Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
May 25, 2006Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 25th day of May, 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:
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas (Absent)
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
|1||A/C Distribution||Goods||HVAC system - 13 SEER AC equipment||$6,500.00|
|2||Allstar Networks, Inc.||Goods||Honeywell Security System - labor, materials & equipment||$1,270.00|
|3||Amazing Siding of San Antonio||Goods||Vinyl composite siding installation, soffitt, fascia, and wraps||$12,177.00|
|4||B.L. Guess Lighting Co.||Goods||Lighting fixtures||$750.00|
|5||C & K Builders' Hardware||Goods||Door and bath hardware||$786.84|
|6||Coastal Conservation Association Texas||Goods||One (1) Hach DR 5000 UV-VIS Spectrophotometer; serial #:1163263 which will be used to evaluate water quality conditions in culture tanks and rearing ponds||$7,066.00|
|7||Coastal Conservation Association Texas||Goods||One (1) (Turner) Trilogy Laboratory Fluorometer; Serial #720000139, Spectrophotometer will be used to evaluate water quality conditions in culture tanks and rearing ponds||$7,253.00|
|8||Contractors Glass Products||Goods||Doors and mirrors||$2,055.42|
|10||Elegant Homes||Goods||Sheetrock installation; millwork - cabinet labor & material for kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room; project management and framing labor||$55,000.00|
|11||Enersave Systems, Inc.||Goods||Insulation materials and installation||$6,000.00|
|12||Ferguson Enterprises||Goods||Plumbing fixtures||$2,524.03|
|13||Fort Worth Museum of Science and History||Goods||13 cement and resin cast of dinosaur bones||$6,725.00|
|14||Friends of Garner||Goods||Five (5) Icom V-B Handhold Radios||$750.00|
|15||Friends of Government Canyon||Goods||Three (3) Vertex 210 Hand Held Radios; serial numbers TBD||$608.00|
|16||Gallery of Lighting||Goods||Fans and lighting fixtures||$1,384.33|
|17||Harris County Pollution Control||Goods||Native trees and shrubs, mulch, organic fertilizer||$2,399.00|
|18||Marble Designs - Kitchen & Bath Specialist||Goods||Marble columns, sinks, and tubs||$5,495.00|
|19||Nestle' Waters North America||Goods||35 Cabela's Full Draw camo portable pop-up hunting blinds||$3,300.00|
|20||San Antonio River Authority||Goods||1979 Ford F60CVEJ1242 F600 Flatbed 2 ton License Plate #346650||$3,500.00|
|21||Silencio||Goods||Shooting glasses and shooting ear muffs for hearing program||$3,267.04|
|22||South Texas Granite||Goods||Granite countertops||$3,947.00|
|23||South Texas Moulding||Goods||Trim/Moulding||$7,701.68|
|24||Texas Wildlife Association||Goods||15 cases of shotgun shells for annual Youth Shooting Sports Events||$520.50|
|25||Time Slice Technology, Inc.||Goods||DELL Latitude Computer||$2,408.78|
|26||Tommy Hanks||Goods||Five (5) Ton Capacity Grain Cart, Caldwell Brand, 18 yrs. old, fair condition, no model/serial number found||$2,000.00|
|27||Urban Concrete||Goods||Concrete Slab||$16,875.00|
|28||Walls Industries, Inc.||Goods||205 - Hunter Orange Vests||$4,100.00|
|30||Williams Insulation||Goods||Electric Fireplace||$1,200.00|
|31||Willoughby's Appliance Center||Goods||Appliances||$4,246.00|
|32||Zarsky Lumber Company||Goods||Building Materials||$16,000.00|
|33||MLW Consultants and Engineers||In Kind||Foundation Design||$250.00|
|34||Mary Beth Maher||In Kind||Repair of truck used by TPWD staff person||$6,101.73|
|35||Quantum Alarm||In Kind||Pre-wire security system||$541.24|
|36||Rick's Plan Shoppe, Inc.||In Kind||Blueprints for construction||$1,512.00|
|37||River City Roofing & Remodeling, Inc.||In Kind||Roofing installation||$3,000.00|
|38||Robare Homes||In Kind||Labor and materials||$21,500.00|
|39||Robare Homes||In Kind||Project Mgr. fee||$6,000.00|
|40||Sal's Tile Installation & Sal's Tile||In Kind||Installation of tile||$3,580.00|
|41||Alamo Area Quail Unlimited, Inc.||Cash||Cash Donation for habitat enhancement activities on Daughtrey/Chaparral Wildlife Management Areas||$5,000.00|
|42||Caldwell Rotary Club||Cash||Cash donation for needs in Burleson County||$600.00|
|43||Dian Graves Owen Foundation||Cash||Cash Grant for Historic Sites Training||$5,000.00|
|44||GOM Shelf, LLC||Cash||Cash donation to create Artificial Reef development||$118,500.00|
|45||Grande Communications||Cash||Cash donation to assist the Outdoor Kids with Outdoor Kids Adventure Day||$750.00|
|46||Hillcrest Foundation||Cash||Cash grant donation for CCC interactive website & traveling exhibit||$50,000.00|
|47||Jeffrey and Dara Tillotson||Cash||Restricted cash donation for special project||$10,000.00|
|48||Mrs. Elvira F. Kahlig||Cash||Restricted cash donation for special project||$3,000.00|
|49||Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Cash donation for construction of residence||$7,500.00|
|50||Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas||Cash||Cash donation for the Bison Center||$105,684.97|
|51||Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation||Cash||Cash donation to purchase firearms and supplies for annual Youth Shooting Sports Events||$1,000.00|
|52||South Texas Chapter – Quail Unlimited||Cash||Cash donation towards purchase price of John Deere FWD tractor to be used in habitat enhancement activities on Daughtrey WMA||$15,500.00|
|53||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Sponsorship – part of the Anheuser-Busch sponsorship with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||$20,000.00|
|54||Wildlife Experiences INC||Cash||Cash donation for Adopt-a-Prairie Chicken||$2,447.00|
|State Parks||Dale Martin||Program Supervisor II||La Grange, TX||30 Years|
|State Parks||Sharon D. Hanzik||Park Ranger IV||Needville, TX||20 Years|
|Wildlife||Dorinda L. Scott||Program Specialist III||Austin, TX||20 Years|
|Name/Organization, Address||Item Number||Matter of Interest|
|Kirby Brown, Executive Vice President, Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Loop 410, Ste. 105, San Antonio, TX 78218||6||Action – Pheasant Proclamation — FOR|
|Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P.O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766||10||Action – Public Lands Proclamation|
|Kirby Brown, Executive Vice President, Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Loop 410, Ste. 105, San Antonio, TX 78218||10||Action – Public Land Proclamation — FOR|
|Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P.O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766||17||Action – Land Sale – Uvalde County – Garner SP|
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good morning. The meeting is called to order. Before proceeding with any business, Mr. Cook, you have a statement to make.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
So that everyone will have a chance to address the Commission in an orderly fashion, we will follow these ground rules today. An individual wishing to speak before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form for each item on the agenda to which you wish to speak. The Chairman is in charge of the meeting, and by law it is his duty to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing, and recognize persons to be heard.
I will be assisting the Chairman today as sergeant-at-arms. We have sign up cards for everyone wishing to speak, and the Chairman will call names from those cards one at a time.
Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium, one at a time. When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name, who you represent, if anyone other than yourself, then state your position on the agenda item under consideration.
Add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns. Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration. We will also call up whoever is on-deck, coming up, so that person can be ready.
Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I will keep track of time on this handy dandy little thing right here, and notify you when your three minutes are up. When your time is up, please resume your seat so that others may speak.
Statements which are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice. Shouting will not be tolerated.
You will not be recognized out of turn by raising your hand, or interrupting others. Disruptive or offensive behavior will be grounds for immediate ejection from the meeting and possible arrest and criminal prosecution.
If you have written items that you want to submit to the Commission, please give them to Carole Hemby or Michelle Klaus, who are seated here to my right, and they will pass that information to the Commission. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob. Next is the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Brown, second by Ramos. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Next up is acceptance of donations, which have also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Bivins, and second by Friedkin. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Next are the service awards and special recognition. Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As always, we would like to take a few minutes at the start of the Commission meeting to recognize our employees who have done a long and dedicated service to the Agency and to the people of Texas. We have three such folks today. One, a retirement certificate and two service awards.
First of all, the retirement certificate from State Parks, Dale Martin, Program Supervisor II, La Grange, Texas, with 30 years of service. Dale Martin began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a seasonal part-time employee at Washington on the Brazos State Historical Site on June 1 of 1974.
The following summer, Dale worked at Lake Brownwood State Park as a summer intern. On December 1, 1976, Dale was hired at Galveston Island State Park as a force account laborer. Dale was promoted to Park Ranger II on January 20, 1977, and transferred to the San Jacinto Monument State Park on August 1, 1979, and was promoted at that time to Park Ranger III.
It was during this time that he received a Masters of Agriculture degree through Texas A&M University in recreation resources development. On June 1 of 1981 Dale became park superintendent for the Monument.
During his tenure there, he helped plan and execute a major event celebrating the Sesquicentennial of Texas Independence, was instrumental in pioneering the reenactment of the Battle of San Jacinto. The first Battleship Texas removed to dry dock for major repairs and her return to the park.
On February 1, 1995, Dale transferred and became Park Manager at Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site where he remained until his retirement March 31, 2006. Retiring with 30 years of service, Dale Martin.
MR. COOK: Now, with service awards with 20 years of service, Sharon Hanzik, Park Ranger IV in Needville, Texas. Sharon Hanzik began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on April 13, 1986, at Brazos Bend State Park as a seasonal employee in maintenance.
She later became a full-time hourly employee and cross trained in office administration and interpretation. Sharon was later hired as Park Ranger II. In addition to her regular duties, she also led interpretive hikes, co-produced interpretive text, co-edited the regional employee newsletter, and served as an additional duty safety officer.
As her interest grew in the field of interpretation, she decided she would like to become a full-time interpreter, and was hired for a position in December of 1998. For the past 7 2 years, she has been part of a highly productive and fun-filled interpretive team.
She is privileged to coordinate an outstanding volunteer organization, and share her enthusiasm for wildlife with the people of the Greater Houston area and visitors from around the world. With 20 years of service in state parks, Sharon Hanzik.
MR. COOK: Also with 20 years of service in the Wildlife Division, Dorinda L. Scott. Dorinda Scott grew up in a small rural farming community in Southeast Arkansas. Dorinda learned from her dad the passion of fishing and being outdoors, and from her maternal grandmother, she learned an appreciation for birds and nature, which have served her well in her service with the Department.
She is a graduate of the University of Illinois, in Champagne, Urbana, and began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife on April 14, 1986, in the Resource Protection Division. She served as a liaison between the Department and the Texas General Land Office for what are now the Texas Natural Diversity Database, and the Wildlife Diversity Program science staff, who soon all moved to TPWD, and she became the data manager.
Later, the Database and staff moved into the Wildlife Division, where she continued to manage the map, manual, and the computer components of the Natural Diversity Database, including mapping, data entry, quality control, transcription of records, and producing custom reports for environmental review needs. Currently, she does database management within the Natural Diversity Database which has evolved into an all-electronic system, with three cooperating database managers and a database administrator.
During her tenure with the Department, Dorinda has served as a member of the Tri-Agency Water Information Integration Committee, implementing Senate Bill 1, the Texas Water Bill. She was also a Department member of the five-state Gulf of Mexico program data integration and transfer committee. With 20 years of service, Dorinda L. Scott.
MR. COOK: Also, Commissioners, this morning we are going to recognize the Southern States Boating Officer of the Year for 2006. Created to promote boating safety, the Southern States Boating Law Administrators Association is comprised of 18 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.
In June 2006, at their 45th annual conference in Lexington, Kentucky, Texas Game Warden Ron VanderRoest will be recognized for his outstanding accomplishments relating to boating safety. A graduate of the 47th Game Warden Academy in January of 2001, Ron is currently stationed in Sanger, Denton County.
Ron's patrol assignments within his duty station area take in four major bodies of water which include Lakes Lewisville, Grapevine, Ray Roberts and the Trinity River. Ron continually goes above and beyond the required general duties by working closely with the other agencies to provide an expanded water safety effort, which includes assisting with certifying marine safety enforcement officers in his county.
His effort and devotion to do the best job not only makes him a leader among officers across the state in BWI and water safety enforcement but his effort provides safer lakes for the public. Additionally, he is highly respected by boaters, landowners, sportsmen and his fellow officers. It is my honor and privilege to present to you the 2006 Southern States Boating Officer of the Year for Texas, Game Warden Ron VanderRoest.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob. Next, Item 1 on the agenda, approval of the revised agenda and notice of the Agenda Item Number 14 has been withdrawn. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Ramos. Second by Holmes. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Item 2, we have a briefing matter. The World Birding Center report. Walt Dabney and Mr. Fishbeck.
MR. DABNEY: Chairman and Commissioners, I am Walt Dabney, State Park Director. I am not going to be doing the briefing this morning, but I just wanted to introduce our regional director that will be talking to you about the World Birding Center.
You have heard me say before, even in some of these tough times, one of the things that I enjoy most is after 40 years in this business, I am working with the best collection of senior park managers that I know of anywhere, and that includes my service with the National Parks Service ‑‑ a great group.
The briefing today is from Region 2, and it is on the World Birding Center. And I want to introduce Regional Director Russell Fishbeck, who is going to be doing the briefing. It is an exciting project down there and we are making great progress on it. It has been a long haul.
I hope, if you haven't been there, you will go, and I think after Russell's presentation, you are going to want to do that. So with that, I will introduce Russell Fishbeck.
MR. FISHBECK: Thank you, Walt. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. As Walt said, I am Russell Fishbeck, and I am the Region 2 State Parks Director in Rockport, where my responsibility is oversight of the World Birding Center, the project that I will be briefing you on this morning.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas has been known for years as a great birding destination, a place to see a lot of birds; a variety of them, at that. Just in the four county area of South Texas, the counties of Starr, Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron counties are 509 species of birds that have been documented in that county. Number 510 is awaiting confirmation from the Texas Birds Records Committee, and that was a Snow Bunting that was seen on South Padre Island recently.
This 120 mile corridor along the Rio Grande River stretches from Roma to South Padre Island. And in this corridor are the nine sites that make up the World Birding Center, this network of sites. These nine sites are operated by various entities, mostly municipalities, our Agency, and of course, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
We operate three of those birding center sites. Those specifically are Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park in Mission, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, and Resaca de Las Palma State Park in Brownsville.
I would like to spend a little bit of time briefing you this morning on Bentsen State Park which is of the three sites that we operate, the only one at the present time that is open and operational to the public. Bentsen State Park was opened as the World Birding Center site in October of 2004. Prior to 2004, Bentsen was managed and operated as a traditional State Park with overnight camping.
As part of the new operation relative to the World Birding Center, we have sort of shifted how we operate that State Park. We removed overnight camping and removed the vehicle traffic from the park. We built a complex outside of the prime habitat, outside of the park. And this is the facility you see there before you.
And this Headquarters complex is becoming sort of a gathering place for visitors that come to the World Birding Center. It is here that the visitors come to enjoy a hot cup of coffee or a cappuccino and a fresh muffin in the morning before they go out on the trails, or in the evening when it warms up a little bit, come back for a smoothie, or even an ice cream sandwich that we sell there in our café coffee bar.
Visitors also mingle around the Headquarters complex to browse in our park store. We have an exhibit hall there that is sort of state-of-the-art, if you will. And it is there that visitors can get an introduction and orientation to what they are going to see in the park, as well into birding and conservation.
We have a meeting and conference room space there that we use to train staff and perform many of our interpretive programs. But it is also there that we are seeing local and area businesses, interest groups and others have their meetings, gatherings, and special events.
The facilities themselves sort of service the demonstration area. And it is only grounds around the Headquarters that really demonstrate what we are trying to do at this particular site.
We have grounds that are planted in native plants, attract all kind of species of birds, and particularly butterflies. I was down there for a meeting earlier this year, when a rare butterfly was sighted. And within 45 minutes, droves of people congregated in that complex to try to get a glimpse of this rare sighting.
So we are a demonstration site, in a lot of ways, outside the park, an introduction to what you get to see inside of Bentsen State Park. A big part of what we do at the World Birding Center centers around habitat. In this fast growing part of the state, only about 3 to 5 percent of this habitat remains in the Valley.
Our three state parks combined total a little over 2,200 acres. Combined with the other six sites that make up the World Birding Center, we are looking at managing about 10,000 acres of this particular habitat, and it is critical that we continue to do that.
But I will tell you that it is a challenge as well, because we are also trying to restore a portion of it. About 21 percent of our total acreage, about 440 acres, we are trying to restore through re-vegetation and the creation of wetlands.
And we do that, not only with our staff, but we do it with a cadre of volunteers. And we couldn't do it without the volunteers. Volunteers help us not only in restoration projects, but they also help us in other aspects of our operation: operating the park store, helping with park maintenance and interpretive programming.
I will tell you just a little bit of an example of an exciting thing that happened in January, we had volunteers and staff planting 700 seedlings. A mother brought four of her children with her to help with the planting that day.
And after they finished planting, she gathered them up. She wrapped her arms around them. She says, kids, I want you to look across this field that you have just planted, and know that you just made an investment in the future.
And she then turned to our staff, and she says, I am going to be bringing these kiddos back from time to time to watch their trees grow. So we know, and we feel that it is experiences like this that are making a difference.
Well, how do you get around the park, now that we have taken vehicles out. Well, we provide a tram service, a shuttle service. And what we are finding is this shuttle service, while it has been a challenge to figure out how to operate it efficiently, we are just about there.
It is also part of the experience that we have created, in the shift of operations at Bentsen. It is an opportunity for folks to see the park like they have never seen it before, and not be distracted with a bunch of vehicles in and out of the park. Visitors can also walk and hike in. They can bike in, as you see here in this photo.
They can also rent some bikes at the park. These tandem seat bikes, you can get around pretty casually and effortlessly, and it makes that experience of the visit even more enjoyable. The interpretive staff that we have at the park also use the trams as part of their programming. They do what we call tram tours.
Visitors can hop on these trams, and for about 90 minutes, they get a tour of the park, and get a first hand glimpse of some things that you might not see by just taking the regular tram in and out. In an attempt to get our visitors up close and personal, with not only the habitat, but the wildlife that is there, we have a couple of observation blinds that literally put you in the habitat, and give you an opportunity to literally first hand see the wildlife that is there.
I would tell you that it is a great place not only to stop and bird watch but also to photograph these wildlife. Walt and I had an opportunity earlier this spring to spend about 30 minutes in one of these blinds one Saturday afternoon, and literally were just mesmerized by the green jays that just came in there by the numbers and just kind of frolicked around with each other. And then a group of javelina traipsed through after that. And it was just a neat experience to kind of get lost for a moment in this particular resource.
These blinds are especially great for the uninitiated birder, or the novice birder. Just giving them an opportunity real quickly to see what wildlife watching, bird watching can be.
The Hawk Tower is kind of becoming the icon for Bentsen State Park. This feature is worth the experience in and of itself. This two-story structure, as you can see here in this photo just sort of meanders its way through the habitat. And it is an experience to just walk up it, as you literally go to the top, you are walking through the canopy of the tree.
And once you get on the top, of course, you can see that you are then overlooking this resaca that we share with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is a great place to just kind of, again, get lost in the resource, spend a few minutes taking some pictures. Or as we use the resource for, to do some hawk migration surveys through the hawk migrations that occur each fall and spring, and watch thousands of hawks kettle above this facility.
We are going to pause for just a moment to tell you just a little bit about our interpretive staff, and the programming that they do at the World Birding Center. We use platforms like this, the Hawk Tower to conduct some of our programming. We use the trams. We use the trails. We use the resource itself to tell the story of conservation and what we are doing with this project. One of my favorite programs that our interpretive staff conducts is what we call Lunch with a Naturalist, where they literally make their self available at the coffee bar there at the Headquarters and over a cup of coffee, or over a sandwich and a drink out on the patio, visit with visitors about this project. About the latest bird siting, the trails to get on. Or about their job and what they do and how excited they are to do it.
I will steal one of Walt's phrases for just a moment, and that is outdoor classrooms. Our parks literally are outdoor classrooms. In the case of Bentsen, this is a concept that is fast becoming a reality.
Within the four counties, as I mentioned in South Texas, Starr, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties, there are 31 school districts. But just in four of those school districts, which surround the three state parks, there are in excess of 71,000 students.
We are just now beginning to tap into that resource. Beginning to tap into the opportunities that we have to educate our youth about what we do. Our interpretive staff works very closely with the Texas Education Agency and the local districts to ensure that the programs that we are conducting mesh with the TEK's curriculum.
We also provide what we call teacher workshops or train the teacher, where we bring the teachers out, and we train them. It allows them to go back to their classrooms and be better prepared, or to better prepare their students before they come out to the park.
And our staff will tell you it is those moments when they see an expression on a child's face; it sort of lights up when they make that connection about whatever it is that we are educating them about. That aha moment, when it just finally connects. It is an exciting time.
And those are the rewarding times that just make the tough days even more bearable. Well, as you might imagine, as you probably already know, we have received lots of feedback about World Birding Center. It is no secret that our first year was a pretty challenging year, trying to figure out how to operate a coffee bar and a tram service, and still dealing with the resistance from the removal of the RV sites and the vehicular traffic.
Our first season was challenging. But I will tell you, our second season has been much more rewarding. And I think that is a trend we are going to continue to see.
I would like to share with you just a few comments that we have received from various folks that has come to the World Birding Center. From one of the teachers, she says, I was totally surprised at the quantity of the information. I will come back with family and spread the word of the valuable resource. From a visitor, the park is very well run. The rangers are excellent, and so are the volunteers. They really try to meet your needs.
From an elementary student. He said, I liked how you showed us how the hawks fly and get their food with their sharp nails. From a former camper, she said, I used to camp here. I thought I would not like it. But I agree with the changes.
And from another teacher, she said, this is great information for classroom teachers. I will be using these lessons and skills to teach and to reach others.
And of course, as you see here on the screen, a quote from Calvin Bentsen, the son of Elmer Bentsen. It is appropriate this week, as we celebrate the life of Former Senator Lloyd Bentsen, that we also talk about Bentsen State Park and what the Bentsen family has contributed to our state park system, back in 1944 when they donated this site to the State Parks Board.
We have a couple of other sites that are not yet open. The second of our three sites is Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. We are tentatively scheduled to open this site softly the week of June 19 through 23rd. We are working out the details as we speak.
This site is going to be about water. Wetlands is what makes up this site, and wetlands management is what we will be about there. We will have a network of trails and observation decks. We will have a park store.
There is a wonderful open air deck out from this headquarters, when you can overlook the wetlands. Lastly, there will also be classroom and meeting space that you can use, will use with our interpretive staff, as well as local businesses that can use and rent as well.
The third of our three sites is Resaca de Las Palma State Park in Brownsville. It is currently under construction. Estimations are that construction will be complete early in FY'07. It is the largest of our three sites, at about 1,200 acres, and we will have a tram operation at this site as well. Similar to our other sites, we will have a park store; we will have a network of trails and observation decks as well as a classroom and meeting space.
I would like to introduce you to a few of our feathery friends. Just a small glimpse of what awaits you at the WBC, whether it is the plain Chachalaca, the green jay, the Altamira Oriole, or the green Kingfisher, these birds represent in a large way the foresight that the Bentsen family had back in 1944 that we continue today to try to manage and conserve for many that come after us.
I want to thank you for this opportunity to brief you on the World Birding Center. And I would be happy to entertain any questions you may have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Russell. I had an opportunity to be by there not too long ago, and I was really impressed with the job you have done in that visitor's center. It is really an excellent opportunity for people to become educated on birds and the outdoors.
MR. FISHBECK: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It is a unique design, too. Which I think until you get inside that complex, you don't realize how well it fits in the landscape.
MR. FISHBECK: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You have a nice place to work.
MR. FISHBECK: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Russell on the World Birding Center?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. I appreciate your work.
MR. FISHBECK: Appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Next up, Melissa Parker, a briefing item. Agenda item 3, the Inland Paddling Trail Program.
MS. PARKER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Melissa Parker, and I work for the Inland Fisheries Division down in San Marcos, Texas as the riparian assessment team leader.
Today, I would like to talk to you a little bit about our Texas Paddling Trails Program. And that is a joint program between the Inland Fisheries Division and the Coastal Fisheries Division. And we have fostered this program in order to enable more people to get out onto our public waterways, while fostering conservation of these valuable aquatic resources.
We have several criteria that we established in developing these paddling trails. And the first one is, is that we would like to have a population center within 50 to 100 miles of a major metropolitan area simply because we want people to be able to go out and perform a day trip on the river and then be able to get back home, should they choose.
We also would like for the public access on these paddling trail sites to be no more than four to twelve miles apart. And obviously, we would like to have some parking at these access sites.
And again, this is just so that we can get people out onto say, for example, a river. And they could get off within the same day. We need adequate water depth or flow, at least seasonally.
And this is a really important consideration is that we need a local partner to maintain the access sites. We don't have the manpower to go out and maintain them ourselves, pick up trash, make sure the signs are still standing, that kind of thing. So the local partners are very important.
We also would like to have the presence of natural or cultural features. What would make someone want to get out onto that particular body of water. You know, are there beautiful ripples, or a neat wildlife corridor to look at? Some sort of cultural or historic feature.
And then finally, it is very helpful to have rental canoes or kayaks from a local source for those who would like to try paddling but don't have their own boat. And right now, the coastal paddling trails were established in the mid-1990's. We have seven of them, and they have been widely popular along the coast. But we didn't have any inland trails to speak of.
So we have just developed our first inland paddling trail in Luling, Texas. And it has been a huge success. This is a six-mile trail. And it is on the San Marcos river. And the put-in is at the Highway 90 crossing, just west of Luling, while the take-out is at the Old Historic Zedler Mill crossing at the Highway 80 intersection, within the City of Luling itself.
And that is what really makes this paddling trail unique is that the Zedler Mill is undergoing a restoration scoping process. And the community has formed what is called the Zedler Mill Steering Committee. And they have undergone this huge process where they have had public input, public meetings to see what they want to do with this site.
And what came out in two of the public meetings was that they wanted increased or enhanced access at the Zedler Mill site, and they also wanted a water trail. And so about the same time, we had decided hey, let's move into this inland paddling trail scenario. So it worked out really well that we just kind of fell into each other's lap.
And it was truly a collaborative effort. We had the Parks and Wildlife Department working on it, and of course, the City of Luling, and the Zedler Mill Steering Committee, and then the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. And we were able to provide things such as field expertise, mapping, things like that for creating the trail.
Whereas the City of Luling actually went out and improved the access at both locations, and they are applying for grants to continue to enhance the trail in the Zedler Mill restoration. And then the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority actually funded the purchase of the Old Zedler Mill site and have been quite helpful in establishing the trail as well.
And there was such a hugely successful project for the whole community that they really got behind this, that when we had our ribbon cutting, our Communications Division just put up a whiz-bang media event for it, on March 29th. And we had people just come out of the woodwork for that. And so when we did the ribbon cutting, we decided we would make it special, and do it across the river.
But we wanted all three of these partners to be involved. And so the Mayor of Luling, who is in the blue boat, you know, cut the ribbon, along with you may recognize the guy in the second boat. Commissioner Montgomery came out and gave a really nice talk and helped out with the ribbon cutting. Which the community was so excited to have a Commissioner from Parks and Wildlife there. So we really appreciate your support of that.
And then of course, we have the general manager of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. And they all cut the ribbon at the same time, and nobody fell out of the boat. So that was a big success. This trail was so successful, and it hit so many different venues of media across the state that we actually won an award as a national conservation success by the National Parks Service.
And it was really interesting, because part of that award is raising awareness for conservation of the resource for conservation of a historic site, which is the Zedler Mill and for increasing recreational access. And this trail did all three of those things. And so I do have a quick media VNR, they call it. Video news release, that I would like to show you at this time.
(A video news release is played.)
MS. PARKER: And so I think you could see some of these from the video news release, but there are many benefits that we have identified to creating paddling trails. And the first one, and near and dear to my heart is that we can promote conservation of the water resource. If we can get people out on the river, we can get them to care about conserving it. They feel an ownership for it. We can also promote community quality of life and eco-tourism. And for example, in Luling, we had so many locals that had never been on the San Marcos River, or that stretch of it, ever. And they were just thrilled with the awareness of what they had to promote.
We can also educate users regarding proper use of public waterways. And you know, a lot of that is intuitive. Clean up your trash as you go. Don't yank up seagrass on the coast. Respect wildlife. But it does give us a new opportunity to educate users about private land in Texas and the fact that while the rivers may be publicly owned, the private land adjacent to it is not, and we are able to put that up on our kiosks and our signs and our maps and things like that, to kind of get a dialogue going. And it has actually really been quite helpful.
We have had a lot of people not realize that before. We can provide a lot of assistance in creating these paddling trails.
First of all, of course, obviously we can work with the community and its surrounding landowners to help develop or facilitate the development of a trail. We can develop maps for them. And on those maps, we can actually summarize river conservation and ethics information as well as the ecological and wildlife values of that particular site.
We can provide the paddling trail signs, and we can also provide all the information for the kiosk. For the Luling trail, because that was our first trail, we did build two kiosks for them. In the future, what we are planning to do is, we can put together the information for the communities, and let them use our template to develop kiosks for future trails.
We also have a beautiful website that our Communications Division developed. It is a paddling trail website, and it is in the template that we can use where we don't have to worry so much about everything being really simple. It is a beautiful website that has been highly visited since we have developed it.
And then we can obviously do media promotion and ‑‑ of the trail as well as related community facilities. And we have a few goals, for this program, moving forward in the immediate future. And that is that we want to create one to three paddling trails annually.
It takes some time to work with local communities. So you can't just pop them up overnight. It takes a little while to gain the trust and to work with the community.
We also have right now an existing website. It is called the Texas River Guide. And it has got information about public access points in Texas. And we have an individual, Ron Smith, in the Inland Fisheries Division who has been conducting training sessions for law enforcement.
And then the game wardens have been going out and gathering information on public access sites. A picture of the site, is there parking? Is there bait stores nearby? That type of thing. If there is a ramp, what is the slope. And we would like to get all of that input and loaded up so that we can use it for developing more trails, as well as if we don't have a trail, people will know more where they can go and how long they should expect to be on the river.
We also want to investigate funding opportunities. Right now, we are working just out of our baseline budgets. But we are going to look for grants and things like that to help in creating additional enhanced access sites.
And then we would also, as we are developing these trails, something that we are keeping in mind is that we would really like to tie that in with our existing Department facilities; our state parks, and our wildlife management areas. And State Parks Division has been very helpful with that, and helped us do a survey to find out what type of amenities we have out there, and who we can begin to work with.
So we have our seven coastal trails. We have our first inland paddling trail. And then we have three communities that have actually filled out an application and sent it in, and asked us if we would work with them to develop additional trails.
And so the next one in line will be the community of Goliad. And that is on the San Antonio River. And again, it will be another six mile trail. But it will end at our Goliad State Park. So that will be a neat trail. And it is actually, when you say the San Antonio River, people kind of back up. But it is really a beautiful spot.
And then we have the community of Webberville on the Colorado River has filled out an application. And we have been talking with them. And then recently, the community of Menard, out on the San Saba River. So we will work with them and be developing new trails in the future. If you have any questions?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Melissa. Great job. As you know, and I know Bob knows, paddling and some of those issues between access and riverside ownership has not always been easy in Texas. And you all have done a great job of making it work. And I want to thank you for your work.
MS. PARKER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And I hope you will be at the San Antonio River paddling, and bring Mark Cuban with you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: If you can deliver Peter Holt, I'll deliver Mark Cuban.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. That might be fun. We'll do that.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That could be a great fundraiser.
COMMISSIONER: We'll put them in one canoe.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. That is a fund-raiser. Robert?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Did Commissioner Parker turn his boat over? I was curious. On that trip did he stay afloat? I mean, Montgomery.
MS. PARKER: He stayed afloat. Yes.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: He did stay afloat. I had a question for you. This is a six-mile trip on the river. Can you go beyond that? He made mention of being able to go on down into the State Park.
MS. PARKER: Yes.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: So if you do that, what would be the total length of the adventure?
MS. PARKER: The total length, it is another 13 miles to Palmetto State Park.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Oh, really.
MS. PARKER: That is a little bit of a longer stretch.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Yes.
MS. PARKER: You probably want to break it into two days. But it is possible to go on. And in fact, we are planning to link that up as the next segment.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Yes. That is great. You are doing a great job. Thank you.
MS. PARKER: Thanks.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Go ahead.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I was going to just ask, these other communities, would their plans qualify for the local parks grant? And I don't know if Tim is here. But if they don't have the money, necessarily, to get started, could they get a match and then work with a local parks grant, assuming it has reinstated its funding?
MS. PARKER: Right. I think that is a problem now, is that ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There is not enough money. But they would ‑‑ something like that would qualify?
MS. PARKER: It sure would.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Donato?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. Just one. For those that may not be experienced in this, do you all rent the boats or little ramps or whatever you call them ‑‑
MS. PARKER: The Department does not, but we do have all the local liveries and rental shuttle places listed on the website, so that when people go to that particular website, they can click, and it will list them, and you can click on their name, and it will get you all the contact information.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So theoretically, you could rent it upstream, and then ‑‑
MS. PARKER: You sure could.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And then leave it there?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: San Marcos and Martindale have quite a little canoe livery industry. It is about to get really busy there. What is it, Bob? June 10th? The Water Safari? Yes.
My son is going to be paddling in that, along with one of his buddies. That is where they go non-stop marathon canoe race from San Marcos to the Gulf.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Do they ever do it upstream?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Bob might be able to do that, but I don't know ‑‑
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If it is a true race, it ought to be upstream.
MS. PARKER: There you go. Exactly.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You have done a great job. Yes, John?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Ms. Parker, I don't know if anybody flipped on the recent trip that you were talking about. My wife and I did the Neches River Rendezvous last year. My wife had never been in a canoe. And we flipped.
She took a hold of a branch because she didn't want to get it in her hair. And the canoe went on, and we stayed with the branch. But anyhow, on June 3 ‑‑
VOICE: You get a video of that?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: In fact, we do.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Gene, get that video.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: On June 3, coming up, this coming June 3, will be the Neches River Rendezvous that will be an event there in East Texas. We'll float the Neches River from Anderson crossing between Cherokee and Houston County down to the 103 West Bridge.
And then Temple Inland is doing a lunch for 300 canoes there at North Boggy Slough. If you would like to come, we would love to have you.
MS. PARKER: All right. Well, thank you. We have a person on our River Advisory Board, Gina Donovan.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Right, Gina.
MS. PARKER: She keeps us informed of all that too. So thank you. Yes. It is a neat deal.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: A couple of quick comments, if I could?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, Phil.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: This program does deliver on what we said we would do in the Land and Water Plan. I appreciate you all staying focused on it there. It responds to what Darcy Bontempo, presented yesterday, which is to package finite discrete experiences for urban dwellers who can do them in half a day to and from their homes.
And for that reason, it has the promise of getting people out in the outdoors with recreational sports in a way that they wouldn't know to do otherwise. It is too hard to figure it out on your own. The Communications Division did a great job of advertising this. I think within two days, you had calls from three cities?
MS. PARKER: Oh, yes.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We want one. When do we get one. How do we get one? Some of the cities who were moving slowly all of a sudden felt like they were left behind. So the program has got momentum.
It is a wonderful economic development tool for a small community to drive business and activity. People that will eat in the restaurants, shop in the shops, who would not otherwise go there. I am hopeful that we can see 15 or 20 of these over the next five to seven years. I think that is really achievable, once they are seen and perceived to be seen.
I do hope to include in the goals, once you have got a core of good projects, which is on the horizon in the near term, to really reach out around each of the major urban areas and build an aggregation around each of the major urban areas. I think then we would really find a statewide presence.
I think Melissa, you deserve a lot of credit. You have been a great champion for the program. You have stayed with it. You have thought it through really well. Bob Spain has really worked hard on it. Larry McKinney. Lydia and Darcy, and Erin on the Communications team. I know Phil came down to help show support for the program.
And I think that there have been a lot of people involved. It is a great way the Department is using expertise without a lot of financial commitment to make things possible for communities, and get people in the out-of-doors and recreational sports.
The last thought; I hope we will take this approach and adapt it to mountain biking and equestrian activities. A lot of the principles here can be used to market to those groups more broadly. They are using our parks now, clearly.
But there is a way, I think, to build a broader statewide program in each of those areas, around some of the principles we have got here, and really market very widely to those three recreational sports, and put more people in our parks without a big additional investment. Thank you for a great job.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And of course, I will always find a way to work my water message in here. It is not going to work if you don't have any water in those rivers. Right? Yes. That might be the first thing we make sure we have before we sell too many kayak and canoe deals.
But thank you. And I want to thank the River Advisory Board, Bob. I know that they have been very helpful in all of this. Any other questions for Melissa?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Again, well done.
MS. PARKER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Next up, non-profit partner resolution. It is an action item from Ann Bright.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. I am Ann Bright, General Counsel. The Department is authorized by the Parks and Wildlife Code to cooperate with non-profit partners. I think that most of you are familiar with our official non-profit partner, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. But we also have a lot of other non-profit partners.
And we split those other non-profit partners into two groups. There is just sort of the regular non-profit partners. These are pretty much any non-profit that cooperates with us.
And then we have our friends groups. And we refer to those as our closely related non-profit partners. And those non-profit partners are associated with a specific facility. The Parks and Wildlife Code also requires that these non-profit partners receive Commission approval. So we are here today.
We do this usually about once a year, to add to and subtract from our list of non-profit partners. New non-profit partners are the Association of Midwest Fish and Game Law Enforcement Officers, the Salt Water Anglers League of Texas. This is actually the Trinity Bay branch of that. And the Texas Travel Industry Association, and the Zedler Mill Foundation.
We also have some new closely related non-profit partners; the Friends of Casa Navarro, Hill Country State Natural Area Partners, and the Friends of Huntsville State Park. And as you can see, these are all associated with specific facilities.
There is also a few that we are taking off. The ones that we are taking off are either because they do not exist anymore, they really don't do any work with us. Lake Ray Roberts Sportsmen Association and the Mexia Bass Club.
We also have a few closely related non-profit partners that we would like to take off the list. The Admiral Nimitz Foundation and the Friends of Bright Leaf are obviously being taken off, because we are no longer in charge of those facilities. Friends of Choke Canyon, the Confederate Reunion Grounds State Park Historical Society, the Friends of Phantom Battleground. The Friends of Fort Parker, and the Friends of Matagorda Island Foundation. And all of these are really just no longer in existence.
This is the resolution that will be presented to you, and this is the recommended motion. I would be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Any questions for Ann? Where does the Foundation fit in there? Did I miss something?
MS. BRIGHT: They are the ‑‑ we also have the Commission is also authorized to designate an official non-profit partner as opposed to other non-profit partners, and the Parks and Wildlife Foundation is the official non-profit partner. This won't impact them.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That doesn't impact them. Okay. Any other questions for Ann on this item?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ann. Is there comment from the Commission?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: A motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Friedkin. Second by Ramos. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you. Next up. Briefing item, Item No. 5, Operation Pescador. Pete?
MR. FLORES: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook. Good morning. For the record, my name is Peter Flores, Director of Law Enforcement.
This morning, I would like to discuss Operation Pescador, a Law Enforcement operation along the Mexican border on Falcon Reservoir, where we targeted primarily illegal commercial fishing on our side. What is problematic to us on this particular impoundment is that on the Mexican side, gillnetting is legal, but on our side it is not.
And we have been working this particular activity for years. But we wanted to be able to impact those that were funding this type of operation, so we conducted Operation Pescador where we brought in game wardens from all over the state to supplement the existing district that was working this.
I brought along today present in the audience is Captain Chris Huff and Major Alfonso Vielma who planned and implemented this program. We also took a holistic approach to law enforcement, where we not only did the overt patrols as well as the covert operations, but we included the community and other partners to make this operation a success.
Also, we had a lot of work done by our Communications Division to put the message out, the conservation message out to the general public as to what was going on, and inform the community and the state as to the situation on Falcon Reservoir. This operation also complemented Governor Perry's initiative on the Mexican border by providing an increase in force.
While it benefited primarily conservation, which is our primary mission, it also benefited Texas as a whole in our collective security. With this, I would like to do a news spot that was produced by our Communications Division.
(A video news release is played.)
MR. FLORES: And with this, I would like the Commissioner to hear from the man who actually carries out, Captain Chris Huff, who is a district supervisor in this area. And with that, I will turn it over. And you can hear it from the horse's mouth, and there is no better way to hear how this operation went about than that way. Chris?
MR. HUFF: Thank you. Chairman, Commissioners, Executive Director, I appreciate this opportunity to brief you on our Operation Pescador. My name is Chris Huff. I am a Region 5, District 3 supervisor.
Zapata County is the site for Falcon Lake Reservoir. The dam was constructed in 1954. The lake is approximately 20 miles long and three miles wide. Since the 1950s, this lake and reservoir has been plagued with commercial fishing activity. Law enforcement personnel view this lake as a Homeland Security threat.
And this buoy or marker that you see on this slide is one of 14 markers that divide the U.S. and Mexico. Our situation on Falcon Lake is that Mexico commercial fishermen are constantly entering Texas waters to fish illegally.
As Colonel Flores said, the gillnets are legal on the Mexico side, but on the U.S. side, they are illegal. And these Mexico commercial fishermen also smuggle drugs and illegal aliens. So when we stop a boat like you see here on the slide, we don't know whether we are stopping a drug smuggler, or a commercial fisherman. So this presents an officer safety concern.
As you all are aware, border violence is on the increase. There has been several instances of shooting at border patrol and their boats. There has been large seizures in Laredo, Texas, of explosives and grenades. There is constant gunfire, battles on the Rio Grande and in Nuevo Laredo. There has been reports that drug lords are hiring MS-13 gang members to protect their loads.
It would be very easy for these commercial fishermen or smugglers to set game wardens up. They know that whenever they enter Texas waters, that the game wardens are going to try to stop them. And all they have to do is when we make our approach is open fire on us or better yet, pitch a grenade in one of our boats.
So all these threats were taken into consideration when we were in the planning phase, and appropriate training was provided for our game wardens. This slide here is a slide of a case that we made in 2002. And there is three subjects.
And I know it is kind of hard to see, but there is three subjects that are arrested in there. And that is about 1,000 pounds of marijuana.
Our main goal was to deter illegal commercial fishing. A game warden would stop all vessels entering Texas waters from Mexico. They also check for water safety and sports fishing violations. Commercial fishermen in possession of illegal nets were arrested and transported to Zapata County Jail. And as the Colonel said, we seized their vessels and their nets.
When we were in the planning stages of our operation, we decided we wanted to do something different. Saturation patrols on Falcon Lake weren't anything new. We have been working Falcon Lake for four decades. So we decided we would publicize our operation and utilize game wardens from across the state to implement our program.
Our program calls for utilization of experienced game wardens as boat operators because they have the knowledge of the lake, and they have the boating skills to perform safely and effectively during high speed chases. Our plan also called for the use of high tech equipment. G.P.S. and GIS personnel to assist in planning and recording our activities.
We utilized the Department helicopter to assist wardens in conducting searches and arrests. The helicopter is also instrumental in locating old, abandoned nets that were floating in the lake. We also developed a comprehensive reporting program to record our activities. Officer safety was our number one priority.
All game wardens participating in this operation were provided tactical training and information regarding their specific duties and responsibilities. Patrol boat teams provided high and low visibility patrols and game wardens check for compliance of sport fishing, water safety and commercial fishing laws.
As you can see, some of our clients that we arrested are happy and very photogenic. I don't know why they are so happy.
MR. HUFF: The duties of a spotter were very important in this operation. The spotter or the land man was positioned on a high vantage point location that provided a good view of the area of his responsibility. Some of his duties consisted of assisting patrol boats of potential violators entering into Texas waters, providing communications among personnel, taking custody of the violators and contraband, and ensuring all personnel were out of the water at the end of the shift.
Due to officer safety considerations, we started off with 16 game wardens that we were going to have out there, and we bumped it up to 20, plus supervisory personnel. The game wardens were divided into two groups.
As the Colonel said, we had one group that worked high visibility. The other group was going to work low visibility. Group A worked day shift and high visibility kept capacity, and B, night shift.
Day shift consisted of at least four patrol boats, with at least two game wardens per boat. Personnel on day shift were encouraged to make as many contacts with the public as possible. Group B worked nights in low visibility capacity, and consisted of four patrol boats with at least two game wardens per boat.
At least two spotters were assigned to each group. Spotters were positioned on land, and acted as observers, transporters of prisoners, and provided internal communications among boat teams.
Group B of the night shift utilizes a camp house located in a remote area, out of the sight of the public. So they really didn't know what we were doing at night.
Maps such as this one were generated by the GIS personnel. When I say GIS personnel, these are game wardens that are trained to gather information from G.P.S.'s and download them into computers. And then allow them to print out maps such as you all have been passed out. Also, I left a large map back in the annex there, if you all want to look at that in a break.
These maps were very useful in the planning patrols and documenting any important locations for court appearances at later dates. Comprehensive forms and procedures were developed to provide management with information regarding the progress and expenditures of the operation on a daily basis.
Some of the data that was collected was the number of contacts, number of citations, number of arrests, number of seizures. Important way points, equipment that was used. And we also captured the miles and hours that the equipment was used. Expenditures, repairs, fuel purchases, et cetera.
And a narrative of any significant activities or events that occurred during that day. This is some of the specialized equipment that was needed for this operation. All wardens were required to have this equipment readily accessible.
28 violators were arrested during this operation. And the operation began on February 21 and went through April 14. 20 boats and motors were seized during this operation.
By the way, the replacement value in Mexico for gillnets is approximately 75 cents a foot. And the replacement value for a fishing vessel, including the motor is approximately $7,000. So like the Colonel said, we are trying to take the profit out of illegal fishing by seizing their equipment.
98,150 feet of gillnet, or 18.6 miles of illegal nets were seized during this operation. And how many pounds of fish do you think 18.6 miles of fish would catch in one day, period. We estimate about 1,800 pounds a day.
By the way, on this bottom slide there, that is Major Butch Shoop pulling net. And this says a lot for our management people to come down and be part of the team down there. Here is some more nets that were seized during the operation.
Also, if you notice on the lower slide, that is Lieutenant Colonel Craig Hunter pulling nets. He really was there. We have got a picture of him. But really, he is there leading by example, and that is good.
In conjunction with this Operation Pescador that we had Captain Hellums and his district game wardens patrol the Rio Grande River in Webb County. They patrolled 170 miles in a two day period. They seized 1,100 feet of trotlines, and 150 feet of gillnet. Most importantly, they gathered way points of illegal crossings, and other geographical data that would be downloaded into the GIS system for future patrol planning. This operation has provided the public with a clean and safe environment, and we have conserved some of our precious resources during this operation. The operation was officially over with on April 14, but our Law Enforcement Division is committed to providing effective conservation law enforcement on Falcon Lake.
We are still conducting large operations on Falcon Lake each month, in addition to daily patrols. We are still utilizing game wardens from across the state to accomplish this mission. And we are still continuing to publicize our success at Falcon Lake.
Since the close of the operation on April 14, we have seized an additional seven boats and motors, arrested seven illegal fishermen, and have seized an additional 15,300 feet of gillnet. So we are committed, and we are going to continue our job on Falcon Lake.
And that concludes my presentation. I would be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That is very impressive, Pete and Chris. I commend you on your work. I couldn't help but think you might be able to train some of the federal folks on how to efficiently work on the border. You said 75 cents, the cost of them to replace a foot of gillnet?
MR. FLORES: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And you are pulling it out for about 50 cents. That is a good deal. You got them there. I was just doing some quick arithmetic. If you can get it out of there for 50 cents, and it costs them 75 cents to put a foot back in, you are going to win.
MR. HUFF: We plan to.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And I commend you on doing that in such an efficient way that you can get it done for 50 cents a foot.
MR. FLORES: And when you factor in the boats, we actually made a profit. 22 boats times $7,000 apiece, we put ‑‑ I believe we did put a dent in the people who are funding this, the cooperatives on the other side of the river. Captain Huff reports that the vessels that are showing up now are a little bit poorer than the ones you see now on the film.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Not as efficient.
MR. FLORES: I think we are doing, accomplishing conservation in an efficient manner. We are working in partnership with the community, which is very important to us.
The people of Zapata and Laredo and all up and down the border, and as anywhere else in Texas, working together with a community makes a more and more effective conservation protection mechanism. It is a holistic approach to law enforcement, and that is the way we would like to continue our business.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Where are they selling these fish? Is it subsistence, or is it a commercial market in Mexico?
MR. FLORES: It is a commercial market, as opposed to Amistad, where you don't have this type of activity. You have some, but not to this extent. Primarily it is quick access to the markets in Monterrey and Tampico.
A lot of these arrestees were coming from all throughout the Mexican republic. And again, that was the place. There is fish there, on the Texas side, so they were coming after it. But we will continue to do our best to deter them and apprehend them.
And of course, there is the other things that come as part of being Texas peace officers, as Mr. Cook said yesterday. That our duty, by our mere presence, we deter all the other collateral activities.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I want to echo Joe's comments, and congratulate both of you. Being from Laredo, I am very much on the ground. And the border violence is as bad or worse than you hear in the media. It is really bad.
And when I learned of your Operation Pescador my concern was, obviously, the safety and the risks that you and the rest of the game wardens took because the reaction from these type of individuals is drastic. Some of the stuff we hear about.
So first of all, I admire you for taking those risks. It is a very dangerous mission. But equally as important is the fact that you all are committed to the resource as we know, and Phil knows it better than anyone. For years, Falcon Lake has been one of the top bass lakes in the state.
And some five or six years ago, we had a task force that I headed in an effort to try and get some international cooperation from a law enforcement standpoint. And as much as Phil and Inland Fisheries can put ‑‑ keep restocking Falcon Dam, just like it is going in, it is going out. And I always said that is only half of the solution.
We only have half of the solution. And until we get our Mexican counterparts to commit to have a similar effort, it is going to be very hard. But in spite of all of that, we can't back off and continue to just ignore it.
But again, congratulations. And it is a never ending problem that we have on the border, and what is really frightening, as many people die in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico as in Iraq on a daily basis. That is kind of shocking. And it is not advertised.
But for you guys to go down there and work at night with your limited equipment, we all recognize that you all need better and more sophisticated equipment. But you still took the big step. That says a lot for you. And, Bob, thank you, for supporting it.
MR. COOK: Thank these gentlemen. They did a great job.
MR. FLORES: Thank you.
MR. HUFF: We appreciate it.
MR. FLORES: If there is no further questions?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Pete.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Next up, agenda Item 6. Mike Berger. Pheasant proclamation.
MR. BERGER: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I am Mike Berger, the Wildlife Division Director. I am here this morning to talk to you about the change in the Panhandle Pheasant bag limit.
As you know, a few years ago, we extended the pheasant season from 16 days to 30 days in 37 Panhandle counties. And at the same time, we reduced the daily bag limit from three roosters to two roosters at that time. An analysis of the harvest data indicates that the harvest has not changed as a result of this.
We are harvesting about the same number of birds, regardless of whether we are doing a 16 day or a 30 day season or have a two or three bird per day bag limit. So we put this item out to expand the bag limit back to three birds daily, for public comment. And we received one response to that, and it was in favor of this resolution.
So we would recommend that we expand the season, or expand the daily bag limit from three birds to six cocks daily and the possession limit to six cocks in possession. So we would recommend that you adopt the resolution that the Commission adopts an amendment to 65.60 concerning pheasant with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published on April 21 issue of the Texas Register.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Mike. We have one person signed up on this item. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association.
MR. BROWN: Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Chairman. My name is Kirby Brown with TWA. And we are just here to support the staff proposal. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kirby. We have two things today that are on point with our Ten Year Plan. That is amazing. How did we do that. A plan. Any other? Yes. I need a motion.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Move approval.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I have approval from Montgomery. Second by Holmes. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Thanks for your work on that, Mike. Next up, number seven is proposed oyster fishery proclamation. Bill?
MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Bill Robinson, Chief of Fisheries Enforcement. At the August 25, 2005 Commission meeting, amendments were adopted that created a definition of a sack for measuring oyster taken from Texas waters.
The second part of this action was intended to reduce the commercial daily bag limit for oysters to preserve and stabilize the economic value of oysters taken during the open season. However, the language published in the Texas Register only changed the amount of oysters that may be in possession on board a commercial oyster vessel and did not make it clear that the 90 sacks was intended to be a daily limit as well.
The proposed amendment would correct that error, and clarify that the daily bag limit for commercial oyster fishermen is 90 sacks and the daily bag limit for recreational fishermen is two bushels, which is equal to two sacks. This amendment would also change the recreational limit units from bushels to sacks to remove the possibility of confusion in the fishery that could result from using different units to measure take.
Currently, not more than 90 sacks of culled oyster may be on board a licensed commercial oyster boat. And this proposal would clarify that the legal one day limit is 90 sacks of culled oysters of legal size.
The amendment would also clarify the recreational possession limit, and allow a person to take in one day, or possess not more than two sacks of legal size oysters. This concludes my presentation. I will be glad to answer any questions.
And the staff recommendation recommends that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion. I would be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bill. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I'll move.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Bivins. Second by Friedkin. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Thanks for your work on that, Bill. Next up, a briefing item on the 2006 ShareLunker Program. Phil?
MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Phil Durocher. I am Director of Inland Fisheries. Before I start this presentation I would like to commend Colonel Flores and the game wardens for all the excellent work they did at Falcon Lake. It is an issue that we have been trying to deal for at least 20 years that I have been here.
And I think we finally found a forum that may bring them to the table, that may bring the Mexicans to the table with us, so that we can find a solution to this. So thank you all so much, Chris and Pete, for all of your all efforts.
I am going to spend a few minutes this morning talking to you about one of the most successful programs, I think, ever, that we have ever established in our division, and it may be one of the most successful of anybody in the Agency; the ShareLunker Program.
Now to kind of give you some idea of where we are going with this, the ShareLunker mission is to involve the public in the conservation and enhancement of trophy bass fishing in Texas. I know a lot of you Commissioners are fairly new. So from a historical perspective, the ShareLunker Program started in 1986. It was called Operation Share Lone Star Lunker.
At that time, it was sponsored by Lone Star Brewery. In 1993, we changed sponsors. Anheuser-Busch got involved. And the program at that time was called ShareLunker. And we got significant sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch at that time.
And in 1996 it was changed to the Budweiser ShareLunker Program. Over the years, because of the generosity of Anheuser-Busch, we have quite an endowment built up for this program, and it is used to fund it. And we have been able to get a lot of equipment and things that we need to move forward with this program.
The rules of the program are quite simple, just to give you some background. A person must legally catch a largemouth bass greater than 13 pounds in Texas waters. It can be either public or private. The program runs from October 1 to April 30 of each year. And that was changed several years ago. Initially, the program ran from December 1 to April 30.
We require that the fish be kept in good condition. We must expect the fish to survive. Our biologists will make a judgment on that when they get to the fish, to see whether they think it is worth us taking the fish, and whether we are going to be able to keep it alive.
The possession of the fish must be transferred to the Parks and Wildlife within twelve hours of capture. Sometimes, that is a little bit of a challenge. Especially lately, we have been getting a lot of fish out of Allen Henry in Far West Texas and sometimes it is hard to get there in twelve hours.
Our Department will return the fish to the angler after we have identified the genetics of it, and we have tried to spawn it, or at the conclusion of the season. And we have the option of keeping the fish for an indefinite length of time, if we think it is a real special fish, and there is some things we need to do with it.
Now, what does the angler get for this? There is a season ending banquet. And that is going to be held next Saturday at TFFC. Each angler who submits a fish gets a replica of that fish. They get a Lone Star jacket. They have an opportunity to win some rods and reels.
The angler who catches the largest fish in any year becomes the Angler of the Year. He gets a replica. He gets everything everybody else gets. And also, if he is a Texas resident, he gets a lifetime fishing license. And more importantly, if he wins this award, he gets to have his picture taken with me at the event.
MR. DUROCHER: We had four goals in the program when we started. The first goal of course, was to promote fishing and the bass fishery in Texas. And you know, we are very fortunate. It is like the stars were lined up when this program started.
We were initially set to begin this program in December 1 of 1986. Well, on November 26, Mark Stephenson caught probably the most famous bass ever caught in Texas, Ethel, from Lake Fork. And we got a call, and said, would you all want to start the program a few days early? Somebody made a good decision.
I think you know the history of this fish. This fish was put on display at Bass Pro Shop in Springfield. And I think over a three or four year period, they estimated about 5 million people came to Springfield just to see Ethel.
When Ethel passed, the major networks carried the funeral. You know, and it was a huge successful promotion of our programs. All the major TV networks covered the story on the first entry into the program.
One of the ways we measure our success is we look at how much publicity we are giving to our sponsors, and the more traditional type of fishing magazines, Field and Stream, and the outdoor pages of the major newspapers in Texas. And we estimated that in 2005, we had over 2,540 column inches of press that we got for the program. And a value, we estimated that a value of over $300,000.
But there is also something else that happened. We have got our story told in a lot of non-traditional, places where you don't usually see fishing. We have had articles in the Wall Street Journal and in Forbes. And what is important to us here in Texas is that the program has gotten national recognition.
We have got people coming from all over the country trying to catch these lunkers. We have anglers from 19 different states that have contributed 71 of these ShareLunkers to the program. So people know about it.
The second goal of the program was to promote catch-and-release of large fish. About the time, well, the same year we started this program was, we were doing a lot of work with restrictive regulations in Texas. 1986 was when we put the statewide limit on.
We had a lot of work going on with slot limits. But all of those regulations were protecting the smaller fish basically. We had no biological reason to limit the catch of the big fish. It wasn't a resource issue.
But we realized how important those big fish were. And one of the things we wanted to do with this program was to promote the catch-and-release of big fish. And I think it has been very successful.
This is a very unique fish here. This is ShareLunker number 389. It was caught at Lake Allen Henry in the 2005 season, and brought back to the lake and released by the angler. It has also become ShareLunker number 423, because the fish was caught again this year by another angler. So it shows that catch-and-release for these big fish does work.
One of the other things that we were trying to ‑‑ one of the other goals was to gather information on big fish. We are not very good at sampling fish of this size. We very seldom see them. And you can see by this chart over the years, we have been able to have in our hands, 423 of these large fish to do work on.
The best year was in 1996, when we had 36 fish. The worst year was in 2001. That was at the peak of the large mouth bass virus. I don't think it was killing the fish. I think what it was doing was making the fish sick, and they were getting a little harder to catch.
We had an excellent year this year. We had 32 inches in the program, which is the third highest we have ever had in the history of the program.
To give you some idea of how important this program is, and how it has grown, and how it has matured, you have got to remember that prior to February of '80, the state record in Texas was 13.5 pounds. It was caught in Lake Medina in 1943. That record had stood for that time. In 2006, we had 423 fish larger than that, that have been caught out of 54 reservoirs in the state, and 13 private lakes.
And we think this is important, because what it is saying is there, you have an opportunity to catch one of these fish anywhere in the state. It is not a Northeast Texas deal. We have made trophy bass fishing a statewide thing in Texas, and we are very proud of that.
Of course, Lake Fork is ‑‑ 228 of the total 423 fish came from Lake Fork. Second is Allen Henry. And this is a really neat little lake that has just kind of blossomed in the last five or six years. And it is the second most number of lunkers at 23, and of course, Sam Rayburn has 22 over the history of the program.
And the fourth goal we had was to improve the genetics of our brood stock, so that we would be producing a fish that grew faster. And we wanted to use these large fish. Obviously, there was something special about them, if they got to that size. And we are just now beginning to ‑‑ we have the equipment now.
We have the facility at the freshwater fishery center to begin this work. And we are in it in a really big time. And we have had some preliminary success, I believe, in getting these fish to survive. And now it is going to take time for us to evaluate the performance of these fish.
So we are really excited. We think this program has met all the goals that it set out to. We are not quite done with the breeding yet. But we think we are well on the way. This year was special, because this year, we had a special promotion for the 400th entry into the program.
And we have a little video that was produced on this catch. And I would like you to take a look at it.
(A video news release is played.)
MR. DUROCHER: Thank you. I would be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well done.
MR. DUROCHER: Yes, sir?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: What are they doing in Florida?
MR. DUROCHER: They are not doing a whole lot, as far as I know.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There is a press release for you, Lydia.
MR. DUROCHER: They have the Florida Bass. The Florida Bass is there. We have some challenges here that they don't have in Florida. You know, the native fish, or the so-called native fish, the fish that were brought into Texas from all over the United States in the forties were northern bass.
And we are constantly fighting this integrating, this crossbreeding of these fish. That is one of the advantages that California has over us. California didn't have any bass until they brought the Florida Bass there, and that is all they have. So they don't have that competition with the Northern Bass.
The water is a little colder. The fish live longer. But those are all challenges that we are facing. And we are going to work our way through it.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: What do the genetic studies tell us about the genetics of these fish, of the lunkers 13 pounds and over?
MR. DUROCHER: They are predominantly pure Florida Bass. We do find some small level of intergrades in some of the fish, and we return those to the lake. We are focusing on the pure Florida Bass, because history tells us that that is the fish with the greatest size potential, and that is what we are focusing on.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And one other question. Golden alga, and the algae blooms. Have those affected the reservoirs at which lunkers have been found?
MR. DUROCHER: I can't ‑‑ we didn't have any lunkers from any reservoirs with golden alga in them. Of course, we didn't have any before golden alga got some of these lakes.
Golden alga is a problem. It is a serious problem. Everything west of I-35. We are working real hard, spending a lot of money on it. And we don't have a magic, a bullet yet. A silver bullet.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Phil, they said on that little video that some of these lunkers are ten to twelve years old. Do you have any data on how long they actually will live?
MR. DUROCHER: Yes, sir. We age every one of these fish. And I think the lunkers run, the ones that we get in run anywhere from eight to probably twelve. I think the oldest bass that anybody has ever recorded, I think was 17 years. Some 15 to 17 years.
So the life expectancy of these fish, if we get real lucky, will be eleven and twelve years old. You know, it is not magic to raise a big fish. You have to have a fish that gets big.
And that is what we are doing with the genetics of the Florida Bass. You have got to have a habitat. We have that in Texas. And they have got to live long enough. That is what we try to do with our regulations. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. Donato.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. I happened to be, two weeks ago I went to the Athens Freshwater Center. And it is really amazing the state-of-the-art and the technology that you all are implementing to I guess line breed bass for Texas.
And in particular, I was impressed how you are doing DNA testing to identify certain markers for size or whatever. But it is really, it will be an experience for anyone to go up. It is very educational. And it is a first class job.
So again, Phil, I commend you. And encourage any of you that have not been there, you really should go there. It is a very impressive facility.
MR. DUROCHER: The thanks for that goes to our partners, Anheuser-Busch who sponsor this. Because a lot of the equipment that we are using was really something that wouldn't have fit in our budget, if we wouldn't have had that support from Anheuser-Busch.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: What kind of impressed me, they have a separate little tub or aquarium for each one of these ShareLunkers. And then their eggs are placed in another specific vat.
And then from there, they are moved. But it is a very sophisticated breeding system, just like I guess you would breed horses or cattle. And I commend you for that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Do you want to give a little plug for June 3?
MR. DUROCHER: June 3, that is next Saturday is when we are having the lunker banquet. And also in conjunction with that, we have two gentlemen being entered into our hall of fame, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Mr. Bradley and Dick Hart, I think a lot of you know.
So we are excited about that. It is going to be a big night. If everybody shows up, we will have 32 fishermen coming to get a replica. So it is going to be good. And anybody, we would certainly love to have you there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There wouldn't be any place to hold it, if it weren't for Dick Hart.
MR. DUROCHER: Well, we are going to hold it in a tent again this year, but hopefully, this will be our last year in the tent.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Phil, tell me if appropriate. It might be nice for the Commission or the Chairman to send Dick Hart a note of thanks. He has really been an incredible champion for the banquet.
MR. DUROCHER: We just did that for the Chairman.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Great. Okay. We'll let him know how much we appreciate him. Good work. It is an exciting program.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And this is another reason why we are so excited about Dan's and my Texas Bass Classic that we are looking forward to next year.
Because we definitely have the lakes in the state. And we just need to showcase them and tell the rest of the world what we have here.
MR. DUROCHER: We appreciate it. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right, thank you. Next up, action Item 10. Public lands proclamation. Mike Berger.
MR. BERGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I am Mike Berger. For the record, Director of the Wildlife Division. Today, I am going to brief you on the proposed changes to regulations ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I am sorry. Hold on. Whoops, I did. Sorry, Mike. I did skip Ann. Sorry, Ann. Designation of TPWD Biological Advisory Team. That person might have wished I had skipped this. Right?
MS. BRIGHT: As I have been telling folks, it will take probably longer to read the item than to present it. I am Ann Bright, General Counsel.
Chapter 83 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code calls for some criteria and some requirements regarding the development of regional habitat conservation plans. And basically, these are plans that certain governmental bodies are required to do in order to get certain federal permits.
And this statute imposes some additional requirements, including the formation of a citizens advisory committee and the Biological Advisory Team. And both of these committees have representatives from the Parks and Wildlife Department that are designated by the Commission.
There are two that we are here today on. One is the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, and the other one is Williamson County. And both of these entities are looking to form or to prepare regional habitat conservation plans.
In previous Commission actions, this Commission appointed Duane Schlitter to both of these, to citizens' advisory committees and Biological Advisory Teams associated with these. We would like to now change that to Matt Wagner.
And although I don't expect you to be able to read this, this is in your materials. This is the resolution that we are asking you to sign and this is the recommended motion, which would really just replace Duane Schlitter with Matt Wagner on these teams.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: What did Matt do? I mean, I always liked Matt.
MS. BRIGHT: He is here if you want to talk to him. We like him too.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Sorry, Matt. It is out of my hands, it looks like. Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Holmes. Second by Brown. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Thanks, Ann. Now, we are ready, Mike. Public Lands.
MR. BERGER: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I am Mike Berger, the Director of the Wildlife Division. I am going to talk today about proposed changes to the regulations governing public hunting lands, and to discuss the candidate state park hunts for the upcoming season, and to open the season on public hunting lands for the upcoming season.
First, we are recommending to remove the Aquilla Wildlife Management Area from the public hunting program. The Corps of Engineers is not making it available for public hunting. Comments on that were two people in favor, and nine people opposed, who wanted to continue hunting that area, under our program.
The second recommendation is to rename Matagorda Island from State Park to Wildlife Management Area. That changed authority earlier in this fiscal year, and it no longer functions as a state park. So it will be renamed the Wildlife Management Area. There were no public comments on that proposal.
The third is to remove regulations addressing recreational activities and camping from Section 65.192, and to create a new section to deal specifically with recreational activities on wildlife management areas. In regard to that, it kind of falls into two parts.
In the first part, this was to remove those recreational activities and camping sections. There were no comments in favor, four opposed, because they wanted to, we believe, continue camping on those areas.
Of course, that authority would be moved to the new section that would deal specifically with recreational activities on wildlife management areas. And with regard to that proposal, there were two people in favor, and eight opposed. And the eight opposed indicated that they wanted hunting only to be the only areas on the wildlife management areas.
And of course, we would like to be able to offer the full spectrum of activities there. Also, we are eliminating ‑‑ recommending eliminating the waiver of fees for youth and disabled participation in events that are limited to youth or disabled persons, for the purposes of research, education or charity.
And because there are no application or permit fees for such events ‑‑ there are for hunting, but thus, there is no need for such a waiver. And there were no comments on those proposals.
Moving to the candidate state parks for public hunting for this year, there are 42 state parks that are proposed for hunting in the upcoming season. And the list of those parks is in your hearing booklet. Changes from last year are Matagorda Island coming out, because it is now a Wildlife Management Area instead of a State Park. Lake Houston is in the process of a land transfer.
Choke Canyon, at staff recommendation, is coming out. And Martin Dies, Jr. State Park is still suffering the damages from Hurricane Rita and it will not be available.
We would add two new state parks to hunting this year, which would be Abilene State Park and Copper Break State Park. Hunt positions overall, state parks and wildlife management areas are up 63 positions this year over last year. And youth hunting is up significantly, by 244 positions this year from last year, due to the creation of new youth categories.
And also in order to conduct the hunts on these lands, the Commission is required to establish an open season for hunting on public lands each year. And this season would run from September 1, '06 to August 31 of '07.
So our staff recommendation is to adopt the amendments that we discussed, the public comments first, and authorize the hunting activities designated in Exhibit B on areas of the State Park System, and to authorize an open hunting season on public hunting lands.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mike. On the Corps of Engineers property?
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Is there a trend where they are not allowing or encouraging public hunting on the properties that we operate?
MR. BERGER: I don't believe there is. There is at that particular area, there has just been decreasing amounts of access to the areas. Closing access points.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. This is not a policy change on behalf of the Corps?
MR. BERGER: No, sir. No, I do not believe it is a policy change. It is just a matter on that particular area.
MR. COOK: I don't think so, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. COOK: This one has been a problem off and on through the years.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Mike on the Public Lands Proclamation? Anything we didn't cover yesterday? This is an action item. Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Friedkin. Second by Parker. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Thank you very much, Mike.
MR. BERGER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Next up, we have a briefing. Panhandle wildfires, Ruben Cantu and Mokey McCrary. Oh, I am sorry. Goodness gracious. I screwed up. Mr. Ellis Gilleland was signed up on Item 10.
I am very sorry. Come on up, Mr. Gilleland. My apologies. On the Public Lands Proclamation. We will have to take the vote again. I got my stacks confused here. Sorry.
MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland. I am speaking for myself. I am speaking for an animal rights organization on the internet called Texas Animals. (Pause.)
MR. GILLELAND: I have asked you before, and I will ask you again, will you please eliminate the Choke Canyon State Park from the list of hunting activity? The sports writers of all the newspapers and magazines, what have you, if you go back to the 1993, 4, 5, you will find that they were writing about twelve point deer, ten point deer, eight point deer, et cetera. 220 which were at Choke Canyon State Park.
Today, it looks like a moonscape. They have killed all those deer, and there is nothing hardly left to hunt. So I think the hunt should be eliminated.
In the event that you do have the hunt, I would like to ask that the whole park not be closed for nine years. Half the park was closed and half the park was open for the campers and birdwatchers and fishers and everybody else.
Last year, the whole park was taken over by the hunters for the whole week. And people with RVs and trailers and everything turned around at the gate and went back home again, because it was not publicized that the whole park was closed.
The handout I have given you pertains to 65.192. I have underlined in yellow, I think, quote, it says quote, the Executive Director may permit recreational activities on public hunting lands compatible with sound resource management practices, and public health and safety. I think that should read, the Executive Director shall permit recreational activities on public hunting lands to preclude the complete hunting and taking over of the park like they did last year.
And the final thing I would like to say in the event that you do not go back and research those original articles that Sasser and everybody else wrote, you are not going to believe what I tell you, that the park is like a moonscape. And I really think it is criminal.
If I were a lawyer, I would take you to court, because I think you are destroying state resources that belong to the public. I think it is a criminal act per the Penal Code. And you should be incarcerated, all of you. If you don't believe me, go down and look at the park, and the destruction you have done. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Gilleland. Kirby Brown signed up on this also, I believe. Texas Wildlife Association, Agenda Item 10?
MR. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Commissioners. My name is Kirby Brown, Executive Vice-President of Texas Wildlife Association. We support the staff proposal to properly manage both wildlife and habitat on these parks. It is very important, very critical.
We are gratified by this Commission's efforts and by the specific efforts of staff to increase the youth hunting component at our public hunting opportunities. We think that is great to see that continue to go up and make those available.
And finally, let's fix a couple of those parks we had to knock out this time, because we would like to see more public opportunity out there to access the parks by the park users, as well as public hunting opportunity. Thanks again. We appreciate it, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kirby. Mike, could you address his point about the one or two parks that have been ‑‑
MR. BERGER: The Callahan unit, which is the more developed part of Choke Canyon is now closed to hunting to take some pressure out of that developed area. The North Shore unit is still open to public hunting.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think Kirby had a comment about a couple of other parks that were not ‑‑
MR. BERGER: I think that his comment was that he would like us to open more, so that we could have more opportunity. We will work on that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Work on that. Good. Thank you. Now, do I have a motion on Item 10?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Holmes and second by Parker. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you. All right. I apologize for getting off on that. Now, we have got the Item 12, briefing Panhandle Wildfires.
Before you start that, Ruben, I wanted to recognize our good friend, David Allen, from the Sand County Foundation that sponsored our Lone Star Land Stewards last night. And I know you have got to catch a plane, David. But thank you very much for all you did for the Lone Star Land Stewards. We appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: From that, to fire. Another one of those Leopold tools. And there it is. Ruben.
MR. CANTU: Chairman Fitzsimons, Commissioners, Mr. Cook. Good morning. For the record, I am Ruben Cantu, regional director for Wildlife Region 1, which encompasses the Trans-Pecos and the Panhandle.
With me today is Major Ewel McCrary, regional commander in Lubbock. No doubt, this winter has been a hot one to say the least, in more ways than one. From December '05 through April, Texas has seen range lands burning from north to south, east to west. All points in between. And various sizes of burns.
The largest of these fires have occurred in the Texas Panhandle. The recent Panhandle fire that we are referring to is the border fire, or the I-40 fire combined together referred to as the East Amarillo Complex fire. These complex fires have burned about a total of 907,000 acres.
The largest fires to date in the State of Texas. The fires are not over yet. We are just hearing right now of a fire taking place in the Palo Duro Canyon area. We don't have a lot of information yet as to the size of it, but we are hearing that it is somewhat considerable.
At this time, I would like to show you a brief video that our communications staff have put together. And I don't think there is any reason for any narration to go along with it. I think the video will speak for itself.
(A video tape is played.)
MR. MCCRARY: Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook, for the record My name is Mokey McCrary. I am the regional major out of Lubbock. I have 65 counties, which includes the area that was burned. I would like to brief you shortly on the law enforcement response to those fires.
As Ruben said, it consumed just under a million acres. It comprised of three fires. And during that time, there was eleven people that lost their lives. Law enforcement responded to requests from various sheriff's offices and other emergency response agencies, such as fire departments.
During that time, we had eight game wardens that spent 137 hours, and we rescued 38 people. The fires were fanned by tremendous winds and some of them were reported as high as 70 miles an hour. The fire itself was moving 50 miles an hour.
One of my wardens, Win Bishop, helped evacuate an area called Jim Lake. It is a rural subdivision out of Borger. He led them out single file through the fire. His statement to me was it was almost impossible to see, I just knew where I was at.
Now, just a quick note here. From the time that I started speaking, if we had been a mile away from the fire, it would have already taken us over. We couldn't have gotten out of the way of it.
And the same thing with Win. By the time he got those people out, the fire had actually moved past him, and he started checking other areas' houses. He found a burnt individual. He stayed with that individual until the coroner arrived.
North of Win was Gary Barnes. Gary had come up to him, to the car that you previously saw in the slide. There was two women in that car. He loaded them up in his patrol vehicle, drove through the fire, and took them to safety.
This scenario was played out over and over again several times. And again, as the wardens would work, the fire was moving so fast that it would go past them.
Many of our wardens assisted in routing fire trucks, because they knew the area. They had access to get into the properties. They helped cut fire breaks around homes. They warned the public of oncoming fires. They assisted in road blocks, dispensed water and food, and again, evacuated 38 people themselves.
The soot in the air, the smoke was so thick that our air conditioners on our vehicles shut down. The cabin air filter just completely clogged up on many of them. But as I talked with several of the wardens, the biggest thing they said is thank you for good equipment. The four wheel drive units that we had, Pete, good stuff. G.P.S.s all aided in saving lives.
Now, while this scenario was being played out, another drama was taking place. Wildlife was running for their lives, and the terrain was being changed. I would like to turn it back over to Ruben to explain those issues. Thank you.
MR. CANTU: Over the course of the last few minutes, you all have seen a video and slides of damages caused by the wildfires in the Panhandle. And these fires have been extremely devastating to people, to homes, barns, fences, hay and grass fields, livestock, and yes, wildlife.
Wildlife was impacted directly as well as indirectly. After viewing the video, folks may think that the vegetation in the Plains will never come back. It is going to need assistance. It is going to have to be re-seeded.
Now, even though initial appearances is of a moonscape, let's not forget that many of these native plants in the Panhandle prairies evolved with fire. And those plants are alive. They will come back. A lot of these plants have mechanisms to cope with fire. They will grow new leaves. They will re-sprout. They have seeds that will germinate because they were burned.
These burned areas will come back. And what determines how quickly they will come back will be dependent on the kinds of plants that were affected, the intensity and duration of the fire. The precipitation before and after the fire. Soil moisture conditions at the time of the fire. Condition of the plants before the fire. The management of the land after the fire.
From a wildlife standpoint, yes we lost some animals. But how many, we don't know. We know of small incidences of antelope caught in the corner of a fence, that couldn't get through it.
Small groups of mule deer that were behind what they apparently thought were a protective side of a hill that were overcome, as well as the individual reports of the individual animals of deer, rabbits or turkey or whatever. These losses are to be expected, considering the magnitude and intensity of these fires.
Our big concern right now is erosion. You saw in the video how the sand was blowing. A lot of people say all we need is a rainfall. Well, we don't need any hard heavy rainfalls on country like that.
Immediately after the fires, what we did lose, we lost many acres of nesting habitat for quail and turkey and some for Lesser Prairie Chicken. We have also lost roosting cover, some of the big cottonwood trees for turkey.
It won't be until the end of the growing season for us to fully evaluate our losses in wildlife habitat. And although the short term effects seem bleak, over the long term, this fire may prove very beneficial for wildlife and their habitat. There is going to be many favorable brows and forbs that will re-sprout and grow. And because they are going to be in a lower growth form because they are going to be thinned out, there is going to be more available for deer and antelope. Additionally, the burns will typically result in forbs responding first. Again, this is going to be a great food supply for big game, as well as also excellent seed producers for quail and turkey and Lesser Prairie Chicken.
Now, these fires are not something you would wish for. But they do provide us some opportunities to study how the landscape and the wildlife responds to fires of this magnitude. Almost immediately after the fires, Wildlife Division staff began working with cooperating landowners to document the effects on these fires, on the vegetation and wildlife habitat.
Staff has set up photo points on a number of ranches. [Inaudible] that they may monitor and document over a long period of time the natural recovery of the wildlife habitat. I would like to show you a few of these photo points, to show you what we are talking about, and what is taking place in the landscape, over the last ‑‑ from the end of the fires to the time some of these photos were taken, about a month and a half period.
You are looking at what is referred to as a sandy range site. This was taken about a week after the fire. If you will notice in these photos, there is a T-post in the right hand corner of the fire. All these photos are going to be taken at the same place, to give some good idea of what is taking place in that landscape.
You can see in the sandy country right here, that it is already responding. That is a month and a half after the fire. Some of these places are going to respond faster than others.
This is a shinnery country, much deeper sands than what you saw in the previous slide. Again, this is right after the fire. Not a lot of change. You can see in the background, there is a little bit of green-up beginning to take place. That is okay. This country is going to come back.
Now, we are looking at an area called McClellan Creek. A week after the fire, a month and a half later, it is beginning to green up. It is a little lower drainage area. A little bit tighter soils. It is going to be okay.
This is an area called White Deer Creek. It is kind of a unique area. This area is going to respond much quicker, because underneath the area, it is somewhat sub-irrigated; a pretty high water table. That is what it looked like a month and a half later. You wouldn't have guessed it had gone through the fire that some of the other range sites had.
Now, this fire will be long remembered by staff, and it will be talked about, as it is unlike anything that many of us have ever seen in our lifetimes, or ever will see. Staff is confident that the wildlife of the Panhandle and their associated habitats will bounce back. They have done it before.
Now, that ends our briefing on those recent Panhandle fires. And at this opportunity, we will take the opportunity to address any questions that you may have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ruben. I commend you on the work up there. I was up there not long ago. And you all have been very busy. And you and your biologists and the wardens have done a great job in helping those people out. Commissioner Bivins, you have seen it.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I think it is going to provide a real interesting opportunity to see on a burn basis how native grasses recover in comparison to CRP grasses. And hopefully, it will help in our efforts to improve the CRP grass types, or the seed mix, so that we can come back in with the type of nutritional grasses that Lesser Prairie Chickens and other game species can benefit more from. And it will be an interesting laboratory.
MR. CANTU: Like I said, we have got a great opportunity. Not something that we wished for, but you might say, an opportunity of a lifetime. And that is going to be one of the things that we are looking at.
And I think it is going to help us document the rate of recovery on native range lands, and help push and encourage a lot more people to use native grass seeds in some of their plantings. Like you said, CRPs.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Right. And it is also amazing how blue quail will inhabit burned out country. It pushes them out when all the fires are going through it, but then once the fire has passed, they will come right back in.
MR. CANTU: If you noticed in the video, antelope were going from the grassland into some fire ‑‑ into some area that was still smoking. And we have to keep in mind that nature abhors a vacuum. It created one briefly, but it will be filling back up again. We are confident of that.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you.
MR. CANTU: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Ruben, the impact on the resource, has the game moved to areas or pockets that perhaps were not impacted by the fires? How is that impacting our resource?
MR. CANTU: In some areas, it is going to increase the number of animals, as far as the density figure on the outside areas. As Commissioner Bivins said, these animals are slowly moving back in.
The extension service is looking at some long term studies. They are trying to determine the rate of the animal response moving back in an area. Some of these areas are over 20 miles wide, and maybe wider. And they are looking at doing some population survey work at different distances from the burned area.
How long is it going to take to repopulate an area five miles from the burn area, ten miles in the burn area, 20 miles into the burned area. So we are going to be keeping our eye on all of that.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I just wanted to say to Major McCrary to be sure to let your team know how much we all appreciate the selflessness and the courage the wardens showed in the enormous heroic effort, and the hours they put in. It was really dramatic hearing about it, both here and in writing from the communication populace.
We really appreciate all they did. Please thank them for us.
MR. MCCRARY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Ruben. Next up is Item 12, the wind energy development briefing. Kathy?
MS. BOYDSTON: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Kathy Boydston. I am a program leader with the Wildlife Division. I am here to brief you on wind energy development in the state.
Wind power development started in Texas in the late '90s, and has increased dramatically in the last three years. There are several factors that are contributing to this. Texas leads all other states, except California, in available wind energy production.
The Energy Bill passed in 2005, that extended the production tax credit to 2007. And Texas passed legislation in the last session in the form of Senate Bill 20 that implemented a renewable portfolio standard, committing Texas to an additional 5,000 megawatts generated by renewable electricity, by 2015, with 2,080 of those 5,000 megawatts by January 2007.
Now, many people don't realize that Austin Energy is a leading seller of green energy in the United States, and that many towns, smaller towns and cities in Texas are powered entirely by wind power, such as Corsicana.
Currently, we have 30 existing and proposed wind farms in 13 counties in Texas. Wind power is considered a green energy source, because it doesn't pollute, doesn't use water, creates electricity and has fairly low environmental impact compared to other energy sources, such as coal-fired generation.
There are currently 19 operating coal-fired power plants in Texas, with 15 more planned. Coal power plants emit several different pollutants, one of which is an airborne form of mercury, which contributes to mercury concentrations in 60 reservoirs in East Texas, 13 of which have fishing advisories.
Wind power farms usually have a pretty standard business return and provide a stable economic investment over a longer term than other energy types. Now, there is an economic benefit to landowners, local businesses and communities.
The landowner benefit can be as much as $2,000 to $6,000 per acre, depending on where they are. And they also can continue almost all their practices, such as hunting, grazing and agricultural practices can continue around the turbines, within a safe distance.
The graphic that has been handed out to you shows the standard turbine and its dimensions. This is a little bit older model than most people will be using now. The towers are about 230 feet high, and the blades are 120 feet long. The tips of the blades are approximately 100 feet from the surface of the ground. And when they are moving, tip speed can be anywhere from 90 to 150 miles an hour.
So why is Parks and Wildlife interested in this? Well, since we are the agency responsible for fish and wildlife resources, and our Code requires that we review these types of development projects. 12.0011 is the section of the Code that my program operates under.
We review all types of development projects, all across the state. And wind power is just one of those types of development. And wind turbines have been shown to have impacts, fairly minimal on some species in other states, primarily birds and bats.
However, there is a lack of data in Texas on the potential impacts of these wind turbines, on the bird migration corridors along the coast. We don't have any data ‑‑ there is no data that we know of, on post-construction bird mortality at existing wind farms.
We don't have any idea what the impacts of wind turbines would be on bat migration in Texas. And we don't know of any post-construction bat mortality studies that have been done at existing sites.
However, studies in other states do show bird mortality of about 2.19 birds per turbine per year. And other forms of avian mortality are vehicles, buildings, transmission lines, and communication towers. And you can see that those usually constitute a higher mortality rate than wind towers.
In Texas, we are concerned about other species than birds and bats, such as the Lesser Prairie Chickens in the rolling plain in the Panhandle. Studies in other states have shown that Lesser Prairie Chickens do not breed or raise young within a half mile of some vertical structures.
And we all know that raptors feed on prairie dog colonies. Well, if the turbines are located in close proximity to a prairie dog colony, this can increase the potential for the birds to fly into the turbines while they are hunting. It also could increase the potential for collision with transmission lines that go from the facilities, hooking into the electrical grid.
And we know that bighorn sheep in the Trans-Pecos are very vulnerable to human disturbance, particularly during lambing. So we don't ‑‑ there is no information that we know of that shows what the potential impacts of developing wind turbines in bighorn sheep territory would be.
We also have questions with developmental on the coast and offshores where, as you all know, this is a big issue for Texas right now, and it is only going to continue to grow. As indicated earlier, we don't know much about the bird migration corridors along the coast.
And we don't know anything about bat populations and their migrations along the coast either. We are concerned about what might happen with neo-tropical migrants, and the impacts on their habitat. And as always, we are concerned with endangered species, and their habitats. What impacts could these developments have on those?
We know that certain areas, red head ducks move from saltwater into inwater freshland ponds. So to locate turbines in-between those areas could pose a problem, although most studies that we know of in other states don't show waterfowl having a high mortality from wind turbines. And as always, new transmission lines could pose hazards to waterfowl and other birds that are flying in those areas.
You are all probably familiar with the first wind farm that has been proposed along the Texas coast on shore. This is the Penascal Wind Farm on the Kenedy Ranch. We have been out there several times with the company, and we are working closely with them on the development of this project.
They have leased 191,000 acres for 30 years. They are going to build only on the part of the ranch that is along Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay. And they will develop approximately 500 acres of that site. Full build out will be about 260 turbines. They will produce 400 megawatts of energy, powering 110,000 homes, or about 423 homes per turbine.
The company did contract a two year study with the Biology Department of Texas A&M at Kingsville to study bird migration patterns at that site. And they established a technical advisory committee with representatives from TPWD, environmental organizations and local birding groups.
Now, this technical advisory committee will study the results of their surveys. And they will also be reviewing developing post-construction surveys and looking and helping assisting in looking for potential mortality after post-construction.
So what are we doing about all this? Well, there is no permitting process in this state, and really no real regulation on the industry at this time. But we are working at the state and federal levels with state and federal agencies, and other states as well, on fish and wildlife issues.
We have been asked to sit on the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agency policy committee which will look at the fish and wildlife voluntary guidelines for wind development, and redo those to assess all the states' needs, but at a national level. We have been involved in meetings with wind industry, the environmental community and birding groups to address wind energy development in the state, and the implementation of Senate Bill 20.
We have also been working closely in meeting with the Public Utility Commission on the implementation of Senate Bill 20 and the proposed new Rule 25.174, which will establish competitive renewable energy zones for Texas, which this will indicate to the PUC where industry is planning on doing the most development, so that the PUC and the energy providers can plan for new transmission lines that have to go to these areas.
We are working real closely with everyone to make sure that environmental issues are considered in development of these zones, and also at each site development. We are also working on an assessment tool to help the wind industry in the early stages of development. This is some of the known locations of wind farms. And look closely at the area that is outlined in red. This is a county level view of the wind farms. The green circles show known-listed plant populations, and the pink circles are known bird or mammal populations.
It is important for these companies to know if listed species occur in close proximity to the areas where they are going to develop, so that they know that if the appropriate habitat is there, they need to survey pre-construction to find out if the species occur at their site, and then work with us and the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine what needs to be done after that.
This is just one layer of information that is going to be in this assessment tool that we hope will help them locate their wind farms in the least environmentally sensitive areas. That pretty much concludes my presentation, so if there is any questions, I will be glad to answer them.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The study that you referenced for the Kenedy Ranch Project, that would be the first one that focused on coastal and migratory areas?
MS. BOYDSTON: Yes. That we know of in the state. Parks and Wildlife is also partnering with Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. And we are doing a much larger study that involves the Texas, essentially the lower Texas coast.
It is a four year study. And we are looking at basically bird migration corridors, you know, studying how high they are going to fly. What relationship that has with weather and vegetation, to determine what the ‑‑ well, basically to get more information about the migration corridors, which nobody really has, and how birds actually migrate, and will projects like this, how will they impact migration, or transmission lines, or communication towers.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But the study you referenced is not four years. The long one was ‑‑
MS. BOYDSTON: No. Right now, it is two years. And they, I think, by the time they finish, it will be a three year study.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And is that relevant as to a take from a federal endangered species standpoint? It is not relevant from any ‑‑ we don't have any permitting jurisdiction —
MS. BOYDSTON: — in this regard.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So I am trying to get the ‑‑ what makes it relevant?
MS. BOYDSTON: The study, what they are trying to do. Well, a couple of things make it relevant actually. There is a lot of local opposition for the project.
And then also, there is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which there is no provision for take in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. So basically, any time a bird hits a window, or you hit a car ‑‑ your car hits a bird, or a bird dies from any facility, it is a take, it is a breaking of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
But of course, obviously, the Fish and Wildlife Service does not enforce that. Now, one thing that the company is doing is trying to show due diligence to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and site their wind farm as best as they can, and do as much up-front study as they can. So that if a bad incident does happen, so they kill a lot of birds after the wind farm is erected, they will have done due diligence as best they can to show compliance with the Act.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But they can still get an action letter from the Service if there is a ‑‑
MS. BOYDSTON: I think the stance that I have been told that the Service is going to take is to see how well the company did due diligence as to decide whether they tend to file on them or not.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Others? Robert?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: As far as the location, I think you said it was Penascal Point. Is that right? The location of these units ‑‑ so they are not actually going to be in the Laguna Madre, are they?
MS. BOYDSTON: No. They are on the ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BROWN: So it is all on the surface?
MS. BOYDSTON: Yes. They are just right ‑‑ they are inland, really close to the shore. They are not going to be any farther inland than five miles. But they are going to be right ‑‑ on this particular site, they are going to be probably not less than a mile or so off the Laguna Madre.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Okay.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: You cited the ‑‑ go ahead, Mark.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Aren't there plans to put another facility in, not necessarily in Laguna Madre, but somewhere in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico?
MS. BOYDSTON: There is actually two. There is one that is proposed off of Galveston, and then there is one, that this was recently proposed, off of Padre Island, just on the other side and a little bit south from where Penascal is. But it is on the Gulf side of Padre Island.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: You cited mortality statistics, that 2.1 birds per turbine per year. How much data is that based on? Is a large sample, small sample? And how much does it vary?
What I have read is that when you get a concentrated slot that migratory birds move through, you get a lot of mortality in that particular little area, as opposed to just an average. Is that an average of a whole lot of data or a little bit of data?
MS. BOYDSTON: That is an average of several years' worth of data from several different studies, is my understanding. And most of the studies that look at bird mortality associated with wind turbines, birds are really usually able to avoid the turbines, even when they are at night.
And usually, there is a weather event, such as fog or storm, or some weather event that is associated with it, that forces them down into the turbines. Because most of the time, birds, we think ‑‑ we know what information that we do have on bird migration from other states shows that they migrate at a higher altitude than turbines exist.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: So how uniform is the incidence of mortality across the whole sample?
MS. BOYDSTON: I don't really have that information. I have somebody here that might be able to answer that question. No?
MR. COOK: Kathy, Mr. Chairman. I want to be sure the Commission understands, because we run into this kind of thing quite a bit. Our responsibility when a project like this is proposed, where we are not granting the permit, but we are asked to comment on potential impacts on fish and wildlife, and we do that to the best of our ability.
We try to base it off of known factors, off of data. Our people keep up with all the research studies, all the information around the nation and around the world that is available.
But there is just not sites like this one, where it has been tracked. And that is what got everybody very concerned, and the industry itself is concerned. But it is potentially, and the offshore sites are potentially very productive sites for a clean power source.
But it is certainly a concern. You know, let's start chopping up a bunch of migratory birds, well, I don't know. There will be some real issues there. But it almost has to happen to be documented, before that comes into play. That is a relative point to our next presentation also, I might add.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We just seem to get these in the right order. Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mr. Chairman, can I ask ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, Ned.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I was kind of struck by the size of the lease in terms of acreage versus the size of the area where they were going to put the wind farm. Can you give us any color on that?
MS. BOYDSTON: It is like you getting a hunting lease. What they did was, they leased up all the acreage that they thought could be potential sites for wind development.
So they leased up that whole area in order to prevent other companies from trying to develop on that site next to them. Kind of you lease a hunting pasture or property for hunting. You don't want anybody else hunting out there, so you lease up the whole property. That is basically what they have done.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: One quick one. Do you know of any devices or whistles or something that's in these systems or units that would actually deter birds from getting in the way of the area?
MS. BOYDSTON: My understanding is that there has been quite a bit of research done on that, and usually, those are fairly ineffective. One of the things that they have found that has been most effective is their lighting schemes.
They have done a lot of research on changing the lighting at night on these turbines to not attract birds to fly into them under low light or bad weather conditions. But as far as any kind of noise or sound, that has been fairly ineffectual, is my understanding.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. Next briefing item up, Larry McKinney. Liquefied natural gas facilities in Texas.
MR. MCKINNEY: Mr. Chairman and members, I am Larry McKinney, Director of Coastal Fisheries. And for the record, I have an excellent working relationship with my counterparts in Florida. I think they do a wonderful job.
MR. MCKINNEY: And if any issues arise out of this meeting, it is clearly with Inland area, not ours. We will make that on the record.
I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you on this topic, liquefied natural gas issues in Texas. It has been an interesting exercise, putting this together. Let's start basically with just some general information which I am sure you are familiar with, but we probably ought to go over with, about what we are talking about.
Liquefied natural gas is really what they do is they supercool natural gas, and then ship it in specialized containers. And you can see a picture of one of the vessels there.
They are basically giant thermos bottles, is what they amount to. Move the gas across the oceans to the facilities, where at the facility, at the receiving end, they again, have to re-gasify that liquid, and then they store it temporarily, then transport it in pipelines. As you can see from the maps where the supplies exist around the world, most of them of course, being not in North America. So our end of the LNG business is in the receiving end for the most part.
And in that, because of, I guess, changing economic situations, and a number of other factors coming along, the interest in LNG facilities has grown tremendously over the last several years. We had originally four existing facilities.
But right now, we have ten, as far as proposed, or even approved. We have ten that are looked at in the East Coast. Another ten on the West Coast. And in the Gulf of Mexico 16 facilities that are being looked at.
Now, these are all facilities that are being licensed and proposed, not necessarily built. I don't know how many economically will actually come to fruition. But these are the ones that are in the works right now.
If we drill in a little bit, and take a look at the Gulf of Mexico, you can see the number of facilities, 16 that we are looking at there, and you get an idea of their distribution. And if we drill in a little further, we can talk about those in Texas.
One, the Pearl Landing site, the Pearl Crossing site was one that was proposed, has been withdrawn. When you look at numbers, there are a couple that are just being looked at or proposed at this time, no real action taken.
On here are two of them in Cameron and Bay Crossing. That in review, is Beacon Port, an offshore facility that is in review right now. Those that have received their license and permits are there in red. You can see that there is four of them.
The Port Arthur one, just to make that point, it is pending. It is not quite there yet. But they have received their EIS and their Record of Decision. They are just waiting on the Corps permits. So it is coming along. And then under construction, you can see those. So that is the activity that is going on in the coast. I will tell you that from the staff perspective, working and reviewing of these projects over the last period of time this has been involved, this has been the biggest challenge that we have ever faced in my 20 years here of trying to review and work with these projects.
They are all on a very fast track to move forward. And just trying to meet those deadlines and get the reviews in have been difficult. And that is true across the board. So it has been a real challenge to look in this area.
So let's take a look at these for a second. First, there are two types of these facilities, onshore and offshore. Let's take a look at those, and talk about those for a second. We have nine facilities proposed to license in Texas.
The onshore facilities are all handled by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC. And all of these facilities have agreed to use closed-loop systems. Some of them did start, at least their initial proposals were to go to open-loop but all have now converted to using these closed-loop.
And what we are talking about there is, once the gas comes in in a liquid form, you have to again, of course, heat it up. It heats back up in order to put it in the pipeline and move it off. So you have a couple of options.
One option is just to run water through the facility. Large volumes of water, and let the water naturally warm the gas up. And of course, it cools the water down as it does that. And that way ‑‑ and that is an open-loop system.
The closed-loop type systems use a part of that gas itself to actually heat it or something like that, where they don't use those large volumes of water. They heat it up in some mechanical, electrical or chemical way. And so that is another version.
For the onshore facilities, the impacts have been primarily issues of pipelines and development which are very common and very typical for what we do for any type of industrial site, and you talked about one yesterday, and we are looking at easement for one. And we worked on those as well. So those types of impacts are very straightforward for us.
We work with them every day, be they power lines or pipelines. A majority of the project proponents have worked with us on those projects. We have had good relationships with them.
Of course, we have had some differences, and having to move forward, and try to resolve those. But on the whole, we have worked well with them. Some have even worked with Commissioner Parker, and has been involved in some working with us there, and have even come up with some innovative ideas of using freshwater on some of these coastal areas to then take the freshwater and use it to move freshwater into some of the wetlands and help us there.
So those things have been actually very interesting to take a look at. This is to give you an idea of a typical facility. They are all about this size. You can see they have receiving, where the ships come in, handling and the pipelines, and the big tanks to store it. They all look about like this on the onshore side.
And when you take a look at the typical impacts, this is what we were talking about. Pipeline types of things that we have to deal with mitigation and restoration type activities in regards to them. As far as the offshore facilities, this is where we have our concerns, and certainly most looking at them.
Currently, there is one application filed for offshore that is adjacent to Texas waters, between Texas and Louisiana. This is the Conoco-Phillips Beacon Port, off of High Island that we are looking at.
The next bullet there, that is an error. I forgot to update this section. There has actually been two facilities that have been approved. They are open-loop systems.
Port Pelican, and another one called Energy Gateway. Those were approved initially. Frankly, they got in under the wire before people started realizing that there were issues, and gotten done, and beginning to look at them. So they are there.
One, as I told you, one of the offshore facilities has been withdrawn, Pearl Crossing. And just in the last, within the last week and a half or two, another one was vetoed by the Governor of Louisiana. Basically, what happens under those facilities and under the federal law, these facilities, when they are located off of state waters, or adjacent, the Governor of that state, or adjacent states, have the right in the end to veto those proposals and can act on it and she did in that particular one.
One of the concerns, of course, is that for the most part, the LNG facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, at least initially, offshore facilities have proposed and continue to propose to use open rack or open-loop systems. This type of approach has not been, for those facilities that are being developed on the East Coast and the West Coast, that is not a situation.
They have not gone there. They are not allowed to. Or perhaps they have chosen not to. It could be either one of those reasons. But the only place that are considering ‑‑ the only place in the U.S. in which open-loop systems are being considered are here in the Gulf of Mexico at this time.
So that is ‑‑ and the one that we are looking at right now, of course, is Beacon Port, which continues to propose to use an open-loop system. To give you an idea of at least one concept of what these systems look like, very typical, the offshore rig type structures that we see. Just large facilities where the ships come in, and offload. And do the whole process, offshore, and pipe it in.
One of the reasons of course, that the Gulf of Mexico is seeing a lot of interest in this activity is because of our pipeline system. That is the big issue, is moving this gas through our pipeline system. And clearly, from our facilities here in the Gulf, Louisiana and Texas, and Alabama and Mississippi, we have that system.
So that is why these companies are very interested in taking advantage of that pipeline, which you could understand. Let's talk about some of our issues and concerns we have with the open-loop facilities.
Basically, these systems will be drawing somewhere between one and 200 million gallons a day through their facility to achieve this heating up of the gas, to return it to the gas state. The concern, of course, is the temperature drops that occur as that water passes through that system.
Anywhere as it says here, from 13 to 30 degrees temperature differential as it goes through the system. Of course, they are going to be concerned about fouling in those systems. They are just like big radiators. And so they will be using chemicals to keep that fouling down, and that is another concern of what type of chemical agent they will be using to maintain, to create that bio-fouling issue.
And that of course, has some impacts as well. The numbers here I have put up, and I want to be very careful about this, but these are something that I want to be clear, the companies that are proposing the open-loop systems basically assert that the savings in operational costs to them, and they are considerable, $20 million to $30 million. It will cost them an additional $20 million to $30 million a year to use a closed-loop system as opposed to open-loop.
They feel and assert that the risk to public resources, and of course, what we are talking about here is when that water sucks through those, you are taking up the larvae eggs of redfish and trout, and red snapper and all those types of things. They have felt that the risk to those resources are either avoidable or minimal, or that they could be mitigated.
Or in some cases by mitigation, I mean either compensated for or, if the facilities are put in, I think some of the proposals for example, look toward, we will put the facility in, we will monitor those activities. If problems occur, we will make adjustments accordingly to again minimize any impacts that occur. The problems that we have in this area, is that in fact those assertions are not widely agreed to.
The Governors of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have all expressed concerns or opposition to open-loop based on unknowns. They can't really assess those impacts. Our sister agencies in the other states that have looked at this as well, in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi have all expressed similar concerns that we have.
All the federal resource agencies similarly have those concerns as have the federal agencies such as the Gulf Marine Fisheries Commission and the Gulf Council. All have basically expressed concerns about impacts. Where my dilemma in this is, or our staff is, is that when we look at our projects and activities on our coast, and in our waters, we are really blessed with having a tremendous amount of data on which to fall back and really do analysis.
We just don't have that here in the offshore waters. We don't have sufficient data to either ‑‑ I have not ‑‑ the analysis that I have seen from those companies that have done these analysis for the open-loop is that their approaches are less than what I would like to see. I don't think they are very well done, frankly. And the information is not there to do it.
On the other hand, the issues where I would list here, some of the concerns that would lose the billions of eggs and so forth, and the amounts of impacts to fisheries, I think we can't actually prove that up either.
As the Chairman asked me the other day, if I was in court testifying on this, would I be able to stand up and stand behind some of the information of the assertions that I have seen. And unfortunately, I cannot. So the basic issue where we do fall back is, I do have a lot of familiarity, do know issues of entrainment, and how we dealt with power plants and the impacts of water going through power plants. I know what can happen.
So in this situation, our approach has been to be as you would hope, as you would expect us to be, to be as conservative as possible, because we do know there will be impacts.
And the best evidence that we have those concerns are real across the basis that they can be substantial. And so we would prefer to take a cautionary approach to those types of things, to see if there are other alternative methods or ways to put these facilities in, like closed-loop system that others are using.
Then that, from a fish and wildlife perspective, is the route we ought to take. And so that is where we stand at this point. We are certainly talking with the industry, and in fact, Ray Sullivan is here today.
And folks from Conoco-Phillips, I think they are here in the audience today, and certain they would be glad to answer any questions you have. We are working with them closely as they move forward, in whatever perspective.
But we have maintained from a staff perspective our concern and opposition to open-loop systems because of those general concerns we have. So with that, I would be glad to answer any questions that you might have.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Larry, what is the longest operating open-loop system that you are aware of? I mean, who would have the most data?
MR. MCKINNEY: I think the one on the East Coast, and I can't remember the name of it. But they have not collected much information there. There is a little bit different situation. So I don't really have any data. The ones in the Gulf have not been operating that long, and they have not collected the data.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Are there any operating open-loop systems in the Gulf today?
MR. MCKINNEY: Two that can, or ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They are permitted.
MR. MCKINNEY: They are permitted.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Are there any operating?
MR. MCKINNEY: They are ready to operate, I believe. I don't know exactly where it is.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. We don't have ‑‑ there is none operating today.
MR. MCKINNEY: Not with ‑‑ they may have done some work, and I will have to check on that for you, but not enough to collect any information at all. This is what we need.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ned, we'll go down the line here. Ned.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Larry, did I understand that there were 40 open-loop systems in operation in other parts of the world?
MR. MCKINNEY: No. There are no open-loop systems. There may be some, but for the ones that are being proposed for the East Coast and West Coast.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: No, I meant anywhere in the world.
MR. MCKINNEY: I don't know. Worldwide, I don't know. The ones that I have checked on recently, for example, in India, that were proposed there, they have been ‑‑ they are not being allowed to use open or they are going closed.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: No, I was talking about in operation.
MR. MCKINNEY: No. I am not familiar with it. Don't know.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Well, it would be an interesting exercise if there were some that were in operation. Then you might be able to actually collect data.
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, then. Of course, look at the style. Of course, there would be different situations, because of depths, and the types of water, and we are particularly ‑‑ we have particular issues because of our very shallow water here, and the redfish and so forth that spawn offshore. There are some concerns there that may not be existing in other places.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: The one in question now, is Beacon Point. Is that ‑‑
MR. MCKINNEY: That is the one that is in review right now.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But there are what did you say? Seven or eight more that are also proposed as open-loop?
MR. MCKINNEY: Let's see. There is a couple of more. After I pull my sheet. I should have that memorized. But the main past one that was recently vetoed by Louisiana, they have moved. They have changed over to closed-loop now.
I should have had that memorized by now. I am sorry. I will have to get that for you, as to the actual numbers. I think there are two or three.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: How far offshore ‑‑ I mean, it is pretty hard to tell from the schematic. Do you know how far offshore Beacon Point is proposing?
MR. MCKINNEY: No, I am sorry. I don't have it. I should.
VOICE: Seems like it was 15 or 20 miles.
MR. MCKINNEY: I was going to say 20, but Ray is there.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: 50 miles offshore. And just so I can get a better understanding, did I understand the slide to say that the water differential could be as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit?
MR. MCKINNEY: Potentially, that is the range. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Would that potentially take it below freezing?
MR. MCKINNEY: No. I don't think we ever get in that situation. Out in that part, the ocean does not get that cold.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: How do we go about collecting data to understand what this would do?
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, that is what the Beacon Point proposal has; go ahead and put the facility in, and then collect that data, and then they are working on the monitor, and plan to do that. And then adjust, once we see what happens. But it is just not there right now.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But didn't I understand you to say just a minute ago, that there is one that is getting ready to start operation off the Texas coast?
MR. MCKINNEY: No, not off the Texas coast. It is off of Louisiana. And I am sure they are working with them on monitoring the plant as well, so we will get some data.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Do we have jurisdiction 50 miles off coast?
MR. MCKINNEY: No. Only under this particular act. It is considered adjacent waters. So the two Governors of Texas or Louisiana can ‑‑ do have veto power over those, because of the provisions of the federal act.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Walk us through that permit system. Who issues the permit exactly?
MR. MCKINNEY: This one is ‑‑ let me go back to the onshore ones here. If you can see that here. Put it in there. They are handled by the Coast Guard. And they are a different group.
But they are running through the same. They have to do an EIS. They have to do those analyses. It is an EIS process, so it follows that typically.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: How do you do an environmental impact statement if you don't have any data?
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, and this is not unusual, because in many cases, we don't. We use the data that is available. Whatever is available, they use and do the best job that they can.
And I think in looking at what has happened in those, there has been a number of questions that have been raised about the analysis that has been made about those impacts, that they are questionable. And they would be the same for the other side. Because there is a real paucity of data, and how you deal with it. And that is an issue.
So on either side of it, can you make ‑‑ I don't feel comfortable. That there are minimal impacts or that there is significant impacts. I just can't make that call. The data's not there.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: One of the things that we might be able to determine is what exactly is ‑‑ what aquatic life is spawning at that 50 mile range.
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, that is really the data that we are talking about. Unfortunately, the national fishery centers that is required to take that data, they do. It is under a program called SEAMAP.
But it has been so underfunded over the years, that they have some database, but it's just not sufficient for something like this. It is just not there. They have some ideas, and they are using it, but it is not very good data.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I was always under the impression that redfish spawned significantly closer to the shoreline. Is that ‑‑ do redfish spawn 50 miles out?
MR. MCKINNEY: No, that is in some of these. Yes, they can be there. But I don't know in what numbers. And there is others, red snapper.
And depending on the facility, again, I was kind of mixing those up. Depending on the facility and location, you are going to have more concern with redfish in closer, red snapper out further. The migratory bird, migratory fish as well. So it is a mix.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I guess it is kind of interesting that we have had two items, briefing items right in a row that deal with energy. It is clearly one of the most significant issues that our country is going to face. And we want to be careful in how we do it.
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, exactly. I mean, from our ‑‑ we understand. And there is the LNG facilities are safe, there is something. We are going to have to ‑‑ that will be just like wind power and those types of things. What we are trying to work out, what is the best approach from a fish and wildlife perspective.
There is a lot of things that decision makers are going to have to weigh in this case, when they look at this, from the fish and wildlife perspective. The unknowns for us are significant enough to say that we ought to err on the side of caution. We know that the closed-loop system can work.
We would prefer to go that direction, rather than take the risk. There are other perspectives that we understand as well.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: With the $20 million to $30 million a year ‑‑
MR. MCKINNEY: Again, I am very careful about that, because that has been ‑‑ I put that in there, and I probably should have not put that in there. That has been laid out by others. I can't make that call.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: The economic dealt in operating costs.
MR. MCKINNEY: Some of the folks have predicted concerns of, for example, 8 percent of all the redfish in the Gulf of Mexico, production could be lost. In Louisiana, up to 11 percent of their redfish production could be lost because of these things.
When you translate that into dollars, that is where I think they get these dollars. But again, when I look at those, I have ‑‑ I understand what they have done, but the data is not what I would like for it to be.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Well, it looks to me like with that kind of potential difference in operating costs, there is scope for some significant mitigation dollars.
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, yes sir. And I think some groups are certainly thinking about that.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Larry, I was going to head where Ned is headed. 20 or 30 million a year, if you capitalize that, even at a low multiple of ten, there is $200 million to $300 million of value swing in the value of these facilities to the investors who are putting up the money.
You know, that is exactly where I was going with that. That leaves a lot of room for mitigation. Can these effects you are describing be mitigated. If they could be quantified, could they be mitigated?
MR. MCKINNEY: If I knew what the scope of the impact was, I would be better positioned to answer that. I just don't know. But certainly there are actions that can be taken to mitigate these types of things, if they occur.
Whether they can do so to the extent that the loss that would take place, no. And we have looked at those types of things. So at this point, until we can get better information, we have erred on the side of ‑‑ we would prefer to go to closed-system, as we did on the inshore ones, to avoid having to try to go through that.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And a second question, on the open-loops. Is it possible for them to really, just to run a conduit, a pipe further offshore to get away from the shallow breeding grounds to areas where they will have a lessened impact, so that the intake and the discharge of warm water is removed from the highly sensitive areas.
MR. MCKINNEY: No, not really. Because of this shallowness of the area, and such a broad area. But those companies are certainly looking at ways to avoid that. They are looking at, for example, and come to talk to us about ideas that their intakes being higher in the water and lower and being variable.
So depending on season, they could actually change when they bring water in. So they are looking at issues and they are setting themselves up so if they do move forward, if they can move forward, that they could take some actions to minimize those impacts and have it already in place. And we appreciate that. And I think that is a good progress.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: What is the water depth in that 50 mile area. Do we know?
MR. MCKINNEY: No, it can't be much. I am going to turn around and ask Ray again, because I know he will know. 65 to 70.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Let me go ahead and introduce Ray and Tom. And you can come on up here. And if there are any questions.
This is a briefing item, Tom. We are not taking any action. Okay. Tom Sellers with Conoco-Phillips and Ray Sullivan with Sullivan Public Affairs.
MR. SELLERS: [inaudible] projects.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Come on up and take a seat. And you can ‑‑ we may refer some questions to you. John Parker.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Dr. McKinney, let's go back to the Texas Gulf Coast slide.
MR. MCKINNEY: I just clicked past. You are going to have to help me out here.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: How many of those along the coast, on the coast are operational now?
MR. MCKINNEY: None of those. They are all under construction. The greens are under construction; the reds are permitted and could go to construction.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: They are under construction now. But all of those are going to be closed-loop systems.
MR. MCKINNEY: All of those. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Why have those people chosen to go with a closed-loop system and the ones farther out chosen to go with an open-loop system?
MR. MCKINNEY: Some of the inshore ones were proposed for an open-loop. But when you take a look at the amount of water that is going to be moving through, 100 to 200 million gallons a day, in a closed system in a bay, you could recycle significant parts of a bay quite rapidly, and everyone would recognize that as clearly a serious issue.
When you move offshore, of course the volumes of water are obviously tremendously larger, and the depths here are greater. So you don't have that issue of a confined space like you are putting a hose into a small dub and sucking it out, versus a swimming pool or something. Is that getting at your answer? It is a matter of volume and area.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: But we also have concerns of the offshore sucking up the larvae, plankton.
MR. MCKINNEY: They are there.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Not only the larvae, but what they feed on.
MR. MCKINNEY: Yes, sir. And that is the question. What is that volume of it? Is it billions or millions or what. Or can it be avoided?
That is the issue of which we don't have the data to make that call. And if I was in my coastal waters, inshore, I could make that call for you. I could give you a good estimate. But we don't sample out there in the Gulf, and they don't have this fishing resource as we do.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So you are saying that we have to build one, and find out if we are going to have a crisis or not.
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, that is an approach. That is one way to do it. Try it and see, and then be ready to react and change to some other approach, if the impacts are what some of those might be concerned about.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Kind of like a batter going to the batter's box in the game, he has already got ‑‑ he starts off with one or two strikes.
MR. MCKINNEY: Can be.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Isn't that exactly what is happening, though? Didn't you say that there were two ‑‑
MR. MCKINNEY: There are two that have been permitted early on.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: They have been permitted.
MR. MCKINNEY: So we will get some information there. Those are going to happen.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So it is going to happen anyway. It is happening off of Louisiana.
MR. MCKINNEY: And I think that Louisiana folks are concerned that you have, it is a cumulative impact of a number of these facilities moving so much water over a ‑‑ period.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Just as a curiosity, and I think I am probably addressing this to you, Mr. Chairman, I don't recall this issue having been debated at the Commission before. Have we developed a position on it? Is there a policy position on open versus closed-loop?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think the staff has made their professional scientific opinion pretty clear. But to answer your question, no. We don't have a Commission policy. There seems to be a bit of the chicken and the egg here, of the mitigation issue.
Well, if you can mitigate, and I understand that any industry would offer to mitigate the impact, the question is, what are you mitigating. Until you know what the impact is you don't know what the level of mitigation, or even if it is possible to mitigate that impact.
I want to go back a second, because I am particular about getting my facts straight. The open-loop terminals that have been permitted are two. Correct?
MR. MCKINNEY: That is correct.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: One off Louisiana?
MR. MCKINNEY: Actually, both off Louisiana.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Both off Louisiana.
MR. MCKINNEY: Energy Bridge and Pelican.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. So there is no permitted open-loop off Texas presently?
MR. MCKINNEY: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. I am trying to get these facts straight. All right. Now, why didn't Governor Blanco veto the other two, if she has vetoed the most recent.
MR. MCKINNEY: That, I don't know. I had asked that question that only those facilities, those permits went in so, and I asked staff about that, that those permits went so quickly. And actually, in the process, that no one had actually anticipated or issued a permit.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: For the purpose of Texas, though, we have no again, no permitted open-loop today. So the issue, it seems to me, that we need to struggle with here is, if we ‑‑ depending on how we come out on this, you are going to be setting a precedent for Texas.
And the impact, clearly it is much cheaper to do the open-loop. If Texas has an open-loop policy ‑‑ somebody's Blackberry just busted them. If we allow open-loop, we are going to attract open-loop. If it is not allowed in other coastal areas. I mean, I think my University of Chicago economist is over here ‑‑
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: A lot of people want in. And if we are cheaper, they are going to be here. You can count on it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. So, right. If a lot of people want in and it is $30 million a year cheaper to do it here, you are going to get a lot of them. So it is really an issue of cumulative effect. Correct?
MR. MCKINNEY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: But it has not deterred the people from asking for permits and stating that they are going closed-loop on our shoreline.
MR. MCKINNEY: No, sir. These are all closed-loops and they are moving forward, as you can see there, at various levels.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Just so I can get the procedure straight here. This is a briefing item. So understand that this is not public testimony. We are not making any decision here. We are just learning. And with that said ‑‑ Madam, I am sorry. I didn't get your name.
MS. MILEY: My name is Joyce Miley, and I may be able to answer some of your questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You have to identify yourself, and who you are with for the record.
MS. MILEY: Joyce Miley. I am with Conoco-Phillips. My job title is Director of Stakeholder relations for global gas. I have two Texas facilities that I am responsible for.
One is the Freeport LNG project, and the other is the Beacon Port project. My Freeport LNG project, that project is onshore Texas. It is under construction. It is a closed-loop process. We decided to permit this as a closed-loop process for two reasons.
One, because it is in a near shore environment, we felt that the biology would be too prevalent, that it would be difficult to run that as an open-loop. And the other is, the waters that we would be drawing from are silt-laden. It is the Brazos River water and the intercoastal that we would need to take the water from. And engineering wise, it would be extremely difficult to clean up that water to get rid of the sediment so that you could work it through the process.
So on the Freeport LNG, we chose the closed-loop because of engineering and environmental reasons. Offshore in Texas, Pearl Crossing, although it is withdrawn, is permitted as an open-loop facility. The company is not moving forward with that, but you already have one that has been permitted.
The Beacon Port, we are working on the application to permit it as an open rack vaporization, which is the open-loop, which is using the sea water. Conoco-Phillips is also working offshore Alabama. That offshore Alabama is Compass Port. That should go through government approval or veto on June 11. On or before June 11.
So we are much further along in the process on our Compass Point facility. On that one, we started in October of 2004 to collect site specific marine information on more than a monthly basis. We hired a reputable marine institute to go out there on a regular basis.
We have thousands of samples, where we have looked on a stratigraphic water column, so that we could determine what eggs, what larvae, what time of the year, in what layer. And we are seeing results. Dr. George Crozier, with the Dolphin Island SEALAB is the scientist responsible for that.
We have promised that we would do the same studies for Beacon Port, and have at least three years of knowledge prior to actual construction out there, and then additional monitoring. Both of those projects monitoring and mitigation. And so we have promised that these projects would go forward that way.
There are two you asked about, other where in the world. Accelerate, offshore Louisiana has had two, possibly three cargos already come in. They are monitoring; they're collecting information.
So that is the closest we could find to Texas of an operating open-loop. Shell Gulf Landing has also been permitted. They are offshore Louisiana. They are not under construction yet. So there is no information available on that one.
East Coast and West Coast of the United States, there are no open-loop projects, but there are over 40 around the world that have been operating since 1969. The reason I know that date, is Conoco-Phillips created our first liquid fraction terminal in Alaska, and we have been sending LNG around the world since 1969.
Open-loop systems are the most prevalently used systems around the world, if they are in areas where they can get a good source of water, whether it be fresh or salt. Almost all of the open-loop systems are in the near shore environment.
If the Shell Gulf Landing, the Pearl Crossing, the Beacon Port, our Compass Port, the Accelerate, some of those others are offshore. So most of the over 40 are in a near shore if not onshore environment.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Go ahead, John.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You know, for me personally, at some future date, maybe sooner than later, I would like for you to consider inviting Dr. Earl to come give us her vast knowledge of what we are talking about here.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think A&M Corpus Christi and the Hart Research Institute is a good place to ‑‑
COMMISSIONER PARKER: What did you say?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think A&M Corpus Christi, and Hart Research Institute which Dr. Earl chairs would be a good resource for us to consult in this matter. Right now, I am just trying to gather the facts. And already, my facts are starting to move on me there a little bit.
We do then, have, I understand, a single LNG terminal that is ‑‑ is that me? No, it is not me. Permitted, but withdrawn. What is the significance of being withdrawn. Can it be re-permitted without a new review, or what?
MS. MILEY: The company made the decision that they were not ready to build at this time. And so they told the U.S. Coast Guard and MARAD that their application will not be progressed forward.
MARAD had asked if they could withdraw to change the cumulative impact studies. Because any project that comes up from here on out needs to bring in all the water use even of those facilities that have been permitted.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Let me ask my question a little bit more directly. Do they need to re-permit if it is withdrawn?
MS. MILEY: I don't know.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. So, I am really trying to get to this simple point, for us as policymakers to try and understand. Is there, or is there not a threshold which has already been crossed of allowing open-loop in Texas.
And as I understand it, from what you have said, no. Because that one was ‑‑ the one that was permitted has been withdrawn. So we are at the, I wouldn't say the case of first impression. But we are dealing with the threshold.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Let me ask a question.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, Donato.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: As part of the permitting process, are you required to make representations to the agency as to the significance or the impact on the environment. Is that a condition to the permitting process?
MS. MILEY: Over three years ago, we put in our application. And in our application, we took the SEAMAP data, and we used those results to come up with our estimates of what the impact might be. The U.S. Coast Guard then hired their own environmental consultant who independently did the work. And they also spoke to the agencies that they felt had the most knowledge, and that is where Texas Parks and Wildlife comes in.
So it was a joint ‑‑ we put the application in. U.S. Coast Guard used their scientists to test it. And then went to the agencies, your local agency, to say what is your opinion.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Has the regulatory agency that governs you and issues a permit indicated their preference for an open or a closed system?
MS. MILEY: The license that will be received after the final EIS comes out will have the decision made. It is not made up until this point. The license that came out on Pearl Crossing said that it was okay to use open-loop.
The license that came out on Accelerate in Louisiana said that it was okay to use open-loop. The license that came out on the Gulf Landing offshore Louisiana said it was okay. The license that is expected to come out on that main pass, since it was vetoed by the Governor, cannot say they can use open-loop, because the Governor said no.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: My question relates to the State of Texas. Has the State of Texas regulatory agencies taken a position recommending an open or a closed loop? in other words, it seems to me that you are the one that is applying for the permit. And then you are going to an agency. And my question is, whether the agency has indicated to you, to Conoco-Phillips whether they prefer an open or a closed loop.
MR. MCKINNEY: This is of course, an entirely federal process. It doesn't go through the state regulatory process with the Coast Guard and others. And I don't think ‑‑ that regulatory agency wouldn't do that, until ‑‑ they would wait until they had all the documents, and then make a decision based on ‑‑
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Typically, in this type of a permitting process, staff will make a recommendation. And that is my question to you is, whether staff, the regulatory agency is recommending a closed loop as compared to an open. But in spite of that, the decision was to make it an open loop.
So that is my question. What staff recommended as a condition for the issuance of the permit.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Let me ask it a different way. Does NOAA or National Marine Fisheries have a position on open versus closed loop in offshore?
MR. MCKINNEY: They have raised their concerns about open systems. They have said closed loop is what they would prefer.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That is my question.
MR. MCKINNEY: Those are commenting agencies. Those are agencies in the federal system that respond.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Well, but the regulatory agency is recommending a closed system. Correct?
MR. MCKINNEY: The Coast Guard is the regulatory ‑‑
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: The Coast Guard.
MR. MCKINNEY: And I am not aware if they have made a statement of any type as far as ‑‑
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: As part of the permitting process, to the extent, do you know whether a condition of a permit is that you make certain representations with regards to what you would do in the event of an impact on the resource?
MS. MILEY: That is correct.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And what is that representation?
MS. MILEY: Those have not been established for this project yet. We are working with Dr. McKinney. We are working with NOAA. We are working with the EPA to establish what those conditions might be. We have some proposed.
Our Compass Port, I could talk about more, because it is further along in the process. But as a company, we know that there will be some impacts. The MARAD and the U.S. Coast Guard has recognized that there will be some impacts. And we have agreed to modify our technology, that is a variable intake, so that we take from an area of the water column that we feel at that time has the least amount of impact there.
And we are working on other kinds of operational conditions that will help reduce the impact. We are also talking about monetary restoration. And working with the local agencies, the state agencies, on giving them monetary restorations to help mitigate and restore any of the impacts that we might have.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And that would be by putting up a letter of credit to cover any impact. I mean, do you know whether it has gone that far?
MS. MILEY: We would work through individually. That is why we are keeping a working relationship and education and talking back and forth. That is the only way it can be done.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: What happens, since you don't know what the impact will be, what if the impact exceeds the ability to mitigate?
MS. MILEY: We have made the promise that if it cannot be corrected, using the system that we are proposing, that we will shut down, or change system. And that will be in the license. It is currently in the Shell Gulf Landing license.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Let's take a little time to get around. Yes, Phil.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: My knowledge on this subject is now limited to what we heard today. This is the first briefing I have had. I think this is a big issue for us. It has implication that affect national energy policy, employment in Texas, perhaps a lot of plants.
I would prefer personally that we not have a policy. We are in charge of making the policy until we have taken the time, and probably intensely and quickly, in fairness to the groups that are trying to start these projects for much more detailed briefing on the substantive issues you have raised, Dr. McKinney. Because there is clearly a lot of uncertainty related to some of these.
But I can sit here in my mind, and think, can you mitigate? Are there contingent steps that could be made to allow post-opening solutions. And I just ‑‑ I am uncomfortable with us going forward with any recommendations as an agency that the Commission hasn't endorsed as a matter of policy.
I think the Commission should set policy, should endorse our policy. But I also think we need to know a whole lot more before we can make a decision. I don't know what my decision will be without knowing that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. Well, keep in mind that we don't have regulatory jurisdiction here.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Here's the comment ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think our policy and comments are important. I agree with you. You said it well.
If it is $30 million a year cheaper to operate LNG in Texas, and we allow open-loop, you are going to get a lot of them. So you need to really be looking at this not from the standpoint of permitting the impact for one, but essentially establishing your standard for Texas.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Understood. But by virtue of that exact comment, you are also saying it is a very significant economic issue for this state.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: A very significant energy issue. So I wasn't arguing; I was commenting on wildlife. But our job as a Commission is to set policy, and we have a de facto policy that is underway.
I think it should be stopped and reviewed, and we should either endorse or not endorse whatever our policy is, as a Commission. This is a big policy matter. That is what we are supposed to do.
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, let me make a point for you here. You actually have no control over the process. It is a federal process, and they are going to move forward and have to make the decision within the time lines and time frames. So that is happening.
This is the type of thing we deal with every day on these processes, that we try to follow them and work with them. So there is no stopping this train. The folks have, certainly the companies have considerable investments and need to move forward on them. And the regulatory process is set by law as to where they go. So that is where we get into these situations where we have to make our best judgment with the information we have available.
And I think it was well said here, that what the company is trying to do is to set up a scenario so they can move forward in that uncertainty. And we do appreciate that approach. I think it is very straightforward and positive.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Larry, do you believe that our comments and recommendations have any impact on the outcome of the decision made by the permitting agencies?
MR. MCKINNEY: The Coast Guard in this sense, I think they have some impact. Certainly the cumulative impact of all agencies and others certainly has an impact because of those concerns.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Therefore, the way we make those comments, and how we weight the judgments we make does reflect a policy and has potential implications in the outcomes that occur.
MR. MCKINNEY: I just think you have to be careful. I mean, this is a huge project. This is a big issue.
But we deal with these things on one scale nearly every day. The Commission doesn't want to be in the position of passing policy on what our biologists do every day on permit reviews, and those types of things, I don't think. I think you would be ‑‑
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Not on the individual permit, no. I understand.
MR. MCKINNEY: And these are bigger issues, and you have done that type of thing. So I am not quite following you. I mean, I just want to make that point.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, I think there are policy dimensions to this that we should weigh in on in the broad sense, in a general sense. I do not think the Commission should get involved in individual issues. But I think we should understand and either endorse or not endorse a policy recommendation of what our agency should be ‑‑
MR. MCKINNEY: On broad scope.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: On the broad scope.
MR. MCKINNEY: And I am not ‑‑ I understand what you are saying.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Donato.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Let me just add something. It would seem to me that to the extent that our resources is being impacted by this permit, that the regulatory agency would permit us to have standing, just like if I asked for a particular permit, anyone that is impacted by that permit has standing before the law. So it seems to me that to the extent that Conoco-Phillips or any company is interested in obtaining a permit that will impact our resource, that we have standing to go to that regulatory agency and say, before you consider this you ought to consider it.
And I think it is an issue of intervention, or standing. And so although we technically are not a permittee, I think anyone who is impacted would have standing.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Go ahead, Ned.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I would like to ask Ms. Miley a question, just for clarification. Was the $20 million to $30 million a year savings a number from Conoco-Phillips?
MS. MILEY: No, sir. To use a system that will burn the liquefied natural gas, it is estimated because of the volume, that when we want to run 1.5 BCF a day, they calculate it will take between 1 and 2 percent of the liquefied natural gas that comes in. And so, not knowing what the value of the gas is, we have never come up with a number.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Where did that number come from?
MR. MCKINNEY: Those were from other facilities that have gone through that and made those estimates. So it was just in general.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You can do it. You can figure it at ‑‑ [inaudible].
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Ms. Miley, there is obviously an economic reason why you want an open system rather than a closed one. Give us some ‑‑ if these are not your numbers ‑‑ I thought they were your numbers.
MS. MILEY: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: You obviously have some view as to the economic benefit from being in an open rack system. What is that?
MS. MILEY: The company had to, when we selected this location, look at the economics of it. It costs twice as much to build offshore, so that we have an additional capital outlay to go offshore. And then we need to entice suppliers to literally give us long term contracts to bring the supply in.
And every supplier is trying to get the most money that they can for each facility. So if you look at an offshore that has got a longer time to recover the cost for capital investment, versus an onshore, their profit is less. And then when you look at the distance from the re-gasification to the market, we are 50 miles offshore. That transportation there is less.
So it is more difficult for us to entice a supplier, because of the additional up-front capital costs, and then the annual operating costs. And then when we looked at the economic value between open-loop, the open rack vaporizers, and burning 1 to 2 percent of our liquefied natural gas or gas, there is a difference in economics there.
And then we also looked at environmental. I have been an environmental professional. I have been an environmental professional for 25 years. So that also weighed into our decision to go with the seawater for warming the gas. And I have heard some people say, well, what is this?
There is more than just biology in environmental. So we looked at the actual burning of the gas offshore, greenhouse gas and air emissions. Yes, it is not much. But that also gas could have been used onshore. It is the amount of natural gas that will supply natural gas to a city of over 100,000 daily.
So we are taking, and we are using a resource offshore, instead of bringing it onshore, where it could be used onshore. So there is the economics there, too, that loss.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Did I understand you to say that the amount of gas used to heat the LNG would be the equivalent of that required to power a city of 100,000 people?
MS. MILEY: On a daily basis, yes sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: No. That's just the amount that you use to heat the gas, to heat it in an open-loop system.
MS. MILEY: No. In a closed-loop system.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I am sorry. In a closed loop.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That's additional cost to close.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So that is an obvious savings, But you also said that Conoco-Phillips, who I believe is a very fine corporate citizen. I live in Houston, and so I am familiar with them. And I think they are very good citizens.
You said that they had pledged that they would convert this open-loop systems to a closed loop, in the event that the environmental impacts were greater than acceptable.
MS. MILEY: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: What is the capital cost of that?
MS. MILEY: It is significant. I don't believe as a company we would have promised that. We have created that language, and we have asked that that language be put in our Compass Port, which is offshore Alabama. We are setting the bar very high for offshore Alabama, which means we would have to do the same thing for Texas.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: What agency or what objective standard would there be, to determine that that impact had exceeded the ability to mitigate. I mean, what would be the triggering mechanism to make this incredible conversion of capital costs there. Because it seems to me like a very long lawsuit, more than a ‑‑
MS. MILEY: We have promised to continue the monitoring. I told you Compass Port in October of 2004, we started onsite site-specific data collection. We have promised to continue that. We would work with the national ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Who would do it? Where would the decision be made that triggers you have got to do it?
MS. MILEY: Right. It is in the license. It would be the National Marine Fisheries. And the data would go to them. And they would make the call.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I reiterate. I listened to Sylvia ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, we have got to ‑‑ I think that everyone agrees that we have got a lot to learn about this.
MR. MCKINNEY: You have got a good idea of the complexity of all these issues. And I do want to make clear the point of the examples and the numbers I was using. I didn't actually know that the Conoco-Phillips was going to be here today. And I didn't want to talk about a particular project.
So I had not pulled numbers out of their project just broadly. So I don't want to for the plus or minuses, I don't want them to be attributed particular numbers, because I didn't do that. But you have got an idea.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Clearly, it is economic to do both closed loop and open-loop, because you have got both. The question is, impact.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You have got nine closed loops already on the Texas shore, either proposed or in some stage. And you know those people intend to make money, and they figured out how they could do it with the closed loop.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I think you made your point, and you should help me with this. Did I understand you to say that open rack offshore is not even competitive with onshore closed loop. Is that right?
MR. MCKINNEY: As far as ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Because of the ‑‑ I am sorry. It says because of the additional cost of offshore.
MS. MILEY: Again, it would depend on the distance.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MS. MILEY: Because the further offshore, the longer the pipeline, the more capital costs. The distance to market.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I have one more question, Ms. Miley. Given that the capital costs to build offshore is double, is that what I understood?
MS. MILEY: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And given that you have a 50 mile distance to get back onshore to where the market is for the gas, would you in fact build a closed loop offshore? I mean, why would you build one offshore if it costs twice as much, and you have to transmit the gas 50 miles?
MS. MILEY: I personally don't know the answer to that question. We would have to look at it, as a company to see if it is justified to change the technology.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Do they exist?
MS. MILEY: Oh, yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Closed loop offshore does exist.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. And operate.
MS. MILEY: Well, there is only one offshore in operation in the world. And that is offshore Louisiana. And it is open-loop.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I am sorry. I thought you said there were 40 around the world.
MS. MILEY: Near shore. Onshore, near shore.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So what does near shore mean, versus offshore? Does that mean it is in the bay, or ‑‑
MS. MILEY: Getting water within two to three miles of the coast. Withdrawing their water from within two to three miles of the coastline.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: You said the facility would be on land.
MS. MILEY: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And they would pipe the water in.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The gasification occurs near shore. All right. One more time. Still trying to get my facts straight here. There is or is not an offshore closed-loop-system operating, I will start, somewhere in the world.
MS. MILEY: No.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There is not anywhere in the world an offshore closed loop.
MS. MILEY: That is correct. But it is possible technology.
MR. MCKINNEY: Commissioner Holmes, the near shore ones you are talking about, you have to be careful when you call them near shore. Near shore for us, the water depths are 30 to 40 feet.
Off Alaska, it could be 3,000-4,000 feet. So there is issues you have to deal with. And they are all different.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That is an important point you are saying. Because the Gulf is shallow, offshore doesn't mean the same thing in the Gulf that it means other places. It is still similar to near shore, as far as depth.
MR. MCKINNEY: I do want to conclude. We have obviously, with all these facilities we are talking about here, and the companies we are working with, and of course, we work very closely with Exxon-Mobil on the inshore, and Conoco-Phillips here. And we have good working relationships with all those companies now.
We may fundamentally disagree on how we approach things from the beginning, because our agency is a fish and wildlife agency. We are looking at those issues. And we try to make sure that we deal with that. But we work with these companies regardless of what our general concerns are, to try to get to some answer.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think there is some consensus that if you could bring the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Hart Research Institute, Gulf of Mexico studies, your friend Wes Connell [phonetic], Sylvia Earl, those sort of resources to brief us on maybe not to say that these aren't independent reviews that we are getting today but another opinion on this.
MR. MCKINNEY: You would have to assume that they want to talk about it, and get into this. I don't know if they will or not.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, they shouldn't have gotten into the Gulf of Mexico issue, if they didn't want to deal with this, because this one is coming.
MR. MCKINNEY: Very good, sir. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you for that briefing. And we do have a few more items that we have to get done this morning. Thank you very much for your time. Tom, thank you for being available, and Ray. And we'll continue to have some questions.
Next up, Item 14 was withdrawn. So we go to Item 15, action item, easement request, Jefferson County. Ann Bright. More LNG. We just can't get away from that.
MS. BRIGHT: Good afternoon. I am Ann Bright, General Counsel. And as the Chairman noted, this is the third item in a row involving energy.
As mentioned yesterday, the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area is a 2,400 acre, a little over 2,400 acre wildlife management area in Jefferson County. It is in the prairie marsh zone, along the upper coast. I think you can see that there.
Entergy Gulf States has requested an easement across about 1,400 linear feet of the wildlife management area. This is part of a transmission line that will run about six miles. The criteria or the attributes of this transmission line are set out here.
And these attributes will actually impact most of the entire transmission line, which will reduce impacts to migrating waterfowl. And there is the motion.
We are requesting that the Commission make a recommendation to the General Land Office, actually, the Board for Lease, to grant an easement to Entergy, which is actually going to be building the transmission lines. And I would be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We reviewed yesterday the terms of that, with regard to the environmental mitigation terms.
MS. BRIGHT: Yes. There are, there are some other ‑‑ the actual action item here is really just the easement, but we were able to resolve successfully in a PUC proceeding.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Very good. Do I have a motion on this item? Oh, I have a question from Parker.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Berger.
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Are you, is the Wildlife Section completely happy with this?
MR. BERGER: We had a different recommendation when we started off, but I believe that the agreement that we have arrived at here is amenable, and something we can work with, and be happy with. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Very good.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It is a settlement.
MS. BRIGHT: We worked very ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Are you going to make a motion.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion from Parker, and second from Friedkin. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you for your work on that, Ann. That was well done. Next up, Item 16. Action item, land acquisition, Presidio County. Jack Bauer.
MR. BAUER: Chairman and Commissioners. I am Jack Bauer, Director of Land Conservation. We have a land item at Big Bend Ranch State Park in the Trans-Pecos.
As you are aware, Big Bend Ranch lies along the Rio Grande River and in association with several other large conservation areas, and we have ‑‑ you are also aware in the development plan for Big Bend Ranch to try to acquire inholdings in that park, to improve the access for the public, we have a 40 acre tract that is available for purchase. And we are proposing that the Commission accept the motion before you to acquire that property.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Do I have a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: From Holmes and second by Montgomery. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Jack, thank you.
MR. BAUER: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Next up, Item 17. Land sale, Uvalde County.
MR. KUHLMANN: Commissioners, for the record, My name is Corky Kuhlmann, with the Land Conservation Program at Parks and Wildlife. This item represents a proposed land sale to an adjacent landowner in Garner State Park.
You saw this item in the April meeting. We had it out for public comment. We had no negative comments about the proposed sale to an adjacent landowner. It will, the sale will be 1.27 acres at appraised value.
We will ‑‑ Parks and Wildlife will keep a conservation easement on the 1.27 acres, and we will also get a donation of a conservation easement on the adjacent property, the purchaser's property, which includes 500 foot of Frio River, which is directly across from the campsite at Garner. It is a nice acquisition for us, even though it is a land sale. Staff recommends you adopt the motion before you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Any questions for Corky. We have one person signed up to testify on this. Mr. Gilleland.
MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland. I am speaking for myself and Texas Animals. I am referring to your statement on the transaction. I didn't make a handout, because I assumed you have a copy of this before you. Paragraph 2, one of the most popular parks in Texas, it is true.
And more importantly, it is popular with young people. It is not popular necessarily with the older people. But with the young people it is very popular. The Frio River and the dance pavilion are the main draws.
Next paragraph, I would like to refer you to the statement that says quote, the tract is not used by the park. Making the analogy to Eagle Mountain Lake State Park, which you want to give away, you want to give it away because it is not being used notwithstanding the fact that it is situated at the top of a coal mine or natural gas mine fortune.
So this statement about not being used is just fraudulent as far as I am concerned. It is not being used because you don't want to use it. This tract of land, 1.27 acres out of 2,000 is not being used because you don't want to use it.
You, you, you personally don't want to use it. The same with Eagle Mountain Lake State Park and you, too, Robert. You don't want to use it, and you write in here as not being used, get rid of it.
The last paragraph, none of you are looking at what I am reading from. I am referencing your own words. The last paragraph is your own words. It says, the State Park, Garner State Park, "this tract of land is no longer in the best interest of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department."
That is a fraudulent statement from beginning to end, because there is not a scintilla of evidence in here which alludes or identified the fact that it is not to the best interest. I defy you to look, you lawyers, look on this document and show me something that says it is not in the best interest of the Parks and Wildlife Department to keep this tract of land. It is a lie.
And thank god, I still have some control, or I would go further. It is bogus and it is criminal. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Gilleland. Corky, just so I understand. There is no easement presently to protect that property on the riverside. Correct?
MR. KUHLMANN: No, sir. There is no easement to protect it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. And the sale of this one acre, which is adjacent to the other property owner would give us that easement in addition to an easement on the 1.27. Correct?
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I am clear then. All right. Thanks. Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Holmes, second by Parker. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Corky, well done. Thank you. Any more business to come before the Commission, Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We stand adjourned. Thank you gentlemen.
MR. COOK: Thank you very much.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
In official recognition hereof, we hereby affix our signatures as approved this ___ day of ____________ 2006.
Joseph B. C. Fitzsimons,
Donato D. Ramos, Vice-Chairman
Mark E. Bivins, Member
J. Robert Brown, Member
T. Dan Friedkin, Member
Ned S. Holmes, Member
Peter M. Holt, Member
Philip Montgomery III, Member
John D. Parker, Member
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Public Hearing
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 26, 2006
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 283, 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, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731