Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Jan. 28, 2010Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 28th day of January 2010, 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:
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman (Absent)
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Vice Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas (Absent)
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas (Absent)
- Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Beeville, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- S. Reed Morian, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
|Donor||Description||Detail & Purpose of Donation||*Amount|
|1||Texas Bighorn Society||Cash||Desert bighorn sheep restoration and management at Big Bend Ranch||$1,176.50|
|2||Coastal Conservation Association||Capital Property||Two (2) 3200 gallon fiberglass brood tanks used to spawn captive southern flounder for stock enhancement at the CCA/CPL Marine Development Center||$14,430.00|
|3||Coastal Conservation Association||Controlled Item||Five (5) fifty gallon fiberglass egg collectors used to spawn captive southern flounder for stock enhancement at the CCA/CPL Marine Development Center||$1,125.00|
|4||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, (Wal-Mart)||Cash||To sponsor Free Fishing in State Parks events||$50,000.00|
|5||Global Impact (Halliburton Employees)||Cash||General Donation||$1,011.48|
|6||Mariner Energy, Inc.||Cash||Artificial Reef Program Rigs-To-Reefs||$308,347.00|
|7||Mariner Energy, Inc.||Cash||Artificial Reef Program Rigs-To-Reefs||$172,028.00|
|8||Giddings Breakfast Lion's Club||In-Kind Services||Labor/Construction of Large Deck at Fishing Pond Lake Somerville State Park||$1,800.00|
|9||Giddings New Horizon Lion's Club||Other Goods||Purchase of lumber and construction materials for construction of large deck at fishing pond at Lake Somerville State Park||$1,000.00|
|10||Bluebonnet Electric Co-op||Other Goods||Fifteen (15) power poles and setting of power poles for construction of deck at Family Fishing Pond at Lake Somerville State Park||$2,300.00|
|11||Partners of Palo Duro Canyon, Inc.||Capital Property||One (1) 2009 Polaris Ranger 6X6 700 for trail patrol, rescue operations and law enforcement off-road duties||$11,097.80|
|12||Roland Hamilton/ Caprock Home Center||Capital Property||One (1) 16' Utility Trailer Diamond C for the Caprock Canyon Trailway||$1,692.00|
|13||Wal-Mart||Other Goods||Thirteen (13) gift cards at $450 each for fishing event coordinators to assist with costs of 'Free Fishing in State Parks' events.||$5,850.00|
|14||Alamo Area Quail Unlimited, Inc.||In-Kind Services||Thirteen (13) Garmin 640 GPS and thirteen (13) 8x42 Nikon binoculars to equip State Game Wardens||$15,162.62|
|15||Sam's Club||Other Goods||One Hundred (100) one gallon cans of Pennzoil 2-cycle marine engine oil for Law Enforcement use||$1,170.00|
|16||PPG Industries, Inc.||Other Goods||Seventy-five (75) gallons Manor Hall Exterior Premium House Paint tinted to color as specified for field testing of reformulated house paint at the AE Wood Fish Hatchery||$2,000.00|
|17||The BMF Project||Controlled Item||Three (3) Hummingbird 997CSI Side scan sonar for drowning victim body recovery||$5,201.85|
|18||Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, Inc.||Cash||To support the voluntary guide and aquatic education and certification program||$7,500.00|
|19||ExxonMobil Foundation||Cash||General Donation - Towards Nails Creek Special Projects||$1,000.00|
|20||Council for Environmental Education||Cash||For the correlation of ProjectWild activities to the state education standards (TEKS)||$5,000.00|
|*Estimated value used for goods and services||Total||$608,892.25|
|State Parks||Ricky Weinheimer||Park Spec. III||Austin||27 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Al Campos||Major||Austin||25 Years|
|Communications||Steve Hall||Manager V||Austin||25 Years|
|Inland Fisheries||Kevin Storey||Natural Res Spec V||Tyler||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Scott Davis||Captain||Midland||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Pete Flores||Director III||Austin||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Willie Gonzalez||Major||Austin||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Larry Hand||Captain||Tyler||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Scott Haney||Captain||Mount Pleasant||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Alfred Harmon||Captain||Angleton||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Teri Potts||Lieutenant||Mount Pleasant||25 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Marvin Lee Tamez||Captain||Corpus Christi||25 Years|
|State Parks||Larry Fuentes||Park Ranger V||Monahans||25 Years|
|State Parks||Robert Urbina||Program Spec.||Austin||25 Years|
|Wildlife||Amos Cooper||Natrl. Res. Spec. IV||Port Arthur||25 Years|
|Wildlife||Vickie Fite||Program Spec. VI||Austin||25 Years|
|Wildlife||James Lionberger||Natrl. Res. Spec. III||Hermleigh||25 Years|
|Wildlife||Monique Slaughter||Natrl. Res. Spec. III||Port Arthur||25 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Robert Adami, Jr.||Natrl. Res. Spec. V||Corpus Christi||20 Years|
|Inland Fisheries||Earl Chilton||Natrl. Res. Spec V||Austin||20 Years|
|Inland Fisheries||Kevin Mayes||Natrl. Res. Spec. V||San Marcos||20 Years|
|Inland Fisheries||Gregory Polk||F&W Tech III||Electra||20 Years|
|Name/Organization, Address||Item, Number||Matter of, Interest|
|Steve Brewer, City of LaFeria, P.O. Box 1026, LaFeria, TX||#4 — Action — Indoor Recreation Local Park Grant Funding||For|
|Kim Lenoir, City of Murphy, 206 N. Murphy Road, Murphy, TX 76085||#4 — Action — Indoor Recreation Local Park Grant Funding
#5 — Action — Outdoor Recreation Grant Funding
|James Gosey, City of Forest Hill, 6800 Forest Hill Dr., Forest Hill, TX 76140||#5 — Action — Outdoor Recreation Grant Funding||For|
|Joe Jarosek, City of Uvalde, 101 E. Main, Uvalde, TX 78801||#5 — Action — Outdoor Recreation Grant Funding||For|
|Don Roeber, Falconry and Raptor Council, 9115 Bentwater Parkway, Cedar Hill, TX 75104||#10 — Action — Proposed New State Falconry Regulations — Raptor Proclamation|
|John Graham, Texas Hawking Association, 1768 FM 309, Hillsboro, TX 76645||#10 — Action — Proposed New State Falconry Regulations — Raptor Proclamation||For|
|Joe E. Vega, Mayor, City of Port Isabel, 305 E. Maran, Port Isabel, TX 78578, [We failed to call the mayor to testify.]||#8 — Action — Boat Ramp Grant Funding|
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning everyone, welcome. The meeting is called to order January 28th, 2010, at 9:03. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.
MR. SMITH: I do, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. 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, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.
Also, we've got a full house today, looks like it's standing room only. I'm sorry we don't have chairs for everybody but it's nice to see all of you who could make it. I know that many, if not most, of you are here to show support for our colleagues that are going to be recognized for their long-standing tenure and service with the agency and so, to all the family members that are here, Welcome. We're delighted to have all of you.
We're going to have that presentation first, here in the Commission meeting and then, after that is done, for those that do not wish to stay with us for the rest of the meeting, know that we'll take a pause and let all of you go ahead and leave.
For those of you who are going to stay with us for the duration of the commission meeting, just a quick little reminder about protocol. If you don't mind either turning off or silencing your cell phone or pager. If you've got a conversation to have, if you don't mind doing that outside in the hallway. I'm starting to sound like a kindergarten teacher here so, if you need to and wish to speak to the commission on a matter, please sign up outside at the appropriate time.
Chairman Friedkin will call you by name and ask you to come to the podium. We'll ask you to state your name and who you represent and then we'll give you three minutes to share your perspective, one way or the other, on an item. I'm going to be keeping time up here. Green means "Go," yellow means "Let's start to wind it down" and red means "Let's go ahead and stop."
So, again, delighted to have all of you here today and appreciate your coming in today.
So, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Mr. Smith. Okay, next is the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, which have already been distributed. Do we have a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Martin. Second by Commissioner Falcon. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. And now we're now to acknowledgment of the donations list, which has also been distributed. Do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Duggins, second by Commissioner Hughes. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Moving right along, next are Service Awards and a Special Recognition. Mr. Smith?
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. Today we've got a great suite of recognitions that we want to do. We have a couple of our colleagues that have retired after many, many years of service with the agency. And then we have a whole bunch that we are going to recognize for a real long-standing tenure with the agency and there is a tremendous amount of accumulated institutional wisdom in this room and you're going to have a chance to meet a lot of our colleagues out in the field and here in Austin that are just doing extraordinary things for the agency.
Let's start with our colleagues that have announced their retirement. We'll start with State Parks and Ricky Weinheimer from the Hill Country. Ricky started with us at LBJ State Park, an historic site, 27 years ago, came in as a Ranger I, was assigned to work with our Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. For those of you who have not yet had a chance to visit that, I really encourage you to do that. It's a great representation of what a Hill Country farming life was like at the turn of the century; early 1900s for German farming and ranching families and just a special place and Ricky played a huge role in making it so.
He moved his way up through the ladder. At various times he's been recognized for a lot of awards. His state park region recognized him as the Employee of the Year. Has one of the few distinctions in this crowd, I've had him been on the cover of the Parks and Wildlife magazine one time. So, Ricky Weinheimer, we're going to recognize him today for his retirement, 27 years of service.
MR. SMITH: You're going to meet a lot of folks today from our Game Warden class, the 39th class in the Academy that have 25 years of service with the agency, very special class. I will get to someone who you know well, Colonel Flores, who was a member of that class. One of the things we haven't announced but every member of that class who is going to be recognized today. He's going to come forward and kind of share their favorite Pete Flores story with you.
MR. SMITH: We're going to make sure you've allocated plenty of time for that and Pete, you just sit right here and grin and bear it. Okay? In all seriousness, the first one that we're going to recognize is Major Al Campos and Al has retired with the agency. Again, a member of that class that started 25 years ago, grew up on a ranch in Erath County, was an instructor at the Game Warden Training Center in Austin, served the state very well in a law enforcement perspective, working a lot on Lake Travis, where he really honed his skills in boating and water safety. He became our Assistant Chief for Marine Law Enforcement and ultimately became the Chief of that, and our Boating Law Administrator and, really, it goes without saying, there is almost no one in the country who has been as well-recognized as Al, with respect to their knowledge and leadership in the arena of water safety and boating safety and Secretary Chertoff recognized him twice, appointed him to a national council on boating safety and just a real thought leader and Al's a wonderful man and we're sorry to see him go but it's been great service to the agency. So, Al Campos. Al, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: Our next recognizee is someone who you also know well, not in Law Enforcement Division, he's in our Communications Division, Steve Hall. And Steve has also been one of those nationally recognized, thought and practice leader in the arena of hunter and water safety. You know, he oversees the largest volunteer program that the agency has in terms of our hunting and boating safety instructors.
During his tenure with the agency I think we've run through about a million students through those programs. He's been involved in almost every outreach program that the agency has started; from the youth hunting program, the program there at Parrie Haynes, Becoming an Outdoors Woman, the archery and schools program and just a very, very nice man and a great professional and it gives me great pleasure to recognize Steve Hall for 25 years of service. Steve?
MR. SMITH: Kevin Storey has the distinction of kind of overseeing our fisheries operation on probably what is the best-known bass lake in all of the western hemisphere, Lake Fork. And Kevin started with us as a fish and wildlife technician, ultimately got promoted to be our district leader in Inland Fisheries. Was assigned to oversee the fisheries operation there on Lake Fork, has developed some great partnerships with the Chamber and the River Authority and the local communities to develop not only that world-class fishery but also a really important rural economy that is focused around that fishery and that lake. And has just done an extraordinary job.
As a scientist, he's also been instrumental in helping to develop a number of important kind of modeling and computer programs that our biologists have used throughout the years; was recognized by the American Fisheries Society for the best paper on field identification techniques on identifying white bass and hybrid striped bass and so, 25 years of service; I'm proud to recognize Kevin Storey. So, Kevin, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: Well, we're now going to start the stories on Pete again, so, yes, you're not off the hook. I knew Al would be gracious about it and ‑‑ but we'll give him another chance at the microphone.
Scott Davis started with this class 25 years ago. Scott, when he graduated, was sent down to the coast where he worked in Sinton, got a lot of experience in coastal-related issues there, on the South Texas and middle coast and then transferred over to Midland in the early '90's to become our captain out in West Texas and he oversees a great team of wardens, works there with Steve Whitaker, our major, been involved in a lot of issues there.
Most recently, we recognized some of his team for some extraordinary efforts, rescuing folks in West Texas during some extreme flood events and I know that has given Scott a lot of pride and so with 25 years, very proud to recognize Scott Davis. Scott?
MR. SMITH: Well, there have got to be some reporters in here somewhere. John, do you recognize this young man?
MR. JEFFERSON: No, sir. I've never seen him.
MR. SMITH: This little flat-belly buck that started about 25 years ago. This was Major Pete Flores, 25 years ago. We will do a little before and after.
MR. SMITH: All kidding aside, Pete has been just an extraordinary leader for our law enforcement team. A great, great innovator, more than anyone, I think, has really recognized and embraced the changing roles of our game warden service over the years and recognition that more and more things were happening out on the lands and in the waters that our wardens need to be a part of and he's positioned the service just exceptionally well as part of our statewide law enforcement operations and just could not be more pleased with his extraordinary leadership of the Division.
He's had a career that's taken him to many parts of the state. Started off when he got out of the Academy down in Anahuac, in alligator country and moved back inland to his beloved Bryan, College Station ‑‑ rumors have it there's a university over there ‑‑ and was close by there and back of Beaumont, as a Captain, and then to San Antonio and San Angelo and then a Lieutenant Colonel and then, ultimately, our Colonel. And 25 years of extraordinary service to the state of Texas. I really like what Pete had to say about his strong belief in the foundation of service-oriented, conservation law enforcement and his vision that all Texans will always refer to the officers in the green truck as "our game warden." So, Amen. Pete Flores, 25 years. Pete?
MR. FLORES: The office has made me twice the man from that picture.
MR. SMITH: Pete told me that one of his classmates here, Willie Gonzales, when Willie strolled into the Academy 25 years ago, he was working at the Wile Ranch and there was a big snowstorm that hit Austin there in '85 and so there were eight or nine or ten inches and poor Willie was running a little late to his first day at the Academy and apparently raised the ire of our major at the Academy, who took no pity on Willie and told him to get upstairs and shave that mustache off pronto, without water, mind you, and so ‑‑ we do things a little differently now, I'm sure, out there ‑‑ so Willie, a very proud graduate of that class, Commissioner, as you know, after getting out, served Starr County well and worked down at Falcon Lake, where you can run into anything and everything, transferred back to the Hill Country and was very involved in water-related safety and enforcement issues there in the Highland Lakes and Lake LBJ, came into Austin to be our Assistant Chief of Marine Law Enforcement, working closely with Al and others and he's now our Major in charge of emergency management. And Willie has done just an extraordinary job of making sure that the agency and the Division are integrated into the state operations center. He's gone out and secured many, many grants to help support the work of the Law Enforcement Division and really the go-to guy in times of state emergency and making sure that our wardens are a part of that team. And so, 25 years of service. Willie Gonzalez. Major?
MR. SMITH: Willie did grow back his mustache, Commissioners, I want you to know, so all was well. Larry Hand is one of our Captains there in Northeast Texas, in Tyler, and has been a great member of this team, as he likes to say. He started at the Academy, you know, with eight or nine inches of snow afoot and he ended it with an assignment on the sand in Galveston Island and so, he's had a great career, starting there on the Coast, came back to North Texas and the Denton area right before Lake Ray Roberts was finally opened to boating traffic and Larry played a very important role of positioning the Division to work very closely on boating safety and, particularly, BWI issues, where he really played a leadership role, was promoted to Captain in Rusk, where he was immediately tested with a whole series of boating-related fatalities there and just tragic accidents that Larry had to lead our team through, in working with local law enforcement operations and officers, did a great job. Was promoted there, moved on and transferred over to Tyler as a Captain, where he is located today.
He's handled the security at the Bass Classic events there at Lake Fork and done a great job, very proud of his team in the field that have been recognized for a number of awards. Clearly, Craig Hunter or Pete or Larry were trying to gig me. I noticed in my last line, I'm supposed to say, "with 25 years of service, gig 'em, Aggies." So, I'm going to say that pretty quietly, Larry, come on forward.
MR. SMITH: The first time I really heard of Scott Haney, interestingly enough, was when I got a call from his high school teacher and his teacher had called and was about 30 minutes into what was, ultimately, a one-hour visit, and, perhaps some of you remember Matt Reidy's comment yesterday about a writer is "one of those." Into this conversation, I quickly gathered that this individual may be "one of those" and he was complaining about a series of citations that he had received, as sometimes those calls come in, and when he realized he wasn't getting any traction, he quickly began to throw around Scott's name and the fact that he had taught Scott and knew Scott and went on and on and I thought to myself, "Well, always with these law enforcement things, there is always another side to the story and I will see Scott next week and I'll just ask Scott about this."
And so, we're riding in the truck and I mentioned to Scott that I talked to this gentleman and asked him if he knew him and he said, looked at me, and said, "Yes." I said, "When was the last time you saw or talked to him?" and he said, "about 30 years ago" so, anyway, that told me all I needed to know, in terms of the decision we had made.
Scott, after graduating from the Academy, went back home to Nueces County. Scott grew up there in Flower Bluff, was there for a number of years, transferred over to Decatur, in Wise County, was then promoted to Lieutenant over in Mount Pleasant and then, shortly thereafter, received a promotion to Captain in Fort Worth, where he was stationed there for a number of years. When the Captain's job opened back up in Mount Pleasant, Scott wanted to go home where he and his wife were well-ensconced in the community and where she is a kindergarten teacher there.
Scott serves on the Board of Directors for the North American Wildlife Enforcement Association. Very proudly represents the agency in that regard and a great leader out in the field. So, 25 years of service, Scott Haney. Scott?
MR. SMITH: The first time I had a chance to spend any time, really, with Nick Harmon, our Captain, down in Angleton, we were at an event and trying to get back home and we stopped at a Whataburger for a quick bite. I'm not supposed to mention Whataburgers around you, am I? A little inside baseball, there, but we stopped to eat and we were one bite into the hamburger and a gentleman walks over to Nick and, you know, Nick is dressed like a game warden in his uniform and the guy asks the inevitable question, Are you a game warden? And Nick politely responds, Yes, and so the individual launches into this 30 minute-tirade about boat registration and titling and just goes on, ad nauseam, and poor Nick is trying to maneuver him around the restaurant. It's just absolutely packed.
And so, I'm finishing up my hamburger and Nick is still dealing with this guy and I tell you what, what would Craig Hunter do if he was here? Nick hadn't eaten his hamburger, so I went ahead and polished that hamburger off for Nick and wished Nick well with the title problem. In all seriousness, Nick does a great job. When he got out of the agency, also, sent down to the Coast and was in Galveston area for 18 years. As he describes his service with a game warden service, you know, any avid outdoors man's dream job and ultimately was promoted to Captain there in Angleton and has a great team that he leads there.
One of the things that I know that he's very proud of is an Operation Outdoors project that he started, to try to get youth in Galveston County out in the out-of-doors and introduce them to the sport of hunting and this year they celebrated the 21st Annual Galveston County Youth Hunt on a deer hunt that they took those kids to in the Texas Hill Country. So 25 years of service, Nick Harmon. Nick?
MR. SMITH: I want to introduce you to another one of our leaders in the game warden service, Teri Potts. And, Teri has got the distinction of serving as our Lieutenant there, working with Scott Haney there in Mount Pleasant, another proud graduate of the 39th Academy. A graduate of Sul Ross with a degree in Wildlife Management and so well-trained for her career with the agency. Also, when getting out of the Academy, was sent down to the Corpus Christi area, working in the Laguna Madre on a lot of bay and Gulf-related issues. Ultimately transferred up to Dallas and very involved in working with the DFW Airport and legal issues associated with commercial transport and enforcement of fin-fish related things.
Ultimately was promoted there to our Lieutenant Game Warden in Mount Pleasant. She's been involved in a lot of division-wide community committees to improve things associated with the service and whether it, you know, what pistols are going to best used by our officers, hiring and firing policies, physical fitness-related things and so, Teri's been a great team player and married to a retired game warden and we're proud to recognize her with 25 years of service. Teri Potts. Teri?
MR. SMITH: One of the units that is one of our more specialized and very, kind of sophisticated aspects of the law enforcement team has to do with the environmental crimes unit that works very, very closely on crimes that are impacting our lands and waters and fish and wildlife and so Captain Marvin Tamez is our Captain that oversees that unit, also a proud graduate of this class.
When he got out was stationed out in Kleberg County, moved up to Nueces County and ultimately promoted into the job to work with our Environmental Crimes Unit. He has been involved in some very high-profile environmental crimes cases over the year; a major one with a major refinery there in Corpus that was recognized nationally by the Department of Justice and EPA and others for just outstanding investigative work and he's been our liaison to our partner and sister environmental agencies, represents us on the Texas Environmental Enforcement Taskforce and is Vice President of the Texas Environmental Law Enforcement Association. Twenty-five years of service, has done a great job, Captain Marvin Tamez. Marvin?
MR. SMITH: Larry Fuentes is one of our park rangers in our state park team, now based at Monahans so he remembers fondly his days at Tyler State Park, when he was issued his first truck with no air conditioning and no radio. I hope things have changed a little bit since then. Larry, worked there in Tyler State Park and then was at Eisenhower and San Angelo State Park, very involved in the community, very involved in also helping to manage the state buffalo and longhorn herds. He lived on the north shore of the lake by the park and, if you know anything about that lake, he said it was, you know, living on the north shore of the park, a shore that just happened to be 10 miles away from the water.
So, a typical West Texas situation. He then moved out to the sand hills at Monahans, Sandhills State Park and has been a great member of our team there, has been a proud park ranger with us for 25 years. Larry Fuentes. Larry?
MR. SMITH: I know you are very familiar with our local parks grant program, a recreation grants program that Tim Hogsett and his team oversee and use to help disburse critically important funds that go to local communities around the state and Robert Urbina is a very important and essential member of that team. He started with that branch 25 years ago, has watched that grow and evolve, sometimes shrink, sometimes grow. He's had a chance to travel the state, interact with communities all around Texas and really done just a great job of making sure that we invest the state's dollars very, very wisely in local communities to help them develop these recreational grant opportunities. And so, we're very, very proud today to celebrate his 25 years of service. So Robert, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: If you want to know something about the state's alligators, just ask Amos Cooper and Amos has got a great history with this agency, started 25 years ago, when I was working here as an intern in the early '90s, he was right next door to me and so I learned a lot about bobcats and fur bearers and alligators, as Amos was overseeing that program for about a dozen or 13 years or so.
Ultimately, he transferred over to the J.D. Murphree Area, completed his Master's Degree in Wildlife Biology from Texas State and was promoted into a biologist role, ultimately promoted to our Assistant Project Leader on the Upper Coast unit, which includes our J D Murphree Unit and Lower Nueces Wildlife Management Area, the Candy Abshier, we talked about some of those yesterday with the oil spill that has happened in and around that area and so Amos is now our Alligator Program leader for the state; just done a great job. I was quite surprised, not long ago, to get my Pedernales Electric Co-op magazine and there, on the front cover, was none other than Amos Cooper, holding an alligator. So, Amos, you represent us well. Amos, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: One person I am not going to let come to the mike today is Vickie Fite, who absolutely can tell you stories from when I was an intern so Vickie is going to be very restrained and show a great amount of decorum today, I want you to know.
Vickie started with us 25 years ago as a Fish and Wildlife technician near her home of Madisonville, where her family is, worked on a number of things with deer and turkey and so forth out in the field, ultimately transferred to Austin to help lead our Wildlife Information Team and ultimately just took on more and more responsibilities; she's responsible for working with Linda and overseeing our Public Hunting program and so, making sure that the state's, you know, 40,000-plus hunters have access to well over a million, a million and a half acres around the state, oversees the lottery program.
She also oversees the phone bank. And so, anybody and everybody that calls the agency and has a question about, you know, the black cat that they saw in their front yard, to the possums in the back tree, to where did all my deer go, gets funneled over to Vickie and her team and they field, you know, around 30,000 calls a year from the public. So, it's a great interface for us and Vickie takes a great deal of pride in what she does. She helped us start the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program inside the agency and was a co-chair of that and was appointed to be our liaison to the Governor's Commission for Women. Vickie has been heading up our public hunts over the last two years. She's been battling cancer and she's been doing a great job in that and we keep her in our prayers all the time. So, Vickie Fite, 25 years. Vickie?
MR. SMITH: We're going to recognize another one of our wildlife biologists for 25 years of service and Jim Lionberger is over in Hermleigh and he started out, actually, in our State Parks Division over at Mineral Wells ‑‑ Lake Mineral Wells State Park; ultimately was hired to work up in our area as a regulatory biologist in the Possum Kingdom, around Jacksboro. Then kind of moved up to the Panhandle district; very involved in a host of things from deer and turkey to lesser prairie chicken, involved in the bison relocation team and getting the state bison herd out to Caprock Canyons State Park; does a lot of community outreach and education programs from the Buckskin Brigades and a lot of school programs, a great face for the agency, authorized a really important publication on a toxicity issue with Sandhill cranes and, most recently, was recognized by the Texas chapter of the Wildlife Society, along with his colleagues Calvin Richardson and Gene Miller, for the best paper and it was on whitetail deer management in the Rolling Plains, something that our landowners obviously are very, very concerned about. And so, for 25 years of service, we're going to recognize Jim today so Jim, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: Now, I an going to introduce you to someone else who knows her way around alligators. Monique Slaughter started with the agency also 25 years ago, is a wildlife technician there on the J.D. Murphree, was ultimately promoted as a biologist again, as part of that Upper Coast team, where she is involved in anything and everything; the public hunts, the outreach, oil spill-related issues; she has seen more than her fair share of hurricanes during her tenure with the agency.
She is now working full-time as a biologist in the Big Game Branch, largely working with Amos on helping to manage our state's alligators and really doing a great job and very, very proud to recognize Monique Slaughter for 25 years of service. Monique?
MR. SMITH: I know you all are aware of just how important our hatchery programs ‑‑ our enhancement programs are around the state, both on the coastal and inland side, in making sure that we are able to grow and rear viable fish stocks to help with the management of our state's bays and estuaries and inland lakes and rivers.
And Robert Adami started out in Coastal Fisheries doing just that. He was a hatchery biologist and then quickly promoted after a year to manage the Perry R. Bass Fish Hatchery there in Palacios, then went on to head up, as the Hatchery Manager, our Marine Development Center and about that time there started to be a lot of issues with aquaculture and particularly aquaculture operations associated with shrimp farming and we were very concerned about transmission of diseases from the shrimp that were grown in these aquaculture ponds and how those could be transmitted to our wild shrimp in the bays.
And Robert was appointed, rightfully so, as kind of our lead to work through those issues and help set rules and regulations for the agency to govern those operations.
He serves on our agency's Aquaculture Committee as well as on the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission Habitat Committee and he's been with us for 20 years and so proud to recognize Robert Adami, with our Coastal Fisheries Division. So, Robert.
MR. SMITH: There are very few folks in the state that know more about these invasive and exotic species problems that we confront than Dr. Earl Chilton. And Earl, once he got his PhD from Ohio State, we were able to hire him to come in and look at the implications of using triploid grass carp as a way to control hydrilla in some of our state's lakes.
Since then, he's gone on to become involved in just a huge range of issues associated with aquatic invasive and exotic species. Unquestionably, one of our thought leaders, heads up our Aquatic Habitat Enhancement program for the agency. You know, he established the Texas Invasive Species Coordinating Committee, was appointed by the Secretary of the Interior to serve a second term on the National Invasive Species Advisory Committee.
He's written the state's Aquatic Vegetation Management program, very involved in the work there at Lake Conroe and sorting through all of those issues with fishermen and lake homeowners and concerns about exotic species there. Also the author of "Freshwater Fishes of Texas" and so he's contributed a lot here to the state and we're very proud to recognize Dr. Earl Chilton for 20 years of service. Earl?
MR. SMITH: I know you know just how important it is to make sure that we are keeping adequate water, both from a quality and a quantity perspective in our state's rivers, to make sure they support the wide range of aquatic life that depend upon as well as the bays and estuaries and Kevin Mayes started with the agency 20 years ago, I think married a cousin of Michelle and so have got a nice connection there and so you can probably check that box there as being okay, if he did that.
He was hired as an aquatic biologist to work in our River Studies Program and as the state has continued to expand the scientific focus on what do our state's rivers and bays and estuaries need to support the wide range of fisheries and aquatic life. Kevin has really been at the forefront of that on both the scientific and technical side but also on interfacing with the state's river authorities and the state's other conservation agencies and concerns that have an interest in water.
He's a proud graduate of our Natural Leader's class and an important member of our Inland Fisheries Division stationed over in San Marcos and so, 20 years of service, Kevin Mayes. Kevin.
MR. SMITH: Somebody said that nothing says dedication more than 20 years spent working in Electra at the Dundee Fish Hatchery. Now, my wife is from Electra and so I know she would take great umbrage over that comment. Greg Polk has been there for 20 years at the Dundee Fish Hatchery and a really important contributor to the state's fisheries; that's also a hatchery that has really struggled with golden algae and how do we manage that as we're producing fish for re-stocking in our lakes. Greg has just been a great and very conscientious employee and colleague there at the hatchery, both in rearing fish but also involved in the stocking side; very involved in youth outreach programs as well and making sure that we're providing opportunities to get kids out there fishing and so been a real leader in that regard and very proud to recognize Greg Polk, for 20 years of service. Greg?
MR. SMITH: It is now my great pleasure and privilege to recognize our Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Officer of the Year, and Brent Whitus, who is stationed over in Burnet, is the proud recipient of this award, is part of a family that takes their role in law enforcement very, very seriously.
His father-in-law is the D.A. over in Llano County and his brother-in-law is a proud new game warden for us in Travis County, Thereon Oatman. And so, Brent has been a very important part of this team, started in our State Parks team, as a park peace officer at Colorado City and then over at Garner State Park and then Joe went through the Academy, became a game warden, was stationed down in Laredo.
And, while there, Brent was very involved in a couple of high-profile things, with some very serious deer breeder-related investigations that he led and saw through to fruition, also very involved in tracking down and apprehending some criminals that had been in a gunfight with one of our game wardens down in South Texas. So, really has been a leader in that regard; very involved in the community. Has since moved to Burnet, where he's serving us in the Hill Country, in the Highland Lakes.
Again, very involved recently in a very high-profile investigation involving some folks that were transporting bucks during deer season, with their antlers on, clearly to go and do "put and take" operations and Brent played a major role in helping to ensure that we got successful convictions on them.
He's also played a big role in working at the Game Warden Training Center and teaching our cadets on these force options scenario training, in which we're exposing the cadets to very stressful situations and placing them under situations that they're likely to encounter in the field. I know he's very proud of that training and service.
He also gives back as a member of the Honor Guard and the Honor Guard, the Game Warden Honor Guard, as you know, is there for, oftentimes very, very sad occasions when we lose an officer or recognize the loss of a passed officer but he just gives back to the community in a lot of ways and so, we're very proud to recognize Brent Whitus as our Officer of the Year. Brent.
MR. SMITH: Commissioners, the last thing I want to do is acknowledge that, in our audience today, we've got colleagues that are part of our Natural Leaders program and that is our leadership development program that's led by Jim Lopp here inside the agency and so we have leaders from throughout the agency, all the divisions that are selected to go through a very intensive leadership development program. Mentors from the agency that have been with Parks and Wildlife for a long time are assigned to each of those participants.
They are all assigned projects that the senior management team identifies as being very important to the operations of the agency and so they make recommendations to the senior management on things that we need to be doing differently to help improve this agency and so, we have a bunch of them here today. If they'll just raise their hand and so we can acknowledge and it's so nice to see all of them with us today and they're going to be with us for the meeting so, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, that concludes my remarks. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Carter.
At this time, I'd like to inform the audience that everyone is welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However, if anyone wishes to leave, now would be an appropriate time to do so.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: The first order of business is Item Number 1, Action, Approval of a revised Agenda. I would like to mention Item Number 3, New Environmental Review Memorandum of Understanding with Texas Department of Transportation was heard as a briefing yesterday, during the Conservation Committee. Item 20, Designation of Representative Foreign Travel Resolution has been withdrawn from the Agenda. Do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Duggins. Second?
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Morian. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Item Two, Action. This is an action item, Proposed Stamp and Print Artwork. Ms. Frances Stiles.
MS. STILES: Good morning. My name is Frances Stiles. I'm with the Administrative Resources Division and, in just a moment we'll have our slides up. I'm here to present the art print program for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Each year the agency has the opportunity to review the artwork that is presented. Yesterday, in the Committee meetings, you all were able to review the original artwork that Mr. Bubba Wood provided. Today we have those in electronic form to go over. The Migratory Game Bird artwork is the Wigeon by Peter Mathios. The nongame artwork is the "Cedar Waxwing" by also Peter Mathios.
The "Upland Game Bird" is by Bruce Miller, the original art that was submitted did not meet Mr. Wood's quality control so there is a second version that will be coming in approximately two weeks.
The Saltwater artwork is the "Speckled Trout" by Ronnie Wells. The Freshwater Fish is the "Largemouth Bass" by David Drinkard. And that concludes the artwork. We do have a recommendation to submit the Upland with consideration delegated to Carter for review and approval when it is available and I'm here for any questions or comments.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Frances. Thanks for all your efforts on the program.
Any questions? Okay. Thank you very much.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, do we have a motion to approve that Action Item.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'm going to the motion, yes. Nobody signed up to speak so motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Chairman, I move that we approve the Migratory Game Bird, Nongame, Saltwater, Freshwater Fish prints and that we delegate to Carter Smith, approval of the Upland Game Bird artwork.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second by Commissioner Morian. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? The motion carries. Thanks.
And Action Item 3 was removed so I think we're moving on to Action Item Number 4, Indoor Recreation Local Park Grant Funding, Mr. Tim Hogsett.
MR. HOGSETT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, I'm Tim Hogsett, Director of Recreation Grants in the State Parks Division. This is our annual presentation of indoor recreation grants. We received eight applications for the July 31st, 2009, deadline requesting a little over $5 million in matching funds.
We have reviewed, prioritized and ranked the projects, using the scoring system that you've adopted. The listing can be found in Exhibit A and so our recommendation this morning is that, based on available funding, that funding for two projects listed in Exhibit A in the amount of $1,500,000 be approved. Be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions? Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: There's a part of the request from the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker to look at reducing our spending. Should that, the fact that we are looking at needing to cut back spending and perhaps in this area, does that in any way impact ‑‑ should that in any way impact the proposal that you're presenting today?
MR. HOGSETT: You want to address that?
MR. SMITH: Well, again, we have not made any decisions on the development of that plan and that front. With respect to these, you know, there's going to be a time frame in which they're going to be ultimately approved and will enter into contracts. You know, should we decide that we want to recommend that potentially some funding from that program is proposed to be cut as part of the plan, we will work very closely with Tim on communicating that with both applicants and recipients and so, again, no decisions have been made on that but we'll work and coordinate very closely with Tim on that front.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Other questions by the Commission? We do have two people signed up to speak about this. Thanks, Tim.
First, Mr. Steve Brewer. Come on up.
MR. BREWER: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Steve Brewer. I'm the mayor of the city of La Feria, Texas, and I want to speak a little bit on this grant program you have available. It is critical to small communities to keep this program alive and keep it going. We are fortunate enough to be one of the programs selected to be funded in this go-around but for other small cities, this component is critical and as long as the city is aware of its own fiscal responsibilities, the brick and mortar, it's very easy to do and easy to build and that maintaining it and running it, operating it to its fullest extent is the challenge and making sure that community does that. This is a viable, life-blood to a small city that's not an entitlement community and, here in La Feria, we've enjoyed our past partnerships with the Parks and Wildlife and we look forward to partnering again and thank you very much for keeping the program going and, I'm speaking for La Feria, I'm a lifelong resident there and we will absolutely use this facility to its fullest extent. We're very excited. Thank you very much, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much and thanks for making the effort to be here. Next is Kim Lenior. I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly.
MS. LENIOR: Yes, I'm Kim Lenior. I'm the Parks Manager for the City of Murphy. And I'm here on behalf of Mayor Brett Baldwin and City Manager James Fisher, who wanted to be here to thank you all for this grant opportunity. We are renovating an old WPA country school house and turning that into a community center for our population of about 17,000 for the City of Murphy.
So, it's an excellent project and we appreciate your support for it. Thanks.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We appreciate your efforts. Congratulations. Thank you.
Okay, nobody else signed up to speak on that. So it's a motion item. Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Martin. Second by Commissioner Falcon. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, Motion carries. Thank you.
Item 5, is another Action Item, Outdoor Recreation Grant Funding. Mr. Tim Hogsett.
MR. HOGSETT: Outdoor Recreation Grants. This is our semi-annual review of non-urban recreation grants; communities of less than 500,000 in population. We received 32 applications for our July 31st, 2009, deadline, requesting approximately fourteen and a half million dollars. We've reviewed all those applications, using the scoring system that you've adopted. We've rank-ordered those applications by their score. That rank order can be found in Exhibit A.
So today, we're recommending funding for the top seven approved projects in the amount of a little over $3 million. Our recommendation is funding for seven projects listed in Exhibit A in the amount of $3,084,687 be approved. I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Tim.
We do have a few people signed up to speak about this. First is Joe Jarosek.
MR. JAROSEK: Jarosek.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Jarosek. Fifty-fifty.
MR. JAROSEK: I'm from the City of Uvalde. I'm the Public Works Director. I simply wanted to clarify anything. I'm unfamiliar with the whole procedure so I apologize for wasting any time. I was here to clarify any matters.
Naturally, we're interested in enhancing our ability and expanding our current facility. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We appreciate it. Thank you.
And, Kim Lenior.
MS. LENIOR: Kim Lenior. The mayor and the city manager are meeting on this project right now with the Plano School District. It's a combination park and trail connection that we're doing between our two properties so it's ‑‑ we really appreciate your support on this project. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. And next up is Item 5, James ‑‑ I hope I'm saying this one right. I've had some challenges here. James Gosey?
MR. GOSEY: Gosey.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Gosey. Sorry about that.
MR. GOSEY: Good morning ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning.
MR. GOSEY: — to the Chairman and to all the Commissioners that are here this morning. I'm the mayor of the city of Forest Hill and we're here to just say we thank you so much for establishing this type program to help cities of my kind. We're about 30,000 people in the city of Forest Hill, which is a suburb of Fort Worth, basically a low income area where we're trying to improve the quality of life in our community and these type programs will help us provide a place where our kids can go and play just like in the other cities and other major suburban areas. So, we really appreciate this program and we appreciate the opportunity to continue to partner with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
So, we're hoping that you will approve this parks grant program for our city. So, we thank you so much.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We appreciate your partnership and thank you. One quick second.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Mayor? Mr. Mayor, I have a question for you. Is this the first time that Forest Hills has ever applied for any of the grants that are available?
MR. GOSEY: This is the first time the city of Forest Hill has applied under my watch. We hired our first time Economic Development Director, who is Miss Venus Whaley. We worked with the University of Texas at Arlington to create our first parks master plan. We did that with the students and they were also awarded an award for having the best parks plan. We went down to Galveston to receive that award and we also have here our Parks & Recs Chairman. She's with us this morning, as well as our Council member, Miss Lyndia Thomas.
So, this is a first time for us, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.
MR. GOSEY: And I think several years ago, I think our city may have received a grant but that was several years ago and since then our parks have kind of gone downhill, our parks program, but we're trying to revive that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.
MR. GOSEY: Okay. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Okay, any other discussion, questions? A motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So move.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Hughes, second by Commissioner Duggins. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.
MR. HOGSETT: Mr. Duggins, I'll tell you that this park in Forest Hill was funded about 25 years ago originally and now they're back and basically going to renovate it and fix it up and be really a nice park.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moving on. Action Item Number 6 is Local Park Grant Commission Policy Amendments-Urban Parks Account. Tim.
MR. HOGSETT: For the record, I'm Tim Hogsett, Director of Recreation Grants in the State Parks Division. Item Number 6 are rule changes or minor changes in our urban park account rules. As you know, the Texas Legislature, in the 80th session, created out of the sporting goods sales tax, the Urban Park Grant account, approximately 40 percent of that fifteen and a half million dollars that we received was set aside for the 13 largest cities and counties in Texas.
Those cities and counties of population of 500,000 or more. These compete among themselves. They do not compete with the other communities in the state. These are the communities and counties that are involved.
We set rules for this program approximately two years ago. That was after a summit of the leaders of these 13 cities and counties. We feel that it is time for us to go back and take another look at those rules so back in November, we held another meeting and invited all the 13 entities to come in and visit with us about the rules.
The topics for discussion, primarily were program eligibility and administration, the funding caps for the program, the timely use of approved grant funds, the grant application deadlines and the maximum grant award amounts. Out of that discussion came two proposed changes that we're bringing to you this morning. We're proposing the increase of the unexpended grant fund balance for any grant entity from 2 million to 4 million and then also decrease the amount of unreimbursed grant balances that an urban grantee may carry from two years from an amount of 50 percent down to 25 percent.
There was also some discussion of the scoring system and that will require posting in the Texas Register so we're likely to come back to you, maybe even as early as this spring with some rule changes for the scoring system. With that, our recommendation is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the changes to the Summary of Guidelines for Administration of Local Park Grant Program Projects, as found in Exhibit B. And I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Tim?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Tim, it doesn't appear to me that either a representative of Tarrant County or the City of Fort Worth attended the forum in November. Is that right?
MR. HOGSETT: That's, I think, correct, yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do you know why neither attended?
MR. HOGSETT: No, I do not, but I've spoken with Richard Savala from Fort Worth and they are in the process of preparing a grant application and they're, I believe, in support of these changes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Tim? Tim, okay. Action Item, motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Martin, second by Commissioner Falcon. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.
Item Number 7. I have a feeling Tim's still up.
MR. HOGSETT: I'm almost finished.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Local Park Grant Funding for City of Waco Projects Approved through Supplemental Appropriations House Bill 4586.
MR. HOGSETT: In the last session of the Texas Legislature, the House Bill 4586, which was known as the Supplemental Appropriations Bill, was passed. In that legislation there was specific mandate that the Department use $1.5 million of the Texas Recreation and Parks account for two grants to the City of Waco; one in the amount of $373,000 for Oscar DuConge Pool and another one in the amount of $1,127,000 for a skate park. Accordingly, we're recommending your approval of a recommendation of funding for the specific projects in House Bill 4586, as listed in Exhibit A, as approved. I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Tim.
Questions? Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So move.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Motion for approval by Commissioner Hughes. Second by Commissioner Duggins. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. All right.
Item Number 8, Action Item, Boat Ramp Grant Funding. Tim.
MR. HOGSETT: Boat Ramp Grant Funding, these are federal funds that are passed through from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. We received 15 percent of the annual amount that is appropriated for the Wallop-Breaux Program and it is used for boating access.
This year we received 10 applications for boat ramp assistance in the amount of approximately 2.5 million and we're recommending funding for all of those projects and the recommendation that I'm bringing you today is funding for boating access construction and renovation projects listed in Exhibit A, in the amount of $2,545,249 be approved. I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Question from Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Tim, the presentation says that all these facilities are to be operated and maintained by the local governmental entity but on the Corpus Christi application, it says that this is to help do a parking lot that's in terrible condition. So why hadn't the city been maintaining that if that's part of this understanding?
MR. HOGSETT: That was a pre-existing facility that was built many, many years ago, I believe by the Texas Highway Department when that program was actually under their jurisdiction. And the City of Corpus Christi has stepped forward and asked if they could renovate the facility. It's a very, very highly used ramp and basically, with this make-new condition, they're going to take it over and going to maintain it in the future.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So there will be a written obligation ‑‑
MR. HOGSETT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — to maintain it?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay then, the other question I have, under the Grapevine application, it appears that the funds are to be used to build a restroom.
MR. HOGSETT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean, is that ‑‑
MR. HOGSETT: It's a ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I understand it's important to have a restroom there but is that really a boating facility ‑‑
MR. HOGSETT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — a motor-boating facility, which is what I think that ‑‑
MR. HOGSETT: Yes. That's eligible as a construction item, under the federal funds that we have available to us.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Tim? All right. Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So move.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Morian, second by Commissioner Duggins. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Motion carries. Thank you, Tim.
MR. HOGSETT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it.
The next item is a Briefing Item, Status of zebra mussels in Texas. Mr. Brian Van Zee.
MR. VAN ZEE: Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Brian Van Zee. I'm a Regional Director for the Inland Fisheries Division. I'm stationed in Waco. I'd like to begin today by thanking you for the opportunity to come and give this presentation.
What I'd like to do today is give you a brief overview, the introduction of zebra mussels into the United States, as well as into Texas and also give you an idea of some of the impacts that we may see as a result of their introductions and also give you some ideas of some of the things that we in the Department have been doing to address this issue.
Now, zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian Sea drainages in Asia and Europe. They were first discovered in North America in the mid- to late 1980s, in Lake Sinclair, in the Great Lakes region.
I believe they were introduced through the exchange of ballast water of ocean-going ships coming from the Black Sea. Now, since their introduction, zebra mussels have extensively spread throughout the central and eastern portions of the United States and they've even reached as far west as California.
Now, this map gives the current distribution of both zebra mussels and quagga mussels within the United States. A quagga mussel is real similar to a zebra mussel and, in fact, can be just as detrimental. As you can tell by looking at the map, zebra mussels spread very readily throughout the Great Lakes region, as well as up and down the connected river systems, such as the Illinois and Mississippi River drainage basins.
However, looking at the map, it's also important to note that there are numerous reservoirs and water bodies that are not connected where zebra mussels or quagga mussels have been found. Now, the primary vector for those introductions has been the trailering of contaminated boats and water craft.
Now, the first documented case of zebra mussels in Texas occurred back in 2006 when a boat from Minnesota was transported to Lake Texoma. An alert employee at High Park Marina noticed the mussels attached to the boat and recognized them as being possible zebra mussels so, and he knew, knowing how detrimental they could be, quickly notified the local game warden and the game warden also contacted the local biologist. They positively identified the zebra mussels and that boat was quarantined and sanitized prior to being released to be launched to the lake.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department took advantage of that situation and we put out numerous press releases covering the instance of zebra mussels. We also formally recognized that employee for his quick actions.
Since 2006, four additional boats, again from out of state, have been intercepted and sanitized at Lake Texoma, however, on April 3rd of 2009, the first live specimen was found in Lake Texoma. It was found attached to a telephone line that was leading from the shore line out to a private boathouse. Upon that discovery, we immediately contacted the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other entities and agencies in the area.
We also deployed zebra mussel samplers or Portland samplers in Lake Texoma, to help us mark for additional zebra mussels.
Now, throughout this last summer, there have been numerous other sightings of zebra mussels confirmed on Lake Texoma. In fact, they have increased both in the range and density throughout the entire lake so they're now pretty much found throughout the reservoir.
In late July, our staff contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and notified them that zebra mussels were found near the North Texas Municipal Water District's intake structure, on Lake Texoma. This is significant because North Texas Municipal Water District pumps water directly from Texoma and discharges it into West Prong Sister Grove Creek which, in turn, flows into Lake Lavon, forming the head waters of the Trinity River System.
On August 3rd, our staff went and inspected the outfall area of the North Texas Municipal Water District's outfall on West Prong Sister Grove Creek and there they found that two live zebra mussels approximately 300 yards downstream of their outfall and then another specimen approximately a mile downstream from the outfall.
This marks the first time that zebra mussels were then officially found within the Trinity River Basin. However, three subsequent surveys conducted both on Lake Lavon and West Prong Sister Grove Creek have failed to identify any additional zebra mussels. While this news is encouraging, it does not necessarily mean that they are not there at some low numbers or some low densities or that they some day will not develop into a larger population. But, for now, we're taking the good news and keeping our fingers crossed.
It's also important to note here too that the North Texas Municipal Water District has been very cooperative in this matter. They are currently researching very controlled mechanisms that they can implement to try and void the pumping of or moving of additional zebra mussels from Texoma and, in fact, last summer they voluntarily suspended all pumping from Lake Texoma and they have indicated that that suspension will remain in place until they either have control mechanisms put in place or their need for the water becomes critical. So, and they've kind of indicated it's likely that may happen this summer unless we have a wet year.
Now, zebra mussels can have devastating economic impacts to municipal water supplies, power plants and industrial facilities that utilize raw surface water. Their destructive power lives in their sheer numbers and their ability to cling to basically any hard surface. Basically, they can bow, foul and plug an entire water system from the intake structure all the way throughout the pipelines. The photo you see there is just a picture of a piece of pipe that has been cut, showing the zebra mussels and the fouling inside.
The zebra mussels can also increase the pumping costs for these facilities due to the reduced flow rates and also there is an increased cost in maintenance and repairs of these systems. In each year, within the United States, millions and millions of dollars are spent simply on controlling, cleaning and monitoring for zebra mussels in these types of systems.
Now, zebra mussels can also have large ecological impacts, as well. One adult zebra mussel can filter up to one liter of water per day. Through their filtering activities, they can greatly increase the water clarity of a water body, that allows a greater light penetration into the water and it's been reported that at some times water clarity can increase by 100 percent or more within a water body.
Through their filtering and feeding activities, zebra mussels can also decrease the biomass of plankton found within a reservoir or water body. This reduction of plankton then effects the productivity of the entire water body because plankton are essentially the beginning of the aquatic food chain.
Now, some changes in fish communities have been documented to occur over time, primarily the planktivorous species, such as gizzard shad and even the larval fish. They can see changes in their populations due to competition with zebra mussels for available food sources.
Here in Texas reservoirs, if we can see a decline in our gizzard shad populations, then we may also see a reduction in sport fish populations, such as striped bass, because they rely on the gizzard shad as a primary forage and when you consider Lake Texoma, it's kind of a scary scenario because it's a nationally recognized striped bass fishery that's been valued at over $20 million annually, so they can have a big impact there.
Now, it's not all bad news in regard to the fish community because some benthic fishes, such as catfish, may actually benefit from the zebra mussels in the resulting increase in the benthic organisms.
Now, due to the increased water clarity, you may see changes in aquatic vegetation growth, you can see changes in the fish habitat, but it can also be detrimental if the vegetation that is growing is another noxious species such as hydrilla.
Zebra mussels have been found to biomagnify or magnify pollutants, such as PCBs and heavy metals. And, finally, zebra mussels pose a real and a significant threat to native mussel populations. They'll colonize on their shells, as you can see in the picture there and basically, suffocate them and out-compete them for available food sources.
Now, on the fish and recreational front, zebra mussels have been responsible for fouling boat hauls and plugging the water systems that are used for cooling the motors, running air-conditioning systems and even the heads. They've also been found to colonize on structures such as boat docks, fishing piers, navigational buoys and bridges and their continued attachment to these structures can cause them to deteriorate.
They've also been found to foul beaches to the point to where they're no longer usable by the public. First of all, because of the smell of the dead and dying and the decomposing zebra mussels but also because the sharp edges of the shells can cut the feet of the swimmers. Coincidentally, the picture you see in the lower left hand corner on that slide, is a picture of a 14-foot aluminum boat that was launched on Lake Texoma last spring. It was taken off the water this fall and, as you can see, it's already heavily infested with zebra mussels. Each one of those small bunches you're looking at is another live zebra mussel.
So, what is the outlook for Texas? Well, our research staff at the Heart of the Hills research center did an extensive literature search and review of zebra mussels and they wrote a document ‑‑ I think each of you've gotten a copy of the document ‑‑ basically outlining the life history of zebra mussels, their environmental requirements, and even some model predictions of how susceptible Texas is to a zebra mussel infestation.
In that document, they outline several things that we can expect to see. The first one is, we can likely slow the spread of zebra mussels in the state but we're probably not going to stop them. The good news in that is that any actions we take now to help slow their spread may also help us to avoid the introductions of other exotic invasive species, such as quagga mussels or silver carp.
We're likely to see some economic impacts. I do a bio following of these water intake structures. Aquatic habitats may change and nuisance vegetation problems may become exacerbated. We're likely to see more impacts in standing than in flowing waters. Our native mussel populations are at much higher risk of being negatively impacted. And, finally, our fish communities could change but we feel we can probably adapt and adjust our management strategies to deal with most of those impacts.
So, what has the Department been doing to address this issue? Well, first of all, there's been a great collaborative effort among the inland fisheries, law enforcement and communications divisions to get the information out to the public, through multiple media outlets. In fact, the Communications Division, as you heard yesterday, is getting ready to launch an invasive species campaign and zebra mussels will be part of that campaign. You may recognize the poster on the right hand side of the screen there from Darcy and Lydia's presentation yesterday.
We're also been working very closely with the municipal water districts, with the various river authorities, the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, private marina owners and operators and even, like TXU & Luminate, making sure that they're informed of the zebra mussels, the situation, and they're helping us monitor for them and they're also taking precautions not to spread zebra mussels.
Our staff have deployed mussel samplers into Lakes Texoma, Lavon, Ray Hubbard, Granbury, Whitney and Waco, in an effort to monitor those systems. In addition, our staff, any time they go to a reservoir or water body, they are watching the shore line and looking on hard structures for the presence of zebra mussels. And this is particularly true in some of the reservoirs that may be more prone to infestations due to recreational use patterns or simply through the connectivity of the river systems.
Reservoirs such as Possum Kingdom, Lewisville, Grapevine, Cedar Creek, Richland-Chambers; those are some of them that we are kind of keeping an eye on.
It's also important to note that, while our staff can be at these water bodies, we don't have enough staff or manpower to be at these reservoirs every day of the year and, therefore, our education efforts in informing the public is really going to help us increase the number of eyes and ears we have out in the field watching for the spread of zebra mussels.
We're also writing and developing the prevention response plan that will help us deal with any future expansion of zebra mussels but it's also going to help us ensure that, throughout the course of our routine activities, that departmental staff are not inadvertently moving zebra mussels, whether that be through stocking operations, sampling fish communities or even just the trawling over these reservoirs and river systems.
Finally, David Bradsby and the water resource team has been working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to develop a database and a system of maps outlining, basically listing all the permitted integral basin water transfers that are allowed within the state.
What this is going to do is to allow us to identify those river systems that are directly connected by a pipeline, as well as identify those more specific locations that are more susceptible to invasive species, introductions through this means of transportation. And, with that, I will try to answer any questions you may have.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Brian, a couple of quick questions. So we're ‑‑ just a quick review. You mentioned it but where do we know that we have live populations of zebra mussels?
MR. VAN ZEE: We know they're in Lake Texoma and three individual specimens were found in West Prong Sister Grove Creek, which flows directly into Lake Lavon.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And so, right now, you would say ‑‑ you would describe our strategy as ‑‑ it's not really containment because we find them and get rid of them if we knew ‑‑
MR. VAN ZEE: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: — where they are, basically but it's really just the awareness campaign and monitoring.
MR. VAN ZEE: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So, we're just having to live, due to resource issues and so forth, we're having to live with kind of a passive approach to this particular specie and it's part of a greater invasive plan that we have. Is that right?
MR. VAN ZEE: Yes. The zebra mussels ‑‑ it's been well documented, they've tried eradications of zebra mussels in numerous reservoirs around the country. The problem is, they've never been able to fully eradicate them so when they came back ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's not good.
MR. VAN ZEE: — they came back at even higher densities and greater because, for example, in El Dorado Reservoir in Kansas, they drew the reservoir down, thinking ‑‑ during the summer months, thinking they could desiccate them and dry them out. The problem is, they didn't get a complete kill. When they filled the reservoir back up, there were no natural predators anywhere in the system. They came back at even greater densities than before so, then, that scenario's kind of played out.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So, there's no real practical way to eradicate them?
MR. VAN ZEE: There is not a practical way, right now, for eradicating from the system, once they get well-established. Now, again, we identified there in West Prong Sister Grove Creek and Lake Lavon late in the year, likely after their spawning season would have been completed. So, again, we've only seen three specimens. Are they the only three in the whole system? We don't know. I think this summer we may see whether or not they spread from there.
But the most effective thing that we can do right now is being very proactive and letting the public know, hey, keep an eye out, watch for these things, you know, drain your boats, clean them and try and not spread them. The problem with the zebra mussels is that their veligers, their larvae, are microscopic in size and so, unlike noxious vegetation, you cannot necessarily ‑‑ you may not necessarily see it on your boats.
So, again, you really need to get the boaters and anglers and water craft users to take the time to dry the boats out and kill the ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: In addition to awareness, are we doing, on the law enforcement side, are we doing anything, Pete, with ‑‑ specifically with ‑‑
MR. FLORES: For the record, Peter Flores, Law Enforcement Director. Yes, sir, we are. Since our game wardens work very closely with the marina owners, especially in the Texoma area, where it was first discovered and that awareness and making everybody recognize what they're seeing and then notifying us in a timely manner. Also, when we have individuals ‑‑ for example, bringing vessels in from the north and then intentionally and knowingly disregarding our state regulations, we'll take enforcement action.
But, we're working very closely with Inland Fisheries and working with Communication and, of course, working, most importantly, with our stakeholders out there, communication and outreach ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.
MR. FLORES: — and education is one of the biggest components of the law enforcement program. But we do have, for those that are criminally negligent and are disregarding our state's regulations ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.
MR. FLORES: — we do have that enforcement option.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And it's beyond warning, at this point.
MR. FLORES: It can be.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It can be beyond warning.
MR. FLORES: It can be beyond warning and can be a jailable offense.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I have a question.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Brian, are the zebra mussels water temperature sensitive or can we expect the same across the entire state, possibly?
MR. VAN ZEE: They are ‑‑ some of the earlier researchers and zebra mussel experts at the time they first suspected that maybe Texas would not be vulnerable to their infestations due to our warm summer water temperatures; however, there's some researchers now kind of thinking that maybe they're adapting and adjusting and being able to tolerate a little warmer temperatures but typically, about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, if they're ‑‑ that temperature's lethal to them if they're in that for an hour, for about five to six hours.
We also know that if these individuals that are taking these boats and water craft, they take them to a commercial carwash that has hot high pressure washers, the hot water, about 103 degrees, will kill the zebra mussel veligers and 104-degree temperature, we know, will kill the adults immediately, so ‑‑ yes, they are temperature tolerant but probably like what we'll see in Lake Texoma, is maybe the first several feet, they may, you know, inhabit that area during the cooler times of the year but when the temperature gets warm again, those may die back but they're still ‑‑ they just need to get a little deeper in the water column where they probably can find favorable temperatures.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Carter?
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I just wanted ‑‑ when you asked the question of Brian about, you know, what are we doing to try to arrest the spread and I think he provided you with some very clear-eyed realism, you know, what our aspirations are on this front but something else he said, I want to make sure is not lost on the Commission. You know, we're very concerned about interbasin transfers of water and so, the protocols that are going to be developed to help try to treat that water before those mussels are inadvertently spread to other water bodies is an important component of this plan that he mentioned, along with raising public consciousness, education, the enforcement side, but this is a critical part of it, as we try to see what we can do to keep it in a manageable area. So, I just want to make sure that that wasn't missed as well.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I appreciate it. Thank you.
MR. VAN ZEE: If I may expand on that. To give an example, the North Texas Municipal Water District, I think, is the third largest water provider. It provides a service to about one point six ‑‑ one and a half to two million residents in the Dallas, North Texas area. You know, their pipeline is 72 inches in size and they pump over 100,000 acre feet of water a year through that system. You know, that's a lot of water and a lot of potential there for moving them.
Like I said, they've been very, very cooperative with us and they're doing everything they can, not only because, from a natural resource perspective, but they need to keep their system from getting fouled as well. But, again, when it comes a critical need, when they've got the public asking for water, they may need to begin pumping, so it's ‑‑ and that connection of multiple river systems throughout the state that are connected by multiple pipelines and so, they can ‑‑ it gets to be spreading pretty ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, I think, increasingly with these invasive issues that we're dealing with, you know, it's a big part of the success of our plan is going to be what you all are focused on now, which is the integration of the various departments within TPW, to make sure that we're coordinated in everything we're doing because you'll be out doing a great marketing ‑‑ awareness campaign and then, if in a particular region, if law enforcement isn't up to speed with that, as one example, then it's ineffective. So, I appreciate your efforts to try to integrate these efforts.
MR. VAN ZEE: Yes, we've had great cooperation with the game wardens up there at Lake Texoma. They've done a great job of quarantining those boats whenever they came into the state ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great.
MR. VAN ZEE: — and making sure they were clean before they were allowed to be launched, and that type of thing. And even, some of these boats are being bought from up north or something like that and brought back to Texas; boats traveling across state lines so they, in fact then, are also in violation of federal laws, the Lacey Act, so ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I appreciate your efforts there. Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Brian, a couple of questions. Are we working with fishing tournament sponsors, to get the word out to the people that hold the bass-fishing tournaments?
MR. VAN ZEE: Yes, we've ‑‑ one of the first things we did is we put the word out on the Texas fishing forums to get it out to our anglers immediately but also, like on Lake Texoma, the Corps oversees Lake Texoma. It's a Corps lake. They have special permits that these groups are required to fill and ask for, so what they're doing is they're ‑‑ when these individuals or groups come in and ask to have the tournaments on the lake, they mention zebra mussels to them and providing the information to them. They're going to be ‑‑ we just had a Lake Texoma zebra mussel task force meeting on the 13th and the Corps said that they are going to start doing that as well, so ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But we shouldn't limit it to Texoma. I mean, shouldn't we have it for any tournaments on Fork or Falcon or wherever?
MR. VAN ZEE: Yes, I mean, the awareness campaign really does need to be statewide in scope. Right now, Lake Texoma and Lavon are just kind of ground zero and we're really trying to focus on that because we know, as far as we know right now, those are the only two places we've got them but, yes, they do come from other states.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I would certainly urge us to somehow figure out a way to communicate with whoever the sponsors are ‑‑ I'm not sure how these tournaments work them; Dan the Chair might know better. But I think that's a great way to communicate to the fishermen who are coming in from other states, particularly northern states where there's a bigger problem, but I wouldn't just limit it to the Texoma area.
And then, when we speak of other states, do we have interaction with other states on this issue? Are we having some ongoing discussions?
MR. VAN ZEE: Yes, we actually have been. Lake Texoma, as you know, is controlled by both by TPWD, or Texas and Oklahoma. We've been ‑‑ they're part of the task force as well on Lake Texoma and Oklahoma's actually been dealing with zebra mussels since about the mid-1990s. They've had them up in the northeast quadrant of their state and they've kind have done the same thing, in fact, a lot of our signs we're having made and put up at all the boat ramps and everything else like that come from Oklahoma. We're trying to standardize the signs so that they're consistent on both sides of the state.
They've got researchers doing research on zebra mussels; we've got some here in Texas. The USGS is going to have a researcher at the University of North Texas that's going to be doing some research on Texoma as well, so, yes, we are working with Oklahoma in this case, particularly, with Lake Texoma and that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would emphasize what Chairman Friedkin said, that we need to be very aggressive on this in the law enforcement side and not let these out-of-state boaters ‑‑ we love to have them, but the least they can do is bring in a clean boat and somehow get the word out to marina operators that we really need their help, we can't do it alone. All over the state, at each of our large public bodies and then, as we work into the upcoming LAR, I hope we'll put more emphasis on this and, for example, compare the significantly higher dollars that Florida allocates for invasive ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good point, yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — that this ought to be part and parcel of our LAR consideration, in my view.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I agree.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Fine. Great presentation. Thank you. I appreciate your efforts. Okay. Sorry, I didn't ask if there were other questions. We good, all right. Item Number 10, Action Item, Proposed New State Falconry Regulations, Raptor Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Mr. Matt Reidy.
MR. REIDY: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners, My name is Matt Reidy. I'm a Regulatory Wildlife Biologist for the South Texas District and I'm going to talk to you today about the Raptor Proclamation.
The new federal falconry process, in 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted an extensive revision of the federal falconry rules. All states, in order to maintain a falconry program, must comply with these federal falconry rules. States may be more restrictive than the federal rules but they cannot be less restrictive.
Staff with Texas Parks and Wildlife has worked closely with the Falconry and Raptor Council to develop proposed new state falconry regulations. To give you an idea, falconry regulations haven't been overhauled like this in 50 years, so this is a pretty daunting task and we've put a lot of our work and effort into it.
The proposed new rules will establish standards for the capture, possession, housing and use of falconry raptors, eligibility and application requirements for falconry, raptor propagation and nonresident trapping permits, identification of falconry raptors, transportation of raptors, sale of hybrid raptors and captive bred raptors and reporting, notification and record-keeping requirements.
And before I get started, our proposed regulations came out in the Texas Register December 25th, 2009. January 7th, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made some additional, minor changes to their federal falconry rules, which necessitates a few modifications to what we published in the Texas Register.
Some of these modifications include allowing apprentices to trap prairie falcons and ferruginous hawks. Those were not on the list previously. And also some clarifications as far as banding requirements, facility standards regarding provisions of water to raptors, use of raptors in educational programs and the definition of the word "imprint."
This was our ‑‑ our proposal was reviewed by George Allen, Chief of Migratory Birds during this time so he let us know about these changes and we will have to comply with them.
Public comments; we have had quite a few late comments. It happened yesterday. We are now up to 41 comments in favor to one comment that was completely opposed, which, again, he had talked about shooting raptors previously so, and then, we had 19 comments that were opposed to specific provisions.
This has actually changed a little bit with those new comments. We have six commenters misunderstood proposed rules, 10 commenters requested non-substantive changes that the staff agrees with; they were just clarifications, things like that and then three commenters requested changes that were prohibited by the federal regulations.
Some of the comments were included, that the state has no authority to regulate abatement activities; staff disagrees. We do have authority. Another was, falconers should be allowed to the higher bag limit during the open season for upland birds. We think that was an interesting idea. We'd actually like to take that back, table that for now, discuss that with the Falconry Raptor Council as well as the Upland Game Bird Committee, to vet it to see where we should go with that.
Another concern was limiting trapping seasons for kestrels. The staff feels that, biologically, there is not really a concern. The number of kestrels that are taken as well as during that breeding season, as well as breeding season we can only take birds that are less than a year old. Less than a year-old birds are not breeding so there's not an issue there.
Another was continue to allow paper reporting. We are now ‑‑ we're going to require all electronic reporting. Staff disagrees with continuing paper reporting. We feel that internet access is available to everybody, that there should be no problem with that.
And there a few other public comments that staff disagrees with. One of those was to disallow our apprentice's use of goshawks, Cooper's hawks, merlins. We feel like the sponsor/apprentice relationship that is required by the program will eliminate any problems with that so we disagree, we feel that should still be on the list.
Another was the disallowing an unannounced inspections of falconry facilities. The legal team disagrees with this, that the game wardens, you know, with probable cause, are allowed to enter residences.
Then, there was another one that was brought up, the request for a review panel for permit denials should have a non-TPWD member on that panel. We also disagree with that, to make a consistency with other permit programs like the deer breeders, DMP, Triple T programs. We should maintain it within the Department, just to make sure that all policies were followed with that permit denial.
There are a few comments that staff did agree with. One was to allow abatement permitees to act without direct supervision of the primary permitee. That was a slight clarification of language. Another was to allow apprentices to trap ferruginous hawks. That was changed by the new federal changes that were adopted January 7th.
Another was to retain the current temporary transfer rule. There was some ‑‑ it was very confusing with maintaining birds within an aggregate or a temporary transfer. We would like to go back to ‑‑ we request that we could go back to just the 30-day limit.
There was also a few other public comments that for our inspection language being consistent throughout the regulations requiring that during an announced inspection, having either the permit holder or the property owner being there. And then also another clarification of species that could be held under an abatement permit. Under an abatement permit, they have to be captive-bred raptors. There is no ‑‑ the Feds don't require ‑‑ there's not a species list, they just must be captive-bred for abatement.
So, in closing, staff recommends and requests that you adopt the repeal of the previous regulations and adopt the new regulations, as you can read in this recommendation.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Matt, we have a few people signed up to speak on this.
Any questions before we do that? Okay. Mr. John Graham, please.
MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, good morning. My name is John Graham and I'm the president of the Texas Hawking Association. As president of the Texas Hawking Association, I would like to express our sincere appreciation for having been included in the process of developing these new rules. Being part of the team that includes Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel and members of the Falconry Raptor Council was an honor and a privilege and provided evidence that we are all working to create the best set of falconry regulations possible.
As you have heard from Matt yesterday and today, this was a major re-write. The falconry regulations haven't seen an overhaul of this magnitude, of 40-plus years. It is because of the Department and the fantastic people we have fortunate enough to work with, like Matt Wagner, Jennifer Brennan, Karen Pianka and our own Matt Reidy, that we have been able to accomplish what we have in such a short time.
From the de-listing of the passage peregrine falcon to these new regulations, we have been on the agenda quite a few times these last couple of years. The falconry program has been experiencing a lot of positive changes, making it one of the best to be a falconer any of us can remember.
I hope you know that Texas is one of only six states, and easily the largest, to have certified the new falconry regulations, which is a credit to the staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Before ending, I would like to repeat how appreciative the Texas Hawking Association, its members and falconers in Texas are for the quality and timeliness of the proposed Raptor Proclamation.
The Department's hard work and dedication, specifically Robert Macdonald's, is clearly expressed in our new regulations. These new regulations will have a major impact on our falconry practice in Texas for a generation of falconers to come. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. We appreciate your partnership and your help.
Mr. Don Roeber, I hope I'm close. Possibly Dan Roeber. Sorry.
MR. ROEBER: Actually, it's Don Roeber. Everybody gets that wrong. A lifetime of, you know ‑‑ I'm used to it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, sorry.
MR. ROEBER: I'll introduce myself. I'll start out, you know. Chairman, Commissioners and Director Smith, I'm really happy to be up here and just talk about a banner year in regard to the falconry program. I don't want to be too repetitive on what John just said. But, I'm the ‑‑ by the way, I'm the Chairman of the Falconry and Raptor Council so I've spent a lot of time up here talking with you all over the years and we've built us a great partnership. It's, you know, been year after year just building those relationships and getting to where we really understand each other and that you all understand what we do.
As a matter of fact, Ross Melinchuk and Matt Wagner attended our field meet, our falconry meet last week and just had a great time and got an opportunity to see how birds fly and also see that, Hey, these guys really are dedicated hunters. We don't just ‑‑ you know, we're not just bird keepers, we really, you know, what we have these birds for is to actually hunt with them and we really pursue that with a passion.
But, wanted to really want to talk about how this has been a banner for us. You know, we have three major objectives. I say, this year; last year, 2009. You know, we had the peregrine take we had to deal with and a lot of states said they would be ready for this and a lot of states weren't ready for it. We were ready for it. We pulled it off, flawless execution, everybody that filed for a permit got a bird, I mean, just no issues at all and I want to give Matt Reidy a little bit of credit on this too; a lot of credit actually, for there's a lot of ins and outs to trapping along that Texas beach and you have to make sure you're in the right place or not in the wrong place at the wrong time, I should say.
And Matt did a lot of work, talking with a lot of government bodies down along the coast to make sure ‑‑ and GPS basically, where we could be along the beach and made sure the falconers, you know, the permitees who had the permits to take these birds, would be in the right place at the right time to get these birds.
So, you know that whole ‑‑ it was an almost anticlimactic the way that played out. And then, of course, we needed to certify under the new federal program, as John had mentioned and that was going to be a big feat too, to accomplish and, you know, especially if you tried to do it in addition to re-writing our federal regulations but we figured out a way ‑‑ or our state regulations, I should say. We figured out a way to do that and it worked out and, you know, a long story short, we were one of the first states in the nation to certify under this new federal program.
And, of course, now it's all culminated and, hopefully today, you all will agree that we can go forward with these new regulations. You know, the re-write of the regulations that John was talking about. I mean, this has just been an unbelievable year for us and a lot of other states are kind of scratching their heads on how did these guys do this all in one year, you know.
But just, I think, it just really exhibits the partnership and the preparedness too because we had lined a lot of these things up ahead of time and then really kept the dialogue moving. That's why the Falconry and Raptor Council is so important to the state because we can keep that dialogue running and kind of give you guys a heads up, Hey, you know, this is coming down the road, we need to be thinking about this now, that sort of thing, so we're ready as these, you know, occur. I don't really, you know, from a recognition standpoint, I mean Matt Wagner, Robert Macdonald, you know, just big supporters of us on the program and really allocated a lot of their time and resources to help us get to where we are today.
And I have to say, you know, we ‑‑ I mean, beyond a shadow of a doubt, for the last 10, 15 years, maybe longer than that, Texas has had the best falconry program in the country and, you know, with these changes, I mean, we continue out in the front and I think that's something we can all be proud of.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. Any questions? I was just going to ask Matt a question about permitees and you may know the answer. How many permitees we currently have in the state?
MR. ROEBER: I don't have the latest number because, unfortunately, what we know about ‑‑ I'm associated with the Texas Hawking Association also ‑‑ so we know how many members we have ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.
MR. ROEBER: — but because of privacy reasons, we don't have the whole list as far as how ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Sure.
MR. ROEBER: — many falconers are actually licensed in the state. I don't know if Matt can actually share that.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
MR. REIDY: It runs between 175 to 185, 190, on an annual basis. We add 10 to 20 apprentices a year and people come in and people drop out so around that number.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Thanks, Matt.
MR. ROEBER: People find out how difficult this is to do and they come and they go.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We appreciate all your efforts and your partnership.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. So, how about a motion for approval, please.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So move.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Move by Commissioner Hughes. Do you have a question?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's not a question. I want to make sure though that the changes that we're moving to approve include the tweaks that were discussed yesterday which, I think, is implicit in the motion that's proposed but I just want to be clear about 67.267(a)(5)(f)(4) and 65. 268.34, which were the three that we talked about yesterday and you may have some other tweaks but I just want to be clear that the Commission is actually going to approve it as tweaked.
MR. REIDY: Yes, sir, as tweaked. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, second by Commissioner Duggins. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Matt.
Item Number 11, Briefing, Update on the San Jacinto Visitor Center Project. Mr. Rich McMonagle.
MR. MCMONAGLE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I am Rich McMonagle, the Director of the Infrastructure Division. In November, the Infrastructure Division of the State Park Division gave you an overview of the capital program at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. At that time, my chairman, Commissioner Duggins, asked me to return this month to provide an update on the Visitor's Center project and the progress that we're making.
My first slide represents our schedule for this project. As you may recall, we started this project in 2001 and we took about five years to find the funding source. Eventually, we were approved for a transportation enhancement program grant from the Texas Department of Transportation and this grant is actually from a program that is run by the Federal Highway Administration.
So, naturally, when federal entities are involved, we become subject to federal laws. And two laws I'll briefly talk about. The first is the National Historic Preservation Act, which, in Section 106, requires that we take into account any potential adverse effects on historic sites.
The second is the National Environmental Policy Act, which directs that federal entities, and, in this case, it's the Federal Highway Administration, take into account environmental concerns and issues as well as other concerns in their decision making.
Now, normally the way this is done is you start by doing an environmental assessment and an environmental assessment is to determine if there's potential for significant impact upon the human environment and if there is such impact then that federal entity needs to document that impact, document any unavoidable impacts and make that available to the public in what's called an Environmental Impact Statement.
So, you can see from our schedule, we're right now undergoing the Section 106 review in the Environmental Assessment. And those are scheduled to last until the summer of 2011. At that time, the Federal Highway Administration makes a determination whether there is the potential for significant impact, in which case they will direct us to elevate this to an environmental impact statement. If, on the other hand, there is no potential, then they will issue a finding of no significant impact and we will move on with the project.
Now, as you can see, this is a long, drawn-out process and that's the case when you have a site that is historically and environmentally sensitive. And this project, in particular, has been drawn out because one of our four major stakeholder groups is opposed to further development at the site and, in fact, wants to return the site to its 1836 conditions and that group, the San Jacinto Battleground Association has continued to delay things as we've gone forward in this process.
In August of last year, this group submitted a report to TxDOT, outlining their concerns that TPWD was not taking into consideration the historical impacts that this project will have. So, the next month, in September of 2009, TxDOT forwarded that report to the Federal Highway Administration and requested that the Federal Highway Administration, that they make a determination, right now, whether we should continue with the environmental assessment or we should move on to an environmental impact statement.
TPWD has responded to that report, stating our belief that this report adds no new information that's not already available in the Section 106 review on environmental assessment.
Be that as it may, the way ahead is that the Federal Highway Administration has told TxDOT that they're tied up right now with the stimulus grants that they're working on and they won't even begin to look at this until March and have no idea how long that the decision will actually take them.
Therefore, some time in the next six months, the Federal Highway Administration may decide that we can continue on with the EA or they may decide to elevate this to an environmental impact statement. Or, if they continue with the environmental assessment, in about 18 months, they make another decision, it could still elevate this to an environmental impact statement.
As you can see on the slide, if that environmental impact statement is required, it will add around five years to the process and will cost over a million dollars to do this. Now, in the meantime, we've been contacted by local and state groups, individuals and officials. Many of them have talked about engaging the Texas Congressional delegation but I'm not aware of any such contacts being made.
All in all, it is our position to continue with this process and await the decisions by the Federal Highway Administration. So, with that, that concludes my presentation. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just want to thank Rich and Scott for continuing to dog this directive from the Legislature, in spite of the interference from the Battleground Association and we'll just have to see what we can do to figure out, to try to noodle how we might help nudge the highway administration along on this and get their attention early, sooner rather than later would be our hope.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks. Okay.
Item 12 is a briefing as well. Texas Game Bird Hunter Opinion Survey Results. Mr. Vernon Bevill.
MR. BEVILL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, I'm Vernon Bevill, Small Game Program Director, and I'm here today to update you on some game bird hunter surveys that we recently conducted and share with you some of the feedback that we received on these four surveys.
For dove hunters, we actually looked at some things that we changed last year, along with some stuff that we periodically ask them about, to see where they are at with their opinion.
7,500 questionnaires went out. We had a 24 percent response rate on one mailing. As you may recall, we finally have a scenario in Texas where we can have both a 70-day season and a 15-bird bag. And the North zone had been using a 60-day/15-bird bag. This past year, we broke that out into a long first split and a shorter second split to test that winter split for the North Zone and these are the responses we got back.
And, while there is a significant interest in the 70-day consecutive season, I think that you can see from the other two bars that there's also a greater interest in having that shorter late split and I think we've got it right by having a split summer to the Central Zone that we imposed this year.
Also, we looked at the late split in the South Zone and we queried hunters on the basis of having a consistent closing date of the Sunday nearest the Martin Luther King holiday, how they appreciated opening on the 26th of December and we re-asked a question about going as late as possible, which Texas is the only state that is allowed to go to the 25th of January. We've never gone that late in my tenure here but we've gone close to that late on several occasions.
And, as you can see, the breakout of responses there, if we close as late as possible, that would be taking the weekdays that we close the first split on a weekday. I think it's Wednesday this year. That fluctuates a little bit with the calendar. We can move those dates to the late split and close on a weekday there or we can divide it in a way where we could close both splits on a Sunday by moving a few more days out of the first split. And that's a discussion for an upcoming regulation cycle.
And, also, the South zone, of course, has special white wing hunts. Their Saturday/Sunday hunt's the first two weekends in September. Our Migratory Advisory Committee members suggested we look at a Friday/Saturday hunt as opposed to Saturday/Sunday with the belief that Sunday was a lost day due to travel, for so many of our hunters. As you can see, Saturday/Sunday is much preferred.
Additional comments, and I want to draw your attention, actually, to the last three bullets. We periodically ask hunter opinion on all-day versus half-day hunting. The support of all-day hunting is isolated around 80 percent for the last 30 years and we also asked the two zones, Central and South zones, that have a 15-bird bag now for the first time in a number of years, what they thought about it and, as you can see, there's a high level of support for a 15 and 70.
And, in the North Zone and Central Zone, we've heard a little noise over the last few years about maybe we should open on a weekend, the first weekend in September versus the first day of September. I think, just put that thought to bed pretty quickly.
For quail, we had 3,100 hunters surveyed and got a response rate of a third of those. Among the feedback we got, I want to draw your attention to the last two bullets; that 58 percent of our hunters support closing quail season in counties, primarily East Texas, where there's basically not a quail population at the present time.
And 86 percent have a recent membership, interestingly, a recent membership in one of the conservation organizations and DU was number one in that category. Daily bag limit and seasonal length ‑‑ I'm sorry, success in the daily bag limit. We've discussed what it takes to have, for hunters to feel that they've had a successful hunt, in terms of harvest. And, as you can see how that breaks out in terms of the folks that are satisfied if they get from zero to six birds versus people that feel like they have to achieve a higher bag limit in order to feel like their day was fulfilled.
We also looked at the possibility of zoning the quail season from a North/South quail zone. And there is significant interest in that possibility. We did not draw any zone lines for them to look at but we just tested the idea.
Support for the current season length and bag limit. As you can see, there is a high level of support for the current scenario and that would have to be considered if we did discuss zoning the state, of how we would set up the seasons in each zone between maybe a later opener for the South Zone and an earlier closure for the North Zone.
For eastern wild turkeys, we were able to survey 114 hunters and we had a 35 percent response rate and I'll just point to you that that's a low number simply because in our harvest survey ‑‑ we sent out about 15,000 to 20,000 harvest surveys, only 114 of the people who were surveyed said they hunted turkeys in East Texas so that's why that's a small sample.
But, nevertheless, we got feedback from them and some of it will require further drilling if we wanted to look at changes but we invoked the 30-day season a few years ago; that's very popular over the previous season, which was only two weeks in length, although I would point out that we are noting some decline in harvest over the past several years so that concerns us. And, with that regard, our East Texas hunters are very supportive of resuming the restoration program in East Texas.
We are currently finishing up an experimental super-stocking program on four research sites to see if the super-stocking approach of the releasing of about 80 birds will help them get over that environmental threshold for a successful expansion possibility and that is looking favorable at this time.
Sixty percent of our hunters though do support closing down counties that are currently open but where there is basically a very small or remnant population of not a huntable size. We asked about reporting. We have a mandatory reporting system in East Texas and that is very well-supported, as you can see from this information.
And reporting methods. We had the mandatory check station. It's our only method at this time. We have the new technology of the internet and 800 numbers. We asked the hunters how they felt about those other options and we got some significant feedback in that area as well.
For Rio Grande turkey, we surveyed over 4,000, with a 27 percent response rate and I would talk to you a little bit about some of these points here that we found but, in general, the Rio Grande hunters were supportive of the current regulations that they are working with.
And, we looked at these several options in the second bullet, of a two-bird-per-day bag, returning to the old opening date in the North Zone and the possibility of a separate zone for the Panhandle.
We got positive feedback on the two-bird-per-day idea. Texas is one of the few states with a multiple bird bag limit that doesn't have a daily bag limit and so we looked at that option. And, as you can see, we got a good, strong support base for that.
Preference in the new versus the old turkey zone lines. When we reinstated zone lines a couple of years ago, we moved the North/South zone demarcation point farther north. We had some feedback that we moved it too far north. And we looked at that, in this questioning, and I believe that among hunters it's pretty much ambivalent about where the zone line is as long the season dates are pretty close to right. And, for the North Zone, we've had that feedback that maybe the North Zone was opening too late now with the first Friday in April, as opposed to going back to where it was before we made this change to the last ‑‑ I mean, the last Saturday in March versus the first Saturday in April.
Interest in a special Panhandle Zone. I suspect that 34 percent in the first bar represents the people who hunt in the Panhandle. And that the rest of them represent people who hunt in the rest of that zone. So, that's some interest there that we might ought to mine a little further and see where we might be with that.
So, just to give you a quick overview of where we're at, as you can see, some of these points have specific regulatory emphasis. Others might have a regulatory potential and we will share this information with our game bird committees in March. The dove proposals, actually, are already implemented that we looked at and I think we validated what we changed this past year pretty well but the dove proposals will come back in front of you in the upcoming regulation cycle.
For turkeys and quail, these points of discussion will go before the TPWD Technical Committee and then to the Advisory Boards for further discussion and some consideration as to whether we should, maybe, develop some proposals and go back to our sportsmen and mine those ideas a little deeper and see where they are with what we would propose. And with that, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my presentation. I'd be glad to attempt to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Vernon. That's great information. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How did you determine to whom these questionnaires were sent? Would you go into that?
MR. BEVILL: Yes, sir, I will. We do a number of surveys each year on a harvest. And we used, basically, our harvest surveys of those people who responded to the harvest surveys on these various species and then we surveyed every person who had responses to our harvest surveys so that we used that population of hunters to get feedback from. And they are people who are likely to respond to us, as they responded to the harvest surveys. So you would see that we might have had 7,000 dove hunters respond in the harvest survey, 4,000 Rio Grande turkey hunters respond in that same survey and we use those populations to survey for these opinion surveys.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But, if you do that, aren't you hearing from the ‑‑ tending to hear from the same people each year?
MR. BEVILL: We're hearing from people who are interested enough to respond, for sure. And that's why I said, in some of these points where we might want to consider a regulatory proposal, you still have to go back and do follow-up surveys and then follow-up public input to know that you've touched the hunter population base well enough to have good consistent feedback on whatever you're asking them to ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I know I probably sound like a broken record but I'd like to encourage us to consider email inquiries to get you additional data that I think will ‑‑
MR. BEVILL: And we are talking about how to do that and do that effectively and I think you probably will see us attempting some surveys in that arena pretty soon.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good.
MR. BEVILL: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Please. Go ahead.
MR. BEVILL: Thank you for the opportunity. This is probably the last time I'll come before this group before I retire and I want you all to know how much I've appreciated working for this agency and working for the people in this agency, and the several commissions that I have served in the last 17 years and the several Directors I've served in the 17 years. And I want to thank you all for the opportunity.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, we appreciate everything you've done for the Department, Vernon. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Vernon. Okay. Action Item 13, Land Acquisition Limestone County, 41 Acres at Fort Parker State Park. Ted Hollingsworth.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, Good Morning, my name is Ted Hollingsworth; I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a proposal to acquire interest in a little more than 41 acres at Fort Parker State Park in Limestone County, sort of northeast central Texas.
Fort Parker is located about 35 miles east of Waco. The park really consists of a narrow band of land around Lake Fort Parker. We have an issue with adjacent landowners who all have access to their properties through the one park road that traverses the length of that park. At the end of that road is an old subdivision, consisting of more than 50 lots, actually, closer to 100 lots. A man has spent the last several years acquiring interest, controlling interest, majority interest in almost all those lots.
We have negotiated a contract to buy those interests in those lots. Our concern is if those get sold in the private sector and broken back up into individual lots, it could dramatically increase traffic through the park and complicate park operations.
With that information, the staff does recommend that the Commission adopt the following motion: "The Executive Director is authorized to take all necessary steps to acquire by purchase, ownership interests in approximately 41 acres in Limestone County for addition to Fort Parker State Park" and I'd be happy to answer any questions you have.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Ted. Okay. questions? All right. Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So move.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: By Commissioner Morian, second by Commissioner Martin. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. All right, Ted, we're on to our 14, Utilities in Bastrop County, Bluebonnet Electric Co-op, Approximately One Acre at Buescher State Park.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth; I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is in response to a request from Bluebonnet Electric Company to replace an easement they have a Buescher State Park, which is located between Bastrop and Smithville in Bastrop County, about 40 miles east of where we are this morning.
The easements essentially parallel each other. They are requesting a larger easement because they need to provide more power than they can currently provide to the M. D. Anderson Science facility. Staff recommendation is that we allow them to replace the current easement with a new easement and keep the current easement terms and conditions, which is 10-year term and a $19,000 per 10-year term to be re-negotiated again in 10 years when it's time to renew that easement and, on that basis, the staff does recommend that the Executive Director be authorized to negotiate terms and conditions under which an easement may be granted and to grant an easement to Bluebonnet Electric Co-op for the construction of buried electric service lines across Buescher State Park. I'll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions? Okay.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to move that the Executive Director be authorized to negotiate an easement agreement with Bluebonnet for up to a 10-year term at a rate of $19,000. I do not think, based on Staff's presentation that we should be obligated to extend any additional terms by way of options. So, 10-year term, $19,000 or a market base rate, at the discretion of the Executive Director.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second on that.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Motion. Commissioner Hughes. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? The motion carries.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
Item 15 is an action item, Right-of-way Easement, Hays County, Approximately 1.3 Acres at Stokes Island Park. Corky Kuhlmann.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann. This is an item that is in Hays County, Texas, at Stokes Island State Park. Stokes Island State Park is also known as Thompson's Island and is a 5.576-acre tract of land located within the city limits of San Marcos, Texas. It is directly adjacent from the San Marcos Fish Hatchery and it's important to us because the intake for the fish hatchery is between the park and the fish hatchery.
The city of San Marcos has requested a right-of-way easement and a drainage easement along the park, to replace a bridge and they have no legal document giving them access across the rest of the property, just use over the years and they are requesting an easement.
Staff recommends that you adopt the following motion: "The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to deed a Drainage and Right-of-Way Easement to the City of San Marcos across Stokes Island Park."
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions? Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: By Commissioner Martin. Second?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Corky, next item. Item 16, Land Sale and Conservation Easement, San Saba County, 12.5 Acres at Colorado Bend State Park.
MR. KUHLMANN: Again, for the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is a land sale at Colorado Bend State Park, which is just west of Lampasas, Texas, a land sale in the donation of a conservation easement. The area you're looking at, circled in red, is the area of the easement and land sale in relation to the rest of the park.
This item is in regards to our request for a road easement across the track and after many years ‑‑ I'm thinking four, maybe five years of negotiation with the family over the use and their right of the use of this road ‑‑ we have come to an agreement to where they will purchase a tract of land being 12.5 acres that includes the road in question and, in return, pay market value for it and, in return, they will donate a conservation easement on a strip of land 750 foot wide for approximately 1.7 miles of common boundary with the park, an area of about 144 acres of conservation easement.
Both that 144-acre conservation easement plus the 12.5 acre tract that we propose to sell would be put under conservation easement and basically, it will create a view easement from the park for any trail that may be put along there and there will be no buildings of any sort, other than maybe deer blinds on the area in question; both the donated area and the 12.5 sale tract.
We did have a public meeting on this project. We had no comment at the public meeting and I have received no comment from the public from any other publications.
So, to summarize this, we will sell 12.5 acres of Colorado Bend State Park, reserving a conservation easement and the adjacent landowner will purchase the 12.5 acres at appraised value plus donate the conservation easement. Staff recommends that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts by Resolution Exhibit A, the provisions of this land sale and conservation easement at Colorado Bend State Park. I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Corky?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Corky, does the proposal include or have we considered including in the proposal a right of first refusal on the 12.5 as well as the other property that the prospective buyer owns that's contiguous to the state park?
MR. KUHLMANN: We have considered and that was a request that you made at the last meeting, when you first saw this. I visited with their attorney. We had a difficult time getting the contract of sale put together for this project and his statement was to me, was that he didn't think ‑‑ the family would like to sell us what they would like to sell, if they end up selling some property and he said we will be given the first chance but, he said, to try to go back and redo the contract to include that in the contract, he didn't think was fair for his clients to have to pay him to try to ‑‑ for his time to do a new contract, considering what we went through to get this one done.
But the family has a good relationship with the park, has a good relationship with me and have been promised that, when and if this property goes on the market, we will be given the first option to buy it. But, we do not have anything in writing.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But the only hesitation from the perspective buyer was the ‑‑ was from the attorney for the perspective buyer over his fees or her fees?
MR. KUHLMANN: The fees and the problems we had getting everybody to agree to the contract that's in place now. It's been, like I said at the beginning of this, we've been working on this ‑‑ I'm going to guess at least four years, if not five. And, finally getting all of the folks together to agree once, he said, You know, to go back and change something now, he didn't think was a reasonable request in that the family was willing sellers to the state at the first option that they decided to sell the property.
MS. BRIGHT: Good afternoon, I'm Ann Bright ‑‑ good morning, I guess ‑‑ General Counsel. Just to kind of sort of piggyback on what Corky was saying, it really was ‑‑ I mean, he may have been a fee issue but it's my understand it's really more of a logistical issue.
The family is spread really all over the country. Normally what we do is, the first time we come to the Commission, we don't have a contract. This transaction is a little unusual in that it's gone on for so long we wanted to make sure that before we continue to bring it back to the Commission, we were a little bit more sure about what the terms were going be.
However, one of the things we've also talked about is to make sure that we document, you know, as much as possible, in writing, the fact that we do want this land in the event they wanted to sell it. We can do that by letters to the attorney, letters to the landowner, that sort of thing but the transaction itself does not include a right of first refusal.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, it sounds like it's because of the logistics you just described that it's not feasible to include it in this purchase and sale agreement but I would recommend that we, while this is being closed and thereafter, go ahead and for some modest consideration, get a binding right of first refusal to document the commitment that they've made to Corky. I think that's only prudent.
MS. BRIGHT: We can definitely pursue that.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Corky? Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER FALCON: So move.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Falcon, second by Commissioner Morian. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. It's Corky, Item 17, Action Item, Land Acquisition, Hidalgo County, 30 Acres at Estero Llano Grande, World Birding Center.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann, Land Conservation Program. This is an addition to the World Bird site at Estero Llano Grande in Hidalgo County. It's just south of Weslaco, Texas. It's a church camp making up somewhere in the area of 30 acres. It is probably some of the best native habitat left in the valley to add to one of our world birding sites. It is a church camp. There are all the facilities associated with a church camp on the site, including a pool, a chapel, a dining hall and cabins. Our Infrastructure Division is in the process of evaluating what we can or can't use and what will be a liability and asset if we add it to the park.
Before I make a recommendation, I'd like to mention that I have had close to 25 letters and emails about this project, the acquisition of this land as an addition to the state park from people like the friends group, the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, the Executive Director of the World Birding Center, the President of the Valley Land Fund, the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce, the Alamo Visitors Center and Chamber of Commerce and the President of the friends group from the wildlife corridor and the mayor of Weslaco.
With that, staff recommends that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: "The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire a 30-acre tract of land as an addition to Estero Llano Grande State Park." Id be glad to take any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Corky. Questions. Okay. Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Martin, second by Commissioner Hughes. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, if I could, I just want to comment on this because this is one of those sort of opportunities that comes up all of the time and the team really did an extraordinary job of stepping in and closing this deal in the advent of potential competition from other development interests. That would have clearly been very injurious to the park and I just wanted to make sure that was recognized by the Commission. They really did a great job on this and want to acknowledge that work.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes, absolutely. Thank you. Okay. Item 18, Land Sale, Travis County, .711 Acres on Stassney Lane at McKinney Falls State Park.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is a land sale at McKinney Falls State Park, just across Stassney Lane from where we're sitting. You can see the image there. It's a sale of 0.711-acre of property. This tract is part of an eight-acre tract that is separated from the main body of McKinney Falls by the extension of Stassney Lane.
The General Land Office has deemed this tract underutilized by Parks and Wildlife and has designated the tract as a sale for surplus properties. The tract, the city of Austin had contacted us. They would like to purchase a .711-acre parcel out of this eight-acre tract to be used as part of a drainage project along Williamson Creek.
The tract as you see there is bottom left, labeled 0.711 acre. The tract itself is all within the banks of Williamson Creek and is all in the 100-year floodplain and will be used only as part of a drainage project.
We did have a public meeting. There was no comment at the public meeting regarding this and I've had no comments whatsoever from anyone else. So, the staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: "The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts by Resolution in Exhibit A, the provisions of this land sale at McKinney Falls State Park." I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions on this item?
COMMISSIONER FALCON: I move that we adopt it.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Motion by Commissioner Falcon, second by Commissioner Morian. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thanks, Corky. Item 19, Land Acquisition, Uvalde County, 178 Acres at Garner State Park.
MR. KUHLMANN: Last but not least, Corky Kuhlmann with an acquisition at Garner State Park, Uvalde County. Garner State Park is, as you can see, is in a cluster of quite a few other parks. It's just west of San Antonio. I think everybody knows where Garner is. Garner State Park is the state park leader in both day use and overnight camping. Major activities in the park include camping, hiking, river recreation and dancing.
One of the features, hiking, is one of the reasons behind this acquisition. One of the major trails in the park goes up to a bluff by the name of Old Baldy. If you see on the picture there, the polygon represents the property line. Everything stops at that line. Below the line belongs to the park and everything north of it belongs to the lady that, the seller of this tract to Parks and Wildlife. And she has for years let people climb to the top and use her property with ‑‑ she put it on the market about three years ago. We negotiated a deal with her to get the tract of land that includes this bluff and she is making us a good deal on the property.
The summary of this is, we're going to add 177.12 acres to the park, 210 feet of Frio River front, a beautiful hole of water, deeded access to a county road and it's under contract for below appraised value.
This acquisition will add two to three miles of hike and biking trails, including all the trails to the rim of Baldy, provide an opportunity for primitive camping and also be a buffer between the park and residential development. As you can see on the copy of this survey plat, there's already a subdivision to the south.
Staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: "The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire a 177.12-acre tract of land as an addition to Garner State Park." I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions? A motion?
COMMISSIONER FALCON: So move.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Motion by Commissioner Falcon, second by Commissioner Martin. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.
Thank you, Corky and Ted, for all your efforts on all of our land initiatives. We appreciate it. Thanks.
And with that, I believe we've ‑‑
Oops, sorry, Action Item 20, Designation of Representative Foreign Travel Resolution has been withdrawn.
So I declare us adjourned.
(Whereupon, the meeting was adjourned at 11:35 a.m.)
In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this __ day of ______ 20__.
Peter M. Holt, Chairman
T. Dan Friedkin, Vice-Chairman
Mark E. Bivins, Member
Ralph H. Duggins, Member
Antonio Falcon, M.D., Member
Karen J. Hixon, Member
Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Member
Margaret Martin, Member
S. Reed Morian, Member
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: January 28, 2010
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 112, 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