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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2004-07-12                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
July 12, 2004
Rains a Welcome Change for Troubled Rio Grande
BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- Often cited as one of the most endangered rivers in North America, the Rio Grande is this year gushing with hope. After years of punishing drought, recent rains have refilled reservoirs, flushed out water-sucking non-native plants and sent rejuvenating pulses of freshwater into the river's coastal estuary.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists have rushed to take advantage of the situation by stocking more than a million fish in Amistad and Falcon reservoirs this spring and summer, seizing the chance to rebuild drought-plagued fisheries while the lakes are full.
Last June, the surface area of Falcon Lake near Laredo was 22,318 acres, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission office at Falcon Dam. In late June, the lake surface covered 62,822 acres, nearly three times bigger than it was a year ago.
TPWD has so far stocked about 663,000 Florida largemouth bass and 174,000 native northern bass fingerlings at Falcon earlier this year. At Amistad Reservoir this year, TPWD has stocked 552,000 Florida bass and 42,000 northern bass. All of this is designed to take advantage of recent rainfall that has filled up lake arms and creeks that have been dry for years, areas that provide important fish habitat.
Most of the stocked fish are 1.5-inch fingerlings that should grow to legal, catchable size within 1-2 years. However, TPWD has also stocked hundreds of larger broodfish weighing 5-8 pounds each to help jumpstart lake fisheries.
The locals recall the "good old days" at Lake Falcon and back it up with yellowed Polaroids on tackle shop walls. For two years running during the mid-90s, this massive 87,000-acre reservoir was ranked by TPWD as the number one bass tournament lake in Texas; better than Lake Fork or Sam Rayburn or Toledo Bend.
By 1997, in the midst of what turned out to be a 10-year drought, Falcon's reputation and water level were dropping rapidly. In the summer of 2002 this once mighty impoundment was sitting 54 feet below normal pool level and covered only 13,000 acres. Even if you wanted to go fishing on Falcon, chances were slim you'd be able to access the water at all since most of the boat ramps were high and dry.
The recovery brings new hope from anglers and state fisheries biologists that Falcon could reclaim its glory days.
"While the lake was down we saw all kinds of plant regrowth along the shoreline and when the water increased, that created new habitat," said Jimmy Dean, TPWD's fisheries biologist for Falcon Lake. "It's creating in essence a new lake."
In this unusually wet year, the future looks bright for the border reservoirs, but biologists are cautious about long-term predictions. They point out that the lake levels could drop quickly if dry times return and water is released for downstream irrigation and municipal use.
"They should be catching a lot of smaller fish [at Falcon] and in three years will hopefully be back to catching big fish," Dean noted. "We'll keep our fingers crossed that we continue to get some rain. The need for water can sure come on in a hurry."
Besides Amistad and Falcon, rains have also filled reservoirs on the river's Mexican side, such as El Cuchillo, which delivers water to the densely populated Lower Rio Grande basin.
In the river itself, swift-moving rainwater has done a great service by flushing out huge, floating mats of exotic (non-native) water weeds such as water hyacinth, which suck up and waste water through evapotranspiration. For miles along some stretches of the lower Rio, these aquatic exotics had become so thick they were actually blocking the flow of river water.
"Everything from the tiny invertebrates and filter feeders all the way up through the water column to the big predators like bass are breeding and increasing their numbers [because of the rainwater]," said Ismael "Smiley" Nava, TPWD's borderlands biologist, a new position created last year with federal State Wildlife Grants funding.
But Nava also adds a cautionary note: even if water quantity is higher, water quality remains an issue.
"Regarding water pollution, the saying "the solution to pollution is dilution" has some application here--the rains helped," Nava said.
"But there are still border towns in Mexico that don't have the ability or infrastructure to treat their wastewater or don't treat it very effectively. Nuevo Laredo has a relatively new water treatment plant that effectively treats about 25 million gallons of wastewater daily and has the capacity to treat more. However, because border cities like Nuevo Laredo are expanding so fast, collection lines to service outlying areas have not kept up with that growth."
"As a result," says Nava, "some untreated water is finding its way into the Rio Grande. The good news is that the river has a natural but limited capacity to treat or stabilize pollutants on its way downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. This cleansing is dependent on the pollution sources, length and flow of the river, microbes in the water and other factors."
And when it comes to having enough water, Nava also remains cautious.
"Even though we've had one good year of rain, the last 10 haven't been that great. It's an over-appropriated river. If everyone with a water right permit asked for their allotted volume of water, we wouldn't get a drop past Brownsville."
River water getting "past Brownsville" is important, because it involves the future of the Rio Grande estuary where the river meets the sea.
The good news is "pulses" of floodwater have not only flushed out exotic plants, they've also reestablished the river channel to the estuary, which made headlines several years ago when it dried up to the point that the river no longer reached the ocean. But intermittent pulses are not the key to long-term estuarine health.
"When you have more dependable river inflows, you're going to have good production of commercially important species such as white shrimp and finfish like black drum, red drum and snook," said Randy Blankinship, TPWD coastal fisheries biologist in Brownsville.
"Ecologically speaking, you have production of forage species like striped mullet and croaker, the species the predator fish feed upon. We need to maintain an optimal salinity regime, don't want too little or too much fresh water. We need sustained, dependable river inflow."
Nava, Blankinship and others stress that now, in a wet year, is the time to make plans for future droughts.
"Even though we're getting all that [fresh water], this is not a time to put all our planning efforts on the shelf," Blankinship said. "Now's the time to stick to our guns and continue with planning so that the next time we have a drought, we're in good shape."
Rio Grande inflow studies are in planning stages, research that should provide numbers about the amount of freshwater needed to keep the estuary functioning.
"The next step is to figure out how to provide those flows and inflows, which will be difficult on the Rio Grande because it's over-appropriated, so we're going to have to be innovative," Blankinship said.
"It should be possible to build into water policy provisions various methods of taking into account the effects of drought, such as with the Nueces River, so that you have a variable schedule of water releases where water is provided to the extent that water is available. You're not only saving water in reservoirs for human health and agriculture, but also providing water for estuaries that provide important commercial and recreational benefits for people. The goal is trying to maintain a balance there."
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, 830-866-3533, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov ] [RM]
July 12, 2004
Caddo Lake State Park To Host Reunion of CCC Veterans
KARNACK, Texas -- The men whose hands built the backbone of the Texas State Park System will gather at Caddo Lake State Park this fall to renew old acquaintances and provide oral histories of their labor experiences in the federal Civilian Conservation Corps during the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The theme of the Sept. 24-25 CCC reunion is: "We get it done."
CCC veterans from Texas and elsewhere, their family members, researchers and others are invited to attend the gathering and meet these remarkable men who average 86 years of age.
"The stories of the CCC veterans will touch your heartstrings," said the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Carl Orbison, who is helping organize this year's reunion. "It is extremely important to record their stories because they represent one of the more significant periods of American history. We want young people especially to understand the contribution these men, most of whom were in their teens when they joined the CCC, made to our state and nation."
The reunion kicks off Friday afternoon, Sept. 24, with registration, the recording of oral histories and sharing of memorabilia in the Recreation Hall, just one of many structures erected by the CCC boys at Caddo Lake State Park. A fish fry will be held from 5-6 p.m. Those wishing to attend, should call Carl Orbison at (903) 566-0535, ext. 235 or Janelle Taylor at (512) 389-4665.
Reunion activities continue Saturday morning with a group photo, more storytelling and the grand opening of the totally updated exhibit hall at park headquarters that artfully interprets Caddo Lake's natural and cultural history. The swampy, bald cypress-studded lake holds the distinction of being the only naturally formed lake in Texas and has been designated a "Wetland of International Importance."
Caddo Lake in 1933 was the first Texas state park to host a CCC company. The workers' handiwork is in evidence throughout the park, beginning with stone pylons at the park entrance. The men of CCC Company 889 began construction of the park's trails and firebreaks, but after a month were moved out to Palo Duro Canyon to work on the Texas Panhandle park. The CCC later returned to Caddo Lake to build roads, log cabins, a concession building and much of the park's infrastructure.
Last year marked the 70th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's creation of the Great Depression-era public works program that put 3.5 million young men to work on conservation and park projects from 1933-42. The Texas Legislature proclaimed March 31 "Texas CCC Day" to honor the CCC alumni and acknowledge their role in constructing parks in Texas, 31 of which operate today as state parks. One of those parks, Bastrop State Park, is one of only five CCC-constructed state parks in the U. S. to be designated a National Historic Landmark.
By the end of the CCC's first six-month enrollment in September 1933*, more than 3,000 men lived in 16 camps throughout Texas building the foundation of what would become an enviable state park system. The CCC in Texas created two national forests and built Big Bend National Park, the Franklin Canal System in El Paso County and dozens of city, county and state parks.
Two years later, 27 CCC companies were at work in Texas state parks, building a first-class park system whose legacy includes forest roads, swimming pools, dams, bridges and hundreds of finely crafted rock-and-timber structures. The young craftsmen's durable, hand-carved furniture, too, decorates guest rooms and cabins at places such as Bastrop and Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park in west Texas.
For more information about the CCC, access the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/historic_sites/ccc/).
* Correction, Sept. 7, 2004: The original version of this news release did not include the historical context for the figures concerning the 16 camps. (Return to corrected item.)
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Kristen Everett, 512-389-8046, tpwd.news@tpwd.texas.gov ] [KE]
July 12, 2004
Experts Dispel Drowning Myths, Stress Safety Tips
Extra! Read All Aboat It!
AUSTIN, Texas -- Contrary to what's portrayed in movies, drowning victims usually don't scream and splash when in distress -- they just go underwater.
"When we encourage people to watch over your family near the water, we're encompassing several messages, including never swim alone, keep a close watch on friends and family in the water, and keep a constant eye on children," said Steve Hall, education director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Hall recommends that groups or families assign one person to keep a constant watch on both adults and children in and near the water.
"It's especially important to be aware of hazards when you're on an open water body like a lake, river or bay," added Hall. "Someone who is a weak swimmer may be in the water at waist level and their next step could be a 10-foot drop-off."
Practical advice from water rescue experts includes the steps, "reach, throw, then row."
The first step is to use a rope, tree branch or other object to try to reach the swimmer from shore. The next step is to throw something buoyant such a life jacket, inner tube or a plastic foam ice chest. If the first two steps fail, put on a life jacket and row out to the swimmer with a boat or a raft.
"Unfortunately, we see many multiple drowning cases where folks go into the water to rescue a friend or a loved one who is drowning and they end up becoming a drowning victim as well," said Alfonso Campos, chief of marine enforcement at TPWD.
"It's essential that you first try to help the swimmer using the reach, throw, and row method. If those steps don't work and you must go into the water because there is no other option, it's essential that you wear a life jacket, take a flotation device for the swimmer, and call for help or alert someone before you head into the water," he said.
TPWD is responsible for enforcing the Texas Water Safety Act on all public waters, certifying boater education students and instructors, and maintaining statistics about water-related fatalities in Texas. TPWD also offers boating safety classes.
For more information about water safety, visit the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/boat/wsdigest.htm).
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
July 12, 2004
Game Wardens Ensure There's 'No Catch' in Fish Markets
AUSTIN, Texas -- Having a meal of fresh fish is one of the rewards of angling, but as many seafood lovers have come to know you don't necessarily have to wet a line to enjoy the catch of the day.
Many restaurants now offer a wide variety of piscatorial platters, including some of the more popular species of game fish, such as red drum, channel catfish and hybrid striped bass. Commercial aquaculture operations from Texas and throughout the world make available an even wider array of farm-raised game fish, including red snapper, flounder, grouper, catfish and even largemouth bass. Although in Texas, like most states, it is illegal to sell wild game fish; commercial fish farms are able to produce these species for sale and consumption.
It would be almost impossible to tell a farm-raised bass from a wild fish once it's been pan-seared in butter and topped with an orange-basil cream sauce, but it can be done before it hits the skillet, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
TPWD game wardens monitor commercial fish markets to ensure the product they sell is not the product you catch and the agency law enforcement forensic specialist confirms the product source through laboratory analysis.
"Fish are what they eat," explained Beverly Villarreal, the forensic specialist with TPWD's Law Enforcement Division. "I can tell whether they are wild caught or farm-raised by analyzing the fatty acids in the muscle tissue of these fish.
Back in the '80s during the blackened redfish craze started by Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme, fisheries resource managers in Texas were concerned that declining red drum stocks may have been the result of overharvest by commercial fishermen trying to meet the demands of seafood restaurants. To make their case, law enforcement officials needed a way to differentiate a farm-raised red drum from one taken in the wild. They turned to science for help.
Villarreal, then a graduate student in aquatic biology at Texas State University, found the answer. In her thesis work based on hybrid striped bass tissue analysis research conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Villarreal was able to identify distinctive "markers" in muscle tissue fatty acids that distinguished between red drum produced at aquaculture facilities and native wild fish.
"The premise was the protein sources used in commercially-prepared diets are made up of terrestrial components, including soy, corn and wheat," Villarreal said. "Associated with those sources are the oils of the plants, which give a very different profile than what's consumed out in the marine environment. It held true no matter what kind of fish."
As a result of her work, game wardens were able to clean up the red drum market. Because the analysis could be used on other species, too, the tests have become a valuable tool for game wardens.
"Most of the larger cases involving wild versus farmed fish forensic analysis has been for undercover law enforcement cases, but field game wardens do monitor what goes on in the commercial fish market," said Villarreal.
According to Bill Robinson, chief of fisheries enforcement with TPWD, game wardens keep a watchful eye for violators. "We get tips from concerned citizens who tell us about seeing game fish on display in restaurants and fish markets and we investigate," he noted. "We got a call from Louisiana officials recently who seized several boxes of black bass they said originated from a fish dealer in Texas. It's illegal to sell black bass in Louisiana regardless if they were commercially produced or not."
Game wardens submitted samples of the black bass in question to the TPWD lab in San Marcos. After a fatty acid muscle tissue test by Villarreal, the results confirmed that the fish were raised in an aquaculture environment and fed the prepared feed.
Robinson said instances where wild fish are being passed off as commercially grown are rare these days and TPWD will continue to monitor the industry to ensure compliance.
Anyone smelling something fishy at the market or on the menu is encouraged to contact their local TPWD law enforcement office or call the Operation Game Thief hotline toll free (800) 792-GAME.
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
July 12, 2004
TPWD Game Warden Field Notes
The following are excerpts from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Gator Tales
--A Harris County game warden received a call from the Baytown Police about the sale of an alligator. Upon further investigation, the warden learned the suspect purchased the alligator for $50 from two individuals on the Trinity River. He obtained more information and then seized the alligator. Charges are pending against the suspect.
--Recently, a Smith County game warden received a call for assistance from a deputy working Interstate 20. A vehicle had two small alligators in the trunk of the car and no documentation. The suspect stated he had bought them for pets for his children. The driver's problems got worse when about $14,000 in cash was discovered along with conflicting stories as to where the money came from. Transportation was arranged for the suspects when the police dog alerted on the money and some concealed areas of the car.
Justice Served
A Wilbarger County game warden and a Hardeman County game warden appeared in district court recently on three felony hunting without consent cases they filed in hunting season. The investigation resulted in 17 deer being located that were killed and left to waste. A Throckmorton County game warden also worked on the case and it resulted in the felony cases being filed and several Class A misdemeanor cases against other suspects. The suspects admitted to the offenses in open court. The judge assessed the following penalty to each subject: $3,000 fine, 400 hours community service (relating to the care of animals), five years probation, five years license suspension, and as the violators, attorneys, and families breathed a slight sigh of relief, the judge added that they should spend some time in jail and sentenced them to 90 days.
And More
Red River County game wardens testified in a case regarding hunting from a public roadway with the aid of motor vehicle. The offender pled guilty after opening testimony. He received two years probation, more than $1,000 in fines and court costs, and his hunting and fishing license were suspended for five years.
Water Rescues
--A Burleson County game warden assisted with the rescue of two women from a house near Caldwell after heavy rainfall created flooding conditions.
--When Comal County Game Warden Kathleen Stuman left her house for work on one recent day, she did not realize that before she came back home, she would have rescued or saved the lives of three people in two separate incidents. The first call came in at about 2 p.m. and consisted of a 13-year-old girl from Alabama who was holding on for her life to a tree in the raging waters of the Guadalupe River below Canyon Lake. The extremely swift water made it too dangerous for tubing. Luckily, she was able to hold on to a tree instead of being swept away. Her mother and sister were able to float to shore. Upon arrival, and after several attempts to rescue the girl with other tubes, Stuman used her throw bag and pulled the scared and cold girl to safety.
--Houston County Game Warden Eddie Lehr was standing on the Marina at Houston County Lake when he noticed two kids swimming approximately 100 yards from shore. It was apparent to Lehr the kids were in trouble. Lehr jumped into his boat, which was moored at the Marina, and as he approached the pair, one of the kids went under. He was able to get both kids (ages 10 and 11) loaded in his boat and safely transported to shore.
--Game Wardens Shane Hohman, Rachel Kellner, Mark Mcqueary and Bill Hellums were kept busy recently assisting individuals during the recent flooding on the Frio and Nueces rivers. Hohman, accompanied by Warden Steve Backor, rescued 22 individuals on the Frio River in Real County. Using a kayak and an inflatable rescue rig, they retrieved two people out of the top of a cypress tree and 20 others off roof tops and balconies.
--On June 27, Madison County Game Warden Dornell Crist was patrolling rural roads checking on flooding conditions. He drove up on a car in flood waters. He could not see into the vehicle, so he called out asking if anyone was in the vehicle. A female voice called back, "Yes." He waded through the water that was between knee and waist deep, rescued the stranded female from the stalled vehicle, and carried her to safety.
Tragedies
--Williamson County game wardens assisted the Sheriff's Department in the recovery of a 23-year-old male who had drowned in the swimming area of Lake Georgetown recently. He drowned in about 10 feet of water.
--Severe thunderstorms raced through Texas Panhandle one day recently with winds reaching 100 miles per hour and baseball-size hail, causing around $100,000,000 in damages to properties, homes and vehicles. Several homes were without electricity for over two hours. One person was killed while he was attempting to tie down his boat.
--Wardens continue investigating a boating accident that claimed the life of a 12-year-old girl while being towed behind a boat. The tube and a Personal Watercraft collided on a blind turn and the accident is being reconstructed according to the physical evidence and statements obtained from witnesses and all parties involved. Both parents of the girl were on the boat at the time of accident and witnessed the impact. The 12-year-old was a twin whose sister was also in the tube sitting on the opposite side. The sister sustained minor injuries, while a 10-year-old cousin sitting in the middle of the tube received severe trauma to the face.
Illegal Pets
While returning to Johnson County from a PWC accident, a game warden was requested by the local police department to assist in the removal of several snakes from inside a residence. The warden asked the homeowner what kind of snakes they were, and the owner informed him they were African mambas and a two step gaboon viper. The snakes were turned over to the Fort Worth Zoo.
Busted
Wichita and Clay County Game Wardens and a Park Peace Officer came across a large group of people swimming in Lake Arrowhead recently. Most of the group was drinking beer that was stored in a large ice chest floating in the water. All of the people were minors except for one 21-year-old male. While checking identification, a pack of rolling papers was found, which lead to the discovery of a bong and two pipes used to smoke marijuana. The 21-year-old was arrested and placed in Clay County Jail on a Class A misdemeanor charge of providing alcohol to minors. Four juveniles ages 14-16 were transported to the sheriff's office to wait on parents to pick them up. One person was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia and the rest were cited for minors in possession of alcohol.
You're Not a Doe, So Don't Be a Dope!!
A Brown County game warden talked to 52 kids about the habitat requirements of wild animals and how wild animals don't make good pets. The Brownwood office has had a number of "abandoned" fawns picked up lately, so the children were educated about the importance of leaving wild animals alone, using a freshly picked-up fawn as an example.
Ignorance Doesn't Help
A Bosque County game warden and a McLennan County game warden were working Lake Lewisville recently. While returning from dinner, the wardens observed a pontoon boat trying unsuccessfully to dock in one of the slips at a marina. Most of the nine people on board were observed drinking, and the driver of the boat appeared to be intoxicated. The driver of the boat failed the field sobriety test administered by the wardens. The subject submitted a breath test that registered at .180. The subject was arrested for Boating While Intoxicated. While on the way to the Denton County Jail, the suspect stated he did not know it was against the law to drink and drive a boat. Charges are pending.
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
July 12, 2004
TPWD Calendar
The following meetings may be of interest to the public.
License Agent Advisory Committee, July 28, 1:30-4 p.m., Commission Hearing Room, TPWD Headquarters, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin.
Check the master calendar for all TPWD events.
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
July 12, 2004
Stay Tuned
Information from Texas Parks and Wildlife is available on radio and television, as well as the newsstand.
Radio
Passport to Texas, TPWD's radio series of weekday, 90-second stories is broadcast on about 100 Texas stations. Airing the week of July 12-16, one of the slowest endangered species in Texas is making a fast comeback. Plus, we'll tell you how a San Antonio lawyer is plowing a path of stewardship and has received a statewide award for his efforts.
For more information, visit the Web (http://www.passporttotexas.org/).
Video News
TPWD provides video news reports that run in newscasts on numerous Texas stations, as well as on cable and satellite outlets around the nation.
Television
"Texas Parks & Wildlife" is a weekly half-hour television series seen on PBS affiliates around the state. The episode that airs the week of July 11-18 includes: transporting water across the Texas panhandle; Houston kids learning about nature; and panhandle turkeys.
For more information about this week's programs and where they can be viewed, visit the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/tv).
Magazine
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is always available on newsstands throughout the state and by subscription for $19.95 a year. To subscribe, call (800) 937-9393 or order online (http://www.tpwmagazine.com/).
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