefing on the rescue efforts by our game wardens from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
MR. FLORES: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice Chairman, Mr. Cook. For the record, my name is Peter Flores, Director of Law Enforcement, Texas Parks and Wildlife. I'm here before you to discuss rescue efforts by Texas game wardens during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens are part of the State of Texas' Emergency Management Response. As such, we routinely as part of our jobs, whenever there's hurricanes in the Gulf, we are ready to respond and have responded for our entire history to floods in Texas.
We are Texas' marine response to these emergencies; we have the equipment and the know how of the rural areas and the waterways to be able to provide this type of response. It's what we've done and what we do.
We received notice as Hurricane Katrina was in the Gulf of Mexico, we noticed that there was a monstrous storm, and we were preparing for its landfall potentially in Texas like we do any time there's a storm in the Gulf. We were notified pretty much on the 27th and 28th of August by our counterparts in Louisiana that it appeared that it was going to New Orleans and that was their worst-case scenario and one of their biggest nightmares.
There's an agreement called the Emergency Management Assistance Compact between the states, where one state can call upon the other state's emergency management capabilities to assist them. This particular compact has never been instituted by us before. With the permission of Chairman Fitzsimons and Governor Rick Perry and Mr. Bob Cook, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact agreement was activated after Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, and we were ready.
Within 12 hours after the compact was signed, we were operating in New Orleans, Louisiana. For the first time in our history, we had crossed the border to assist another state. I can talk about this a lot, but you know, there's no better way than for you all to see it for yourself. So with the professional preparation of our Communications Division, Lydia Saldana, we will show you the following film clip. Please?
(Video was played.)
MR. FLORES: As you can see, the efforts were done by our Texas game wardens, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens, in response to emergency management needs in Texas and Louisiana.
As Hurricane Rita was in the Gulf of Mexico, we staged groups of wardens because of the scope of the landfall was from Freeport to Sabine Pass, so we were ready for that contingency. Our worst-case scenario for upper Texas would have been a category four or five landfall in the Houston-Galveston area, and that was — we were very fortunate that that did not happen.
However, when Hurricane Rita came ashore, it extended category one winds all the way to south of Nacogdoches. Deep East Texas suffered much damage. A lot of people left the southeast Texas coast to escape from Hurricane Rita and found themselves victims in deep East Texas.
The infrastructure in deep East Texas, of course, is very rural and they don't have the support that the urban areas of the coast had. As a result, there was a lot of need in deep East Texas. We had a group of wardens staged in Anderson, Texas, in Grimes County, over 50 that responded to the needs of southeast Texas.
We responded to five counties and provided primarily search-and-rescue and humanitarian efforts because, whereas in Katrina our response was primarily marine oriented, we had the four-wheel drive vehicles to be able to get back in rural east Texas and provide needed services to our fellow citizens. Plus, we also had the added advantage of having local knowledge of the area by the game wardens, who have practiced community-oriented policing for years. So that is what assisted our wardens in becoming effective and a can-do attitude of the people that work for this agency.
I will summarize what our response was in Katrina and Rita. That's, of course, the Superdome in New Orleans, and as you can see that TPWD game wardens rescued over 4,900 of our fellow citizens in Louisiana. Examples included the low-income housing, apartment complexes, and hospitals.
The University of Tulane, Charity, and Veterans Administration hospitals were ones that we evacuated. We worked with the Louisiana Fish and Game Department, Tennessee Wildlife Resources; there were agencies from throughout America that came to the aid of Louisiana, and they would do the same for Texas if we ever need it.
Hurricane Rita struck us from September 24 to October 14. We conducted operations during the entire period, primarily humanitarian. If you notice in the background, you'll see the pine trees are snapped across the board, and they created a lot of damage.
Rita response primarily to be noted here was 38,874 contacts were made by our officers. Critical care needs, those 97 critical care needs, were calls that involved situations of life and death that if our employees had not been there then it would have caused, would have been very detrimental to those folks, and of course, tons of supplies.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that while we were our first responders as game wardens, these types of events are something that require our entire agency to come together. I would be remiss to not mention the compassionate response of our state parks that housed evacuees from both Rita and Katrina.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that there were wildlife biologists clearing roadways in deep east Texas. I would be remiss to not mention our radio technicians from the Infrastructure Division, who went out there and restored radio communications within an hour and a half of arriving in Jasper and not only restoring our radio communications, but the Sheriff's Department communications since they did not have that capability.
Other than that, gentlemen, I summarize it by saying it was very humbling to be of service to Texas and part of an agency that provides this type of service to our fellow citizens in need. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Pete. I'll tell you, it was a great job, and I've got to tell you that Sunday evening when we saw Katrina bearing down I was at a national conservation conference in St. Louis, and I called Bob, and I said, Bob, what are we doing? And he said they're already ready; they're ready to go; they're at the border and they're waiting for their orders.
And I'll tell you, these gentlemen, Pete and Bob, did an amazing job. They didn't fool around. They made the decision. They deployed, and you know the old saying is don't just listen to what people say, watch what they do. And I'll tell you, you all were an example for a lot of state and federal agencies of how to act.
As the Governor said, those guys are awesome. He saw your work when he was viewing the damage of Rita, and that was his comment to me, and you really are. You did a great job.
MR. FLORES: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Pete.
MR. FLORES: Thank you, Mr. Cook.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hi, Bob.
MR. COOK: I'd like to just say one word. You know, we're all, everybody in the agency, was part of this. We funneled equipment and everything we could get together to send into those areas. We sent good equipment, we sent people who were well trained, we sent people who were prepared, we sent people who were compassionate and cared.
But I will tell you, there is no doubt in my mind, and I followed this closely, thanks to the men and women who were there keeping contact with us, the thing that we sent that was so badly needed was leadership. We sent leaders into New Orleans; we sent leaders into east Texas to help people who really, really needed help at the time, and I am so proud of them and so appreciative, and it would be remiss to not thank each and every one of you.
There was no question at any time about the support that we had. The gentleman, Jack Colley, head of the State Emergency Management Team, cannot talk about either of these events without, right up front, in the middle, and at the end, bragging on, talking about the job that the Texas game wardens of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department did. That's a great compliment.
Pete, thank you and each of you folks.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: As Pete mentioned, not just the Law Enforcement folks, but folks in State Parks stepped up to the situation and served our fellow citizens.
Walt, I think you're up next on Item Five briefing, State Parks.
MR. DABNEY: Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Walt Dabney, State Parks Director. Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you for a minute about our involvement in Katrina and Rita.
The Incident Command Structure was developed primarily in this nation to deal with wild land fires, large-project fires that dealt with a multitude of agencies trying to get their work done. State Parks has intended, because of fires and floods and hurricanes and special events like the Iwo Jima issue over at the Nimitz Site to develop an Incident Command System.
We watched it as Katrina hit and the problems in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama and the chaos that followed that, and talking to our game warden friends who were down there. When they rolled in there, there was not a viable command structure in many cases, and that results just in compounding sometimes the problems.
Well, we started watching Rita come and headed right for Port O'Conner, and then looking at Galveston-Houston, we were evacuating two of our regional offices, many parks; in fact, we were evacuating Hurricane Katrina evacuees out of many of the parks in front of Rita.
One of them I can tell you, we evacuated out of Livingston that was just furious wrote Bob and I e-mails the following day, and about how in the world we would have moved them out of a safe campground environment and put them on the road to an evacuation shelter 30 miles away in the middle of the night.
I sent him pictures from Martin Dies and Village Creek of the campgrounds there and the jackstrawed huge trees that could have easily been Livingston, and we never heard any more from that. I mean, it would have been absolutely nuts to leave him there.
Well, three days before Rita struck landfall, and we're doing all this evacuation, we realized when the power goes out and everything's flooded wherever this hits, we're not going to be able to put a structure together after the fact. We needed a command structure before this all happened.
The problem is, we didn't have one. And so we needed to have teams ready to go, people identified, equipment identified, prepositioned in that because the day after the thing we needed to be able to respond.
I've got a great crew of eight Regional Directors. I turned to the closest one, who is Brent Leisure, over in Region V, who had been the Superintendent at Bastrop, and I said, Brent, we need an Incident Command Structure set up at Bastrop and you need to get this going. And he says, Walt, I've not done that before. I don't know what that is. And I said, well, we'll talk it through. It's your assignment to put one together.
I think the first thing he did was he went to the Internet and Googled up "incident command structure." Anyway, I'm going to turn this presentation over to Brent Leisure, who put an incredible team together. I will tell you that building on what these folks did, we're going to have a response team to work with our game wardens, which we did very well in the Rita situation, because if you don't have gas prepositioned, if you don't have generators ready to go, in the chaos you can't find any of that stuff. And anyway, Brent put together an incredible operation over there, and it got us through a very difficult situation with minimum expense and confusion. So Brent, if you'd come up and give us an overview.
MR. LEISURE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook. I appreciate the opportunity to come and talk to you a little bit about the State Park response to Rita.
Pete, that was a great video. We appreciate in State Parks what game wardens do for us, and I can tell you that we worked closely with them in this event, and there were some things that we could do for them and likewise they did for us, and Pete, thank you and all the game wardens for what you do.
The days leading up to Hurricane Rita were a bit frantic, and as we were trying to prepare for our reaction to this storm, Walt called me, and it's true I hardly knew how to spell Incident Command, and yet there are many lessons learned in this storm, and we hope to move forward in the future and be better prepared.
But what we tried to in the days leading up to that storm was assemble a team, and we did so at Bastrop State Park, where we thought that it was close enough to the storm that we could quickly respond and be timely in that. But it was also far enough where that command post could be safe and communications maintained, and so that's where we chose to set up our Incident Management Center.
The work in preparation was not just by our team but by the staffs in the field. We had many parks that potentially were going to be affected by this storm, and as you might recall, the original projections for the storm were further west and down the coast, and we expected as much as a quarter or one-third of our state parks would be impacted by this.
Since it did take an eastern trajectory and came in on the southeast corner, we didn't have quite as many parks affected, yet the potential was there. The Incident Management Center was formed for several purposes, and one was to get ourselves in a situation where we could be effective in the post-storm environment, but we also wanted to be able to report back to Mr. Cook and to Mr. Dabney and all of our leaders in Austin so that they could have as close to real-time impacts as possible.
The fact that we brought in 20 people from all across the state was really important. There was a lot of coordination that needed to be done between many different agencies and within our own agency. I selected about 19 other folks, many from Region V, which I work with every day and so I'm very confident in their abilities, but we brought in people from all regions of the state and really had to identify some folks that had some experience in southeast Texas because our experienced people in those areas were evacuated. And so it was important that we were able to do that, and we did so.
Although you can see that this is nothing fancy, we utilized a group barracks facility that was vacant at Bastrop State Park. We had tremendous support from our Austin headquarters: IT folks that came down on very short notice and ran cables, put up phone lines, hooked us up to the agency's wide area network and gave us the capability to communicate and manage this incident from the state park side of things.
One of our objectives, clearly from the beginning, was we needed to inventory and assess how many resources we had available to respond to this storm, what kind of equipment, what kind of personnel, and we need to mobilize them right now. And I'll tell you, it's a challenge in State Parks to try to find roadworthy vehicles and equipment that can get you across the state and be capable of performing the job once it gets there.
But we're able to do that, and we were fortunate that only one time did we have to make a call for State Parks staff to come forward, we need your help, and we did not have to seek additional help.
In addition to the work that was being done there, it is important to point out, I think, that the State Parks, the 20 or so in east Texas that were expecting this impact, were evacuating evacuees, as Walt said. We had residents from southeast Texas and Louisiana, from Katrina before and Rita that time, that had backed off the coast and moved into our state parks seeking shelter, and we changed as the trajectory — projection of the storm changed we had to adjust and evacuate some of these folks that took shelter in our parks.
Our Reservation Center was extremely important, and I would like to recognize those folks for the work they did in helping us to locate places where we could move these evacuees, and you'll see, I'll show you some numbers here in just a little bit, but those were some impressive numbers.
The response teams, we had 75 employees that came in from all over the state to help us in our response to this storm. They made up 20 different strike teams that we deployed from the Bastrop Command Center. Those teams typically were made up of State Park police officers, heavy equipment operators and their equipment, hand-tool crews that were needed to cut our way through our facilities and get to our sites in many cases. I would like to recognize those folks. They did an outstanding job, and we couldn't have done it, certainly, without them.
Their objectives, primarily, when they were to go to the site, was to reestablish a Parks and Wildlife presence on our sites that had been evacuated as quickly as possible, restore some security and law and order as was necessary, and provide an assessment, initial assessment, that if we needed to deploy additional resources, that they would communicate that back to the Bastrop Incident Command Post, and they did.
They worked in 72-hour shifts, typically almost on a 24-hour basis. We replaced those teams with teams after 72 hours, and we did so until the Superintendent or his staff was able to return to the site and carry on that work to the point that we could turn it back over to them.
There were many damages to our state parks, and I won't get into it in detail. I know that you heard it in committee yesterday from Steve Whiston, some details of the damages in our parks. But I would like to point out that those parks that were hit the hardest were Sabine Pass, Sea Rim, Martin Dies, and Village Creek. Some of the facilities that were impacted included screen shelters, residences, maintenance buildings, group pavilions, nature centers, and that sort of thing, and those were typical, and these are not untypical pictures that we're looking at right now.
The damage was not just to our facilities. Although we're just talking about one tree in this photograph, I think it's symbolic of what we saw in our parks, particularly at Village Creek and Martin Dies. Now, if you've never been to Martin Dies, and I'll have to say that I have never been there, but it has been described to me by the guys in the field, that if you go into the park prior to the storm, it is virtually 100 percent canopy covered. That's not the case today. It's less than 50 percent, and we have some areas as big as 200 acres where we have 100 percent blow down of trees. So it's drastically impacted what you find at a couple of our sites, for sure, and those scars will last for some time.
One of the reasons our biologists that followed up quickly to assess our natural resource impact reported back to us that the damages were actually worse in the state parks than they were in some of the surrounding areas. We attribute that to the fact that it was a preserve; these trees are larger. They caught more wind, and we suspect that that is a primary reason that we actually received so much damage to those resources. We do have timber salvage operations under way right now, both at Village Creek and at Martin Dies.
This, for example, is a state record, state champion river birch tree that blew down. There just happened to be a sign in front of it there at Martin Dies.
I mentioned it earlier, but I'll just quickly say we appreciate the work of FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who actually owns the property at Martin Dies, and we have a lease agreement with them. We work closely with them and our resource folks did to get this timber salvage operation going, the State Emergency Management Offices and our game wardens.
The four parks that remain closed today, again, are Sea Rim, Sabine Pass, Village Creek, and Martin Dies. We expect that those sites will probably stay closed until the summer of 2006 until a more thorough assessment is done on the damage to the facilities and when we can get that done. We do have people at the table right now with FEMA, and we hope to receive something out of those meetings.
In conclusion, I'd just like to say real fast, again recognize our Reservations Center, the Customer Service Center here in Austin. They were invaluable to us, but they helped to help us in placing evacuees. Our state parks placed over 10,500 evacuees, provided shelter for these. These folks were in dire straits. They didn't have much and were looking for some help. We were proud to be able to do that. We took over 2,700 reservations for these folks. There were 8,700 plus nights booked by the Reservations Center, and that didn't capture all of the evacuee totals.
There was a monetary value to this, as well: over $104,000 in waived entry fees to these people is what we experienced as well as greater than $140,000 in facility fees. So in closing, I'd just like to say to our counterparts in the Law Enforcement Division, they do an outstanding job, and likewise I'd like to tell you how much I appreciate our Parks staff, and the impact of this storm wasn't felt just in southeast Texas. But we had evacuees staying in state parks as far as the Trans-Pecos area.
So in closing, I'd say that really Hurricane Rita is kind of a benchmark in our history, and I think we'll look back on this time as a representation of some quality customer service, and I appreciate your time, gentlemen. Thank you.
MR. DABNEY: Any questions? Just a clarifying and a closing, this is not a unique situation for us in State Parks. Every time there is a hurricane or disaster on the coast, parks are in fact open to evacuees and we do not charge people to do that. We had some opportunities during this time to maybe have upgraded some facilities through FEMA, which would have been a real advantage. We'd have been better able to take care of people in the future. We hope that opportunity happens again. Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well done, Walt. I'll tell you, ya'll did a great job, and the job continues. It may not be in the newspapers, but you guys are still doing a great job with that. Any other question?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I was going to make a comment. Again, thank you, Walt and Brent. To me, this is a reflection of the heart and soul of the organization, the humanitarian efforts, and you look at an organization and you don't see a heart and you don't see a soul because it's an entity. But if you look at the efforts, you can readily see how focused we are and the amount of heart and soul and dedication for humanitarian efforts. Again, thank you, Pete and Walt.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I believe it was alluded to there how much you had to do with the little you have, with the budget constraints you have in Parks, and that part wasn't lost on us, Walt, and I know it wasn't on your staff. It's amazing you got it done.
Any other questions for Walt or comments? Job well done.
Next up is Item Six, Tim Hogsett on the National Recreational Trail grant funding.
MR. HOGSETT: Good morning, members of the Commission. I'm Tim Hogsett, Recreation Grants Branch of the State Parks Division. Item Number Six is a recommendation for funding of the acquisition of a motorized trail park that would be located in Crockett County near the City of Ozona.
A little background on the National Recreational Trail Fund, from which this grant would be made. These are pass-through federal aid funds. It is money that is collected from gasoline tax sales on off-road vehicle use, and the program mandates that 30 percent of the Recreation Trail grant money that we receive annually has to be spent on motorized trail projects.
One might ask why we're in this business. Well, the 78th Legislature enacted Senate Bill 155, which closed most of the navigable streams in the state to recreational use by off-road vehicles and directed Parks and Wildlife to facilitate the development of sites for motor-vehicle recreation at places other than the streambeds.
Also in the 79th Legislature, a bill was passed, Senate Bill 1311, which created an Off-Road Vehicle Trail Recreation Area Program. Essentially, we will be selling stickers to people who purchase off-road vehicles that are planning to use those on public property. And it also directed us to establish and maintain a public system of trails and other recreation use for off-road vehicles.
We previously received an application from the Texas Motorized Trail Coalition in the year 2003. They are a nonprofit group who provide recreation of this kind at a site in Uvalde County. There were some problems with that site: some environmental problems and some access problems. So the Commission at that time directed us to go back and see if we could help that group locate another site.
They have since found a more suitable site of approximately 3,000 acres in Crockett County, southwest of Ozona. This particular site has access via a paved, two-lane, county road, and there has been an assurance in writing from a neighboring landowner that he will provide an easement or sell outright a right of way from that county road to this property.
The site contains no running streams or springs, and we will make the effort to make sure that all necessary resource clearances are obtained prior to any construction beginning. Silt reduction structures will be constructed to minimize off-site erosion. Buffers, or other management practices, will be implemented to the extent possible to protect adjacent landowners.
We've held two public hearings in Ozona on this project. We've also, our staff, Steve Thompson and Andy Goldbloom, have been in Ozona and been on the site numerous times and talked with community leaders about the proposed project.
In closing, our recommendation for your consideration is funding for the Texas Motorized Trail Coalition proposal to acquire 3,323 acres in Crockett County for the purposes of developing a public off-road highway vehicle recreation area in the amount of $1,359,500 be approved. I'll be glad to answer any questions that you might have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Tim, thanks. I know you've worked a long time on this. What safeguards do we have in the final planning and implementation of these trails to minimize the impact to the neighbors and others so that we're not right up on the fence line?
MR. HOGSETT: Well, first of all, this site will be securely fenced. The nature of the site, in our opinion, is that it's a large, expansive flat area with a number of ravines, and most of the activity would be down in those ravines. We feel the site is large enough that they will be able to lay out trails so that they will be effectively not visible to or heard by neighbors. And, of course, if that is the case, there's enough room that those trails could be relocated.
We'll be sure that all the necessary resource clearances are obtained: historical clearance from the Historical Commission, natural resource clearances as necessary, and basically these people have shown to be good neighbors in the other project that they have done with us. We granted TMTC a grant several years ago for the construction of a facility just outside of Gilmer. And by all accounts, we've received no complaints from neighbors. They are considered by people in the community to be good neighbors, and we think it'll be the same situation here.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You mentioned the resource clearances. Is that TCEQ, Parks and Wildlife?
MR. HOGSETT: All of the above, yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So do we get to see, does our staff get to see that final plan before the bulldozers start moving?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes. We will review and approve plans and specifications prior to any dirt being moved out there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Just had one question. As far as the public hearings that you had, what opposition to this did you have, if any?
MR. HOGSETT: There was some opposition. We, first of all, we received 60 pieces of written correspondence, either e-mails or letters. And of those 60 pieces of correspondence, 51 were in support. In the second public hearing that was held, which was a very formal public hearing, where much like this hearing today, people signed up and indicated whether they wanted to speak and whether they were opposed or in favor, of 34 people attending that hearing, 17 of them indicated that they were opposed, and there were various reasons for that. I think there are some folks here today that are going to speak to some of that as well.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Let's get to that public comment, and then if you'll stand by, Tim, to answer any questions the Commissioners have. First up, Marty Miller, and Nick Smith be ready.
MS. MILLER: Good morning, Gentlemen. Are the other two men, or three men, going to come back? The Commissioners?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, we don't have a complete Commission today.
MS. MILLER: Okay, so this is it?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes ma'am.
MS. MILLER: I'm Marty Miller, and I represent the Millspaugh Ranch. We've been in the ranching business for about 90 years. I'm in opposition to the proposed site. From the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition Web site, under the subheading, "the TMTC is looking for more land," "the property should be surrounded by neighboring properties that welcome the idea of having an outdoor recreational area as a neighbor. Properties with large ranches as neighbors that are welcome to having an outdoor recreational area as a neighbor are a plus."
I submit, gentlemen, that there are numerous ranching neighbors here today, and those who are unable to attend that do not welcome the proposed site for the motorized vehicle park. While I do not oppose the mission of the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, I do oppose this proposed location, which threatens present and future generations of ranching families, the wildlife, and the fragile environment of West Texas.
From the Parks and Wildlife Department Web site, and I quote your mission statement, "To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreational opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations."
A few weeks ago, I spoke with James Small, from the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce; who spoke quite favorably for the motorized vehicle park, which is only five miles, I repeat, five miles from Gilmer. Gilmer has seen an economic increase from the park, and especially when there is a rally and 5,000 people come to town. I cannot see how 5,000 people traveling through Crockett County and entering the proposed park can conserve the natural and cultural resources of a rugged and beautiful ranchland.
I don't know how many of you gentlemen have been up close and personal to this land. It is rugged, it is pristine, it is precious. May I ask you that you consider building the park closer to Ozona, closer to restaurants, motels, auto parts stores, and especially medical needs. Not 30 miles away. This is not nearby; this is 30 miles away. The proposed site is out in the middle of nowhere.
The land around the Hoover Divide is absolutely untouched from the chaos of our motorized society. You gentlemen have a unique responsibility and opportunity to keep it that way. May I urge you, encourage you, and beseech you to do so? Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Ms. Miller. And next, Nick Smith, and Carol Smith, be ready.
MR. SMITH: My name is Nick Smith, and I'm a member of the TMTC and part of the property acquisition for this project, and we've been looking for real estate for almost three years now. And we've got off into an area that we were kind of led to believe that we might be able to make something like this work, and after searching this out, we did find a piece of property that is basically out in the middle of nowhere with very few adjoining neighbors.
I do believe we've got two of those adjoining neighbors that are willing to work with us on this. I assume that ya'll are familiar with how we purchase property, and it's not a very easy task just to come up with a million three dollars and go out and find something that's so the citizens, not just the recreational, the motorized folks of Texas can use, but all the citizens of the state of Texas can use an area like this, from your Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, whatever. This will be a piece of property that anyone in the State of Texas that's willing to follow the rules and regulations that we set down in our management program will be able to come in and use this property.
And we would like to think that our Gilmer Park has kind of set a precedent on what we're capable of doing. This area that we're talking about, Ozona basically being the only town in the county, will receive quite a bit of support. The 30 miles is really nothing compared to the hours upon hours that we have to drive now to other states to do the same type of recreation.
You have a large support group in the State of Texas that I am basically now standing here in front of ya'll, more or less pleading that you help us go forward with this project. It is not just the TMTC. This is a small organization in the state. There are many, many folks in this state that would like to be able to use a piece of property like this, help come in and manage it, and make a go of this.
So with that being said, I thank you, and if there's any questions you like, I've been in this project for almost three years now. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Mr. Smith? Thank you, Mr. Smith. Carol Smith. Next up, Don Miller.
MS. SMITH: Good morning, Chairman Fitzsimons, Director Cook. Glad to see you all again, and I'd like to welcome Mr. Parker to the Commission. I haven't met you yet, but glad to know you.
For the record, my introduction: I am Carol Smith. I am an ATV User Representative on the Board of Directors of the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition. I am also their Land Acquisitions Chair. I've been on this project of acquisition for the past three years. I am also a State Representative for the National Off-highway Vehicle Conservation Council. I am also the Community Council Director for the AMA; that's Motorcycle, not Medical Association for the Texas Hill Country.
As stated before, Texas Motorized Trails Coalition is a nonprofit. We are a 501(c) charitable organization. We represent the statewide OHV community. As you well know, there is no statewide OHV agency for Texas. We'd like to be able to fulfill that need for all three disciplines of off-highway vehicle. I'll use this acronym several times, so I'm going to shorten that to OHV.
We represent ATV four-wheeler groups. We represent off-highway motorcycles in the terms of dual sport motorcross and just general, off-highway trail motorcycles. We also represent full-sized 4X4s, which are considered Jeeps or other full-sized vehicles.
Some historical data, which has been mentioned previously. SB 155 mandated TPWD to find us other places to recreate other than streambeds during the 78th Legislature. During the 79th Legislature, Senate Bill 1311 was passed. With over three weeks on the floor of both the House and the Senate, we received absolutely no opposition whatsoever. No one spoke out against this bill in any way, shape, or form after three weeks on the floor. It will be administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, as you well know.
The RTF process recreational trails fund process is a process. It's been quite an education for me during the past three years. It's not a question of just finding some land and getting a check for it, as you guys well know. TMTC looks forward to be able to provide a statewide system.
I'd like to reiterate that: a statewide system. We don't want to just have a park here, a park there. We'd like to fulfill the need for a statewide system of safe, managed, family-oriented parks with sustainable trail systems using nationally recognized guidelines for erosion control, for neighboring problems, not just for the motorized community but for the nonmotorized community as well: equestrians, mountain bikers, hikers, bikers, birders.
With the continued support and assistance of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, we look forward to providing public recreational opportunities for the use and enjoyment of future generations of Texans. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ms. Smith. Don Miller? And Jackie Bob Cox, be ready.
MR. MILLER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Before I get into this thing, this was enlightening this morning, the first several briefings. You guys do a lot of behind the scenes work, and I just want to thank you. This is very encouraging.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Stick around. We haven't even gotten to Fish and Wildlife yet.
MR. MILLER: Again, I'm Don Miller. I'm with the Millspaugh Ranch, and I'm against this. My main concern, I see some of these slides, and they talk about no running water, no springs, no streams, and all that. And that's true of east Texas. West Texas is just a bit different. We don't have any water except underground water, and other than the last two years, the last two years are the greenest that it has been for probably 40 or 50 years.
Typically, we'll go seven, eight, nine, ten years without any significant rain. And so grass fires are our main concern. And if we have a grass fire as a result of this, and I know they have spark arresters and all that, but it doesn't take much to light the grass. If we have a grass fire in west Texas around Crockett County, it's going to wipe out 90 percent of the ranchers. One grass fire, and of course, we have a lot of wind generators in west Texas as well, which means we have high winds, and as soon as that grass gets on fire, it's going and it's moving really fast.
I have never seen, of all the information I've read about this particular site, I've never seen anything address the environmental aspects as far as grass fires go. Most of the time, and I've talked to the people in east Texas, and there's some problems with wash-off and things like that, but that is not our problem. Our problem is grass fires, I think, and it's a serious issue because if a grass fire wipes us out, it's going to be years before ranching gets back to west Texas. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Miller. Tim, could you address the issue of fire breaks, or if that's part of the plan.
MR. HOGSETT: I can to some extent. Carol might want to come address that as well. Basically, we're going to have to have a management plan for this site, and all potential hazards that could occur have to be included in that management plan, and we're going to have to be satisfied that it's that way before we're going to allow them to move forward.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And that would specifically include Mr. Miller's issue because I think —
MR. HOGSETT: Yes. I think it's a valid point as well.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think it's a very valid point because you get a crown fire in those ash juniper and it's going. So that is part of the management plan and requirement that we review.
MR. HOGSETT: It will be.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It will be. All right. Any other questions on that?
MR. MILLER: Can I respond?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes sir, I'll be glad to extend your time.
MR. MILLER: The problem is that if a grass fire starts and we're 30 miles from the fire engines, 30 miles away, by the time they get out to the fire, that thing has gone two or three ranches down the road. And then, it's unmanageable. So whatever you do to prevent that, there's nothing you can really do with that high wind situation that we have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
Next, Jackie Bob Cox. Ed Small, be ready. Is Ed still in the audience? No? Joe Will Ross, be ready.
MS. COX: Hello. I'm Jackie Bob Cox. We ranch the neighboring ranch. I've, unfortunately or fortunately, on how you look at it, been married into this family for 30 years, and if you've lived through, with a rancher, and survived the drought that they're talking about, sometimes that's pleasant and sometimes it's not.
And so the concern that he just expressed on the grass fire, we did have one just the other day. A car drove through. The only thing that saved us was George's cousin was coming down to help us round up. They caught the fire quickly, and we were there and able to stop it. But it did just within five minutes time, it covered probably 20 to 40 acres in five minutes. So his concern is justified, and we just had that happen to us just the other day.
My concern is, and they give quick answers, and some of the things they have just said, they've been working on this for three years. We've known about it about 30 days. The meeting that they had at Ozona, a lot of the people that talked for it were from out of town and were involved in the project.
I personally knew about this project about two days before that meeting. So my question is, I think it's being pushed through without having time to address every issue. They give quick answers when we say an answer on noise pollution, we can do a buffer zone.
Okay, my father-in-law has enjoyed the peak that ya'll saw in the picture for 80 years. We've ranched it for 100. He made a very eloquent talk. Times are changing. But on the other hand when you love the land and you see something that when they sit there and they tell you that it won't hurt it, they don't know. They cannot make that statement.
The change of what they're saying on noise pollution? I can hear our four-wheeler come down the north divide that is on that land. I know when to fix lunch. How are they going to tell me, if I can hear that two to three miles away from that fence, that they're going to move this trail 100 feet, 300 feet, half a mile off this fence, how am I not gonna hear 10, 20, or 3,000 people?
Our livestock are our income. Ranching, unfortunately, in the State of Texas has really taken a hit. Okay. We have a pasture leased from an aunt on the south side of this ranch also. We have, with a county road going through it, we lose 20 percent on our land crop from the rest of the pastures. Do you think that our land crop, our best two pastures' neighbor, this place. What do you think the noise is going to do to them?
We have spent, and are feeding the deer, because of the drought. We've spent three years doing this, taking a hit income. What is that going to do to that? I'm out of time. Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Joe Will Ross. And then, Richard Hardy be ready.
MR. ROSS: Gentlemen, thank ya'll for letting us be here. My name Is Joe Will Ross. I'm with Jackson Walker in San Angelo, and I'm here to kind of summarize what some of the, Jackie Bob Cox and the Millers have said and some of my family.
My family ranches just north of this area. The family has been in Crockett County well over 100 years. I'd like to summarize some of the concerns and issues that we have with this Texas Motorized Trail Project and the negative impact that it will have on the neighbors.
Like Ms. Miller said while ago, they want good neighbors. The noise issue, like Jackie Bob said, you saw the canyon. I used to live right on the Interstate. My mother and dad live three miles from the Interstate. We can hear the traffic, those big trucks traveling back and forth.
Four wheelers and big four-wheel-drive Jeeps and trucks make a lot of noise. You can't tell me moving 100 feet, 300 feet, half mile from a fence is not going to be heard where Jackie Bob lives or their ranch house there. And nobody here has been able to say that as well.
I'd also like to address the erosion problem. I ranch just north of here of this site, and there was a one percent grade in an oil field road. It doesn't rain much out in Crockett County, but when it does rain, the water runs right down the road. And trucks travel on roads. So I don't understand how a silt-retention thing will stop them running down the road. I just don't understand that.
And one other thing about how the noise level will negatively affect not only the deer hunting, it's the lambing and the kidding process. Nanny goats, when they kid, they park their kid under a bush and then they go off and eat. That noise will keep the nanny goat from coming back to her kid. The kid will die, and then that's money out of the pocket of those ranchers.
I'd like for ya'll to consider that and voice our opposition. But I appreciate you listening to us, and Chairman, I thank you for your comments about trying to minimize the impact that this will have, and ensure to have us at the table to be able to talk to ya'll when the final plan gets done. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, very much. I appreciate your comments, Mr. Ross. Next, Richard Hardy. George Cox, be ready.
MR. HARDY: I'm just here in support of it, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right, Mr. Hardy? In support of?
MR HARDY: Proposition Six.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right, very good. With the Motorcycle Industry Council.
MR. HARDY: That's the manufacturers.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Cox? And Lynn Evans, be ready.
MR. COX: Good morning. My name is George Cox. My great grandfather purchased this land in the early 1900s. It's been in my family ever since, and I hope it continues to be in our family as long as we're alive and my children and my grandchildren are alive.
Ya'll are smart enough men to know, and to foresee the problems that are going to come out of this. They got lots of problems that they're going to give you solutions for: medical problems, patrol problems, trespassing problems, deer hunting problems, firearm problems, fire problems, erosion problems. I can sit here and give you my opinion on them, but ya'll are intelligent men. Ya'll are going to have to figure out if they really can do what they say they can do.
How does it hurt me? On standpoint of livestock, I lease the place. My father's retired. I lease it. You can imagine what it will do to some livestock. Some livestock adapt to things like vehicles and things that scare them. A lot of them don't. I will have problems with some of my calf crops, lamb crops, and goat crops.
The deer, they come and go. I'm not for sure how it's going to affect the deer. I think that I will have, I will be the one that will experience the problems with the trespassers, the 100 different people every weekend who want to come out and ride around, and they're gonna walk around. People are people. They're curious. They come to the fence, what's going to stop them crawling over the fence and coming on my property?
So I think nobody wants to have a place that's been in the family for years and years and years, and wants to have 100 different motorcyclists, ATVs, Jeeps, off-road vehicles, every weekend next to you. Nobody wants that. So, yes, it's going to affect me, and it will affect my family financially and emotionally, and I would just ask ya'll to consider, make sure they follow up on what they say if they get it. Give me some guidelines where I can look and make sure they're following your guidelines that you put on them.
They don't run it. You all do. They may own it, but ya'll are the people who have the guidelines over them. Give me a set of rules so I can make sure that they are not breaking the law. If they run it like it's supposed to, if they get it and it runs like it's supposed to, well that's private property. I can live with that.
But listen to what they say, and make sure that they have common sense ways to do what they say they're gonna do. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Cox. Lynn Evans, Kirby Brown, be ready.
MS. COX: Good morning. My name is Lynn Cox Evans. That was my brother who just spoke, and obviously from the two members in my family you are aware that we're the fourth generation that operate this place, and so there's a lot of history there for us. And it was amazing to me that they both commented on this canyon, and what I was going to say to you was, it doesn't make any difference if it's a spring or summer or fall or winter day. You look up that canyon, it's been there all of our lives. And it's a symbol of a great deal of pride and hard work and determination and God's creation that we have been entrusted with for a short time.
There is an emotional area, there's no doubt, for my family. And then the other question that keeps coming to my mind, and I don't know if this is the right place or how to say it, but if you own property, how would you feel if this kind of thing were coming face to face with you?
It's one thing to talk about it when it's 400 miles away from you, and it's a whole 'nuther situation when you look over the fence and there's 50 four-wheelers or motorbikes. That same canyon that you look at in four different seasons of the year is not going to be what it was intended to be. There's no way that that kind of a situation can benefit the gift we've been given and that we've been entrusted to.
It's more than a pin dot on a map. It becomes a treasure, and it more than likely, it's tainted because of some motors and some oil and some wheels. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Kirby Brown. Mrs. Austin Millspaugh, be ready.
MR. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Kirby Brown, Executive Vice President, Texas Wildlife Association. Our members own or patrol over 35 million acres of private land in Texas, and we think about private property a lot.
We have concerns. The public meeting in Ozona was split. The split was between the locals and folks who are coming in. That's a real concern to us. We're just now having landowners call our office and ask us about this. They want to know what's going on, what's happening, what decision is actually gonna be made. They're just not sure, and I don't fault the process. I don't fault this staff. This is a good staff who's been working in this for a while.
I don't fault the leadership in either the county or anywhere else. What has happened is there's a lot of people who thought well, there's no way it's coming, and they haven't been engaged in the process or they haven't taken the time to be engaged in the process because they didn't know it was coming and they just thought it wouldn't happen. And now it's coming upon them.
I guess when we worked with Senate Bill 155, and worked through that process, our thought was that the motorized trail concept is one that can be good, it can be acceptable. And it can work. And there are communities who should come and from a bottom-up community standpoint ask for those motorized trails in their communities.
But it does need 100 percent agreement, and we always felt like that would be the communities that would come forward with agreement. When you've got neighbors, particularly in this situation, not in agreement, that's very critical to having community involvement, and we think that's a problem.
It's my recommendation to you that somehow we delay this, that somehow we let community involvement take place with people who now have stepped forward and expressed their concerns, or at least give an opportunity to completely vet this out in the local community and in the landowner community, and especially with those directly surrounding the site.
We just need agreement on this before we go forward, and somehow the Commission, in your decision today, you need to be able to do something where you can hear all sides before you make a final decision on this project, and today is a final decision as I understand it for the grant. So I think that's a problem.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Kirby. You and I worked on 155, and for those of you who weren't involved in that, two sessions ago. Right? 78. And we worked very hard to get the four-wheel drive vehicles out of the riverbeds, and they were ranchers and landowners and conservationists that helped us get that done, and, to put it bluntly, the trade was that we would pursue this program that we've had for a number of years and had frankly failed to execute on other than the one Gilmore property.
And I agree with Kirby that there seems to be a lack of understanding. Maybe we could talk about the posting. If there are people, especially neighbors, who are contiguous to this property who are just now understanding the process, that's a problem. Tim, can you address this?
MR. HOGSETT: Outside of the numerous times that we've been in the community and been on the site, we did hold two advertised public hearings. The first one was a less formal kind of a public meeting that was held in September. And then we did go through the process of locally advertising, and there were numerous articles in the local newspaper about this project in advance of, I believe it was the October 17, anyway mid-October, formal public hearing.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Did we directly contact the neighbors? Obviously those were the people most —
MR. HOGSETT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. And how long ago was this property identified?
MR. HOGSETT: I didn't personally, but our staff has talked to these folks. They were at the public meeting.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'll be glad to call you back up, but we've got to keep the order here.
MR. HOGSETT: I don't know whether they were at the first public hearing. I wasn't there, but they were at the second public hearing. We visited with them at that point.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Were there any other comments, John Parker?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Tim. Or Walt? Will we have oversight over this property after the facility is put in place?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes, we will. And I would tend to echo Mr. Cox's comments. We do need to have a specific set of proposals, rules in place for this and ensure that this group follows those rules.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay. Is this oversight process, this continuing oversight process, will that be charged to the state parks? Will that be expensed to the state parks.
MR. HOGSETT: The expense would be to the Recreation Trails Grant Program account. We can assist them in things such as, we could assist them with some fire protection equipment. Our staff will be available to take complaints, if there are complaints, to follow up on issues, on problems. It won't directly come out of the State Park System, no.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Who pays for the fire equipment, assistance, the —
MR. HOGSETT: Again, those are eligible activities under this grant program. We could assist them in buying some fire control equipment, whatever other emergency equipment might be necessary.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So it won't affect our parks budget at all.
MR. HOGSETT: No.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay. Now, did the adjoining landowners receive personalized notification of any type.
MR. HOGSETT: We've written them letters. We've received letters from them as well.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: John, I don't want to interrupt you. It's my fault. I've gotten out of order here. We still have two more people to testify. My mistake on managing the public comments. Thank you, Tim. Stand by. There will be more questions.
Mrs. Austin Millspaugh and Steve Smith will be our last person testifying.
MRS. MILLSPAUGH: Thank you, gentlemen. I'm Jean Millspaugh; I came with my family to oppose this park being constructed in a wonderful part of the country that should be preserved. It's hard for me to realize that Texas Wildlife would even consider anything that would destroy the ecology and the beauty of the country. Thank you.
And I was not notified about anything. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ms. Millspaugh. Steve Smith, last one up. Anyone else who's signed up that I failed to call? Mr. Smith?
MR. SMITH: Good morning, Gentlemen. Thank you for the opportunity to address you this morning. It's not something I do well, so I'll do it briefly.
I'm not here to represent the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition; I'm not here to represent the owners or anybody else that has an interest in this. I'm here so that you can hear the voice of an end user.
I personally am a 42-year veteran of off-road motorcycling. My father was an off-road motorcycler. My kids all ride. My grandkids ride. And we desperately need places that are appropriate within the State of Texas to exercise our hobby, our sport. We don't fish, we don't golf, well, some of us do. But we enjoy off-road motorcycling, my particular group.
Since I've been back in Texas, the last eight, nine years, every year it's been necessary for me to take my family, my group, and go out of state to enjoy what we want to do at the level that we want to do it, which is a destination place, what we consider a destination place, not some back lot behind a subdivision, a destination place where we can go for a weekend and enjoy our sport, our hobby.
Personally, I consider myself pretty representative of the type of people that will be using the facility, and you've got it in a nutshell. That's what I came to tell you, and if you have any specific questions about the type of people or the type of things that we will be doing on the site, I'll be more than happy to tell you because, like I say, I've been doing it for a long time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Smith. Presumably you're familiar with then, what's the name of the other property?
MR. SMITH: Barnwell Mountain?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Barnwell Mountain.
MR. SMITH: It's an excellent facility. I've spent time, money, and effort in that area. I've been to it several times. It's a great place, and it's very well managed. That's for sure.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I appreciate your comments. Any questions for Mr. Smith?
I've got a couple of questions, Tim, for you and maybe a few others here. I'm not clear on how this process works as far as approval of a final plan. If this is some sort of conditional, I understand that we are required by law to get some of this money out and get something purchased. I mean, these people have paid through their, just like hunters and fishermen pay excise tax, they have paid money to go into this fund and acquire some.
Now, where is this approval process, though, to make sure that it addresses the concerns of the neighbors? I mean, is it a conditional grant? I'm not clear.
MR. HOGSETT: What we're proposing today is an acquisition-only grant. We would be granting them the money to acquire the property. There would be a reversionary clause in the deed that if it was not successfully developed that the property would revert back to the Parks and Wildlife Department.
We will not allow any construction to begin on this site until we've received and reviewed all resource clearances necessary, and we've reviewed and approved plans and specifications. We would offer the opportunity for the neighbors and other involved citizens and other involved folks to review those plans along with us and make comments.
There is a high likelihood that this group will be coming back for some development money from this program. And again, we would have control through that means. This is a controlled situation. This particular piece of property is different from the Barnwell Mountain property, in that it's located in a different part of the state.
But that particular piece of property has been well managed. There are very tight controls in place: no alcohol, no firearms, no trespassing on neighboring properties. They throw people out if they don't follow the rules. They make them very aware of the rules.
This piece of property, in particular, has a number of existing ranching roads within it. Some of those will be utilized for the facilities. So there are no guarantees about anything other than we will do our best, as we always do as a staff, to try to make sure that this is done correctly, legally, and responsibly.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The Motorized Trails Coalition, as you say, clearly has a good track record on their Barnhill property.
MR. HOGSETT: They do.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. Is there a time-critical issue here on the purchase. I mean —
MR. HOGSETT: That I can't answer.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ms. Smith. Is that right?
MS. SMITH: Yes, there is. We have been three years looking. We have looked at over 50 different ranches. I have actually set foot on 50 different ranches. The Legislature has mandated. We have a sticker program to create even more funding.
We are critical. We are critical now because not only are we losing face with our user group, which we are trying to satisfy, we are also losing face with you and with everyone in the State of Texas. I can also tell you as a national representative of the Off-highway Vehicle Conservation Council, that other states are looking at you also.
Every other state in the union has on OHV program. As Mr. Smith said, we are losing money. There are people who are leaving this state in droves every summer looking for a place —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: My question is really a little more technical to that. Do you have an earnest money contract on the property?
MS. SMITH: Yes sir, we do. And that is set for closing in January. So if I may make three more comments very quickly.
One to address the fire situation. We have two water wells there with 20,000-gallon water storage facilities on site. We do intend to put a fire substation on the site as soon as possible. If we can work with Crockett County Emergency Medical Services, we will also have an emergency service barn there also.
I have spoken with the Emergency Medical Team in San Angelo. They are willing to work with us also. We had two formal public meetings, four weeks' notice in newspapers, with newspaper coverage, newspaper articles, not just the public notice in the back. Also, there are many, many, many oil and gas rigs, trucks, noise, traffic, oil that currently utilize all the adjacent properties. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ned Holmes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I'm sorry, Ma'am. Before you leave, you mentioned that you had an earnest-money contract that was scheduled to be closed in January.
MS. SMITH: That is correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And do you have extension options in that?
MS. SMITH: Yes sir, but it's going to cost us a lot of money to do so. No, we get the money from the Recreational Trails Grant Program, which we pay into. We would prefer not to. Our sellers are anxious. If we do not sell to this group, just so that you're aware, this seller has told me, he has told the adjacent landowners, he has told the County people that if he does not sell to us, this particular piece of property is going to be subdivided into 100-acre tracts.
I would prefer to keep it whole and —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: That would not be a motivating factor for me, personally. But the real issue is trying to coalesce all these different interests.
MS. SMITH: Correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And if it's a time-critical issue to close —
MS. SMITH: It is for us.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And no construction is going to occur prior to an approved plan. Tim, let me make sure I understand. Thank you, Ms. Smith.
If you buy this property, and then you can't work out a plan that is satisfactory between the Department and the Motorized Trail group, what happens?
MR. HOGSETT: I think it would have to be sold. I think it would have to be put back on the market. The property reverts back to the Department, but then I don't think we would have any necessarily, I mean, I don't know how we would dispose of it or what the disposition would be of the property.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And to take this step now, versus tabling and letting you work on it and bringing it back in January, what's the impact of that? Either way?
MR. HOGSETT: Well, I agree with what Ms. Smith said, that we need to continue to show that we're making a good faith effort to move forward in finding places to do this. I daresay that we're going to have similar objections almost anywhere we go.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Well, I was somewhat skeptical, Kirby, of your comment that you would hope that a community would come and bring you one of these. I guess it's possible, but the neighboring landowners rarely are going to be enthusiastic about it. Is that fair?
MR. HOGSETT: It's a fair statement. Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: My concern here is, nobody doubts that the motorized trail community is entitled to have their dedicated funds spent. It's been collected, it's in a fund, and the Legislature clearly mandates that we do it. And I think we're showing good faith we're going to pursue.
What I'm concerned about is that the people most affected by this, the neighboring, the contiguous property owners, seem to be unclear as to what the whole procedure is of planning and enforcement of rules. It's a little hazy, I have to admit, and I would like to see some time for them to be able to understand that. Commissioner Ramos, vice chair first.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: My only comments are one: we have to be very sensitive to the landowners, and I recognize that there's always an urgency to do this. My hope would be that it we decided to reset this, or table it for now, is that we would meet with the landowners and see if we could have a stipulated set of conditions that would be palatable to both sides.
It's not going to be the ideal scenario, and Ms. Smith, you mentioned that it was going to cost you money to extend it. Can you elaborate on that? In other words, is it because you've got to pay money for an extension, or —
MS. SMITH: Yes sir, Vice Chairman, that is correct. We have a set closing date for our earnest money contract.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: When is that date?
MS. SMITH: January 15. If we extend that, we will have to pay extra money over and above.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Excuse me. Would that money, assuming that the sale were to eventually occur, would you get credit for that as against — toward the purchase price?
MS. SMITH: Not as currently contractually obligated. No we will not. And I am a nonprofit group. I have already spent a large amount of money in pursuing this piece of property.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you. The only other comment that I'll make is that the reality is that I think it's going to be very difficult to find the perfect property in the state that's going to satisfy all the constituents. So my only thought is, and I agree with Commissioner Holmes and, that is putting this off for a short period of time, I don't see how we would injure anyone, especially if the landowners were willing to cooperate and have some influence as to the restrictions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Gentlemen. Do we have a motion on this item? Oh, I'm sorry. Commissioner Parker. I had totally forgotten. One more comment?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I just want to go back to the notification of adjoining landowners. Were they advised of this by letter? Was that a certified letter?
MR. HOGSETT: I'm going to have to ask staff to come up. I cannot answer that personally. Andy, can you or Steve come —
MR. GOLDBLOOM: I'm Andy Goldbloom, with the Recreational Trails Program, manage the program. And after the first public input meeting we had, which was a posted meeting, it wasn't a formal public hearing, we didn't record it, we just wanted to gauge the impact and what we were going have out there, we did get a lot of the same folks who are speaking here at that meeting. It was posted in the local paper.
We did receive a number of letters, and I believe, and my staff person is here, he was directed to call the folks that sent those letters and the people that were opposed at the meeting to inform them that we were going to schedule a formal public hearing. It was October 6. It was posted again in the paper three weeks prior and ran, it's a weekly paper. Plus the local newspaper kind of took it as their pet news story of the month and ran a series of articles, went to Gilmer and reported back on that.
So we didn't directly send certified letters, so we don't have the proof of that. But we did make a good faith effort, and I also want to stress that this group picked the property, and I wish we'd brought the big map we have, to really gauge and see how close the structures are.
There really aren't but a couple of structures close to this property. You know, we tried to find something that was as isolated and would be as minimal impact as possible. Of the two close structures, one of them is owned by the fellow that owns the easement into the property now, and he's written us the letter to reaffirm the easement and supports the project. I don't think it's made him popular with his neighbors out there.
And then the other adjacent landowners kind of downstream the canyon were here to speak. And we've talked with them at the public hearing and assured them as much as we could that if this does come to fruition we would work every way we could to reduce the impact to their property.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And now back to my original question, did we send them certified —
MR. GOLDBLOOM: We did not send certified receipt letters. We made phone calls and —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So you made phone calls to every adjacent landowners.
MR. GOLDBLOOM: Well, to the people that we had heard about, and again —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So we don't have any records of notifying all of the adjacent landowners?
MR. GOLDBLOOM: Oh, not off the top of my head, but I'd bet we captured most of them. And again, they're pretty large ranches adjacent to this. There's additional 3,000-acre ranches on each side, so a lot of the folks that are in opposition that we've received letters of opposition, are either lessees that don't live in that area as well or don't live in that area and have interest right in that area. We're getting letters of opposition from people that live 30 miles away.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Have a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to move that we table this but reset it for the January meeting. Tim, I would like for your group and the motorized trail group to work with the affected landowners.
MR. HOGSETT: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: As a comment on this motion, I don't believe that you're going to find a site that will have adjoining landowners happily enthusiastic about the group as neighbors, but I think we as a department have an obligation to recreational needs of everybody in this state, and I think these are legitimate recreational needs. But we need to balance it as best we can if you could bring it back in January. That would be my motion.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Thank you, Tim, and we'll see you in January on that one. Okay. Item Seven. Proposed Print Artwork Program.
MS. STILES: Good morning. My name is Frances Stiles. I'm with the Administrative Resources Division. Each year the Commission reviews the artwork provided by Collectors Covey, this year for the print, and Collectors Stamp Program, we have the Green-winged Teal by David Maass for the migratory game bird artwork.
For the upland game bird artwork, we have the Bobwhite Quail by Joe Hautman. For the nongame species, that artwork has been delayed in transit. We did not receive it from the artist who through Collectors Covey, but it should be there today. We do have a representation of the species, which is a barn owl. The artist is Sherrie Russell Meline. She has provided artwork to us for the waterfowl and three other non-game species previously.
The saltwater artwork is a redfish by John Dearman, and the freshwater fisheries artwork is a bluegill by Al Barnes. That's it for the artwork.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: The artwork, I think, speaks for itself. It's beautiful. I'm particularly impressed with the quail artwork, but all of them are awesome pieces of art, and any comments from the Commission?
It's been moved by Commissioner Friedkin and seconded by Commissioner Bivins. All in favor, say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Motion passes. Thank you very much. I apologize. I didn't know if it was Parker or Bivins.
The next item is a briefing item: the Lake Conroe hydrilla update. Phil? Is your foot doing better?
MR. DUROCHER: Doing better, sir. Mr. Vice Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Phil Durocher. I'm the Director of Inland Fisheries. I'm going to spend a few minutes today going over an issue which is becoming fairly significant in the State of Texas, and that's the re-emergence of hydrilla on Lake Conroe, Texas.
As a little bit of a background, Lake Conroe is a 21,000-acre impoundment, mostly in Montgomery County north of Houston. The reservoir is operated by the San Jacinto River Authority, and most of the water in the reservoir is owned by the City of Houston. It's the water-supply lake for the City of Houston. Numerous recreational uses on the lake: fishing, the lake is highly developed, there's a lot of boating, and there's a lot of homeowners that surround the reservoir.
Lake Conroe was impounded in 1973. By 1975, hydrilla was discovered on Lake Conroe. I'll give you a little bit of a history of what happened in Conroe. Although we had seen hydrilla in the State of Texas prior to this, this was the first major infestation of hydrilla in the State of Texas, the first big problem we found with hydrilla. At its peak, it covered over 9,000 acres of the reservoir, strictly impeding recreational use and access to the lake.
Now hydrilla at the time in Texas was a major concern. There's a lot of things that concern us as recreational managers about hydrilla. But I want to say here that when it reaches the level that it reached at Lake Conroe, hydrilla's not good for anything. It's not good for fishing. It's a real detriment to management of fish. So hydrilla was a concern.
Unfortunately, at the time, we didn't have a lot of options for how to deal with the hydrilla. The primary option we had at the time was the use of herbicides. Herbicides are short-term solutions in most cases, and particularly with the hydrilla, and relatively, not relatively, very expensive. I think it was estimated at the time that it would cost about $2 million per treatment on Lake Conroe and would probably had to have been treated at least twice a year to get some measure of control of this hydrilla, so of course that was a concern not only to the River Authority but with the homeowners.
Now, at the same time, diploid grass carp were brought into the United States, and there was some research being done in some of our neighboring states using grass carp to control hydrilla. Now, I need to say, it was experimental. We didn't have the technology at the time for triploid grass carp, which were fish that would be sterile. We're talking about diploid, a fertile fish that could reproduce; or the potential was there for reproduction.
In 1977, the homeowners around Lake Conroe, and we agreed with them at the time that there was a serious problem at Lake Conroe. They formed an association, the Lake Conroe Association, to try to find ways to raise money and to get funds and find a way to get control of this hydrilla on the lake.
This Association petitioned the Commission for a permit to do research with diploid grass carp on Lake Conroe. The staff, I was part of the staff at the time; we recommended to the Commission, at that time that they deny the permit. We didn't recommend that because we were concerned that the grass carp would eat the hydrilla. We were more concerned with escapement and the potential for reproduction.
Lake Conroe is not a closed system. There's quite a bit of flow-through, and we were concerned that the grass carp would escape and get in areas and eat vegetation where we didn't want them.
A long story, there was a lot of controversy around the grass carp and the hydrilla, and what finally ended up, in 1981 House Bill 556 was passed, which directed the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at Texas A&M to conduct a grass carp study on Lake Conroe. And that same legislation required that this agency issue a permit to TAES to do this work.
Well, because of that, in 1981, 270,000 grass carp were introduced into Lake Conroe, and by 1983, the hydrilla and all the other vegetation on Lake Conroe was eliminated. The grass carp were extremely effective, and they did a really good job of eliminating all the vegetation on the lake.
Of course, this made some people happy, and some people weren't so happy. Lake Conroe was a very popular fishery at the time. It was a relatively new lake and had only been impounded for five years or six years, so it had a really good fishery. And a lot of that fishery, a lot of the fishermen believed it was associated with the presence of hydrilla, so it was an extremely controversial issue.
We began, and because as a biologist and as fishery biologists, we recognized the importance of habitat in our reservoirs for fisheries, fish production. We began to look at Lake Conroe and other lakes in the state, and we began a program to reintroduce native vegetation into some of these reservoirs to create some habitat.
The native vegetation in most cases is not problematic. It doesn't tend to get out of hand. It has natural competitors, and we were hoping by establishing some native vegetation maybe we could prevent the reinfestation of hydrilla. So since that time, we've worked with native vegetation, and currently we have about 1,476 acres of native vegetation in Lake Conroe that we're primarily responsible for establishing.
Unfortunately, hydrilla was rediscovered in Lake Conroe in 1996, in relatively small amounts. But we knew it was back in the lake and the potential for reinfestation was there. Now, from 1996 up until 2003-2004, the vegetation was not an issue. There was still a residual grass carp population, we think, that was keeping the hydrilla down. And the San Jacinto River Authority, along with this agency, had been aggressively treating the hydrilla with herbicides to make sure we didn't have this problem again.
But unfortunately this past year the hydrilla has exploded, and we're up to the level now of nearly 900 acres of hydrilla in the lake. Unfortunately, just like all vegetation, hydrilla tends to like the more shallow areas. So it's becoming predominant in the areas where most of the people live, so it's causing some issues with access.
Now, since we found out about the problem in the summer, we've been working with the San Jacinto River Authority in developing a plan to get control of this hydrilla again based on integrated pest management concepts as we are required to do by the State Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan.
What integrated pest management means is really you don't take any of the tools off of the table. You have the opportunity to apply all of the tools and you try to minimize the risk, because there's always a risk, with any one of these tools. We're trying to minimize the overall risk to the lake by using a group of these tools.
Of course, the cooperators in the plan, we've got a lot of people working with us in this plan, some of the angler groups, the homeowners' association, but primarily, since we're the ones responsible for managing this lake, us and the San Jacinto River Authority, the primary cooperators in the plan are the San Jacinto River Authority and this agency.
Now, we have a draft plan that's being passed around now, and the objectives of the plan are twofold. First, we want to reduce as much as practical the hydrilla infestation in Lake Conroe while minimizing the damage to stands of native aquatic vegetation. We want to control the hydrilla and still maintain fairly healthy populations of native vegetation, which is good for the lake, it's good for water quality, good for erosion control, and it's good for everything to have some vegetation in the lake.
And our second objective is to maintain a healthy lake ecosystem and fishery in Lake Conroe while providing access for recreational activities on the lake. What the plan, and I'm not going to go into specific details on the plan, but this is some of the things I want you to know that we're looking at. First of all, we're going to monitor vegetation levels: a survey.
This is critical, because any decisions we make in the future are going to be based on data. The plan is based on the data we collect on the vegetation in the lake. Now, what we've told the homeowners, and what we've told the fishermen, and in conjunction with the San Jacinto River Authority, we want to make sure that at the end of the day, when we survey the lake, everybody agrees on what the deal is. So before we leave the lake at the end of the day, we want everybody to agree this is the problem so that whatever action we have to take in the future will be based on that data.
Now, secondly, the draft plan is going to require the stocking of a low number of triploid grass carp. We know that if we go in and solve the problem in three months, we've overdone it. It's going to require patience on everybody's part for us to have a plan that can reach some balance.
San Jacinto River Authority is going to continue herbicide treatments. We're going to continue attacking the hydrilla with herbicides when we see it. We're going to encourage a lot of the private landowners and the homeowners to use bottom barriers to keep, not only hydrilla, but native vegetation from blocking their boat slips and their boat docks and things. There's some things they can do to help there.
And the agency is going to conduct a radio tracking study to look at the movement of these grass carp. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this, but let me just say, we know when stock fish in a reservoir, not only grass carp, it could be bass or anything else, they're really disoriented when we put them in, and they tend to disperse.
What we're going to try to do at Lake Conroe, since the hydrilla is a localized problem, is hold the fish in the area when we stock them and let them calm down and get acclimated to the area and start eating, then we'll remove the barriers and hope the fish will stay where we put them and deal with the more serious of the problems.
So we're going to be doing that work, and we're pretty confident that we're going to be successful. If we are, that's going to be a tremendous tool for us in the future at attacking some of these grass carp problems.
The timeline we've established, we hope to have the plan finalized by the end of this year. We've had meetings last week with the fishermen groups. There's been advisory committees formed by the San Jacinto River Authority that have been meeting at Lake Conroe. Next Wednesday, Bob and I are going to fly to Lake Conroe to meet with some of the homeowners' associations to try to get everybody to buy in to the program that we've put together.
We want to try to reach a consensus. We need to move quickly because we need to start implementing this plan by the spring of 2005. We want to get on top of this before it gets any worse than it is.
Now before I take any questions, I'd like to recognize some of the people on staff and some of the people that are here visiting that have been really good partners in working with this thing. Mr. Blake Kellum with the San Jacinto River Authority. Blake, would you stand up?
And our staff, Dr. Earl Chilton, Bill Provine, and Mark Webb, who worked putting this plan together and who have been meeting with the fishermen and the homeowners trying to get buy-in, and we hope that when this finishes, and if it works, it'll be a win-win situation for everybody.
I'll be glad to answer any questions. If you ask me something too technical, I'll call one of these guys up.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Phil, can you talk a little bit about the herbicides? My understanding is that they have to be in contact with the hydrilla for some period of time, and you've alluded to the flow-through. Just wondering if you'd talk about that a little bit.
MR. DUROCHER: Well, yeah, the flow-through, knowing Lake Conroe, I don't think the contact time would be an issue anywhere on Lake Conroe. It flows through, but it's not like, for instance, the issues we had at Lake Austin, with a constant flow-through. There are some that are quick contact, and there are some that require more time, a week or two weeks of contact, and I don't think that's an issue at Lake Conroe.
We've been using most of the quick, the stuff that affects the hydrilla almost immediately. Unfortunately, it's not as effective as some of the long-term contact things. But I don't think that's an issue, but you've got to understand because of the nature of hydrilla, you can kill it on the surface, and you haven't killed the plant. I mean, it reproduces in so many different ways, and it's got tubers in the ground. You kill what you can see, and the next spring it comes back up again.
It's not, if I kill it it's gone. That doesn't happen with hydrilla.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: How long do we anticipate it might take with this kind of balanced approach to, you know, —
MR. DUROCHER: We did it at Lake Austin. We applied this approach and it worked. It took us somewhere near two years. But, it was a whole different situation. We've had some things that happened right now in Lake Conroe we think will help us. Unfortunately, because of the hurricane, there was some pretty severe damage on the dam at Lake Conroe, and they had to lower the lake about five feet, and it's going to stay that way for five or six months while they do this repair.
This is going to help us by exposing some of this and hopefully reduce the biomass so the fish that we put in will have less vegetation to eat. We're optimistic that we can get this done, but, like I say, we can't do it overnight. If we do, then what's going to happen, what that means is we've put too many grass carp in the lake and they're going to end up eating all the native vegetation and we'll be right back where we were ten year ago.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Phil, could you tell me what the maintenance plan would be whenever you reach the concentration that you're desiring, what's going to keep it from recurring and having to go through the same process?
MR. DUROCHER: The one thing, the commitment, that we're making to the landowners, to the property owners, and to everyone, that we're going to solve this problem whatever it takes. You know, we want to start slowly, but we're committed to getting the problem solved.
We've talked about what kind of maintenance plan we're going to be looking at, and I don't have any specifics, but it would seem to me common sense would say you're going to have to maintain some low level of triploid grass carp in that lake to be able to stay on top of this.
So there might be a recurring small stocking every five years or ten years, but I don't know what that would be yet. But we're going to stay there and work with these people until we get the problems solved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions for Phil? Big job ahead of you, but you've done it before.
MR. DUROCHER: Well, we're confident that we're going to make it work.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And you have public meetings in the area, there, Montgomery County?
MR. DUROCHER: Yes, sir. One of the requirements when we issue a grass carp permit is that we have to have a public meeting before we hear it, before we issue a permit. And we've got a meeting scheduled, like I said, for next Wednesday with Mr. Cook, and the official public hearing is scheduled for November 15. And we have been holding meetings.
Mr. Kellum, with the San Jacinto River Authority has formed several advisory groups over there, which includes the landowners and fisherman groups, and they've been meeting fairly regularly on this.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good, thank you, Phil. No further questions on the hydrilla, Lake Conroe. Thanks a lot.
Next item up, Number Nine. Action Item Designation of Representative, Foreign Travel Resolution. Ann Bright. I think it's Ann Bright.
MR. DUROCHER: I'm still here.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's still Phil. Ann, you don't look well.
MR. DUROCHER: Thank you. I've been working on it. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, I'm Phil Durocher with Inland Fisheries.
The Legislature requires the Commission to approve the use of state funds for foreign travel to any countries besides Mexico and Canada. Dr. Gary Saul, the Deputy Director of our Division, has been asked to deliver a keynote address at an International Institute of Fisheries Management meeting in Manchester, England, in his role as President of the Fisheries Administration Section of our professional society.
We feel like this is an honor not only for the agency, but for Gary. So our request is for approval for transportation funds only. The Institute will pay for Dr. Saul's registration, his room, meals, and so forth at the conference. So our recommendation is we recommend that the Commission adopt a resolution as shown in Exhibit A, approving the use of our funds to get Dr. Saul to England to make his presentation.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Phil on this? Is there a motion?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Holmes, second by Vice Chair Ramos. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Phil.
MR. DUROCHER: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMMONS: Moving right along to Item Ten, Ann Bright. I knew I'd get you up here, Ann. Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Policy Amendments.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commission. I'm here to actually present a couple of cleanup items to Commission policy. The first one would be a change to the policy regarding the executive director. And the other one would be the Commission policy on travel.
With regard to the Executive Director policy, we're recommending that we remove language regarding — to clarify the at-will status of employees, that we clarify language regarding the Executive Director's authority to execute contracts on behalf of the Department, and clarify language regarding the Executive Director's authority to delegate functions, and then just make a wording change from "directive" to "policy."
On the travel policy, we're recommending that we eliminate the specific amounts in the policy. Those change periodically. One of the most sort of recent examples has to do with rising gas prices. Also, just add a statement to make it clear that reimbursement amounts are to be consistent with the General Appropriations Act. And then this will be the recommended motion.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Ann on Item Ten — oh, we do have someone signed up to speak. Mr. Gilleland.
MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland. I'm speaking for myself and Texas Animal Rights Organization on the Internet. I would like to address the policy, the statement, Exhibit B, which you have in front of you. Down near the bottom of the page, the second from the last paragraph.
I'd like to ask you to modify that Powers of the Executive Director. It should be done by rule, but you don't have a rule. So I'm suggesting a policy. I was led to believe by a Houston Chronicle newspaper article that you would be addressing the transfer of state policy, transfer of state lands, this meeting, but that did not happen. So I'm suggesting that you do it as a policy to start off with the Executive Director, transfer of parks land, Texas Parks and Wildlife land, and that would be the sale of land, the trading of land, like we had Mr. Poindexter said the Big Bend State Park flap was a trade or a flat give-away like Bright Leaf State Park in Austin.
So any transfer of land, whether it be sale, give-away, or whatever, I'm suggesting, number one, that you deal with it in two meetings. That you make a proposal in one meeting, and then two months later come back and make the vote on that proposal. Now, that's exactly what the Veterinary Board does, and maybe other boards, I don't know.
The Veterinary Board on every rule they have, they propose it one meeting, vote on it, they talk about it. And then the next meeting they vote on it, approving or disapprove it. So I'm asking you to follow that, so there is a precedence. I'm asking you to do that in terms of transfer of lands which you control. Propose it one meeting; vote on it the next meeting.
That would allow the public to be notified where the land is in the county. Right now we only know the county. We could find out where the land is. We don't care about the price, or at least I don't. But I am concerned about the land in state parks being given away, sold or whatever. That would allow the public to get involved, which makes everybody happy.
The second thing, in addition to the two public meetings on each parcel of land, publish it in the Texas Register, back in the announcements where you have the gravel pits and et cetera.
And number three, I'd like to suggest that you do away with the Open Records requirement that we can sign up on a list, those that are concerned, and be automatically be mailed the papers dealing after the first meeting. Automatically, everybody concerned, sign up, and then we could study it and next meeting we would be discussing it rationally and knowingly what's involved. That would save us making multiple open records requests. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Gilleland. Ann, could you address the issue that we did brief yesterday on the new process for land transactions, which I know is not exactly covered by —
MS. BRIGHT: Yes, Commissioner, and what we're recommending that we do is adopt that as a Department policy so that the Executive Director would — as you know, a lot of these are culminated by staff, and staff usually gets these together and brings these to the Commission, and this will govern how we handle those, and we have sort of two sets of policies. There are Commission policies and then there are Department policies, which Mr. Cook adopts. And we're talking about doing the land-transaction process as a Department policy.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. Okay. Very good. Thanks for clearing that up. Is there a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Holmes. Second?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second by Commissioner Friedkin. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Thank you. Next up, Item Eleven, Steve Whiston, the GO Bond Program Resolution.
MR. WHISTON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Steve Whiston. I'm Director of the Infrastructure Division. This agenda item recommends your approval of a Commission Resolution that requests the Texas Public Finance Authority to proceed with the financing and the issue of FY06 General Obligation Bonds.
We are requesting the issue of $18.1 million of GO bonds for the repair of state parks, wildlife, coastal and inland fisheries, and law enforcement facilities statewide. The projects that will be recommended for funding will be primarily critical water and wastewater system and infrastructure repairs.
Some of the examples of projects on our priority needs list include the renovation of badly deteriorated restrooms at state parks like Galveston, Inks Lake, and Goose Island; repair and replacement of water treatment plants and water distribution systems at Brazos Bend, at Falcon State Park, and JD Murphree Wildlife Management Area.
We propose, where we find opportunities, to connect on-site water systems to both municipal or public water supply systems in the area, and we are preparing plans to repair pond liners at fish hatcheries such as AE Wood. And as necessary, Prop. Eight funds will be used for the repair of damages that we incurred as a result of Hurricane Rita.
We recommend the motion that you adopt this morning, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts by resolution, Exhibit A, the resolution authorizing a request for financing and execution and delivery of documents required to effect such financing. I'll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Steve. Any questions or comments on this item? Motion?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Brown. Second by Ramos. All in favor, Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Moving on to a briefing item on Expo, Ernie.
MR. GAMMAGE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, My name is Ernie Gammage. I'm the Branch Chief of Urban Outdoor Programs at Parks and Wildlife. I'm here in my capacity as the Director of the Texas Wildlife Expo, which was held early last month, October 1 and 2 here on the grounds of the Parks and Wildlife Headquarters. I'm here to give you a briefing on the 14th Annual Expo.
Total attendance at this year's event was 28,234 visitors. If you look at that four-year average, we are down from the last normal year, was almost 36,000 visitors, down about 16 percent. Last year, of course, we had considerable rain; there were other impacts this year because of Hurricane Rita, which we'll talk about in a second.
I'd like to thank Commissioner Holmes and Commissioner Parker for the fabulous job they did this year. In many respects, we overcame some tremendous challenges and still had a great event both Friday night and Saturday. The Friday night event, as you have already seen, was a real money earner for the Foundation. They presented a check for $110,000, and we're very, very pleased about that.
Mr. Parker brought a number of new innovations. The auction attendance was up 14 percent at this year's banquet, to 560 individuals over last year. And a great time was had by all.
Saturday morning at 9:00 we opened the gates here to folks just entering. It was a warm day, and it was dry, and we liked that. The program committee did a great job doing some last minute shuffling around because our visitors, who tended to be this year more families, and in fact we'll look at some of this data in just a minute, more families and more youth had a great time.
There were also, of course, some people who came to Expo simply because it is a cool place to hang out. I love that picture.
This was the real news: Hurricane Rita. We had a number of presentations that were not at Expo this year, all across the Board. State Parks, Coastal Fisheries, Wildlife, and, of course, Law Enforcement. Here bears that out. This is an aerial photograph at noon on Saturday. Ordinarily, this is our hayfield parking lot. This parking lot is completely full. As you can see, it's about two-thirds full.
Now, part of that was that we had a program in place this year to move all of our volunteers and staff to an off-site place, but still we were definitely impacted and never did have to worry about the parking lot filling up.
Here's another aerial. This is the end of C Building, out that way. That square at the bottom of the page is the Wet Zone for our kayaking activities. And the big empty space all around there is where Law Enforcement would be. This was Wild Game Tasting, the Helicopter Air Support, and also the Who Done it. So there was definitely a hole left in our operation in that regard.
Still, people had a great time. This is in back of the building, right back there. That's about 600 people enjoying Tom Knapp's shooting display. Tom Knapp, the shotgun wizard, always a great draw. Had a lot of activity in the shooting sport area this year.
We also saw some impact from Rita on our exhibitors. We lost a number of exhibitors who were not able to come up and make the event this year, but folks still had a grand time. We shortened the tent somewhat, which actually helped with transportation in that area.
One of the new innovations that we did for our exhibitors were some combinations for our firearms manufacturers, and those seemed to be well received.
We also rolled out this year for the first time, the Life's Better Outside slogan, which was very apparent as folks left the grounds. Also on t-shirts, bumper stickers, wrist bands, and a whole bunch of other things that were at the event. This is our agency's new outreach slogan, which we will be using considerably in the years to come.
What have we learned from the Visitors Survey. Next month, early next month, we'll send you a hard copy of this, but I wanted to give you some preliminary data that our folks, Sally Williams, Kelly Dziekan, have gleaned from the survey this year.
First of all, it is very evident that we draw our constituents to Expo. Sixty-one percent of the people who were interviewed, this is adults, said they either had bought or would buy a hunting or fishing license in the next or in the past 12 months. So our folks are out here.
We appear to have, which is borne out by some of the other information that we had, fewer visitors from out of the Austin area. For example, in 2003, we had about 1,500 outreach kids that were brought on buses from various places around the state. This past year, this past October, we had 147 kids that came. So people were not traveling because of the impact of Rita, and also, because if you'll remember about a month ago gas was knocking at three dollars.
We also had more first-time visitors than in previous years. The last year that we actually asked that question was in 2001, but it was significantly upticked this year, the number of first-time visitors. We asked them, have you been to Expo before. If the answer is yes, we ask them how many times. It's usually multiples, but this year the answer tended to be primarily, no, we've never been to this event before.
Something that we're very proud of after working on for three years, for the first time, we hit a high for the Hispanic attendance at Expo. As you know, we've been working with a local Spanish-language-only radio station, and we believe those efforts have paid off. Our previous high was 19 percent, so that's a full five percentage points above that. We're very pleased about that, and we'll work, as Commissioner Al Henry always said, "make Expo look like Texas."
Finally, youth attendance has increased by ten percentage points since 2003. We're not sure why that is, except that we continue to market this event as a family event. And that might have some interesting ramifications.
Attendance has declined, as I mentioned, over the last five years. Apples to apples, about 16 percent. Why? To what do we attribute that decline? Well, first of all, we are not getting as many repeat visitors as we used to in terms of a percentage. So we're getting more new folks. Of course, that's the good, upside, because we're able to introduce them to outdoor recreation and conservation.
Fewer visitors this year came from outside of the Austin area. Again, I think we can attribute that to Rita, but does that have some implication for our marketing efforts, and I think that it probably does. The increase in youth attendance also could have had a detrimental effect on the number of single folks who don't want to come to a family event in coming to Expo.
So these are all things that we will look at in the coming years, the coming months, actually, as we crunch these numbers, and we'll get back to you with some specifics as we move forward to our 15th anniversary.
And finally, I'd like to spend a minute showing you a video clip that will be in our Video Newsmakers Report that we'll be sending out soon.
(A video was played.)
All in all, it was a great event. At the Monday morning wrap-up, Mr. Cook's comment was, we think we know what the perfect size was for Expo. Lines were not long. From all accounts, we were able to really meet and greet and impart some information and skills and conservation messages to the visitors that came out to Expo. So it was a great event in that regard. Do you have any questions?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I guess fewer visitors, but probably better experience, for each visitor.
MR. GAMMAGE: Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I'd like to make a comment, Mr. Chairman. Ernie, I want to congratulate you and your team. You did a great job, and Bob, I want to also say a word of thanks. There was a moment there where we weren't sure that Expo was going to be held, and it was a great testimony to the team that you have at Parks and Wildlife that they all pulled together to be able to stamp the efforts for Hurricane Rita as well as fill in and hold Expo. And we really appreciate all the work that you've done. John and I were getting a little nervous there, that it was going to be canceled, and he had all those great auction items lined up. But it was a terrific job.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And thank you, Ned, for your work on Expo.
MR GAMMAGE: We look forward to seeing you at next year's event, which will be our 15th anniversary. It will be great. Anything else?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well done, Ernie. Thank you.
Next up, Briefing Item Number 13, Coastal Fisheries, Larry McKinney.
MR. McKINNEY: Thank you Mr. Chairman. For the record, I'm Dr. Larry McKinney, Director of Coastal Fisheries. Expo is a hard act to follow and to compete with, but I do want to very quickly bring you up to speed on another celebration we're having. We talked about it briefly yesterday. I appreciate Commissioner Parker's mention of it. That is our Symposium that we'll be holding November 17 through 18 at the Omni Bayfront in Corpus Christi.
One thing that we're recognizing and celebrating is the longest continuous database resource monitoring program in the world. Down there Coastal Fisheries, our database, we've been working on it since that period of time. This database is a significant accomplishment, keeping it going, because of what it does for us. It is the science base up on which we depend for all of our decisions and actions and resource conservation efforts. It's really important to us in that regard.
It's pretty impressive when you think about what has been accomplished over that 30-year period. Some 60,000 trawls have been taken. Over 40,000 dredge samples, 40,000 bag seines, 20,000 gill nets, and we've interviewed over 250,000 anglers. It's a huge amount of data on which we base our decisions.
Of course, it's impressive when you think about those numbers in themselves, but in reality it's not the numbers. That's just a measure of the effort. What we're talking about is what we've been able to accomplish with that.
We've seen a restoration of our recreational sport fishing base to levels that I can say with absolute confidence that we have not seen in 30 years because we have the records, is the best fishing that we have on record. It's marvelous, and it means a lot to the State of Texas, and we're certainly looking forward to the Symposium and enjoying it there.
It's not only a celebration of what we've accomplished in 30 years, it's an opportunity for us, we will take that opportunity to look down the road the next 30 years. What are we going to have to do? What do we need to maintain that management ability in the next 30 years? And so as part of the program, as Commissioner Parker mentioned, we have Dr. Sylvia Earl coming to keynote, coming to talk to us about the future.
We've also put together several panels of folks from around the country, experts to come in and talk to us about what we need to look at during the future. And also to look back in the past, and that's one of the most intriguing ones.
One of the panels, I'll just briefly mention this. One of the panels that we put together we have managed to persuade, it wasn't much of a chore, to bring all of the living, past Coastal Fisheries Directors that are alive, to come and be on a panel with us, to talk about what they've seen in the past and how it relates and how we can look to the future, and it's pretty exciting.
I had one gentleman, Mr. Tom Moore, who was our Coastal Fisheries Director, our longest-living Coastal Fishing Director, he has agreed to attend. He came up to the office a week ago to talk to me for a few minutes. I thought it was going to be a 15-minute conversation, and it turned into about an hour and a half conversation, which was marvelous.
Mr. Moore came from that period of biologists who were, it didn't matter if it was wildlife or fisheries, in fact, Mr. Moore was the individual responsible for bringing bighorn sheep back into west Texas at the time.
And so we had a marvelous conversation, but the thing that struck me, I remember the most of it was, that Mr. Moore went to work for this agency two years before I was born. And I can only hope that I'm as spry and alert as he is when I'm at that age. So it's going to be a wonderful opportunity to deal with.
It's certainly with that, and I certainly invite you and all our audience, to attend the conference. It's going to be important to us as we shape our future and develop. As Scott Boruff spoke yesterday, as we are working toward our Divisional Operating Plans, this will be the foundation of that as we move forward. And I would tell you that you're going to get a pretty good taste of the challenges that we're going to be facing in that management perspective over the next two items, dealing with the seagrass and water. So you'll get a perspective of what we're trying to deal with that. If you have any questions or comments, be glad to answer them and we can move on, Sir. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: John?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Dr. McKinney, I applaud you for staging this event, and I just wanted to take just a few moments to read a statement that was sent to me by one of this world's, and one of our nation's, great conservationists. His name is Nathanial Reed. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife about 35 years ago, and he has given his entire life to wildlife conservation.
He was the founding chair of the Florida Coalition for the Everglades. He is presently a member of the Board of Governors of National Geographic. He is also the Chair of the North Atlantic Salmon Federation, and he is the epitome of a wildlife conservationist in my opinion and in a lot of other people's opinion. He has been a great friend of mine for more than 35 years, and he is speaking — he starts out speaking about Dr. Sylvia Earl, who is Scientist in Residence also at National Geographic. Nathanial, and I quote him:
"You can be confident that Dr. Earle will give you a maximum effort at the Coastal Fisheries Symposium. She is one of the greatest scientists and people that I have ever met. Be prepared to understand that she is a proponent of reserved areas to protect breeding stock. This is a very controversial area among sport fishermen, who do not believe that there catch is meaningful enough to influence overall numbers. I have been watching this area of major disagreements rise among the sporting community and the national environmental communities. I want to dampen the area of disagreements as our national and international fisheries resources are on the line. The conclusive statistics of an emptying sea while we are on watch is depressing. I recognize and congratulate that Texas was the first state to ban inshore commercial fishing. I also recognize that Texas wetlands, the nursery of all fisheries, are constantly being lost to fill, erosion, and other man-induced factors. Your mission is to strengthen the wetlands protection policy of the state. Poor Louisiana. They paid one heck of a price for allowing the oil companies and the Corp to cut up their remaining wetlands and halt deposition of migrating soil to rebuild their vanishing marshes. I can only pray that your inshore waters are recovering from the colossal hurricanes that swept in, bringing tons of pollution to the shoreline. And I will be fascinated by the reports by your leading fishery experts on the impacts now and potential long-term impacts from the hurricanes on inshore fisheries."
MR. McKINNEY: It's quite a statement, and I certainly appreciate your reading it. Those are the issues we are facing. They're very serious, but certainly we are, and will be, our science base will equip us to face them realistically and move forward in a positive direction. So I appreciate that, Commissioner Parker.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Larry. For those new Commissioners and others that may not know the background of this, we have more data and better data than any state on the Gulf. And so, Rob, remember that, when people say, how do you know. Well, we don't have every answer or final answer, but we certainly have better data than anyone in the Gulf, and other states, I know, look to Texas for that model. So thanks to you for your work on that, Larry.
MR. McKINNEY: Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We'll see you on the seventeenth.
MR. McKINNEY: Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'll be there.
MR. McKINNEY: Thank you, sir.
I think I'm up next, so I'll just stay here.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: On your seagrass protection?
MR. McKINNEY: Yes sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Once again, for the record, I'm Dr. Larry McKinney, Director of Coastal Fisheries. The issue before you today was one we briefed yesterday. I have a presentation here. I'm going to move through this very quickly, not stop at the slides, because we did do this on the briefing yesterday, except at couple of key ones on which we tried to clarify a couple of issues as we went through.
A very brief recap. What is before you today is a proposal that includes a state scientific area, which would put into effect an area-wide rule to protect seagrass and materials from destruction from props, submerged props. At the request of the Commission at its last meeting, we included for consideration in that proposal the designation of no-prop zones with running lanes in them to address issues of enforcement and otherwise, which we'll talk about briefly in a second.
We did show you the proposed no-prop zones. I won't stop on those except for the record to make one point is that the green lines, which represent the running lanes, those are there for demonstration purposes today, understanding that, if no-prop zones are adopted, were to be adopted, we would be working with local guide groups down there to adjust those to make them as effective as possible so that they would work and function in that way.
Public comment. I did want to summarize that for you at this point. Public comment was this. We had 81 comments in support of regulations in some form that break down in the following manner: 49 support a rule with both area-wide and no-prop zones, 29 support only no-prop provisions, and three supported only the area-wide rule. We had 40 opposed to rule proposal in any form.
These are, again the same, NGOs, and their letters expressing support has not changed from yesterday. The same organizations or the same positions that at least we are aware of now. We talked about the City of Corpus Christi, the Port Authority, and their recommendations regarding defining what damage comes from and concerns over their property areas. We summarized the comments from the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee.
In response to those comments and others, as far as rule proposal changes, we saw no changes obviously needed in defining what seagrasses we were trying to protect. We did want to make, respond to the City of Corpus Christi, the Port Authority's, good recommendation that we clearly define what we are talking about is submerged propellers here.
We did a little grammatical last night to make it read a little better. That's why it looks a little more extensive than it is right now. We also wanted to add the amendments to make it clear, and we did change some wording to do this even further last night to make sure that it was understood that it is not a violation to anchor a vessel within a scientific area. Nor is it a violation to operate a trolling motor.
We would refine that a little bit further on that trolling motor to make the point that we are talking about electric trolling motors, just to make clear in the final wording that we're talking about electric, because you can, we just don't want to get into that argument of trolling or gas. So we will make it clear there that that's what we're talking about to further define that.
No changes seem necessary in the no-prop zone proposal. They seem to address the issues there with comments and others. And again, the penalty would still remain as the proposal states.
We talked about comments and concerns that education and outreach is a clear, clearly something we need to continue with. Whatever approach the Commission takes, boundary markers and lane marking is important, needs to be done consistently. Law enforcement issues being applied consistently wherever adopted. And of course a good evaluation program to look at it as well.
The motion that's on the floor, I want to go over that briefly. This motion that is before you now includes provisions for both the area-wide rule and no-prop zones. We have left it that way from the staff perspective to give the Commission the widest latitude to act on that.
I would tell you that any of the permutations or approaches that we talked about yesterday and discussed as far as dealing with seagrass, would be a step forward in conservation, would be positive in that regard.
Just to give you a few, before you hear public testimony, to give you some summary of some of the pluses and minuses of either of those approaches, for example, in the area-wide rule, certainly the area-wide rules protects seagrass throughout the state scientific area, itself has the broadest application. If it's successfully applied there, it certainly would be the most cost-effective way or approach to extend such protection to other areas of the state, were it to be needed.
It is certainly an incremental step, from voluntary moving to other actions that we hope would never be necessary, but could be. The concerns with that, of course, is the enforcement issue, trying to enforce that issue and make those calls in that broad area.
No-prop zone. Clearly enforcement issues are a positive there. It's much more easy to enforce in the no-prop zones; you can see the violations there clearly. It does, also, those no-prop zones, do focus on areas that are particularly sensitive, because we have established the ones in Redfish Bay, for example, in areas that are particularly sensitive or have a lot of damage. It's a way to focus your attention on those types of things as well.
Of course, it also, on the negative side of that, that just also means that your conservation efforts are focused on just those areas, not areas outside. So that's kind of a summary of the pluses and minuses. Others may have other opinions, but I wanted to give you those at this time. So certainly, now, if you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer those questions or wait until public testimony at your pleasure.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We have quite a bit of public comment on this. Go ahead, Robert.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: I have one question, Dr. McKinney, in your definition of prop, if you are actually running a jet drive, gasoline motor in that area, is that a violation, would that considered a violation.
MR. McKINNEY: Thank you. I should have made that clear. No sir. Jet boats, fan boats, air boats, jet ski type of things, anything like that, could operate in any of those areas. Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Okay.
MR. McKINNEY: This of course, because we're focused on the habitat issues here, and those types of vessels do not have that impact.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You say those vessels do not have the impact on the resources. All right, stand by, Larry, because I know we'll have some questions. We've got quite a few folks signed up for this, if I can find my little stack.
Let's start with, is it Howard Murph? All right, Mr. Murph, Aransas County Commissioners Court. And then, Rick Pratt, be ready.
MR. MURPH: I'm Howard Murph, County Commissioner in Aransas County. And this is a very controversial issue in our area. It's talking about our back yard; it's going to affect our tourist trade, our hotel motel taxes, and our sales tax. It's also gonna have an effect on the commercial guides that run through these areas.
In talking out in the hall a few minutes ago, I was made more aware of what was implied here. What I've come here to ask you guys, Commissioners and Chairman, is that with the controversy and the confusion in this, I would like to see ya'll entertain the option of tabling this. It wasn't until a week or a week and a half ago, I believe, that the Commissioners and the County Judge was made aware this was even coming up to a vote for you gentlemen.
There's some confusion in this area, and I would like to be able to sit down with your state biologist and get a better understanding of what he's wanting, what the plans are, and see if we couldn't come up with a mutual agreement for an alternative way of doing this.
Surely there has to be a way that we could compromise. If there isn't any way of doing that, I would have to go for option number one, because that's the least restrictive and holds people accountable for the damage that they do do.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You're referring to the area wide, when you say option one. Rather than the no-prop zone.
MR. MURPH: Yes sir. The whole — 32.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm just trying to get clear.
MR. MURPH: That's what I'm referring to. That's all I have, if ya'll have any questions. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Mr. Murph? Thank you for making the trip. Rick Pratt, and then next up will be William Smith. William Smith, be ready.
MR. PRATT: Commissioners, Mr. Cook. My name is Rick Pratt. I'm Councilman, Place 5, in the City of Port Aransas, Texas. No community in Texas is more dependent on the wealth of our natural surroundings than is Port Aransas. We are definitely true believers in fostering and managing the seagrass beds that fill our bays and estuaries.
As a resort, ecotourism, and fishing community, we know that our livelihoods depend on these resources. Thousands of visitors come to our island to fish, hunt, and enjoy the wild beauty of the area, and the majority of our economy is based directly or indirectly on preserving this wonderful asset.
Further, the presence on our island of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute makes us aware of the huge research effort directed at understanding and maintaining these invaluable resources and keeps us current on the state of the science of seagrasses and the overall health of our local estuaries.
So we come before you with a balanced and informed point of view on your proposed new regulations. The Redfish Bay region is one of the most heavily fished spots on the Texas coast, and often leads the state in catch per effort; it's the hot zone.
To suddenly subject this extremely productive area to stringent control will, without doubt, affect our economy adversely. In light of this, we would prefer proposal number one, which is the area-wide proposal, which depends on the fishing community to care for the seagrass beds themselves and have the state levy fines only on those who disregard this duty.
Perhaps someday this will be a workable solution. The current movement toward catch and release practiced by the [inaudible] fishing community certainly sounds as testimony to that. But we understand that at present your Law Enforcement Division is hesitant to accept this large responsibility and as such, and so we are willing to support a combination of proposals number one and two, with established and well-marked no-run zones to guide people safely through the grass beds on a voluntary compliance basis.
We realize that successfully accomplishing this will require time and a comprehensive educational effort, coupled with very effective signage. Thus, we strongly urge that the program should be subject to a trial period, and initially restricted to a smaller area until these critically important details are worked out.
We further urge that a dedicated peer research program be tied to the effort in order to judge the results. After this final program, the effort may then be expanded with the knowledge of how to administer it properly and how effective it is biologically speaking. As leaders in the coastal conservation community, we share your desires to protect the seagrass beds and hope that you will see the wisdom of this request and take these additional actions to ensure the success of the effort.
I would like to say that having interviewed almost all of the people who have been involved from the beginning in the seagrass effort, and having read all of the research, I have a comment here, that you have in place a very effective and competent man, Mr. Pridgen, who runs your shop in the Rockport area. And he is quite capable and quite aware of what is necessary down there, and has, in fact, planned the research effort that we are recommending you follow. But he is going to need more resources.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Pratt. You were well prepared. I appreciate that.
Mr. Smith? William Smith. Next up, Glenn Martin after William Smith.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook. My name is Bill Smith, Councilman, Place 2, of the City of Port Aransas. I'm here today representing the position of the Mayor of Port Aransas and the City Council.
In our September Council Meeting, it was agreed that we would support voluntary no-prop zones within the Redfish Bay Scientific Area. Despite the claim, and the information provided at the public hearings by Texas Parks and Wildlife, we don't believe that the educational efforts in the past have been what they termed extensive over the past five years.
Nor do we believe that the signage in the area was understandable or adequate to promote voluntary compliance of boaters unfamiliar with the area. I've fished the area for 30 years, and I have a hard time understanding the signs.
The scientific study of this area has been minimal at best and not subject to peer review. These are indicators of why the first five years were not met with overwhelming compliance. As my colleague, Rick Pratt, just told you, this will have a profound effect on our city's tourism, and perhaps as important, on our reputation as good stewards of the environment.
What you are proposing as mandatory would also damage the credibility of Texas Parks and Wildlife. In the minds of many, this program is currently viewed as an ill-thought-out program with also questionable historic motivation, with little scientific commitment put forth toward the purported cause of improving seagrass.
As a community, we would support you in a well-planned educational program. Signage that clearly identifies the areas of no-prop and proper run zones, and a scientific study of seagrass recovery from prop scarring with peer review. We recommend that you begin by taking a small piece of the Redfish Bay area, which is over 4,000 acres and do an effective, concentrated, scientific effort.
We feel strongly that the local communities must be involved, have a buy-in, and a sense of ownership in this program. We, the City, would work with you through the Chamber of Commerce, the Port Aransas Boatmen's Association, local guides, fishing tackle stores, local boat dealers, repair shops, etc., to help with the educational message.
If this genuine attempt is unsuccessful and there is scientific proof that the habitat is in danger, then, and only then, would we support mandatory measures. It is important that your program be credible and successful as there are areas that are in far worse condition than the Redfish Bay area along the Texas coast.
As a Councilman and as a fisherman in that area who, I've lived in Port Aransas for 30 years, who knows the area well, I encourage you to be prudent in your actions today. Make your decision one we can all embrace and support. And I would like to reiterate Mr. McKinney's statement. I've fished there for 30 years, and it ain't ever been any better.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Smith. Glenn Martin? And Jim Smarr, be ready. Good to see you again, Mr. Martin.
MR. MARTIN: Good seeing you, gentlemen. I know some of you. Been here before. Unfortunately, been here before on this issue.
My name is Glenn Martin. I'm the immediate past Mayor of Port Aransas. I served on the original seagrass task force, the spotted sea trout work group, and the last seagrass task force until Dr. McKinney informed us that we were not legally authorized. So —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Don't feel bad. They Sunsetted all those. You weren't singled out.
MR. MARTIN: Okay. I didn't know if it had anything to do with our production, or what. I've served on numerous state and federal advisory panels, and I speak today on behalf of my business, Woody's Sports Center, and the rest of the economy of Port Aransas, that relies on fishing.
In the Executive Summary, Robin Reicher had mentioned the economic cost was the price of a trolling motor or a poling pole, and I'm here to tell you the economic risk that you're taking today is much greater than that. I personally believe that the state did a less than adequate job of education, signage, and scientific data collection needed to make the last plan work.
We started out strong, and then we dwindled down, we lost funds, and I would like to reiterate the last two speakers, that the redfish population in the Aransas Bay system is healthier than it's ever been. If it's not broke, don't fix it. You know.
If you would further restrict public access to Redfish Bay, or even add the distasteful experience of a citation, you put the economy of Port Aransas and Texas Parks and Wildlife at risk. As was shown on the files earlier, saltwater license are increasing. The only area of outdoor activity licensing that is increasing in the State of Texas.
My operation, Woody's sold $139,275 worth of licenses for the State of Texas. I didn't do this as a profit center; my commission won't even cover the labor or the phones it takes to do that. Our ferry system transported 86,000 crossings of boats and trailers last year.
These are big numbers to both of us. I suggest that you take one of the no-prop zones out of the 4,300 acres, an area that you can afford to adequately maintain, monitor, and study. Establish and mark run lanes for those that may not know the area and re-energize the statewide education program for fishermen.
Let this run for two years and evaluate. If it works, we can expand statewide. If it doesn't, we'll come back together as we've done for the last five or six years, and we'll figure out what we're doing wrong and the way to fix it. I would also like to make known to you that we have probably two or three different large conservation organizations, several guide organizations, the City of Port Aransas, and the Chamber stand ready to help you implement any plan you come up with and help with even the grass roots labor part of it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Just to be clear, Mr. Martin, you're opposing the no-prop zones only portion of that recommendation, not the area wide? Which?
MR. MARTIN: I don't mind the no-prop zones. But you have three of them there that haven't — these were part of the original. They haven't been — the signage is less than adequate; the enforcement hasn't been there. I think that when you say that voluntary doesn't work, I think the State of Texas, and I'll consider myself part of that, did a less than adequate job later on, and the scientific data that I've seen, there's no one can prove definitively that we have more problems than we had five years ago.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Just so we're clear. The area-wide prohibits damaging the seagrass; the no-prop zone just says no prop at all. That's two different things. If you oppose the prop zones that have been designated —
MR. MARTIN: I'm opposed to no-prop zones.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. MARTIN: I really can stomach if you break it, you pay for it. I want these areas where you have no-prop zones to be clearly defined, for the ones that don't know it, and if a guide runs across a no-prop zone area and doesn't damage anything, he shouldn't be punished for it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So that would be consistent with the area-wide proposal.
MR. MARTIN: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. I'm with you. I understand. Any other questions for Mr. Martin?
MR. MARTIN: Thank you, gentlemen.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks for making the trip, Mr. Martin. You always show up.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Smarr? And then Mike Nugent, be ready.
MR. SMARR: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Jim Smarr, for the record. I'm State Chairman of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. In Texas, we have 4,000 approximately members, and I'm here to speak today on the proposed rules in Redfish Bay on seagrass protection.
I've been watching this as the mayor has from the beginning. I have watched seagrass be planted. I've got videos. I asked that my office duplicate some videos and a letter and FedEx it down to the Commission. I hope you got those in advance of the meeting. There was a DVD disk there for ya'll to look at.
I offer the following comments on behalf of the Texas Chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. RFA Texas is in favor of protecting seagrass when necessary, and we recognize that it's very vital role in the marine ecosystem. However, we are not pleased with the proposed rules for Redfish Bay seagrass protection.
Mandatory no-prop zones are not the solution to protecting Redfish Bay seagrass. Continued public education is the solution. Therefore, we are strongly opposed to the establishment of mandatory no-prop zones. We have several serious concerns with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's handling of seagrass issues in the Coastal bend.
First, we were told that the seagrass task force would be disbanded due to the fact of a legal matter, and did not feel the meetings were held according to set standards by either Parks and Wildlife or the Texas Open Meetings rules.
Second, staff has emphatically stated to the public that seagrass takes seven years to recover from prop scars when in fact there's evidence that seagrass can recover much sooner. TP&W biologist, Dennis Pridgen, stated in Rockport, that seagrass beds have been photographed two years ago showing prop scarring. Upon inspection this year, was unable to locate prop scars as evidenced in the previous photo because they had repaired themselves. TP&W must be honest with the public and fully disclose these facts. If it's two, three, four years, that's a lot different than seven years.
Third, staff has stated there was zero compliance in the voluntary no-prop zones. This is simply not true. Staff has also testified that compliance dropped once education was dropped due to lack of funding by TP&W in the third year. This again shows the education program was working and will continue to work in the future.
Staff has stated seagrass cannot be planted in Texas to repair prop scars efficiently. This statement is false as evidenced in the enclosed media disc showing seagrass thriving in Galveston Bay. They said it's not worked to plant seagrass on the Texas Coast.
The area was filmed at great expense by a team from Florida that planted the grass. The Florida company was not pleased that TP&W was being disingenuous with these statements involving their work. Two divers were flown to Texas in January to film the project. I was provided a copy of the original tape. As you can clearly see, seagrass is alive and well in that video if ya'll saw it.
The Redfish Bay grass planting was surrounded by a mesh fence allowing dead grass to accumulate, cutting off light to the transplanted grass, eventually spoiling the controlled study. This was not a proper test. Mitigation of seagrass being lost due to development or industry in Texas has been successfully replanted in numerous areas. To state that the public seagrass cannot be propagated in Texas is disingenuous.
Coastal Fisheries presented a plan to the Commission at the previous Commission meeting. During that meeting, Dr. McKinney's presentation to the Commission, the agency's Chief Law Enforcement Officer, Mr. Flores, constantly was shaking his head no to the proposal. This action caused the Committee to ask for set no-prop zones in the final proposal.
We feel this action by Mr. Flores in a public meeting was unprofessional by staff and very discourteous to Dr. McKinney. Also Flores stating that his staff cannot enforce anything but fixed no-prop zones is disingenuous, a flagrant violation —
Okay. I have entered this for the record. I think you all have a copy.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Smarr. Ann — well, I have a question for staff based on your comment about Open Meetings Act and task force and committee. As I understand it, advisory committees and task forces are not subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act.
MS. BRIGHT: That's exactly right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Just wanted to clear that up. Thanks.
Any questions? Next? Mike Nugent? And Jim Atkins, be ready.
MR. NUGENT: Thank you, Mr. Commissioners. My name is Mike Nugent from Aransas Pass. I'm President of the Port Aransas Boatmen Association, who I'm representing today.
Before I even talk about seagrass, I would like to comment on something you told Dr. McKinney a while ago about the Texas data reporting system. Every spring, I go to Washington, D.C., to meet with the feds on the data collection workshop for the United States. And compared to the MRFSS (Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey) survey that is used for fishery management all over the United States, basically except for Texas and two other states, our data collection system is so much better than what we're struggling with throughout the rest of the United States.
And I just wanted to let you know that when you get cussed for ours, you just tell them to go deal with MRFSS for a while. Not that you'd ever get cussed, but —
I was also a member of the last seagrass task force, and I took it a little more personal when it was disbanded than Glenn, because I thought Dr. McKinney told us that we were illegitimate. Now that I understand the reason, it's more better, but one thing that's from the task force, we had a cross section of lots of different people represented on that task force,
And the Boatmen Association is supporting a combination of 1 and 2, in that the last thing we supported was basically the, if you damage the seagrass concept, then you're responsible for the operation of your vessel. And that was something that the task force could live with, and it seemed to eliminate some of that exclusivity and some of that special interest stuff that was floating.
And we also would like, with the second proposal, no matter what you do to put the run zones in and to make a concerted effort to get these run zones where they can be easily understood and easily navigated. What ya'll need to do is you need to think of the people that have to understand this are as dumb as Mike Nugent. And if you use me for the benchmark, if you can make me understand, then you're going to be all right, because I'm not the sharpest pencil in the box.
But if we can get the concept, then everybody else can, because I've often said, and I still say, that when we're talking about the people that come down on weekends from San Antonio and Austin and places, nobody wants to buy a $40,000 boat and go down there and run it aground. That's not their idea. So it's up to us and it's up to everybody to make this where it's more understandable.
I'm willing to bet that every letter, every testimony you get and everything has harped on the educational part of it. And I really and truly believe that no matter what you do and what you adopt, that if we don't do a good job on the education and if you don't give it adequate funding, I think it's doomed to fail, and that goes back to what I just said about people not wanting to damage the seagrass, not wanting to damage their equipment.
But you know, there's things you can do. The safe boating courses. It wouldn't take a whole lot to get something added into those courses to teach a little bit about shallow water navigation and shallow water. And by then, by learning to navigate and run those systems with the markers, whatever you adopt, the Park and Wildlife handbook that everybody gets every year, we could put a little section in there about shallow water operation.
The boat dealers need to be strongly encouraged that when they're telling these people when they're buying this boat that that boat will run in eight inches of water, that I know they need to do it to sell the boat, but if you're going 40 miles an hour that boat may do fine in eight inches of water. But you're going stop or you're gonna turn eventually, and then you've got problems.
So there's lots of things that can be done on the educational part of it. And the other thing, I'm gone. And the other thing that we would like to encourage about the law enforcement is, we've been told and told that this is a unique area and it's a unique opportunity to get this area and to protect the seagrass, and Port Aransas Boatmen feel that as a unique area law enforcement is going to have to be told that, maybe for the first 12 months of operation, they need to serve in a more instructional role. They need to educate more than writing tickets for it, and work because this isn't the same old stuff. This is a little different than everything we've done. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I appreciate that. And I'll give you the Clayton Williams rules and extend you a second because I've got a question. You don't know what the Clayton Williams rule is.
MR. NUGENT: Sounds good to me.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Just so we're clear. You support area wide. As an alterative to that, a combination of area wide and no-prop.
MR. NUGENT: Yeah. We don't see it as an alternative. We say if you're gonna, no matter what you do, but if you say proposal one, which is the area wide, well you want to get people in there and if they don't want to damage the stuff, well that would be a great aid to them is to have the run zones in there anyway so they can get out easily. It's kind of a combination of one and two.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm clear now. Thank you very much. Did you have a question, Mr. Nugent?
Up next, Jim Atkins. Mike O'Dell, be ready, if I said that right. O'Dell? Captain Mike O'Dell.
MR. ATKINS: Good morning. How are ya'll doing? My name is Jim Atkins. I'm President of the Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association out of Corpus. We're not the largest conservation group in the state, but we are a pretty good size for the Coast with a membership of about 5,000 people from the area that we're talking about.
We have traditionally supported the scientific study areas, we're heavily supportive of them throughout the existence of both study areas being the Nine-mile Hole and Redfish Bay. Our Board, sitting on the other night after a lot of discussion and comment and throwing this back and forth, came to the conclusion that at this point in Redfish Bay, number one, we really don't support number one, and we don't support number two.
We support number four, which I'm not sure has really been addressed, but that's another option. Our main thinking on mandatory, maintain in effect on a voluntary basis and continue with that. It appeared, just in going through prior to this meeting, that it seemed that the proposal one, area wide was the first thing that everybody was kind of focused on. That has some enforcement issues; those have been brought forth.
I went a step forward and visited the JP who happens to have the Brown and Root plat in his precinct. And he said the same thing. You're going to have a problem. The game warden can write the ticket, but when they come to court, if anybody contests it it's darn hard to bring a prop scar to court. I think it's irresponsible, quite frankly, to pass a regulation where you know on the front end you've got a court problem with it.
Proposal two seems to be based mostly on the idea of transferring Redfish Bay areas from voluntary to mandatory is based principally on the statement that we spend a lot of time and a lot of money. I question how much time and money has really been spent over there, and certainly how much of that time and money in the studies that have gone on have been communicated to the public. I've actually learned more standing out in the hall here today than I have in the last three years.
We recommend, and highly recommend, that the area be maintained on a voluntary basis with a ton more emphasis on education and public awareness. Everybody walking up here today has got, I think everybody's goal and objective is the same, but everybody has a different approach of how to get there.
To make this project work, unfortunately Nine-mile Hole project was allowed to sunset. You might even want to go back and look. Why is there a 90 percent compliance rate in that project? What was right with it and what of those things could be applicable to Redfish Bay.
We're all on the same page. You've got to get the communities, Port A, Aransas Pass, the County Commissioners, the Port of Corpus Christi, CCA, Boatmen's, SCA, get the stakeholders and local groups involved and come with a unified effort, and until that happens, it's going to be controversial, and it's going to be that the compliance is going to be problematic. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Atkins. Captain Mike O'Dell. And then, Tom Hall be ready.
MR. O'DELL: Good afternoon Commissioners. I'm Mike O'Dell. I'm an independent guide in this area, in there. I support the run zones, proposition two, the three closed areas, only if you do an education. As it's been told before and brought up to you in August, it failed because education failed.
That's the biggest problem you've got out there. Let's limit this to what can be handled. You don't have the state funds to fund it. You're using grants and federal money that's going to last two years. What are you going to do at the end of two years? If you're not going to educate it and you want to study it, my suggestion is to spend the money on education, close it, give us run zones, but let's educate the people.
The people that are tearing it up are not locals. They're the weekend people, and we're talking thousands of dollars that's coming in there. By the time you roll it over, we're talking millions of dollars in the economy. You can't close the whole area. You can't patrol, you know, earlier in August, you called it acres. Let's talk in miles. We're talking approximately 54 square nautical miles down there.
There ain't no way the guys can see after it in there. But if we've got it limited down to a study area that you can study, you know, it's like reading a book. You've got to read it one page at a time. Let's do simple things, let's make it simple and just study it one page at a time. And if you run out of money, the no-prop zones come out. If you run out of money for education, the no-prop zones come out.
Is there any questions from ya'll?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm asking the same question of everybody. So you support the area wide and conditional on no-prop with —
MR. O'DELL: Yes, sir, the reason I question your area wide, the map that you started with has been enlarged. Now, you're not only infringing on what we're talking about as guides, you've already stepped on all our bait guys, our bait dealers, our shrimpers, our guys that are dragging out there, because the way this has been enlarged you're taking all the territory in there that they're getting our bait from. You know.
Ninety percent of the customers on the water are not going to throw artificials, you know. So we've got to have bait. So my suggestion is, let's get the three areas, make no-prop zones with runways in them, and study them. Figure this out before we try to tackle the whole world in one giant leap.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions? Commissioner Brown.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Mr. Chairman, it seems to me from all the comments that the first thing we need to do is focus on a very well-defined run zone. That seems to be a big part of the problem, and I guess this whole educational process of doing a better job in trying to educate the public in what we're doing, and, of course, I'm going to have questions for Dr. McKinney in light of, and I think everyone recognizes that there is a need to control this area and limit the damage to seagrass. No one argues with that.
But it seems to be a consensus here, at least everyone that's spoken before us, that the way to proceed is on a voluntary basis and let's see if we can get the job done with better education and better defined run zones. And if that doesn't work, then we have to look at something else down the road. But anyway.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
MR. O'DELL: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Next up, Mr. Hall, Tom Hall? After that, Diane Probst, be ready. And Joey Park will be last.
MR. HALL: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Tom Hall. I'm the President of the Coastal Bend Guides Association. I was on the seagrass committee when it was disbanded, but neither here nor there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It died a natural death.
MR. HALL: Yes sir. I've worked with Parks and Wildlife on this some, and with Dennis, and Dennis is doing a good job, and Larry McKinney is doing a good job with what he has to work with. But the overall area, we've had the three areas in the past five years to work with, and yes, the money ran out, and then there was no education.
And you've got to keep it up. You've got to keep educating these people because some of these people don't come down but every two or three years. And I know they don't do it on purpose. They don't, I promise you. Sometimes the month the water's six foot high and the tides are up, you can run anywhere in that bay system. Yesterday and the day before yesterday, there was no water. There was areas that had water that was dry.
But if we have to do something, I wasn't looking at a third object or a third item. It was going to be item number two. Put your mandatory areas that are closed. Put your run lanes in there, well marked, and show the people where they can run.
On the entrance of these run areas where you come in, people have to be led; they have to be shown. Put some type of marker, red or green. If you see red, let 'em know that's a bad area. You don't want 'em in that run lane anyway. You don't want them there; the tide is too low and you need to stay out of there.
The local people and the guides, they know this information because they're out there every day. They live there. That's their livelihood. But education is the main thing. You have to educate these people. Associations work with McKinney, and we told them, snow birds come down, I've talked to all the Chambers. I said, invite us over when you do the welcoming committees. We'll go over and just show them some things; teach 'em learn some things different.
But we're in favor of proposal number two if we have to pick anything. Let you work in that one area and see what happens in five years, or go back in two years and say, okay now, this is working, or oh no, this is not working. But do the education. Do the marking of the lanes. Mark the areas off and say, this is an area that you cannot get in because the first five years it was not done right and you have to do it right.
And if any time I'd say, do it for a two-year study. And come back to you and say it's working, it's good. Then, move it out, surrounding, in the other areas if you have to. And it's just not the run lane, it's just not the boaters that are doing this. I know you can't control nature. With all the tides that come in, run the seagrass up, it covers the grass up and it dies.
The runoffs from broken areas where the government pumps spoil into and the wall breaks. We cannot control that. You can control the boats, and that's the only thing you can control. But you need to look at this real, real close, because they get in an area like this and the people come down, they start getting fines, they'll move somewhere else up and down our coast.
There's other areas that they can run and they don't have to worry about it. But think through it real close before you do anything, because there's been no economic impact study on this at all. None.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Hall. Just to clarify again, I know there's so many proposals here. You do or do not support the combination. One person testified that a combination of area wide and one or more prop zones —
MR. HALL: No sir. Just the three areas that you had for the first five years —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: With the run lanes —
MR. HALL: With the run lanes marked in them only.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Then, those other areas could still be subject to damage. Right?
MR. HALL: Yes sir. But, Parks and Wildlife did not do your job the first five years. You did not get to study for four or five years. You did it for a year and a half or two years. There was compliance for the first two years. Money ran out, education quit, and the people stopped, and why, I feel, why should I give you three areas if the job wasn't done, then turn around and give you an area that's ten times bigger or 50 times bigger, and it's more area for you to have to control.
Parks and Wildlife does not have enough money, you do not have enough manpower. They're doing too many other items on the coast, which is part of their job. Just trying to get them where they can do this study on this area, learn what's going on here and go from there. Just the three areas only, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right, thank you.
MR. HALL: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Question, Mr. Hall? No? Diane Probst? Did I pronounce that right?
MS. PROBST: Yes, I'm the President and CEO of the Rockport-Fulton Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce for Aransas County. I've held that position for 15 years, and we have 966 members. We want to be part of the solution.
We are for option one. We understand that that simply means no uprooting in the designated area-wide area. We are definitely excited about your being excited about education, because we think that's the key to this whole thing.
We want to jump in and help. Our local Wildlife Department has come up with an excellent idea, called the Sea Grass Conservation Sticker. And we think we as a Chamber can help get the word out to all the tourists that we bring into the community about seagrass and this uprooting, and we would take on that responsibility.
They've developed an excellent program so that, or they're developing this program so that they can see on the boat the seagrass sticker. They can see on the trailer, and they can begin to monitor how many people they're hitting with all of these stickers and know how the education system is working.
We think that that sticker process can be done, and we'll support them to do that. Our Chamber is committed to helping with this. Our community is sophisticated, and we can do it. Our tourists and our community care. And with that in mind, we want you to consider our recommendation and then also ticketing those who uproot. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. Diane, that's great. Great idea.
Our last person signed up on this, Joey Park, with Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). Joey.
MR. PARK: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Joey Park. I'm here today on behalf of the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas. CCA, which is the largest marine conservation group in Texas, more than 48,000 members in 45 chapters scattered throughout this state.
CCA Texas membership has been an instrumental part in almost every marine conservation debate over the past quarter century, and is extremely interested in the proper conservation of our state's seagrass in our bays and estuaries.
CCA Texas appreciates the Parks and Wildlife Commission undertaking this daunting and ongoing task. Today I'd like to echo the comments that we provided at all three of your public hearings throughout the state. CCA Texas supports seagrass protection throughout this state. CCA Texas has historically worked with Parks and Wildlife and the seagrass task force to promote the proper conservation of this valuable habitat.
In review of the current proposal before the Commission today, CCA Texas suggests that proposal one be implemented and that no-prop zones not be a component of that plan. CCA supports the recommendation of many on the seagrass task force in that seagrass can be properly managed in an area-wide approach, making it a violation with appropriate sanctions to uproot and destroy seagrass without banning prop-driven vessels.
We further suggest that Parks and Wildlife follow the task force recommendations that color-coded, water-level-indicator poles be placed around the particularly sensitive areas of Redfish Bay State Scientific Area that will aid prop-driven traffic in deciding when they would likely damage seagrass.
We are aware of the challenges that this management plan will present to Parks and Wildlife's law enforcement. But with the proper outreach, education on seagrass conservation, we are convinced that it will work. CCA Texas is willing to assist Parks and Wildlife in informing the recreational anglers and working with Coastal Fisheries staff in creating an outreach campaign and information to the angling public through our publications and other outreach tools.
We further suggest a two-year period of review for this program and a report from the staff to Commission and a comprehensive review to make sure the program is working. This time frame will hopefully allow for the program to be implemented with proper instructional markings placed and an active public outreach on seagrass conservation.
Seagrass conservation clearly is not easy. Balancing the production of habitat in actively fished areas can create conflict, and with this in mind, we suggest that you follow these recommendations and implement a management plan that will create the maximum conservation benefit with the least amount of conflict.
Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Joey. Any questions for Joey?
Thank you. I've got one observation, I guess. I've heard pretty consistently this issue of education, and the Department has a real obligation in that area. But I've got to tell you, the people who have the most contact with the people who need to be educated are the guides and the boat dealers and the Chambers of Commerce.
So this cannot happen. I sort of reject the notion that one party failed on education. Everybody has to do the education, and Parks and Wildlife, I know, will do their best. But this is a community effort, in my opinion, that requires everybody, especially those who have the most contact with the boating public, including our wardens. But, anyway, that's just an observation.
Any other questions for Larry or other staff? Thank you, Joey. Good to see you again.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I had a question.
Larry, let me make sure what your thought process is on the no-prop zones. If you have an area wide no damage provision in number one, the no-prop zone simply gives you an area that is pretty easy to control, or at least it's easier to control. And are you doing that so that you can have an area to measure the effectiveness between the first proposition and the second proposition? What is the thought process behind the no-prop zones.
MR. McKINNEY: When we originally briefed the Commission, we were looking at, and coming up through out seagrass task force, looking the area-wide rule only at that time.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Right.
MR. McKINNEY: That's when some concerns at that Commission meeting and others arose about could you really enforce that. At the direction of the Commission at that time said, are there some alternatives? Would no-prop zones, a zone in which we are marked, we have no props, would that be more enforceable.
You all wanted to hear, as you did today, from folks, well what about that option? Would that be a more acceptable option, or would there be problems with it? Whatever it is, you direct the staff to say, come back to us with a real proposal that includes those so we can weigh those issues and alternatives: area wide versus no-prop zones. That's why the no-prop zones were there, inserted in the rule to give you the opportunity to hear from folks and listen to those enforcement issues.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So it's really more of an enforcement issue —
MR. McKINNEY: Implementation issue. The no-prop zones, that's right, that addresses law enforcement concerns, very legitimate concerns about how we can work.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And the location of the no-prop zones that are proposed on the map, how were those determined?
MR. McKINNEY: Those were our existing, voluntary no-prop zones that we had worked with for years. Certainly those were placed for several reasons. One, they are in areas where the very sensitive seagrass, turtle — turtle grass species are predominant in those areas. Those are the seagrass that can take up to seven or eight years to recover, long-term recovery, so they're very sensitive in that regard, and want to protect those.
Also those areas were some of the most heavily used, some of the most heavy scarring you could see. So we put those voluntary zones there. So people were familiar with them as several of the folks that testified here, they know where those are, they used them, and so it made some sense that they were already in place.
What was missing was the run zones and those types of things to make them more usable. So we picked those zones because they existed, people knew about them, and then for those other reasons.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Would option one include no run zones? In other words, if you get to the area wide —
MR. McKINNEY: No area wide is not contemplating any of those. You see, basically —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You wouldn't mark run zones.
MR. McKINNEY: No. Now, from an education standpoint, absolutely would. I think that's an excellent suggestion. We would not want, we would do that. In fact, we have — the advantage that we have this time over others is that we have, and I really appreciate those folks that have testified here regardless of their position because every one of them, I remember when we started this five years ago there was real concern over whether we should do this or not.
Now, I think what we're talking about is how can we do this, how best can we do this? And every one of them have committed to helping us on education, which is a tremendous, makes me feel really good about it, but in fact, even as we were going through this process, we have already lined up Coastal Bend Bays Estuarine Program, the Nature Conservancy, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and, through the state wildlife grant process, we have accumulated funds to really help that education outreach and marketing projects.
So regardless of any direction we go, one thing we're definitely going to do is to try to work with those folks down there to mark running zones in areas to make it easier to use. That's a real easy, that's a one that everyone would agree to. No doubt.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Parker?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Dr. McKinney, I specifically recall at the last Commission meeting when we began talking about this that I asked you if you could really mark those no-run zones clearly and definitively so that the most novice boater would be put on notice that these are the lanes and if he gets out of this lane then he's going to be in trouble if he is apprehended. And you're still confident that you can properly sign those lanes.
MR. McKINNEY: Commissioner, after that meeting, I went down there and got in a boat and ran every one of the lanes that's proposed here and didn't hit ground once, at least where they should be. So I know that they can work.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay.
MR. McKINNEY: Any of those type of zones. And we used Dennis Pridgen as the biologist.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: If we can put up the signs and protect that, educate that novice boater, I think it's a no brainer. We've got to protect these grasses.
MR. McKINNEY: Well it's very important. I think as Glenn referred to it, of course, we've worked with him for many, many years, wonderful supporter. He had 86,000 boats go through there last year. It's going to increase tremendously over the next several years.
What we're talking about is what we can put in place to make sure we can continue that productivity, that wonderful fishing. It is, there's some of the best fishing in the coast along there. It's also some of the heaviest pressure. The boat ramps in those areas, the boat ramps are the heaviest used around.
They're going to increase as San Antonio and others grow. So what we're talking about is what can we put in place now to already make sure that we maintain it.
That's what the deal is. What I've seen is over in Florida. In Florida, they went through all this; they waited. And now they've had to close areas. They have areas where you cannot go with a motor, trying to restore them, recover them back to an area.
We do not want to go there; we don't have to go there. That's what we're talking about.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They have complete no-motor zones?
MR. McKINNEY: Yes sir. They have zones there where when you go into them, you not only have no motor, you take the motor off your boat and lock it up before you are allowed to go in. That is something we never want to go to here, and we don't have to.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Robert?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Dr. McKinney, in light of the testimony that we've had from various interested parties, how would you define what we need to do? You know, taking into account that we're not going to just have a total no-prop zone, how would we best define this, taking into account the testimony that we've had from various interested parties to accomplish what we want to do?
MR. McKINNEY: I appreciate that question.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Obviously, that wasn't prearranged.
MR. McKINNEY: No it wasn't because I don't have a good answer for you.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I'll bet you do.
MR. McKINNEY: Well, Commissioner Brown, in recognizing — I think everyone recognizes the problem, and everyone wants to do the right thing. It's just how we accomplish that. Certainly the proposal that we brought forth to you last Commission meeting was looking at an area-wide rule. That's the proposal that we worked through our task force with before we had to dismiss those groups. That was an approach, an incremental step forward as to where we thought we should go from voluntary to mandatory with the idea that at some time, and evaluate it over a period of time, if it did not work, then we would have to consider more drastic steps. So that was the proposal.
I can't walk away, though, the issues, and I agree and understand with Col. Flores about enforcement. We have to work with them. Of course, as we told you yesterday, the Colonel and I, wherever we go, we're going to make our best effort to make it work. There's no doubt about that. There's no disagreement at all. It's really a process of how we get there.
I guess the key thing is, and again, from all these folks I really worked with them forever, they're what make Coastal Fisheries great, all these people that testified up here with all their different opinions, we work with them all the time, and Jim Atkins said something I think was right on the point, and we worked closely with Jim on the area down at Nine-mile Hole, and he said, you know, they had 90 percent compliance he felt down there when it was in operation and we should look what happened down there.
Well, reality is, it was a mandatory zone, no operating, that was one thing that contributed to that. The putting forth of a regulation that says you can't destroy seagrass, that's a tremendous educational tool. It is a tool.
And our game wardens will not be out there every day. But the fact that it exists, just like they can't be out there to check bag limits or length limits, 80 to 90 percent of us comply. And that's what this is about. Just giving some guidance to those folks that every day that'll be out there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think that's a really important point, because whether it's fish or game, we rely on the vast majority of hunters and angler not only policing themselves and regulating themselves, but creating a culture of peer regulation, where the people who are intentionally harming the resource are ostracized.
And it seems to me the incremental step here would be the area wide. The no-prop zone as Commissioner Holmes points out is really based on the assumption that the enforcement of that won't work and jumps to the next level.
I recognize, Pete, your job, you have a tough job, but as we saw today, you guys handle tough jobs pretty well. And don't get me wrong here, but it seems our first commitment is the resource. The second commitment is to address the needs of our constituency.
And really the ease of enforcement is down the list of priorities. I just wondered, I mean, was I right that the no-prop zone really assumes that the first step is not enforceable and gets dropped? Why assume that, it seems to me?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Let me ask another question or two just to make sure I understand the alternatives. It seems to me that proposition one is a very sensible proposition right. The no-prop zones right now, I guess they have been no-prop zones on a voluntary basis?
Well, what if you just maintained that no-prop zone on a voluntary basis but you had clearly marked run channels? Is that a —
MR. McKINNEY: That's correct, sir. Well, that's exactly what we were going to do as an experiment, if nothing else, to see how it worked out.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But the issue was whether it was going to be mandatory or voluntary.
MR. McKINNEY: Well, certainly not if that was the direction of the Commission, they wouldn't be. Hypothetically, if you all adopted the area-wide rule, what we would do is, because this is an experimental area, this is where we are trying to learn, we would go in and work with the guides on those voluntaries and remark those things to put run lanes in and see if we could make them work.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Would that be just in those no-prop zones that you have designated, or would that be in various critical places?
MR. McKINNEY: We'd probably just use those because of resources. For example, we may not do Brown & Root, because that's not a heavily used area, but we would probably do just those three just because of resource constraints and wanted to focus there.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: You have not had run lanes in those marked?
MR. McKINNEY: No, we have not.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: It seems to me that we clearly want to do that. I mean that should be an incremental addition —
MR. McKINNEY: As I said earlier, whatever we do, we're going to increase that education remedy, and I really appreciate all the testimony that came here today and talked about contributing to that. Whatever we do, if everyone will follow through as we talked about, we'll work with them. We will have a tremendous education program.
And I will tell you what will happen. I can almost guarantee it because I've studied this so closely in Florida, where they've gone through this exact same issue and where they've put some of these into place. Now they wouldn't give them up for anything because of how they have positively affected fishing and conservation efforts. It can make it a big plus.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: What happened? You said they put some of these in place. Do you mean no-prop zones?
MR. McKINNEY: They've done, put in conservation areas, and they have done the zones and that type of thing. They've gone a little bit further than that in that, not where we want to go yet. But I think, what I was trying to illustrate, where they have sat down with those communities and demonstrated their focus on conservation, that they're going to do that, that has been really good for those communities and has brought people in because that's what they want to see there.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I would think, Chairman, the assumption of no-prop zones is that you can't enforce it, and therefore, it's going to be damaged kind of automatically. But that's also the assumption that if we enacted these rules it was going to harm their economy because it meant that people were getting tickets and they weren't coming back. And so, they're kind of making that assumption too.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yeah, I think it's incumbent in the end, the only thing that's going to work here, is that the community out there that's represented here today so well builds a culture of compliance. It's not just going to be the Department. It's just going to have to be, essentially, something that that community embraces to protect that seagrass resource, and through education, through a culture of compliance will get there.
You know, if we're wrong, you can change it, but it seems to me that the incremental approach gives the people closest to the resource the most flexibility to make it work.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any others — and that's a good question. Is this Sunsetted or is this a —
MR. McKINNEY: It exists as long as it's a State Scientific Area, at this point, which is five years. Certainly we can take this on a different scale or you've had some recommendations that we at least evaluate on two-year periods. Certainly, that's going to happen; we're going to evaluate it regardless, but we can make that in some more defined way if that's your wish.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Would like to see it come back [inaudible].
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And so it would come back necessarily in five years.
MR. McKINNEY: Absolutely, because just as the other, it would sunset —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: He can monitor it and give us his findings annually.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Do we need a motion — Proposition One.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, there are plenty of [inaudible]. Are you making a motion? The motion is alternative one, area wide.
Second by Friedkin.
All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.): All Ayes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
MR. McKINNEY: I appreciate that. For clarification, we are including those changes that I had briefed you on, trolling motors, anchors, and the different definition of —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: We knew you were.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And the run zones, right.
MR. McKINNEY: Those are already in the rules, existing.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moving right along. Next Item, Briefing Item, Texas Water Planning Process and TPWD's Role in Water Planning process.
Don't leave. We're going to get you some freshwater inflows so that there'll be some fish.
MS. LOEFFLER: Good afternoon, Chairman Fitzsimons, Commission. My name is Cindy Loeffler. I'm the Water Resources Branch Chief in the Coastal Fisheries Division at Parks and Wildlife.
I'm going to talk to you today, quickly, about Senate Bill 1, Regional Water Planning. This is the process that we have in place in the state now. When we do regional water planning, rather than state water planning, we have 16 regions across the state. Eleven interests must be represented on each one of those regions.
We have a five-year planning cycle. Right now, we're at the end of the second of those five-year planning cycles. The Texas Water Development Board administers this process and then compiles the State Water Plan.
Senate Bill 1, one of the major goals there was to provide water for people in Texas on a 50-year planning horizon, but also to protect the environment. So there are a number of provisions in Senate Bill 1 that address environmental protection. I'll go over a couple of those for you.
One of those is this idea of protecting or setting aside free run stream segments that are considered ecologically unique. Another is to promote water management strategies, and that can include anything from water conservation to new development of water resources that are cost effective and environmentally sensitive.
Senate Bill 1 also requires consideration of environmental water needs, freshwater inflows and instream flows when planning for future water needs.
So what is Parks and Wildlife's role in this process? Well we are considered a nonvoting member on each one of these water plans, water regions, as per Texas Water Code, Section 16.053, so we're required to be there as a nonvoting member.
We have a cooperative agreement with the Water Development Board and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that kind of guides our activities. An example of that would be development of the projections for state water demands and population projections. We work together on that.
Our agency primarily provides technical assistance to the regions. We provide information at the request of the regions, and then we review and comment on the regional and the state plans.
As I mentioned, we are in the second round of the regional water planning. We have a new rule that was added to the water planning rules. This is under Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 357.7, that guides the process for regional planning, and this new rule came about in response to some of our concerns and the concerns of others in the first round about how environmental issues were addressed and if there was truly environmental protection being incorporated into these plans.
So I'm going to focus a bit on this new rule as I go through my talk here. This new rule talks about the need to quantitatively evaluate environmental impacts in these draft regional plans that we'll get into in a minute. Factors that have to be included include looking at environmental water needs, again instream flows, freshwater inflows, wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and the effect of upstream development on bays and estuaries in the arms of the Gulf of Mexico.
So when we say, quantitative impacts, we're talking about how many acres of habitat would be affected, how many acre-feet of water would be removed from rivers and streams or from freshwater inflows into the bays and estuaries.
So as far as this new requirement, the quantitative reporting, what Parks and Wildlife did was to meet with the consultants in regional planning groups. Primarily at their request, we compiled information, made that available to the regional planning groups. That's a large part of what we do is to compile information and data and tools.
We made 14 presentations to 16 of the planning groups at their request. And the key point to make, that we made in these presentations was some of the impacts that could be expected from particular water management strategies. We encouraged the groups to consider what we call the least impacting strategies, those things like water conservation, land stewardship, reuse of treated effluent, before they jump to development of new supplies, new diversions from rivers and streams and new reservoir projects because those are the more impacting alternatives as far as Fish and Wildlife are concerned.
So at this point, we've reviewed and provided comment on 15 of the 16 draft regional plans that are out there right now, and that 16th plan, the letter, I think, is being finalized today and will be sent tomorrow. So by tomorrow, we will be 100 percent on those.
So what have we found in our review of these draft regional water plans. Well, this is the first of these five-year planning cycles that we have had to, that the groups have had to do this quantitative assessment. So as you might imagine, there was some confusion. There was not a real clear, concise idea of about what was an adequate quantitative assessment. By that, I mean, the Texas Water Development Board's rules were not extremely clear about what was required.
Also, there was no additional funding that was made available for the regions to do this work. They had a pretty full plate already, the consultants did, to put together the 50-year water plans. Not all the information that we would like to see exists for how to do these quantitative assessments. And then as a result, not all of the regions, well very few of the regions, were able to really comply with what we considered a full, environmental quantitative analysis.
So when we reviewed these plans, and then our comment letters were [inaudible], so there were a number of questions, things that we were looking for in the review of these plans. As I talked about the quantitative reporting of environmental impacts.
Did the plans contain an adequate description of natural resources? That's another requirement under the planning rules, that they have to do that. Were the threats to these natural resources identified and addressed? And by the way, these things I'm mentioning are required under their rules.
Was water conservation included in the plan? And again, water conservation does include land stewardship today in the way that we look at these things in Texas reuse. Were there recommendations for the ecologically unique stream segments that I touched on. Now this is not a requirement. The planning groups have the option of whether they do this or not; they're not required to do it.
And then, were there responses to the comments that we made back in the first round of planning. Were those issues addressed in the second round? So we have a little color-coded map to talk quickly about the extent of what we found in our review of these plans. The green zones exceeded the expectations of staff about items in the plans to protect fish and wildlife. Yellow did about like we expected them to. And then the red zone, we thing there's room for improvement with a couple of those zones.
So, again, for the 16 regions, I don't think you can see the letters that go with the 16 regions. We have Regions A through P in Texas, if you're interested.
For the regions in red, primarily what we saw going on there was this idea that I mentioned before about is conservation being fully taken advantage of, the potential for conserving more water before the region actually jumped to, you know, building a new reservoir. From our view, staff-level view, the fish and wildlife impacts associated with developing a new reservoir, we're talking about loss of habitat, loss of wetlands, alteration or loss of in-stream flows, and the list goes on.
And so, not that we're completely anti-reservoir. If there were no other alternatives, if there was nothing else that a region could go to, if they had already done all the steps, then some of the regions do have reservoirs included in their plans.
So for the regions that we think did really well, up there in far northeast Texas, I'm very proud of that region. During the first round of regional water planning, that region was proposing a number of new reservoirs. Even though when you looked at their 50-year water needs, it was hard for them to justify for their needs, their regions' needs those reservoirs.
And so they've done kind of a 180-degree change and said that reservoirs need to be the last thing considered, and that when they attempted to do their quantitative evaluation of impacts they didn't have strategies that were showing fish and wildlife impacts.
And so that was a good change, and then the region that includes Houston, it's called Region H, they did what we considered to be a fairly good job of quantifying impacts of exhausting the least impacting alternatives before going to, they do have several reservoirs proposed in their plan, and they nominated seven of these stream segments of unique ecological value. It's up to the Legislature to actually make that designation, so we felt like they did a fairly good job there.
Some of the other regions. Let's talk about San Antonio, Region L. If you look at their water plans progressively over time, and this is going back to when the state did the water plan as well, their plans have over time become less and less impacting to fish and wildlife.
Kind of an overall note for most of the regions in this planning cycle is that there is an increased awareness of the importance of environmental protection. Some of them are not quite to the point of being able to actually follow through, and do things like, for example, plans that would actually protect environmental flows, but there is an increased awareness out there from what I've seen. And Region L is an example of that, San Antonio.
And then for the Rio Grande regions, far south Texas and then far East Texas, pronounced recognition of the importance of protecting natural resources in their region, the flows in the Rio Grande, springs, things of that nature, which I thought was pretty impressive considering these are areas of exploding population and very limited water resources. And so we've been requested, the agency's been requested to assist with some of those efforts and that's something that I feel pretty strongly about.
And then, I'll wrap up on San Angelo, kind of there in the middle, it's called Region F. This is another region that made quite a bit of improvement in their, the thing that was impressive is their increased awareness, these groups make legislative recommendations, and so they had some legislative recommendations about the need to promote further land stewardship, brush control and just basically resource stewardship.
That, in a very quick whirlwind tour, is some of the things that we're seeing in these plans. So what happens now, these initially prepared plans were by and large due to the state this summer, June 2005. We've gone through the process, as I said, the last of these 16 regions will have comments submitted tomorrow. And then the plans are amended by the regions and then submitted back to the Water Development Board. That happens by January of '06.
Then the water Development Board has to prepare the state plan. That goes to the legislature when they meet in January of '07.
Just to close, I'll talk about kind of, as I mentioned, this is a five-year process. We're already starting to talk about what's going to happen in the third round. These are the water planning planners, the Water Development Board, and stakeholders, and one of the concepts that's out there is that rather than start from scratch with a new plan, the way we have the last two cycles is, would it make sense, we think it would, to try to focus our resources, our effort, our dollars on looking in more detail at the proposed strategies, and especially at looking at ways to minimize environmental impacts, ways to further quantify looking at things like mitigation plans for particular projects, things of that nature.
So we're fairly encouraged that that's kind of the trend we're going with some of the water planning activities. With that, I'm open for questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Cindy, thanks. I work with you a lot of this. You're right. That's a very brief overview of an incredible amount of detail that you work with regularly. You may want to mention that we did have the Executive Order on Environmental Flows signed by the Governor.
MS. LOEFFLER: I was hoping you would.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And that, so that's some good news to keep that item in front of us.
As you know, we weren't successful in getting that passed in the last session, but some of those mitigation issues you talked about are included in the proposed legislation, so the Governor's asked us to keep that alive through an Environmental Flows Advisory Committee.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman. Excellent presentation. I appreciate that very much. One thing that has been troubling me ever since I've been on the Commission, and I think this is a proper time for me to voice my concerns, and it's in the discussion paragraph here, the part that really bothers me.
"You are a part of the Regional Water Planning Groups, but you are not a voting member." And everything, everything that we do at Texas Parks and Wildlife starts with H2O. If we do not have H2O, whether it's freshwater, or freshwater that becomes saltwater, then we're in a heap of trouble, and for our Chairman to be treated as a stepchild —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm used to it.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: — at these meetings, I think, is ludicrous.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well understand that it's an advisory role on the Regional Water Planning Groups. We vote on the recommendations that are actually made to the Legislature about what to do.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: But your role is every bit, to me, in my opinion, your role is every bit as important as the Chairman of the Texas Water Development Board and the TCEQ. I think that your role is every bit as important, and I would really like the Commission to think about what I'm saying and begin to think about going back to the Legislature and having you brought to the table, having the Chairman of this body brought to the table on equal footing with the water Development Board and the TCEQ.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, again, we are on equal footing as to the body that makes the actual recommendations on legislation. The Regional Water Planning Groups, I think were designed a little bit, wasn't the original Senate Bill One?
MS. LOEFFLER: Right, and if —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Going all the way back?
MS. LOEFFLER: I might jump in. Parks and Wildlife and the Water Development Board staff in the regional planning process — the Chairman's correct were on fairly level footing as well as the Texas Department of Agriculture. TCEQ is not quite there on the same level, interestingly enough.
So at the staff level, we are there in advisory role. Now, the Texas Water Development Board takes these regional plans and prepares a state plan. We don't really have much input into that process, so in a way they kind of do have an extra in —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Your point is well taken on the preparation of the final plan. There is a problem, you're right, John, in that some regions have been more forthcoming in seeking the input of the Department on the environmental impact of their plans than others. And your point's well taken.
MS. LOEFFLER: And I see that improving, the second round.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: As I say, in the end, it's what gets passed that's going to matter. Thanks, Cindy, for your hard work on that.
Next up, we've got an action item. Jerry, 16, Oysters and Shrimp.
MR. JERRY COOKE: Mr. Chairman and Members, my name is Jerry Cooke. I'm with the Science and Policy Group of Coastal Fisheries, and I'm bringing you to the final process of the rule review, of all of our rules, in Parks and Wildlife.
This is Chapter 58, dealing with oysters and shrimp. As we mentioned before, we have to do this at least every four years, not minimally every four years, and this completes all of our rules.
For the shrimp, basically, we're removing all the language for birds and TEDs, and we're going to adopt that by reference. We're making it clear that if a shrimper sells shrimp to a private citizen, he's responsible for reporting that transaction to us, and then there's some housekeeping changes as well.
We're removing the initializing language from the Crab Limited Entry Program. We're clarifying that a human being has to hold the license for a company. We're clarifying some language about display licenses and a few housekeeping changes again.
And in the finfish proclamation we're simply clarifying about the display license.
The motion is the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts Chapter 58: Oysters and Shrimp, as published in the September 30, 2005, issue of the Texas Register, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the review of Chapter 58. Do you have any questions?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Jerry. I know that this is the culmination of a lot of work. Any questions for Jerry? Motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Holmes move, and Parker second. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And hearing none, motion carries. All right, Item Number 17 is a briefing item, and in light of our schedule here, with no objection we're going to move that briefing item to the next meeting. Bob, is that all right?
Okay. Hearing no objection, we'll do that.
Next item, Number 18, action item, License Requirements of Marine Dealers. Al Campos and Frances Stiles.
MR. CAMPOS: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Alfonso Campos, Chief of Marine Enforcement. Today, we'll talk about this implementing Senate Bill 489. It's about marine issues, specifically suspension and revocation of marine licenses and the requirements for marine dealer brokers. Also improvements or changes to a process that would expedite the registration of documented vessels.
Under the suspension and revocation of these boat dealer licenses, we list the violations that they can be suspended for, including false statements, owing taxes or fees, and previous revocations, fraud or deception on their applications. And before we take any action, it does require that we officially notify the licensee. Any administrative hearings or appeals would be referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
One recommended clarification was to make it clear that while addressing the suspension or revocation, of a marine dealer license that we take good faith efforts into consideration, that's good faith efforts from the licensee to comply with the issues.
One other clarification is to delete an item that is not an issue, and that deals with third-party advertising on boats that are licensed by marine dealers and are operated using that license.
Under the Broker Licensing Requirements, basically, we're incorporating the marine brokers into the marine license requirements of the Department. There was some issue before, but, basically, they will be able to operate under the same regulations as the boat dealers do. We address floating assets and service areas because those are specific to the marine brokers.
One recommended clarification, we want to make it clear that employees of a licensed dealer are not required to acquire an individual license. They can operate under the license of the business. This was a proposed change, the result of feedback with the Boating Trades Association of Texas and with the Gulf Coast Yacht Brokers Association.
And the staff recommends that the Commission adopt an amendment to 53.91 concerning display of boat registration, and 53.110 concerning the boat dealer requirements with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the Texas Register.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Is there any discussion by the Commission? Is there a motion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.
MR. CAMPOS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Item number 19, Corky?
MR. KUHLMANN: Commissioners, my name is Corky Kuhlman. I'm a Project Manager in the Land Conservation Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife.
This item has to do with the current nominations for oil and gas leases in Texas. The authority for leasing the mineral rights on state parks lands lies with the Board for Lease of the General Land Office. The Board for Lease requests the recommendations of the TPWD Commission.
We have four properties up for lease this time by — geographic location. They are Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Cleburne State Park, 30 acres of the Las Palomas Wildlife Management area, the La Grulla Unit, and 568 acres of Mustang Island State Park, a portion of the park.
Conditions and recommendations for this is there's no surface occupancy except for Mustang Island where any surface use has to be approved by TPWD staff. $150-an-acre minimum lease, 25 percent royalty, and a ten-day delay rental. Three-year minimum lease for a total of $245,000 and change minimum.
This is the recommendation that the staff wishes for you to approve. Are there any questions?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yeah, Corky. I have a questions on Mustang Island, because that one, unlike the others where we normally have no surface occupation, if that's the right term, surface location, because we've had a request from the people who are particularly interested in that park to know more about where those potential sites are, to understand that. Do we have a time deadline on if we were to break out Mustang Island and give those people a chance to look at that?
MR. KUHLMANN: We don't, when you say a time deadline, it is, the properties we lease is for the Board of Lease, they have to make the decision. We make, Parks and Wildlife, the Commission makes a recommendation to them, and then it's up to the Board of Lease of the General Land Office to decide whether to pull it or not, and that is something we could on that site revert back to, the no surface occupancy, if that's what ya'll would want to do. That's what we can recommend to them, to the Board of Lease.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I don't know if I'm saying that is I'm saying to give these people an opportunity, the citizens group there that contacted us this morning, that are interested in wanting to know where this might possibly be. They may not object to it, you know. And otherwise they would be here to testify, and I think we do have one person to testify. It's a procedural question.
MR. KUHLMANN: We can, our recommendation can be to the Board of Lease that we have this facility pulled from the nomination. And historically they have approved our recommendations, but they're under no obligation to.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ned, help me.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: If we asked them to hold it until the next meeting, are we missing some posting time frames, deadlines? I mean, is that possible, or do we need to act now?
MR. KUHLMANN: It would just be that they meet, I think they meet probably two or three times a year to put these, they have a different sale for Parks and Wildlife properties or state-owned, or Parks and Wildlife properties. And then the next sale might be, you know, four of five months down the line.
I think these properties will come up for lease at a January leasing. And then the next one might be four or five months from that.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I don't see that that's a particular problem if we miss it by four of five months.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: If we don't have a drainage problem it's not a problem.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Right. Do we think we have a drainage problem?
MR. KUHLMANN: No sir. But now, for the group that's worried about this, once again, they have to understand that the final decision is not ours.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. I understand. And with that in mind, the one person who has signed up to speak, and if you'll stand by, Corky, maybe between staff. Mr. Kramer? You're the one person signed up on this one. The final testifier of the day.
MR. KRAMER: Oh, good. Well I'll be really brief, then, because I'm hungry. Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, I'm Ken Kramer, representing Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, and also encompassed within our Chapter, is the Coastal Bend Regional Group of the Sierra Club, which is primarily the Corpus Christi area.
And I've been asked specifically by Pat Souter, Patricia Souter, who's the Chair of the Coastal Bend group to request there be a delay in your recommendation to the Board of Lease as to whether or not to lease this property under the conditions that have been discussed, in part because, as you all know, the devil's sort of in the details on a lot of these things, and as the Chairman accurately pointed out, one of the differences between this particular lease on Mustang Island State Park and the other three leases is that in this case there might well be an occupancy of the surface of the park.
And our folks in the Corpus Christi area would like to have the opportunity to go out and take a look at the areas where there would likely be drilling activity if the bids are put out there and actually accepted. And Pat Souter has said that she is ready to go out at any time to take a look at that. Probably would do that in concert with your local park personnel down there, so if there's no problem in delaying this until a later meeting, whatever the appropriate meeting would be, we would appreciate the opportunity to look into this a little more closely.
Again, we're not taking a position for or against this —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. And I appreciate that. I wish more people got the facts before they set up their position. What about the option, though, of just going forward with a no-surface-location requirement, and then their process would not be delayed.
MR. KRAMER: Well, I think that we could live with that, and we might look a little further then in working with the Board of Lease about what that means in terms of where drilling might actually occur if the process falls through. I mean, we don't know for sure that something's actually going to happen as we go before the Board of Lease —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Exactly.
MR. KRAMER: But that would certainly be an alternative that would be much preferable to going ahead now with a potential surface occupancy.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Very good. Any questions of —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Do I recall correctly, Corky — Mr. Kramer, you might wait just a minute — that there were some old drill sites?
MR. KHULMANN: Actually, on it, and I found this out only this morning, there is a history of drill sites on the site, but there are no pads existing on the site that they're proposing to lease. So in light of that, we would do no surface occupancy on this site, except if you read in the agenda, even for Mustang Island there is an exception in the agenda for Mustang Island, that any, there is no surface occupancy unless it is given specific permission by Parks and Wildlife. So even if it went through like it stands, the only surface occupancy we would probably grant would be for seismic survey.
In considering about the no pad sites, we would have no problem with putting this facility up with no surface occupancy. No drilling on site.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Is that acceptable to you?
MR. KRAMER: Well, without consulting with my folks down in Corpus Christi, I can't say for sure, but that would certainly be much better than what initially our concern —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: It would be consistent with achieving the objective.
MR. KRAMER: And I think the one thing I would add about that is that if you go forward with that kind of recommendation, then we would simply go forward to the Board of Lease at some point and try to verify where the directional drilling would come, because there might be some implications for —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But you're going to have to go to them anyway —
MR. KRAMER: Right. Exactly. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions on this item? I think you have a motion.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Yeah, with that stipulation, I would move approval.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And clearly, the stipulation was no surface location —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: On Mustang.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Got it.
All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you very much, Corky.
That was Number 19, and Number 20 is up, with Jack Bauer, but Ted, filling in?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. I'm standing in for Jack Bauer, who is away at a conference on carbon sequestration today.
Item 20 pertains to the proposed donation of lands both at Sheldon Lake State Park and San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. In both cases, these are properties that staff have been working to add to those respective parks for several years.
At Sheldon Lake State Park, we've lost a considerable portion of the watershed since the early 1990s. Staff was directed several years ago to identify unoccupied, undeveloped tracts adjacent to the park, in the watershed, that would preserve what little watershed could still be preserved.
All those tracts have now been acquired with the exception of the subject tract. We have arranged for that tract to come to the park as mitigation for the development of a City of Houston water plant. Staff recommends that the Commission allow that transfer to take place.
At San Jacinto, the tract in the southeast portion of the park, there, a 100-acre tract was, actually a conservation easement on that tract was given to the agency in the 1970s to protect the park from encroaching industrial development. There now is a proposal to put a public trail across that site.
Occidental Chemical Company has decided that it's actually in their best interest to limit their liability by simply conveying the remainder of the fee title ownership of that tract to Texas Parks and Wildlife and have offered to do so. In the north portion of the park, we have been contacting owners of tracts of the old San Jacinto Town Site and requesting the donation of those tracts. Several of those have now been donated. There are three that are shown on the map that we currently have offers of from those owners at no cost to the agency. Staff recommends that we accept those donations at San Jacinto as well.
In neither case would the accepting of those donations require any additional management or operation funding or any additional staffing, and staff does recommend the adoption of the motion, which would authorize the Executive Director to proceed with accepting those donations.
I can answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good job. Get donations.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Parker, second by Bivins. All in favor, Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion passes. Thank you, Ted.
Number 21, Utility easement. Corky, you're back up.
MR. KUHLMANN: Corky Kuhlmann, again, with Land Conservation Program. This is a request from the City of Galveston for a utility easement on the west side of Galveston Island State Park. This is for a water main that they need to develop a new water system on the west part of the island. It will not have a major impact on the park.
In addition to paying appraised value for the easement, the City has agreed to tie the park into a 16—inch water line and they can do away with their water system, on-site water system, which will mean a substantial savings to the park.
This is the recommendation that the staff would like you to approve.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good job on that one. I think that one doesn't have any trouble. Do I have a motion on this?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: I move.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Brown, second by Friedkin. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. Thanks, Corky.
I know it's harder to get those easy looking ones done than it looks like when you make the presentation. Ted, you're up on our last item, 22, Land Acquisition, Bastrop County.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, I'm still Ted Hollingsworth, with the Land Conservation Program. This final item pertains to an acquisition of land at Bastrop State Park. As you know, we are in a park expansion program there thanks to a very generous contribution to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. We have systematically been identifying priority tracts adjacent to the park, reaching out to those landowners, establishing working relationships with them, and where we can negotiate a fair market sale we have been adding properties to the park.
The latest one is the property you see in yellow at the extreme south end of the park, more than half a mile of boundary in common with the park. As you can see, it makes a great deal of sense from a strategic standpoint.
Access. It's a very pretty tract. There's a lake on the tract. It provides access to some existing lands that we have. Staff does recommend that the Commission adopt this item that you see to authorize the Executive Director to proceed with that acquisition. I can answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Once again, good job. You made it look easy.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Approval.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Move approval from Bivins, second from Commissioner Holmes. Thank you.
All in favor, Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
All right. Any more business to come before the Commission, Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, we stand adjourned. Thank you. Thanks everybody.
(Whereupon, the public hearing was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Public Hearing
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 3, 2005
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 211, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
(Transcriber) (Date)On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731