Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting
April 5, 2006Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 5th day of April, 2006, 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:
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas, Committee Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas (Absent)
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. The first order of business is approval of Committee meeting minutes. They have been distributed. Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Who made those?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I did.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Committee Item 1, Land and Water Plan update, Mr. Cook.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, just a couple of quick notes. We are going to kick off a new public service announcement early this spring to promote services of wildlife biologists and what they offer to Texas landowners. And a full page color ad will be scheduled to run in Farm and Ranch Magazine.
This primarily is to just let landowners know that they can call on our biologists for advice, guidance, workshops, land management plans and all kinds of assistance on those lands. At the end of the first quarter of FY 2006, Mike reports that we had 5,099 cooperators and not quite 18 million acres under approved wildlife management plans.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Eighteen?
MR. COOK: Eighteen. That is an 11-1/2 percent increase in the acreage under written wildlife management plan since the same time the last fiscal year. So we are making good process there.
You heard a little bit earlier about our first inland paddling trail, the Lulling Zedler Mill Trail, that opened last week on a six-mile stretch of San Marcos river. It is really a very positive deal having [inaudible] community, a lot of use, and it is something that we continue to look for additional opportunities along those lines.
I am going to give you just a quick update on Operation Pescador, which Pete and our Law Enforcement staff have really had an ongoing operation on Falcon Lake. We didn't just go in there and hit it one weekend. And we didn't just go in one day, one Sunday and hit it. We started about three weeks ago, Pete. And have continued to apply increased effort on Falcon.
So far, on our side of the creek, our guys have removed 81,850 feet of gill net, which is slightly over 15 miles of gill net. And that is on our side of the creek. We have taken 15 boats and motors and have removed them from circulation. And we have had 18 arrests of commercial fishermen. Obviously, this is a very serious effort for us.
We are out there obviously doing game and fish law enforcement, but at the same time, we are assisting in a local effort down there to tighten up the Border and watch what is coming across. And our guys are doing a great job. Our men and women who are working that lake are doing a great job, a great cooperative effort, and you see the results.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And I hate to interrupt, but being from the Border, and you all are very much aware of this, the risk that our law enforcement and game wardens are taking in being involved in this operation is phenomenal. Because there is a lot of violence.
Unfortunately, a lot of the people that you encounter, as you well know Pete, are drug traffickers. And I thank everyone in Law Enforcement and Bob for doing that. Everybody, it is a great effort, it is very risky effort. A very challenging effort. Again, thank you for that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Personally, I appreciate in my neighborhood the wardens going down to the river and showing the border patrol where the river is. That was really great that you did that.
MR. FLORES: They found out that —
MR. COOK: It is a cooperative effort. It is one that our staff faces every day, every night. But it is a very productive effort, and I wanted you all to know kind of where we are.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. And we have a lot of favorable press. The press has been on top of it, and I really admire your efforts. It is challenging.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Anything else? Any questions for Bob? All right. Item 2, oil and gas lease nomination Harris County, Corky Kuhlmann.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Corky just keeps raking in the dough.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. My name is Corky Kuhlmann. I am with the Land Conservation Program. And this item represents an oil and gas lease. I don't know what happened. There was supposed to be a slide. The slide before that.
It is an oil and gas lease nomination for Sheldon Lake State Park in Harris County. The authority for leasing TPWD minerals lies with the Board for Lease, with the Land Commission. And the Board for Lease has traditionally honored recommendations of [inaudible], I guess.
But Harris County, Sheldon Lake. It is 54.57 lease nomination. The magenta up there is the tract that has been nominated. The same company that owns all the other mineral rights in the park has nominated this tract.
It is the usual conditions. No surface occupancy, $150 an acre minimum, 25 percent royalty, ten-acre delay rental for a three-year term. If you approve, this will be the motion you see tomorrow.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Don't forget to call Al Henry.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: So what's out on the table, how is this being dealt with, and how is it — how is the Friends of Sheldon, and the whole fund-raising effort informed of this? How will it affect that whole project?
MR. KUHLMANN: Well, I understand that one of the previous bonus money has gone directly to the park. And I am not sure if this has been set up that way or not.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, I just mean, is that group aware of this effort, and have we sort of vetted this through them to ensure that this doesn't overly disrupt the operations, the perceptions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There is no surface occupancy.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Oh, okay.
(All talking at once.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: No drill side.
MR. KUHLMANN: I have visited with Bob Comstock about it, and he is aware of it, and there is no — yes, for this tract.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Directional drilling.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Sir?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Directional drilling.
MR. KUHLMANN: It is my understanding that part of the park does allow some surface occupancy. There is some old agricultural fields, that there is some surface occupancy allowed on those.
The Ballard has about as far as I can see in my research, about 1,925 acres leased of the park, and there is some allowed. But there will be no surface occupancy on this tract.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: This is probably part of a pooled unit?
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Oh, okay. So that is no big deal.
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Excuse me. I am sorry. The only thing I would suggest is that we have a favored nations clause so that if in the next six months, they lease to somebody else under more favorable terms, that we be put up to par. I don't know the situation there. But it seems to me that we should be treated —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They all have that.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: They have a favored nations? Okay. That is fine.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: All that means is that for some period of time after the lease, we are to be treated like everyone else.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Is that in perpetuity or is it two years?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That is two years and 15 net. It doesn't cover anything under 15 net mineral and it is two years.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: All right. Any other questions on this one?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: No further questions or discussions, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you, Corky.
MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Item 3 is a land transfer in Brown County. Ted Hollingsworth, you are making a presentation.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I am with the Land Conservation Program. This item is actually the second reading of this proposal to transfer 47 acres from Lake Brownwood State Park to the Brown County Water Improvement District. The Park is located just about the geographic center of the state.
This 47 acres is the Brownwood Girl Scout Camp has been leased to the Girl Scouts since 1952. And if we will transfer that to Brown County Water Improvement District, they will enter into a long term lease with the Girl Scouts, which will allow them to continue their capital improvement campaign on the property.
There is no public access to that tract. So public opportunity at the park would not change. And tomorrow staff will make the recommendation that the Executive Director be authorized to proceed with the transfer.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: How many acres is transferred?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Forty-seven.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. And so they have already made improvements to it?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes. A swimming pool. We have had a public hearing, solicited public comments. We had two members of the public appear at the hearing, all in favor of the transfer. We did have one letter from the local State Representative also in favor of the transfer.
MR. COOK: Ted, as I recall, originally the old 50-year lease was like for 61, or two or three acres, or something like that. We have been trying to clean this thing up for some time.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. There is an area of fence that actually turned out to be close to 80 acres. And it has been sort of nebulous. The Girl Scouts don't use the area outside of the 47 acres, because it is not mowed. And it is basically cactus and tall grass and rattlesnakes and such. So this is an effort to transfer exactly what they are using.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions? Thank you, Ted.
If there are no further questions or discussions, I will place the item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment.
Okay. Item 4, land transfer Hidalgo County, Jack Bauer. He makes the presentation.
MR. BAUER: Good morning. I am Jack Bauer, Director of the Land Conservation Program. Scott has briefed this item in the past, and he is home sick. So he asked that I help. In January, we brought to you the first reading of this, where we are proposing to accept from the City of Weslaco some commercial property, a trailer park, as part of the agreement between the City of Weslaco and us in the development and opening of the World Birding Center, Weslaco.
The site plan of the site includes significant improvements in habitat for birdwatching, and it also has a nice headquarters facilities for interpretation. What is being proposed to be moved to Texas Parks and Wildlife is at the end of the red arrow, down in the southeast corner of this diagram, that is the trailer park.
Existing agreements between the city and us has included recognition that both parties would contribute to the site, which has happened. Parks and Wildlife would accept property as project match for funding, and that Parks and Wildlife would not own trailer park land, if it were occupied by tenants. Continued action between the city and us to pursue this transfer has included not yet execution, but certainly work on a process agreement for dealing with the future occupied lots.
What action that you will be considering tomorrow, if you choose to move this forward, would be to accept all of the acreage within the trailer park, reserving those lots that were occupied. So in this schematic that you have, this is the survey plat of the trailer park. Those areas with the red crosshatch would not come to the Agency.
There was a public meeting scheduled. Approximately 100 were in attendance. It was held in Weslaco. Nearly all of the people attending the meeting were Lakeview Trailer Park residents. There were five who spoke at the meeting. Three who were representing the trailer park owners. They are nearly universally opposed to the transfer.
There were two adjacent landowners who also spoke. A neighbor, and a farmer. And they were in favor of the project. And as far as e-mails and letters and other phone calls, and other types of correspondence, well, there has been none.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Why are they opposed to Lakeview Trailer Park? The residents. What are they opposed to?
MR. BAUER: The people that are using, leasing the trailer park, have in most instances been there a very long time, and they are very fond of the site. It is really a place that they like and enjoy. And I think they feel that this transaction, although perhaps benefit to the public, certainly is kicking them out of a home that they have enjoyed for a long period of time.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: If we do this, are we fixing to get ourselves into a wrangle with those people?
MR. COOK: These are all unoccupied lots. Let me make that very clear.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We're only taking the ones over that are not.
MR. COOK: The city bought the tract as a match on the World Birding Center. They wanted to take it off. But we have said no, we are not going to. We are only going to take the lots as they become unoccupied.
And we are not being part of any pushing anybody out. As they move out, as they leave, or as the city moves them out, those lots become available to us, we are recommending that we accept them.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Do we have a time line as to when the balance of the lots will be unoccupied?
MR. BAUER: I don't think we do. I think it is certainly encouraged for that to happen, as soon as possible. But again, I think the detail of this process agreement between us and the city for this next set of things has not been fully negotiated.
MR. COOK: It is not a firm date. No, sir. My impression is that the city really started moving on this in the last six to twelve months. I think there will be some of those folks there for a long time. But I think that most of the folks that are there will be gone within the next year or two.
MR. BAUER: Ann may have some comment.
MS. BRIGHT: I was just going to say, that under our current agreement with the city, they are supposed to provide the property to us with no residents by 2010. And what we have said to them is, if there are only a few really long term residents, we may work with them once we get to 2010.
MR. COOK: Most of those folks are not going to be there long term. The ones who are there and who want to stay, we are going to offer them to be park hosts.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Terms of the park. Any further questions or discussion.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: A couple of months of that, they will leave.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any further questions or discussion on this one?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: If there are no further questions or discussion, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Jack, you have got Item 5 also. Nacogdoches County?
MR. BAUER: Yes, sir. I think we are ready for Item Number 5. Thank you. Item Number 5 represents a recommendation that staff is proposing that the Commission make to the Board for Lease for Parks and Wildlife lands. That involves a pipeline easement proposed under Alazan Bayou Wildlife Management Area.
This facility, you have seen an oil and gas lease within the last year at this property. Alazan is along 59, just south of Nacogdoches, between Lufkin and Nacogdoches. A very fine wetland and forested habitat. We have done lots of Ducks Unlimited work, lots of levee work. And it has a wonderful emergent marsh on it.
All of that associated wetlands, with forest and emergent marsh [inaudible] with the Angelina River. You see U.S. 59 in relationship to the facility. The cross-hatch area is the portion of the facility that was leased for minerals about a year ago.
The current proposal is a six-inch gas pipeline that would actually bore under our land, and under the river to a processing station nearby. That the actual use of our land with the terms and conditions that would be applicable in this right-of-way easement would be to construct, allow, permit the pipeline to be constructed, and operated. That it would be bored under the river, and the TPWD property.
There would be no surface disturbance, or surface occupancy of the 30-foot-wide right-of-way. There would be a provision to provide them annual inspection of the property with coordination with our facility manager.
The ten-year term on easement, and if the easement was not used, if the pipeline was not operational, then the easement would terminate. And as a usual fee for this, $30 a rod. About $16,000 worth of revenue.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Can you explain why we went with the ten-year term, and whether, if we went with the longer term, could we get a higher price?
MR. BAUER: It has been the tradition of the Board for Lease to do ten-year terms. So I think part of this is that is just the way we have always done them.
We have done this largely for the opportunity to come back and re-negotiate the fee, you know, at a period of time. This, the fee that has been typical up until probably two or three years ago, and this some of the recommendation from Commissioner Donato Ramos was to move that from $20 a rod to $30 a rod.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That is more market. You know, traditionally, it is an easement that is perpetual, so long as they are using it. So the ten-year term is much an improvement over the traditional pipeline easement.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: That is great for getting it back. I just wondered whether it was dropping, collapsing the price because of the short term.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: It is at $30 a rod.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: In your judgment, is that effective pricing.
MR. COOK: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You are better off having the term "easement," rather than "perpetual easement." Then it is a big issue of use, and it is a question of fact, whether or not they are using it and all that. Don't you agree? Having a date certain that it ends, you essentially renegotiate the deal.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. And provide that if there is non-use for 90 days or 120 days, then the easement terminates. That is another option also.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. But anyway, a ten-year term is much — an improvement over the traditional perpetual easement.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Now is the fee paid on a one-time basis on the per rod? Is it a one-time shot?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The per rod is usually a one-time payment. It is not an annual fee.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And typically, it starts like at the 60-foot easement, during construction, then it reverts back to 30 feet.
MR. BAUER: That is exactly correct.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: You know, and you pay X number of dollars up front for the surface damage. And sometimes you can negotiate an annual fee or even a transportation fee, but that is getting very complicated.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Especially if you are only one part of it.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: It is an annual fee.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It is annual?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: That is what he said.
MR. BAUER: I think it is. And I will reconfirm it. I have got to look at the agreement, but I was thinking it was $30 per rod per year.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Per year. Well, that is good.
MR. BAUER: I will recheck and report back.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They are usually one-time fees and then renegotiated at the end of the term.
MR. BAUER: I will read the document. I haven't read it in a month.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hold what you have got.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any other questions for Jack?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Can you change it to annual?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Just write it in there.
(All talking at once.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. If there is no further questions or discussion, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Number 6, Jack. Freestone County land transaction.
MR. BAUER: Yes. This item relates to a proposal to accept some land that is being, that would be transferred to the Agency as part of the compensation package of damages relating to salt contamination from an oil and gas operation.
Richland Creek is part of a middle Trinity River ecosystem project that is really about five facilities, mostly associated with the Trinity River flood plain, and watershed southeast of Dallas. It is over 30,000 acres of good habitat and conservation. Richland Creek is bottom land hardwood forest that came to us in '87 with the development of Richland Chambers Reservoir.
It is important to understand the relationship that we have with the oil and gas operators on the facility. Because it came to us as mitigation, those operators were there.
We do not own the minerals and we did not have surface use agreements with these folks at the time that we took the property. So that is an interesting facet of this negotiation and the condition that we had, the leverage that we had to negotiate anything on this deal.
But our staff observed in 2000 trees dying on several locations. And it appeared to be from leaky salt brine plumbing that was running across the surface of the area. And we asked help from the Railroad Commission.
And they ended up intervening by stopping all the operation and requiring mitigation of the contaminated area, which was very involved in soil removal, bringing new soil in. Soil added as trenching to try to get saltwater diverted off the site. The reality is, this is still in process.
There is still too much salt here to grow trees. And it is currently re-vegetated in salt-tolerant grasses. Unfortunately, after that intervention was initiated, we still saw problems with the operation, in poor quality — well, in just the poor quality of that operation. And we requested assistance from the Attorney General through our Legal Department to try to seek settlement or at least claim trespass and negligence.
And in a very lengthy negotiation led by our legal staff, with assistance from the Attorney General, there was a negotiated settlement that we would, that a portion of that affects a land transfer proposal that is the part that you would act on. But basically, it includes a donation of 68 acres as an addition to Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area, some operation and maintenance funds.
And most importantly, the development of a surface use agreement where we do have roles and responsibilities to find for the operator and Parks and Wildlife any means to negotiate through problems in the future. And since the settlement, we had a request from the Attorney General's Office to actually take the $10,000 to mitigate for some of the legal fees that they had. And Mr. Cook has approved that.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: What — it is in Freestone County? Is that Fairfield, is the county seat? What is the county seat of Freestone County? What town is this close to?
MR. BAUER: The county just to the east is Anderson County. And that is Palestine.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Yes. It sounds like it is Fairfield.
MR. COOK: There's a little town, and Tennessee Colony, and I am not sure what the county seat is there.
MR. BAUER: That is in Anderson County. That is the other side of the river.
MR. COOK: Yes. Okay. That is right. It is the other side of the river.
MR. BAUER: So for your consideration and action tomorrow, if you so choose, would be to add the 68 acres. It will come with the zone title insurance and a survey, and a Phase 1 environmental report to allow us to add this to the facility.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Further questions for Jack? Discussion? Okay.
If there is no further question or discussion, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
I believe we are now ready for the Executive Session. Is that correct? Okay. We will now recess for Executive Session.
Therefore, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code refers to the Open Meetings Act, Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of considering real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act and for purpose of seeking legal advice from General Counsel under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act. We will resume down here after Executive Session.
(Whereupon, the Committee retired into Executive Session.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We will now resume the regular part of the meeting.
We are on Item 7. Land sale, Uvalde County, Corky Kuhlmann.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good afternoon. For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This item represents a request by an adjacent landowner to purchase an acre and a quarter of land in Garner State Park.
Garner State Park is in Uvalde County, Texas. This is probably one of our more popular parks. The area in green is the main body of the park. All of the development in the park is in west of the river. There is none east of the river, and the subject tract is east of the river. It is shown in the middle.
The terms and conditions of this transaction would be the sale of 1.27 acres at appraised value, with the reservation of a conservation easement on the 1.27 acre, which will basically say that the land use will be the same as it has been for the last 50 years. The adjacent landowner will also donate a conservation easement on his property, which includes 500 foot of Frio County River. We own directly across the river and upstream from the donated conservation easement.
Our request today is for you to authorize us to public notice, schedule a public meeting, and anticipate staff recommendations at the May meeting. I will take any questions.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions? So Corky, to summarize this deal, so it is very clear, we would be selling 1.27 acres that we really can't get to, and can't use.
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And we are getting a conservation easement across the river from our park for 500 feet which, without that easement, could be developed commercially.
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Is that a fair summary?
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And we are getting market price for the acre?
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And we will go through the new public hearing notice process that we have outlined this fall?
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Does anybody have any further questions or comments? If not, we will put this on the — we will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process. Mr. Cook, any further questions or comments for this Committee?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you. Mr. Parker? Infrastructure.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Conservation Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: April 5, 2006
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 26, 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.