Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
May 21, 2008Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 21st day of May 2008, there came 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:
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas, Committee Chair
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman (Absent)
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Vice Chairman
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER PARKER: The first order of business is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HIXON: So move.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Commissioner Hixon and Commissioner Falcon. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Committee Item Number 1, Land and Water Update Plan.
Mr. Smith, would you please make your presentation.
MR. SMITH: I will. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just two quick things: One, Phase 2 of the Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center is underway; we have started construction, we're going to proceed with the planning actually to start construction on the new lake observation tower there, onsite.
And then we are working with TxDOT to finalize their improvements on the entrance road there, something that we believe will significantly help facilitate better access there. So those are moving forward.
The last thing I want to mention is that we have completed our schematic designs for the new game warden training center there in Hamilton County; we're very, very pleased about that. We're going to be finalizing the construction drawings this summer, look to break ground in the fall because we're going to have our first cadet class starting there in November.
And so they're going to go through a lot of construction as they go through the academy simultaneously. So we are working in concert with the Texas Game Warden Association and with Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, to help raise the requisite funds to help pay for that project in the aggregate. Right now we have funding to essentially complete the first phase of the project, and we are in a campaign to raise an additional $9 million to help us see that through to fruition.
So all is moving ahead well on that front. So that's all I have, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Thank you.
Committee Item Number 2, Capital Programs ‑‑ Capital Project Update, Mr. Steve Whiston.
MR. WHISTON: Good afternoon, thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I am Steve Whiston, and I am fortunate to be the Director of Infrastructure Division. I know the hour's getting late; day's getting close to end. I'm going to try to be brief and push through my presentation. But before I do, with your permission I'd like to first introduce my new deputy director.
I'd like to introduce Scott Stover, who came on board about a week ago. Scott Stover joins us from the City of San Antonio, where he worked for 14 years as the manager of the parks and recreation department capital program, where they did repair and construction, and we're happy to have Scott join us. He was one of the over 50 applicants, really qualified applicants, and we're happy to have him with us.
Commissioners, and I guess maybe more for the new Commissioners with us this afternoon, I'd like to begin my committee report with a brief summary of our capital program, our capital construction program, for the '08-'09 biennium, just to give you some perspective of what our capital program and project workload is all about.
We began this fiscal year with the responsibility of managing a little over $131 million of capital construction funds or capital construction dollars. This program was made up of 274 capital projects, funded from approximately eight different funding sources; in some cases, funded from multiple funding sources.
Those sources include and I'm probably not going to spend a lot of time on each one of these categories for the sake of time, but we had available to us this year about $670,000 that was appropriated or actually ‑‑ excuse me, not appropriated but was issued to us through the Texas Public Finance Authority; it was interest earnings that we accrued over the life of the '03 Prop, General Obligation Prop 8 Bonds; that was additional revenues that came into the department.
Those monies have been now assigned to projects that are well underway. In our program this year we had a little over $11 million in bonds that were carried over from FY '06, the general obligation program of GO Bonds from '06. And as Carter mentioned, or Mr. Smith mentioned this morning, we are going to be managing, over the course of this biennium, an additional $69 million of new bonds for the '08-'09 biennium for state parks repairs and for the Battleship Texas.
We have $15 million in revenue bonds, allocated to us in the last Legislative Session for the development of the East Texas Fish Hatchery. Additionally, about $23 million in Fund 9 dollars that were allocated for the repair and construction of facilities and wildlife and inland and coastal fisheries and law enforcement facilities across the state.
And finally, about $13 million of both federal and other donated funds. So it was a big program, and a program of that size obviously brings challenges to us and opportunities, and it's always a balancing act to try to address priorities for our customer divisions, and set priorities and try to find ways to effectively manage 274 projects over the course of the time we have.
So a big program, and I wanted to give you a little perspective of what those challenges and opportunities were all about.
Commissioners, I'm really pleased to report that we are on track with the expenditure of our prior issue of Proposition 8 General Obligation Bonds that was appropriated to us in FY '06. If you recall, we got $18.1 million in bond proceeds that was allocated to 68 construction projects.
The good news is that we expect all these projects to be under construction, and the majority of all these funds fully encumbered by this December, by December 2008, prior to the start of the Legislative Session.
We also expect that the majority of these projects will be complete and the dollars fully expended by the end of the biennium, by August 2009. And I feel like we're on track and on schedule to accomplishing and meeting that goal.
As Mr. Smith mentioned to you this morning, we are exceeding pleased, exceedingly happy and somewhat relieved with the approval yesterday from the Legislative Budget Board and the release of funds for the '08-'09 program, the $44 million for state park repairs. This in fact gives us now the green light to go forward with the implementation of those projects, and we'll be obviously moving rapidly to get those underway.
This total bond package is reflected in this slide, includes $17 million of what remained from our old Proposition 8 authority, and the appropriation of an additional $52 million of new Proposition 4 Bonds that were approved by the voters last November.
The Prop 4 Bonds will provide another $27 million for state parks repairs, and the $25 million, as Mr. Smith shared with you earlier, for the Battleship Texas.
And I'm going to discuss the timeline for the issue of those funds in a few slides that follow; but again we presently have as the result of the authority given us yesterday, permission to go forward with the execution of that first $44 million.
Commissioners, with your permission I'd like to next just recap briefly our strategy for accelerating the delivery of these new projects, these new '08-'09 dollars that the Legislature granted us for this biennium.
After consulting over these last several months with a number of prominent design firms and large construction contractors across the state, we are in the process now of repackaging these 100 projects that make up this new funding, into 22 larger projects, combining them into two larger bundles of projects.
Projects were bundled together either based on their geographic proximity to each other, or by project type. And by that I mean, we looked regionally across the state, and we found clusters of restroom repair projects within a region; or wastewater projects within a region; we found it to make good sense to bundle those into larger projects so that we could accelerate the delivery; so we had one large project to manage instead of multiple projects that would take time and resources to implement.
We anticipate that this methodology is going to be effective, and I'll share with you in a moment here our timeline for doing so. In regard to the issue of bonds for the release of this money, well ahead of schedule we got authority yesterday; our next step is to, on June 5th, next week, we will appear before and present to the Texas Public Finance Authority our request for financing for this $44 million worth of funding.
Following that, on July 17th, we appear before the Bond Review Board in which we request their support and approval, and the release and issue and sale of those bonds. Don't anticipate any problem or any obstacle in our way at this point, and we feel like it's going to be pretty clear sailing here throughout the rest of the summer to make that happen.
And then anticipate in August, early August, to receive the first issue of those bond dollars. This fiscal year we've appropriated, have appropriation authority for $17 million of the Prop 8 funds, and well over $2 million of the Prop 4 funds.
And then right around in September, following the ‑‑ immediately following the next month at the beginning of FY '09, we'll have authority then to issue the remaining $25 million of the Prop 4 money for state park repairs.
Our schedule for the actual implementation of these dollars, for the design and construction follows on this slide. In advance certainly of receiving these dollars in September and August, we have already started the process of selecting our design firms.
Our request for qualifications for the design firms that we're going to interview and determine goes out July 1st, they hit the streets. We expect to initiate, negotiate contracts and initiate the design services for these 22 bundled projects, by November of this year, November this fall.
After we select our contractors, construction will start over a period beginning May 2009 through November 2009; all these 22 projects are not going to start at one time. They're going to be staggered over a few months' period. This November '09 is a key date, Commissioners. By November '09, all of the projects will be under construction. And that's good news.
With the exception of a little bit of funds that we would hold back to administer and manage those projects, all the $44 million will be encumbered under a contract, and that thus will significantly reduce our UB or unexpended balance.
November '09 is 14 months after we receive the money, and about 26 months after the start of the biennium, so we're pleased with rolling out this strategy, and anticipate we're going to be successful.
Barring no complications, we hope to complete those 22 construction projects sometime between the period in the spring 2010 and fall 2011.
Commissioners, if you will, additionally in looking at those bundles, we obviously identified projects that kind of just fell out; they just didn't fit within those bundles. An example might be an historic site restoration project that was kind of stuck in the middle of other water-wastewater projects; it just didn't make sense strategically to bundle those together.
So there's a few projects that kind of fell out of those bundles; $1 million of those projects have been allocated or assigned to our Force Account or our In-House Construction Crew Program. Those projects are going to start immediately at the beginning of the new fiscal year, so by September and October we'll be kicking off about $1 million worth of construction projects that will be executed by our own in-house construction crews. And so we'll be well on our way to getting that started at the first of the fiscal year.
Next, Commissioners, if I may, I'd like to just conclude with just a brief update of three of our more higher profile projects. Anticipating the release of the $25 million of Prop 4 Bonds later this year for the dry berthing of the Battleship Texas, we're already working. And working closely with not only state parks division but with the Battleship Texas Foundation in planning for this dry-berthing project.
A pretty significant, kind of a one-of-a-kind project, because it's a one-of-a-kind resource and certainly a challenge to us, because we've never tried to tackle a project of this type and scale before. So it comes with challenges, but we're really excited about the opportunity to do it.
As you well know, our first step, the first question we had to answer for ourselves in looking at this project was to confirm whether or not this ship was able, structurally to support itself out of water on concrete blocks; whether it was structurally capable and had the integrity any longer to support itself.
Now, certainly a ship of this size was built to be dry-berthed for repairs, but only for short periods of time, and since we're talking about a permanent installation here, we need ‑‑ we felt it was incumbent and certainly crucial to determine that the ship was still in a structural condition that could support itself.
In order to accomplish that, through the Battleship Texas Foundation we assisted them in contracting with a Houston-based marine-engineering firm called Proceanic, who did a condition assessment for us over these last several months.
That condition report has been completed, it was submitted to us on May 15th, we're in the process of digesting that report now, but the news is good, and the recommendations and the results of their study is very positive.
That report cost the Battleship Texas Foundation $93,000 to do. And they were good partners with us in trying to get that done. The survey results included first and foremost that the ship is in good shape; structurally it is, they confirm, structurally capable of supporting itself, and with some limited repairs, is in good shape and can withstand the pressures and the stresses of resting permanently out of water, which is good news, and what we suspected, but necessarily certainly to confirm.
The other good news was that the ship was determined to be, to some extent, towable. They certainly recommended that the ship is not in any condition to take into open water, but a short tow within the Houston Ship Channel, they believed would be permissible and not without, totally without risk but would be something that they certainly would endorse and feel like was possible.
So that provided us some opportunities then to look at options whereby we could take the ship out of the slip itself where it rests now, construct our dry-berth, and have the opportunity to bring it back in when that development is completed.
The contract went further in that we asked the consultant firm to take a look and give us recommendations on other options. What are the options, what are the different kind of dry-berth options or alternatives do we have, and they came up with four recommendations which I'd like to share with you that are pretty unique, and I would like to introduce and ask Chris Greer to join me at the table.
Chris is our project manager from Infrastructure Division who, whether he liked it or not, inherited the Battleship Texas project and he's becoming quite a resident expert on the ship, and we're pleased to have him. He's the right person for this job. But Chris is certainly going to be more capable of answering any more specific questions you have about some of the methodologies that the consultant is recommending to us.
These four options range in price for just the construction services, just for the raw construction costs, from around $22 million to about $27 million, so we feel like of the options that they are presenting to us, we can easily accomplish this project within the budget, within the $25 million that was appropriated to us by the Legislature, in addition to the $4 million that is being provided to us by the Battleship Texas Foundation as their match.
So we're looking at about a $29 million project budget, and feel like these options are ones that we can accomplish for that amount of money.
These are conceptual renderings, and first let me share with you that, the last time I was there, the Houston Ship Channel water didn't look quite this blue.
MR. WHISTON: And likewise, the background behind the ship wasn't quite this scenic, but for the sake of this rendering, I think it really illustrates the point, we hope. This first concept that they provided us was very similar to the Graving Dock, the dry-berth solution that we had shared with you previously. And very similar and almost identical to the solution that we were considering in which they were creating a steel piling coffer dam that would surround the ship and create kind of a shoe box that would contain the ship.
This particular solution obviously provides water access around three sides of the ship so that we could get a barge around or adjacent to the ship to be able, by crane, to make repairs on the ship in the future if that were necessary.
But this sheet piling option was one that they supported, Chris, any observations or ‑‑
MR. GREER: Well, the sweeter advantages of this is that we open up the ‑‑ that would be the starboard side of the ship with a long, sloping view. You don't stand and look down into a box, you get to see the entire majesty of the ship, and literally walk down and under it. Very panoramic.
From the opposite side, the port side of the ship, it still appears as if it's floating in water. Very sentimental and important to a lot of patrons of the ship that it not appear odd. Well, in this case we have both options there.
MR. WHISTON: Thank you. The second option that the consultants provided us was basically a concept that constructs a structurally supported earthen berm that in effect just closes off the slip, built at the far end or at the stern of the ship, from land point to land point. It just dams the water and allows is to evacuate the water, and let the ship settle down on the concrete blocks, surrounding the ship where the slip used to exist we would create a stepped, earthen kind of berm-look, and ‑‑ which we're very intrigued with aesthetically; we like the idea, we like the look of this, and it kind of meets some of the similar goals that we felt like the first option did.
MR. GREER: The advantage here is, this is a static structure; there is no significant moving parts to maintain, no pumps and pipes and valves except to flood the berth. This is a situation that occurs in a storm, for example; we would pre-flood the berth, and not allow the ship to beat itself on its concrete pilings, in anticipation of a hurricane or any other natural disaster.
But this is literally an earthen dam with ‑‑ for no better terms, no moving parts. Very simple. The previous example did have maintenance costs associated with maintaining the sheet pile solution; this one is free from that.
MR. WHISTON: Thirdly ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Can you pump water out of that?
MR. GREER: If it's a major influx of water, there's two stages of flooding water removal. That would be regular rainwater catchment that has to be done on a normal basis. And the second category is, large-scale industrial pumps brought in for the instance.
We considered putting that in, and weighed against the number or frequency of times that we would actually flood the vessel; it made no sense to buy, maintain and equip the dock with that; we can literally rent large-scale pumps.
The action of moving the water back out is one that moves rather slowly; it's not a dramatic or hurried event in any case. So we'll rent the pipes, or the pumps when we need to.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay.
MR. WHISTON: Third option that we thought struck us is quite creative, something we had not anticipated and were a little taken aback with at first, but the consultants were recommending resting the ship on a floating barge, a concept or an idea that really had never occurred to us.
And certainly Chris can provide you the detail, but in essence, the construction or acquisition of some sort of submersible barge that could be floated under the ship and then lifted, you know, and raise the ship out of water so the ship would sit and rest permanently on those concrete blocks, but on a floating barge.
MR. GREER: Exactly. We need to find a deep hole in the Galveston Bay area; there are some dredged areas, you sink the barge, pull the ship on top of it, and pump the water out of the barge, slowly and it lifts up, and eventually lifts completely out of the water. This rides about six feet above water, very little motion in it, and it's retained in place by a number of monopiles.
You can disconnect this, take it somewhere, pull the barge just as if it's literally that, for a movement to a separate location.
All of these schemes have a measure of reversibility as part of our criteria; we don't want this ship in a hundred years to be locked in one place and unmoveable.
So, key criteria; this one is very mobile, you walk across a gangway onto the barge, and there are vertical transport elements, a stairwell and elevator to bring you up to the deck level, which is a good 60 feet above the surface of the barge.
This is a very prominent view of the ship, more so than at sea level.
MR. WHISTON: And lastly, a concept, a fourth option that proposes in effect to shift and reposition the ship out of water and onto dry land. Obviously a good ‑‑ advantage, one advantage to this type concept is that unlike all the others, this location would cause the ship to be immune from any kind of storm damage, any kind of flood or surge, storm surge, because of its elevation, because it's actually lifted out of the water, and set at ground level.
Of course it also presents additional problems aesthetically with having a 175-foot tall by three-football-fields-long battleship more prominently in view at the site. But it's certainly a concept that we're going to take into consideration.
MR. GREER: This is an engineering concept that would create a ring of which you see only the fourth remaining side. Build that and fill it full of water, and literally float the ship to the north, that is where you see it here, and pump the water out. Subsequently, that earthen levee will be put in the existing slip, thereby restoring parts of the battleground that are currently configured as wet slip.
Very clever idea, and the idea to keep the fourth side was part of the engineering effort, saying, "Well, that would allow us to get a ramp surface up to the 60-foot elevation where the ship would reside without mechanical means." Very dramatic impact visually to the site.
MR. WHISTON: Moving then forward, Commissioners, our schedule for the issue of these bonds, the $25 million for the dry berth, as I mentioned we did receive the condition assessment from the consultant on May 15th; it's our intent to take that information and submit our project plan, our proposal for the expenditure of these dollars that includes these four options and some broad range of costs; our strategy for going forward. We're going to submit that to the Legislative Budget Board on May 31st for their review and approval.
We hope no later than July 25th to have received their approval and their authority to proceed, at which point similar to the bonds for state parks repairs on August 7th is the next scheduled meeting with the Texas Public Finance Authority Board meeting, and we'll meet with the Bond Review Board on September 18th, anticipating the release of these dollars to allow us to start the project sometime in October, this coming fall.
As far as the actual project delivery, Commissioners, it's our intent to begin this process similarly this summer. We're not waiting, we want to move forward with this, and we want to try to initiate the selection of our design consultant, the marine engineer and naval architects who will be responsible for taking this package, looking at these options and helping us develop the solution and the strategy for going forward, and then developing the plans and specifications to accomplish this work.
We are working on our request for qualifications, those will be issued for design consultants this July; we expect to select the design firm to start the design immediately after we have the funds in hand, so sometime in October; and at the same time, we're anticipating at that point in time as well, initiating the process of obtaining all of what we believe to be the federal resource clearances that are going to be necessary to construct this project.
Commissioners, because this ship is a national historic landmark, and because it sits adjacent to a designated national historic site, and because the Battleship Texas Foundation is likely going to use federal dollars, federally appropriated dollars as a part of their match, as a part of their contribution to this project, and finally, and somewhat discouraging because we anticipate some public opposition to this project, some stakeholder opposition to going forward with this dry-berth project, we anticipate that this federal resource clearance project could add an additional 18, 12 to 18 months for the design and implementation of this project.
Because of those circumstances, we will be obligated, and don't expect now that we're going to get excluded or excused from having to go through those clearances, those more comprehensive federal clearances: a Section 106 review, and going through environmental assessments with NEPA, and it becomes a pretty elongated and protracted process.
We don't know yet that to be the fact for sure, but the schedule we laid out for you this morning assumes that to be the case, so this is kind of a worst-case scenario in terms of the delivery of this project. So we would start the project design in October, and unfortunately not be able to finish the design until December 2010, if that in fact becomes necessary for us to complete these federal resource clearances.
Given then we would not start the construction until the summer of 2011, and be completed then with final dry-berth of the ship by the summer of 2012. So that's our timeline currently, and we'll certainly keep you posted of how that materializes.
I'll ask Chris to stay because he is, as well, the project manager for this next project. Commissioners, very happy to report this afternoon that we have begun construction in March of our new conference center at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. When completed, this 4300-square-foot new facility will include a classroom and conference room capable of supporting and accommodating 100 people; have a lobby, restrooms, a kitchen and lots of really nice outdoor covered porch areas for wildlife management staff and others to mingle and gather.
Noticed Donnie Frels is in the audience ‑‑ he's been a great customer and client for us; he's been really supportive in helping us with this project. I don't know if he's still with us, don't see him back there. But we're excited about this opportunity. It's about a $1.4 million project, to build this 4300-square-foot facility, largely donor funded.
We expect to complete construction this coming February in 2009. And by the way, our contractor is HRE Incorporated out of Fredericksburg, they were the successful contractor for this project.
Certainly last but not least, I would like to ask Dr. Gary Saul to join me. I wanted to brief you a little bit about our East Texas Fish Hatchery project, a project that we are working on jointly with Inland Fisheries. This is certainly not an infrastructure project; this is as much an Inland Fisheries project, and to them we extend a lot of thanks and support for making this happen, especially Gary.
This is an aerial view that Gary provided me of the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery, just to give you a glimpse of what our new hatchery in Jasper might look like. But we are really pleased that we are making great progress with this project, as you know this hatchery is going to be constructed in Jasper County, immediately south of Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the design of this facility was completed in late 2007, and was released for bids this past January.
The good news is that last week our project team, made up of Inland Fisheries and Infrastructure Division staff successfully negotiated with our contractor a $27 million price tag, a $27 million project to construct this hatchery.
Our successful contractor is ALCO Contractors, ALCO Construction out of Beaumont, and a notice of intent to award our construction contract with this firm is in the mail to them today. So we're happy to share with you firsthand their success, our team's success in getting this done, and this project finally underway.
We originally received bids from two different contracting firms; both bids exceeded our available budget. But this team as a result of our creative value engineering and reducing a number of production ponds and deferring the construction of the maintenance building, was able to develop and settle on a scope that was within our budget. Construction is scheduled to start this June, and will be completed in the summer of 2010.
This is a big deal, and I hope you appreciate that. This is a really, in my view a really important milestone, because we regard this East Texas Fish Hatchery project as one of the most predominant and significant projects, you know, this department is managing right now.
DR. SAUL: Thanks, Steve. It's been a four-year project to where we are now. We're very, very excited about our ability now to go forward, have a contract signed, and turn the earth. We're wanting very much to bring our legislators to this site prior to our next session, to let them know that the stamp money that they provided us is certainly going to go to good use. And we're looking very much forward to get this facility underway.
MR. WHISTON: Commissioners, that does complete ‑‑
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: [indiscernible]
MR. WHISTON: — certainly. That does complete my presentation, we'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.
VOICE: Did you have a question?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I just wanted to say, when were you ‑‑ you're starting in June?
DR. SAUL: Yes, this will start in June.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Mr. Whiston, I had a question on, we are going to have to tow the battleship?
VOICE: We believe so; we believe ‑‑
MR. WHISTON: Commissioner Brown, a good question. We believe in ‑‑ probably in any scenario, we're going to have to relocate the ship out of its current slip; we're going to have to pull the slip, pull the ship, tow the ship, hopefully somewhere near, in the vicinity of the Houston Ship Channel; park it temporarily, that could be up to about a 12-month period, while whatever scenario is being developed. So that then the ship could be returned and moved into whatever kind of dry berth situation that's created; it could be enclosed; the water evacuated and the ship then permanently out of water ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BROWN: I think you said they said they were reasonably sure it would float okay?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Well, they're not ‑‑ I mean, I have nightmares about the thing sinking ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BROWN: — in the Ship Channel, and what is our liability ‑‑
MR. WHISTON: And perhaps, and I appreciate that; perhaps I misspoke, but they are confident that with precautions, you know, if ‑‑ in any scenario, we're going to have to have pumps onboard in the event that a compartment might spring a small leak, so we can continue to evacuate the water. But they are confident that the steel plating is ‑‑ has enough integrity and enough thickness, that structurally the ship is in good enough shape that they are convinced, and are confirming to us that it is with little risk that we could do that, within the vicinity of the Houston Ship Channel.
Certainly taking it into open water, into, you know, the open waterways, is not, you know, a recommended step to take.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: I guess, what is our liability if ‑‑
MR. WHISTON: We would hold all liability for that, yes. And we would have to ensure that, and be confident that, you know, that ‑‑
MR. SMITH: Steve, I just want to get a clarification. You keep saying, in the vicinity of the Houston Ship Channel. Can we avoid taking the ship into the Ship Channel proper, or will it have to actually, it will have to go into the Channel at some point? And when we park it for 12 months, will it be ‑‑
MR. WHISTON: Well, it is the Channel, and I would look over my shoulder to make sure I'm not speaking out of turn, but it will have to go into the Ship Channel, to be ‑‑ to find some resting space, or place, you know, in what I meant by, in the vicinity of its current slip there at San Jacinto.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: When are you going to tow it? I want to make sure I'm off the Commission.
MR. WHISTON: It will be a ways away ‑‑
MR. SMITH: Steve, we've rescinded your retirement in August, I want you to know. Don't you dare leave us.
MR. GREER: A point of reassurance is that the discussions with Proceanic included the Coast Guard's captain of the port, as well as the Corps of Engineers, TCEQ, many, many regulatory authorities; the only one missing at the meeting was the Pilot's Association, and they subsequently reported that their review of our proposals were reasonably satisfactory.
Those are the real experts that say, "I'm not going to touch that thing, there's no way," or, "Bring it on." And they're favorably pleased to. There is at least one site, Steve, that is further down the bay, instead of right into the mouth of the Ship Channel, but it is ‑‑ very early discussions about a potential berth there.
Our interest is to have the ship viewable, wherever we take it; we don't lose revenue, we don't have to button up the ship, we actually can get the public to a continued visitation while it's away from its home. It's a very important criteria for whatever site we do tow it to.
MR. SMITH: Thanks, Chris.
MR. WHISTON: And to allay some of your concern, you know, we have towed the ship before; so it's not going to be a completely new experience for us. We certainly will have the experts, the engineers, the inspectors; we will be taking all the precautions that are necessary to ensure that we're prepared for anything that might happen, you know.
What our consultants have assured us and have confirmed in writing is that, in their professional opinion, the ship is in a condition necessary to sustain, you know, a short tow, within, you know, some reasonable distance from its current berth.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Are there any other questions, discussion, about any of this?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman, this committee has completed its business.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. We have concluded our business, and we're adjourned. Thanks.
(Whereupon, at 4:25 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 21, 2008
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 31, 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.
On the Record Reporting
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731