Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
Nov. 2, 2005Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 2nd day of November, 2005, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas, Committee Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas (absent)
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas (absent)
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, 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
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay, here we go. The first order of business is the approval of the previous Commission meeting minutes which have already been distributed. Is there an approval?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay. Commissioner Holmes made the motion, Commissioner Bivins seconded. All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: The next order of business is the Chairman's Charges.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You have heard something today about our steady progress on Prop 8 issues from the bond proceeds received in 2003. 118 total projects, 66 projects are completed and 49 in design and construction. We are currently preparing our request for the next issue of Prop 8 funds for the FY '06-'07 biennium to be submitted to Texas Public Finance Authority Board on December 1 of 2005. We will be presenting to the Commission today a resolution that will initiate the financing of $18.1 million of the new Prop 8 funds. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Committee Item 1, bond program updates. Mr. Steve Whiston.
Pardon me, before we go in, we are going to do something a little bit different here. We are going to have an update on Hurricane Rita recovery, and our park facilities.
MR. WHISTON: Thank you, Chairman Parker. Commissioners, for the record, my name is Steve Whiston, the Director of Infrastructure. I realize the hour is late. And we are going to try to do our best to abbreviate our presentation so not to cause you to be late to any kind of engagements you guys have tonight.
We would like to take a moment and brief you a little bit about the recovery effort and the capital needs to respond to the damage that we sustained with Rita. Although it is not on our agenda, we felt like it was timely and appropriate to share with you some details about the impact that this recent storm had on our facilities.
These first two slides though are pretty foreboding. Are actually of Hurricane Katrina as it approached Louisiana and the upper Gulf States prior to Rita. But a pretty foreboding storm and it gives you a little bit of idea on the ground of what an approaching weather event like this might look like. If you recall, Rita made landfall on the Texas-Louisiana border on September 24 as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of about 120 miles per hour.
After an extensive and well-coordinated recovery effort on the part of Law Enforcement and the Parks Division and both Fisheries Divisions, our infrastructure staff was called in to assist in assessing the damage and to determine that capital costs for the repair and reconstruction of facilities lost to the storm. Our entire effort from the very beginning has been coordinated with FEMA, in large part due to the thanks of Colonel Pete Flores and Lieutenant Colonel Craig Hunter and especially Major Al Campos who is our Agency's emergency management coordinator, who has done an outstanding job in helping us translate and work directly with FEMA to move forward in this recovery effort.
The good news is that though we did sustain some significant damage in our system, it could have been a whole lot worse. We have submitted to FEMA or are in the process now of submitting to FEMA an estimated cost of repair to replace and reconstruct facilities at a little over $3.5 million. This estimate reflects the cost to replace all the facilities that were damaged, to return all the facilities that we were currently operating, although we are still in the process, or rather State Parks is still in the process of evaluating facilities and making a determination on operationally what facilities are in our best interest to reconstruct or replace.
This estimate of 3.5 or over 3.5 does not include the cost of cleanup, nor does it include the extensive cost that the Department incurred in the recovery and rescue effort that we engaged in, in the few weeks immediately after the storm. I am sorry. Jumping ahead.
This first slide is actually a slide of a lost restroom facility, the only public restroom facility at Sabine Pass, which is obviously from the slide, was a total loss to that park. We made application to FEMA for damage at seven state parks, three wildlife management areas and one state fish hatchery.
The park residence at Sabine Pass, as you will note here was a total loss. The wooden roof structure that covered this home was a total loss. The home was completely flooded, and the water actually shifted the home off its foundation. So we are going to be looking at replacing that in its entirety.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Steve?
MR. WHISTON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: May I inject something right here? I wish the rest of them were here. I want you to look at what sort of housing we expect our park employees to live in. That is a mobile home with a tin shed roof over it. And when that hurricane come through there, it knocked the mobile home off the blocks. It is sitting flat down on the ground now. And this is the type of conditions that we expect our park employees to live in.
To me, that is criminal for the Legislature to force us to offer that sort of housing to our employees. There is not a legislator up there at that Capitol that would want any of his relatives living in that kind of house. But he tells us, that is all the money we have got, so you guys make do.
Pardon me, Steve. Sorry.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I got a brother-in-law I would put in one of those.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: We have got a buyer.
MR. WHISTON: Thank you, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Don't tell me it is almost as good as Arkansas.
MR. WHISTON: We do appreciate those remarks, and in that concern, as you are well aware, you know, we are currently still constrained legislatively to a $25,000 per biennium cap on expenditures to the repair or replacement of facilities. And until we can legislatively respond to that, or get that cap lifted, our hands are still relatively tied.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That is $25,000 per biennium per —
MR. WHISTON: Per residence.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Per residence.
MR. WHISTON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Not per park, but per residence.
MR. WHISTON: Per residence, yes. We at Sabine Pass as well, sustained some significant subsidence and erosion that damaged the sidewalks along the seawall. That was really the result of the 20-foot storm surge that hit the beach and seawall there at Sabine Pass. As that water receded, we obviously were left with some severe erosion and loss. Fortunately the bulkheads itself, that was engineered and installed by TxDOT for the most part sustained or survived without too much damage.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: You say for the most part, Steve. Did it wash out in some places?
MR. WHISTON: No, actually for the most part, the bulkhead itself is intact. There is going to be some minor damage to fencing and some stuff there, but for the most part, no, sir. We are going to be looking at really coming back in with the sidewalk and addressing the erosion.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But I take it the bulkhead is intact?
MR. WHISTON: Correct. Yes, sir. Also at Sea Rim or at Sabine Pass, excuse me, we sustained damage to several shade shelters, as well as to the boat ramp and utilities and fencing at the site. At Sea Rim, damage was estimated at a little over $500,000. The storm damaged the park headquarters building, the entrance fee booth, and caused significant roof damage to many buildings in the park.
Many of the park buildings also suffered a lot of damage to the exterior siding, decking and stairways. Two of the residences at Sea Rim have some moderate damage, but are reparable. There was also damage at this site to the utilities and fencing. At Village Creek, we estimate the damage to be almost $70,000, around $70,000. Our staff identified repairs needed to the headquarters, the Nature Center, a group cabin and one residence.
The majority of the damage at Lake Livingston was caused by the high winds that the storm brought inland. It actually caused ten-foot waves to break over the shoreline there at the lake, that damaged the fishing pier, bulkheads and sidewalks, and caused the erosion that you can see in this slide around the lakefront. Repairs at Lake Livingston, we have estimated to be about $155,000.
Martin Dies State Park was hit hard, as you I am sure, have been made aware, by the storm. The park suffered an incredible loss of standing timber. Winds devastated the pine forest and caused over a half a million dollars worth of repairs of damage. Two park buildings, the utilities and fencing throughout the park.
Fallen trees destroyed as you can see in this slide, three shade shelter buildings and did significant damage to 14 others. A couple other slides of those same or other shade shelters in the park. And resulting damage that occurred. All particularly through windfall, timberfall and high winds.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Steve, is any of that pine timber salvageable by a timber company?
MR. WHISTON: Yes. We are engaged in that. I don't know the actual status of that. I don't know if anybody from Parks is still with us. But we have been looking at and through Parks, have been looking at opportunities to try to salvage some of that timber. What I understand, though, is that we don't anticipate to actually to do this, to become a money-making enterprise for us. We are looking at just opportunities to have the timber cleared without incurring any cost to ourselves.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Like I was telling Bob, the price of timber has gone through the floor.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Because there is so much of it?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Right. So much salvage timber now. In fact, what I was telling Bob what we need to do —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: No shortage of salvage timber, right.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: What we need to do is to find some people and tell them we will give that stuff away, give it to them if they will just clean it up. And then they can haul it to what they call a sprinkles yard, where they stack them up and put sprinklers on it to keep it green. And then when the price comes back — we need to just give that stuff away to get rid of it.
MR. WHISTON: Also at Martin Dies significant repairs are going to be required to the maintenance building, to the storage buildings, picnic shelters, and the park restrooms at this site. We experienced similar circumstances at both Mission Tejas and at Lake Houston State Parks. Fallen trees caused over $90,000 of repairs.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Excuse me.
MR. WHISTON: The group pavilion here in this slide at Mission Tejas, and about $13,000 —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Was that built by the CCC?
MR. WHISTON: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is wasn't? Okay.
MR. WHISTON: Not this particular one, I don't believe. About $13 worth of repair costs to a similar group facility at Lake Houston. In addition to the damage we sustained in parks, we also felt the effects of the storm at Jasper Fish Hatchery, where winds from Rita damaged the roofs, a boat shed, maintenance and storage buildings, at a cost of about $65,000 we anticipate to repair.
At wildlife management areas, the storm did damage to the Lower Neches and to Tony Housman WMAs. It unfortunately caused more than $900,000 worth of damage to J.D. Murphree alone. The high winds at that site blew off roofs and caused some pretty significant structural damage to the headquarters, to the bunkhouse, to shop buildings and to the hunter check station.
Let me just conclude this briefing with a description of our next steps with FEMA. Over the next few weeks, FEMA, after now, we have provided them our estimate and proposal for repairs. We will be conducting onsite inspections at all those facilities impacted by the storm. And then at the conclusion of those inspections, they will notify us of their approval of any of the repairs that they determine that are eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
We have been preliminarily informed by our FEMA contacts that the majority of these repairs should be eligible for 75 percent reimbursement. Now we will have to provide 25 percent of the cost of those repairs, and they will reimburse us up to 75 percent of the actual costs for the repairs. As soon as FEMA does complete their inspections, and they have sufficient documentation of what the end result of this storm is, we will be allowed to move forward using available bond money to initiate our repair program and recovery effort to get these parks back in operation.
Currently, four parks are still closed. Sabine Pass, Sea Rim, Village Creek and Martin Dies. That concludes my presentation on the storm, on Rita, and I would be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Any discussion on that? Questions.
(Commissioner Friedkin and Commissioner Ramos return.)
MR. COOK: Commissioner, before we move on, now that you have got quorum, can I ask you to re-approve the minutes?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: We have a motion by Commissioner Holmes and a second by Commissioner Ramos that the minutes be approved. All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: The motion is carried. Committee Item 2, capital projects update.
MR. WHISTON: Thank you, Chairman Parker and Commissioners. Again for the record, my name is Steve Whiston. The purpose of this briefing is to provide you customary briefing update on our capital bond program. Each fiscal year, if you recall, we set for ourselves an annual expenditure goal, an amount that we work toward throughout the year, to expend in total capital dollars. We believe that because we have become more successful as project managers, that we have steadily been able to increase our expenditure levels each year.
In FY '03, we expended $21.9 million of capital funds. We increased that to $22.7 million in fiscal year '04. This last fiscal year in '05, we set a goal for ourselves at $22.7 million, and I am pleased to report that by the end of this fiscal year '05, August 31, we spent $25.1 million in capital revenue, an accomplishment we are proud of.
After this past legislative session and because of the cutbacks in the appropriations to our operating and our capital funds, FY '06 as well as it does to other Divisions, presents Infrastructure with some many challenges. Because the necessary loss of some of our Infrastructure staff, and the startup time required to initiate our new bonds approved by the Legislature, we don't expect to reach that same spending level in '06 that we were able successfully accomplish in '05.
So we have set an '06 goal for ourselves at $20.6 million. And please report that since September, we are on track to meeting that goal. We spent to date, about $3.4 million of capital revenue, as depicted in that small orange line graph in the slide.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Steve, is all this new capital spending or is any of it related to the storm damage?
MR. WHISTON: None of this is related yet to any storm damage expenditures. This reflects total capital expenditure, from all sources of money, whether it is bond money or appropriated Fund 64 or Fund Nine that is dedicated to capital expense.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Like Government Canyon and Sheldon Lake.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Yes, sure.
MR. WHISTON: So it doesn't include all the programs and projects included in our Prop 8 bond program. Next as Mr. Cook mentioned, we are making good progress, steady progress toward completing our current Prop 8 General Obligation Bond Program. We have, as he indicated, completed 66 projects, the last 49 or so are in design and construction. And we anticipate moving steadily forward in having these projects fully completed in the near future.
As a reminder to you as Commissioners and for the sake of the new Commissioners, this slide, we thought was going to be helpful to help summarize the capital appropriations that our Agency requested in this past legislative session. And what was eventually approved. As listed in this first column, we requested of the Legislature for the '06-'07 biennium, $57.3 million for statewide critical repairs and for funds to complete the construction of Admiral Nimitz, the Battleship Texas, Levi Jordan, San Jacinto Battleground, and the San Jacinto Monument.
We also requested in the session, authority to spend $15 million of fish stamp revenue for the construction of the East Texas Fish Hatchery. As you well know, and as you experienced along with us, the session was quite a roller coaster ride for us all. But thanks to your help and support and to many more, our request for the $18.1 million in Prop 8 funds that will allow us to continue with our statewide major repair program was approved, and we have now authority to issue those Prop 8 bonds for $18.1 million.
For the repair of the Battleship, instead of providing us Prop 8 monies as we requested, the Legislature authorized us the use of $16.1 million of Federal Highway Enhancement Program funds that are administered through TxDOT. And in a briefing a little bit later on here, before we adjourn, I will share with you a little bit of the detail of where we are with that particular project.
The Legislature in this past session also approved $2.1 million of general revenue as a part of an emergency '05 appropriation for the fire safety repairs at the San Jacinto Monument, and that project is well underway. The Legislature surprised us as well. Instead of providing us authority to spend fish stamp money in order to construct our new state fish hatchery, they authorized fifth debt service for a $15 million new revenue bond program for the construction of that facility.
This final slide and this particular item, is our revised Prop 8 funding strategy. A bit of background, if you recall, the 77th Legislature back in 2001 authorized us $101.5 million in general obligation funds. And if you will note, we have, in the very — reflected in the bottom of the far right hand column, we have reduced that total bond authority from $101.5 million by about $750,000 to what is now an available authority of $100,785.
This $750,000 reduction is the balance of the Prop 8 authority that we intended to issue for construction and repair of Admiral Nimitz. And with the current transfer that is being finalized between our agency and the Texas Historical Commission, we are also transferring that $750,000 of bond authority, this doesn't represent cash, this represents authority to seek legislative appropriation to issue cash from our Department to the Texas Historical Commission. As I mentioned earlier, we have received, under the FY '02-'03 column and Scott mentioned as well, we had received the $36.7 million of Prop 8 funds back in January of '03.
As I indicated before, we are well underway to fully expending those monies. No new capital bonds were provided us by the session for '04-'05. And then as I just described in '06-'07, we got in new bond authority, $18.1 million for our statewide repair program, which we are very much grateful. That leaves us a balance of $33.6 million of authority that we still retain in Prop 8.
We propose that for the '08-'09 at this present time, that we request $30.8 million for our statewide repair program, seek the additional $11.4 million that we still need to complete the restoration of the Battleground at San Jacinto and the remaining $3.8 million that is needed to finish the development to allow us to open Levi Jordan Plantation. That is presently our strategy, and certainly, as time goes on, and as we approach this next session, we'll be in close consultation with you to confirm our strategy for that session in developing our LAR. With that, I will be happy to answer any questions on that item?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Any discussion?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Very good. Great job.
MR. WHISTON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Anything else?
MR. WHISTON: Well, I got a couple more as soon as we get loaded up here. Just moving on. Also I promise you to try to be brief. Thank you again. The next item is, I just wanted to take a few moments to share with you a little bit about our progress on some significant capital projects, and provide you with an update.
In particular, I am going to share with you some information about the Battleship Texas Project, and then in a moment, I am going to introduce Dave Perry who is our head of project management. He is going to give you a brief summary of our success in the development of Sheldon Phase One and Government Canyon and the recent grand-opening celebration that we had an opportunity to enjoy a few weeks ago. Again, I would like to start with sharing with you our plans for initiating this major repair project at the Battleship Texas.
As I mentioned in our bond program update, the Legislature has authorized in this past session $16.1 million dollars for the repair of the ship. That is going to be provided out of federal statewide transportation enhancement program, administered through TxDOT. This new 2006 program is referred to as SAFETEA. And that is a federal Department of Transportation acronym for Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Would you go over that again?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: It spells out bureaucracy.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: SAFETEA. I thought it was a rapper.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Is this like ICE TEA?
MR. WHISTON: Yes, this program is similar, like the ICE TEA and the TEA-21 program that preceded it. That is going to be administered as well through the Department of Transportation. As similar programs, the SAFETEA will provide us 80 percent of the project costs for the repair of this ship. That leaves us the responsibility of providing a 20 percent match, which in this particular case is $3.22 million.
Matching funds can be provided in the form of state, local funds, as donations or they could be other federal funds, as long as they are not appropriated through the federal Department of Transportation. Monies appropriated through the Department of Defense or other federal funding sources are eligible to be used as match for this particular project. We received no appropriations in the 79th Legislature for this match. So our project is obviously dependent on other funding sources being identified for us to move forward with the repair of the ship.
The project has also been formally — has not and must be formally approved in this application process that is beginning, it is about to follow here. It must be approved by TxDOT as well as the federal Department of Transportation. We must submit documentation that assures the Department of Transportation that we meet the federal requirements under this grant program. As you recall, the Battleship Texas was last drydocked and repaired in Galveston, in 1998 through 1990 at a cost of about $15 million. I am sorry. '88. Excuse me. Pardon me. 1988 through 1990 at a cost of about $15 million.
This ship is again in critical need of repairs. The guidelines for making application for this new grant program has just been published by TxDOT and frankly, I will share with you the process and the timing that has been determined frankly set us back on our heels. The application period for applying for this grant begins this coming January 2006 and closes in July 2006. After a several-month-long period of state and federal review, notification of approved project funds is anticipated in January 2007.
If approved, and I would like to emphasize the possibility again that this project may not meet the federal requirements, the next step would be the execution of an advanced funding agreement. This in effect is just a contract between our agency and TxDOT to initiate the project and to set the financing and expenditure parameters for moving forward with the project.
This advanced funding agreement as prescribed by TxDOT will be completed sometime between August and November of 2007. Funds will then finally be released, and the project will be able to be started sometime in January or in January 2008. So some time off in the future, before we are really going to be able to be in a position to make significant progress toward the actually planning and design of construction.
MR. COOK: Steve, let me make a comment there. Because you gentlemen will be, as well as all of us who are here will be continually reproached by why isn't that project finished? There is a real good reason. I mean, and we cannot change the speed of that process.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Well, it looks like we have got to get up to speed.
MR. COOK: If everything is approved, approved right down the list, Dave, correct me if I am wrong, then somewhere around January of '08, we could go out and start requesting proposals and bids.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, John makes a good point though. Can we meet that deadline?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: We're going to have to just set somebody off at a cubicle and him not do anything else.
MR. WHISTON: To answer your question, in terms of the planning and the preparation, yes. We can make that deadline. The wild card here is the match. It is the $3.2 million of match. So there is several things that we are going to be needing to do and we will be engaged in this two-year period.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You are saying we have got to raise $3.2 million by when?
MR. WHISTON: Technically, the match is not required until 45 days before construction starts.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: When is that? Is that in January of 2007?
MR. WHISTON: It is going to be several years beyond —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Go for the 15th of 2007.
MR. WHISTON: Or much beyond. Yes, sir. Much beyond this. Yes.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: What would be the condition of the Battleship by then?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Worse.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Would we be looking down three years down the road, I am wondering will it be salvageable?
MR. WHISTON: We think so. Certainly, it is an unknown at this time, Commissioner Ramos. We are not certain. We do continue to identify on a daily basis, and parks can attest to this, you know, continuing erosion, you know, at the water line. Our staff came back and reported just recently you know, a couple of more finger-size holes that they noticed at the water line when you get a close look at it, that has now perforated the hull.
So if the ship is going to continue to deteriorate, most of the deterioration fortunately is in the blister tanks, those external tanks. And it is not really threatening yet the internal integrity of the ship itself. Most of it is on those outward tanks that would circle the ship.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Those were added.
MR. WHISTON: But it is still going to compromise and eventually cause the ship to become more and more less able to sustain an open tow or tow in open water, should we eventually have to be forced in getting the ship returned to dry dock and have repairs made to it. Ultimately, we still believe that for the long term preservation of the ship, the best solution is to explore through this grant and through these monies that we hope to be made available to us, the construction of an onsite permanent dry dock that this ship can sit either in or out of water, and not ever have to depend on being towed again to Galveston or Port Arthur somewhere and put in dry dock for significant and costly repairs.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: The reason I asked that, is there any hope that there would be a procedure in this grant application process to where if you had an asset for example, that is at risk here, that you might be able to get an emergency application that could expedite the time line?
MR. WHISTON: Not that we are aware of now, but that is something that we will explore. I agree. Yes. Because given the time line —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Because of the time line, I mean, it seems to me that there may be — they may be able to prioritize that because it is an asset that is deteriorating.
MR. WHISTON: Right.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Steve, you said you had two or three new finger-sized holes. But you have got some old holes.
MR. WHISTON: That is in addition to the —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Yes. You have got some you can stick your fist through.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Yes. That are five to six feet long.
MR. WHISTON: Correct. That is correct. Rotted out, rusted out sections. We do intend to continue to work closely with TxDOT through this process. We want to be as Commissioner Ramos suggested, we are going to be continuing to look for opportunities to try to expedite this. We have a resource that we want to preserve and get repaired. We do commit to keep you informed of our progress, and certainly will be back to you with updates, and be needing your guidance and approval for this project as it develops.
Now with your permission, I would like to just briefly turn the remainder of this agenda item over to Dave Perry. Again, Dave is our head of project management and he is going to share with you some of our success at Sheldon and Government Canyon.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You let him have all the good news.
MR. WHISTON: Yes.
MR. PERRY: Thank you, Steve. I just got a strong hint that we had better speed it up. Thank you, Chairman Parker. For the record, my name is Dave Perry. I am the project manager for the Infrastructure Division. I am here to talk to you about two projects that have just recently finished.
The first of these is the Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center. Sheldon Lake is located in the northeast quadrant of Houston, for those of you who may or may not know, it is north of I-10 and east of the Beltway 8. Work on Sheldon is substantially complete, and the park is now open and taking — open to the public and taking students and classes out on the property. The formal grand opening of the park is planned for spring of '06. The work on this phase includes wetland restoration, new trails, boardwalks, nine new pond learning stations. A new pond center, a new landscaped pond plaza with restrooms.
This project was funded in 2003 by Proposition 8 funds; $2.58 million. The bond funding was augmented with a $500,000 donation from Houston Endowment along with $100,000 grant from SECO, the State Energy Conservation Office, and a little over $500,000 in other funding including oil lease revenues and mitigation grant dollars. The total cost of the project to date is a little over $4 million.
I would like to recognize Mr. Jeff Kester. He is here to give me some moral support. He is our project manager for Sheldon. Jeff has orchestrated the needs of all the stakeholders — many demanding, consultants, contracts, budgets, schedules. He otherwise cajoled, convinced, begged, pleaded and got this project to a successful finish line. I had the privilege of working with Jeff during this project, and I had a design role actually under him at the time. Things are strange at Parks and Wildlife and we switched.
This project was designed, up through the architecture, the mechanical and the electrical systems were designed in-house by the Infrastructure staff. The Agency's conservation message is reinforced through the sustainable design approach used in this site. And sustainable design is a Chairman's Charge that we are following through on. And I want to just demonstrate how it works here at Sheldon.
All the materials you see in this slide are either salvaged from demolition, recycled, or otherwise low-impact or low energy consumption materials. The stonework you see is actually salvaged concrete from a demolished concrete structure onsite. The steel pipe structures are reject oil field pipe. Something you find in abundance around Houston. The wood is harvested from managed forests, that is select cut rather than clear cut, because they are being habitat. All the plants you see in this are native, and all non-natives have been removed.
This is the observation deck, and this is right next to or part of the pond plaza. Kids are brought to this desk and given instructions on how to bait a hook, cast a line, and pull in a fish. From here, they move over to the pond area, where they may have their first experience catching a fish. The detail here is this cable structure, cable railing structure. And I bring it up, simply because we got really positive feedback from a wheelchair-bound student who was confined to a prone position and expressed his gratitude at being able to see through this and be a part of the class.
This is a handwash station. A small detail, but very important to the site staff. It allows the kids to wash hands in group. It allows the teachers to count heads. And it serves as a reference point for all the classes that happen out on site. The copper and steel and metals that can be recycled, and the brick is salvaged, rather than new. These are the restrooms at the pond plaza. These are necessary components to handling the high visitation. They serve as an embarkation point for the touring the site.
And again, you see the same sustainable materials being used, with the addition of solar water heating. This is the pond center. It was actually an old maintenance building that was renovated. It is the arrival point for everyone that comes to Sheldon. The pond center is an open air pavilion. It provides protection from the sun and rain. The kids and teachers get oriented to Sheldon. It provides a space, a classroom space on rainy days. And it is an air-conditioned space as well as a staff workspace underneath the same roof.
The building, landscape, and all the physical parts of the facility are part of the message at Sheldon. The roof, the floor, the walls, the lights, the air conditioning, all have sustainable messages and are all part of the curriculum at Sheldon. The kids are brought — these points are brought out to kids when they come there. This is one of the five SECO-funded displays. The $100,000 that SECO gave us was for alternative energy demonstrations. This one allows the kids to play with a joystick, move these panels in orientation to the sun, and see how effective and efficient sun energy is compared to orientation.
The other four SECO demonstrations are a wind turbine sitting on a 60-foot tower. The solar water heating I mentioned at the restrooms. Ground source heat pump, which is a very efficient air-conditioning system connected to the ground floor itself condensing water. And then a constructed wetlands septic system, the pumps for which are run on PV electric. That is pretty much Phase 1.
Phase 2 is funded through a capital campaign headed by former Commissioner Al Henry. And to date the campaign has 17 donations totaling over $3 million. And this is enough to initiate planning and design work for Phase 2. Phase 2 facilities are composed of a 10,000-square-foot visitor's center, a lake observation tower, a tower boat dock, excuse me, a tower boat dock. Any future work beyond that, we have other facilities planned, would be a Phase 3 or beyond. It would include overnight cabins, a dining hall and restrooms. This completes my presentation for Sheldon, if you have any questions.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Any questions?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's great work. Not too long ago with Al, and it is impressive.
MR. PERRY: I appreciate that.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is there any other business to —
MR. WHISTON: There is one other. Government Canyon.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Government Canyon.
MR. WHISTON: One that you are familiar with.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Oh yes, very much so.
MR. WHISTON: Our next project is the Government Canyon State Natural Area. I think it is the same agenda item, so I will continue on. Government Canyon was opened to the public on October 15, this past October. It is a model for the State. It is a model State Natural Area for the State of Texas and Texas Parks and Wildlife. It is located 16 miles northwest of downtown San Antonio.
The site totals, and this is an important point, it totals 8,622 acres. 8,022 of those are located over the Edwards Aquifer. So the vast majority of the site sits over the sole water supply, the watershed of the sole water supply of San Antonio. Approximately 700 acres are designated for park facility development. It is relatively level ground, and it is located outside the recharge zone. There are 44 miles of hiking and equestrian trails at Government Canyon. And it serves multiple conservation and recreation functions.
It fulfills three land and water conservation goals. First, it protects water quality. It protects the Edwards Aquifer, being the major watershed and sole source of water for San Antonio. It establishes a recreation area easily accessible by a large urban population. And it embodies a partnership of state agencies and private entities. The visitor center itself is there due to donations by Tim and Karen Hixon.
The opening marked the completion of nearly 14 years, a 14-year process that required the efforts of a number of public and private entities. A very long one for sure, including the City of San Antonio, the Trust for Public Lands, this body, the Parks and Wildlife Commission, and the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and many others.
I would like to recognize Ms. Laura David. She is the project manager for Government Canyon, who like Jeff, had to orchestrate the needs of many conflicting stakeholders, consultants, contracts, budgets and schedules. Laura has overseen this project from master planning to the successful finish. She has been through a lot of wars. And I think it has been worthwhile. She has participated in the planning and design and construction ever since TPWD acquired this property in 1994, a long term commitment.
Opening day, Mr. Parker I saw there, and Mr. Fitzsimons, Mr. Cook. It was a really wonderful day. We were blessed with mild weather, mild temperatures and a festive atmosphere. We are going to have a brief video right after this talk to show you maybe a little more graphically what happened there that day. There were 150 people present, and the following weekend when the park opened, we had 1,400 visitors come to the park and actually use it, and every weekend since, as I hear.
The Government Canyon facility is another sustainable story. Many of the messages are very similar to Sheldon, and this is a message for us, and we in Infrastructure are carrying forward to all the projects we are using. So you will see this repeated many times. Native landscaping, rainwater collection, salvage, in this case salvaged oil field pipe structures. We don't necessarily use that every time.
High recycled content materials. Local stone, selected harvested wood. This one has some interesting variations. The cisterns you see here are actually filters for the rainwater collection system. And the rainwater is used to flush the toilets. View of the gift shop, the interpretive building on the left there, is a screened-in multi-use pavilion, not air conditioned. Sliding barn doors open it to the landscape and keep it very close to the environment. The exhibits are built on wheels and rolled around as needed for events.
The breezeway next to the offices. This here is a generous overhang and protection of the windows, good energy conservation, passive solar design. A view of the classroom wing, looking from the gift shop side. The boardwalk you see there is made of select harvested wood from Brazilian rainforests. And the message for us, in this particular case, is just simply that we prefer and endorse folks who do this type of managed harvesting instead of clear cutting and ruining habitat.
Another view of the interpretive building, and the rainwater catchment tanks. They are raised up to that elevation so we can get some head on the water. That crushed stone patio you see there is actually an outdoor classroom and those boulders are seats. And here, you get a good idea of how those seats could be used on opening day. Mr. Cook giving us an introduction to the many players who were part of this. Although the park is now open, there is still work to do. The park is restricted to being a day use area until residences are built, and 24-hour security can be provided.
Thanks to Commissioner Parker's efforts, the San Antonio Home Builders' Association is donating a log home. A host of donors, headed by Mr. Mike Robert of Robert Homes are providing materials and labor to assist Parks and Wildlife in building this structure. Work is in progress as we speak. The slab has been poured, and the logs have been delivered to the site.
We expect completion of the home and occupancy by park staff sometime in the spring of 2006, once all utilities are connected. The actual construction of the home itself is going to be done in two to three weeks. The utility issues will take longer. A second home is also being donated by the Corpus Christi Homeowners' Association and will be constructed in similar fashion with a combination of donors and TPWD provided labor and materials.
Completion of this home is expected sometime in summer of '06. This completes my presentation of Government Canyon. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Any questions?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You all did a great job when I was — it was fabulous.
MR. WHISTON: Commissioners, we did have a statement. We have about a four-minute video that Communications produced about the grand opening. In the interest of time, we could do that with you later, but if you would like to see it, we would be happy to show that.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: What's another four minutes?
MR. WHISTON: And I have one other agenda item.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: What's another four minutes.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: We have got plenty of time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Let's see it. Roll it.
(Whereupon, a video was played.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good job.
MR. COOK: I tell you, maybe the best compliment Laura, that staff, maybe to you guys, Tillman and Karen were absolutely thrilled, tickled to death with the product. And it will be one we can build on and tell that story for many decades. We do thank you very much. Great job.
MR. WHISTON: We do appreciate the opportunity to share with you this afternoon, at this late hour, our success with those two collective successes with those two projects. We are really proud of that work. And no really, I think it points toward the future of how we want to consider the conservation of resources and the development of parks and sites like this in the future.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman, is there any other business to come before this Committee?
MR. WHISTON: Yes, sir. Actually — pardon me. One more item. One quick one, if I may. Almost there, and I will be really brief.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: What's another item.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That is right. Another four minutes.
(All talking at once.)
MR. WHISTON: One last time, Steve Whiston of Infrastructure. This last item recommends for your approval at tomorrow's public hearing that the Commission adopts the resolution I referred to earlier that will request Texas Public Finance Authority or TPFA to initiate the process to finance and issue bonds. So at tomorrow's meeting, I will once again return and share with you a little bit more detail about the program and the projects. A resolution will be passed for your signature, upon your approval.
The bond sale process with TPFA and the Bond Review Board should take about three months. After the execution of this resolution and we make our formal request, we meet with TPFA and their board on December 1. There is a subsequent meeting before the Bond Review Board in early January. And we anticipate the issue of funds, the sale of the bonds and the issue of funds sometime in February, maybe early March.
So this will be the recommendation or the motion that we will propose. And with your permission tomorrow, in public hearing.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Now then, is there any further business to be brought before the Committee?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I will place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Good.
MR. COOK: Any other business, Mr. Chairman?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: It is an excellent report.
MR. COOK: No more business, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I pass the gavel back to the Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Passed the gavel. Any further business to come before the Committee here?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We are adjourned.
(Whereupon, the meeting was adjourned.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 2, 2005
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 40, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
(Transcriber) (Date)On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731