Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
Nov. 4, 2009Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 4th day of November, 2009, 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:
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas, Committee Chairman
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas (Absent)
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Beeville, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- S. Reed Morian, Houston, Texas (Absent)
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The first order of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous Committee meeting, which has already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion by Commissioner Martin. Second by
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Bivins. All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing none, the motion carries.
Committee Item Number 1, Update on the Progress in Implementing the TPWD Land and Water Plan. Mr. Smith.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just a couple of things I want to report to the Commission.
In prior meetings, you all had authorized the Agency to proceed with the sale of our regional park headquarters in La Porte, with the understanding that we would in turn then, move that headquarters to a new building at Sheldon Lake State Park. And I just want to report that that is well underway.
We are building a new facility on the north end of the lake. We hope to achieve lead certification with that, assuming we can get some photovoltaic panels put in there, that would help us do that. That would be a great accomplishment.
As we talked about before, also we are reframing the entirety of our partnership at Sheldon Lake, the partnership with National Audubon Society. And they are going to be playing a very active role in a major fund-raising project to help us raise about $6 million for a new visitor education and outreach center there. So we are excited about what is happening there, and being able to centralize our regional parks office, led by Justin Rhodes, who you will hear from shortly, is something we are very enthusiastic about.
Infrastructure team is making a lot of headway on some major projects. And Rich is going to be giving you a much more detailed perspective on that. But just a couple of observations. One, that when we had the Commission retreat, I hope that at least you had a sense of where we were with the new visitor center there at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. That is going to be a great amenity for that place. It is a major destination for land owners and others to learn about wildlife management and particularly all the research there. And we ought to have that completed by Christmas. Also it seems just like yesterday when we broke ground on the new facilities at the Game Warden Training Center in Hamilton County. And we are well underway there. Close to 90 percent complete. I think Rich is going to touch on that. And so we hope to have that completed by the time we have the next class of cadets start on the 4th or 5th of January. So a lot of headway is being made on major projects with the Infrastructure team and we are real proud of their effort. So I know Rich will be sharing more with you in that regard. So that is the sum and substance of what I wanted to report today. So thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you. Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Item Number 2, Rich McMonagle. Capital Programs and Capital Project Update.
MR. MCMONAGLE: Chairman Duggins, Chairman Holt, Commissioners, my name is Rich McMonagle and I am the Director of the Infrastructure Division. The purpose of my presentation today is to provide you with a familiarization of our process and to update you on our portfolio. Unlike what Mr. Smith said, I will try not to be too detailed in that presentation. I will do that by providing a quick primer, and then an update of our portfolio.
Our project delivery process, we do in six phases. And I am going to talk just kind of in general generic terms. But this is kind of focused on our bond program, which is the biggest thing that we do.
Of those phases, the funding phase is the one that can be the most ponderous and the one that you probably are most hear the most about, about why it takes so long. After the Legislature provides us the appropriation, we need the approval of numerous entities including this Commission. Sometimes that can take six months or better into the new fiscal year. The life of bond money is five years. And you can see how the rest of that time lays out.
What happens is, and we hear a lot about this, when you look at the expenditure curve, is that it takes a long time before we really start spending money. In fact, the last 80 percent of the money is spent in the last twelve to 18 months of a project.
Now when we put the encumbrance over that, every time we write a contract, we actually encumber the money. And so you can see that it is really the encumbrance that comes up early. But it takes us a long time to spend the money.
So that whole, my quick tutorial there was just to explain the five-year cycle and why it takes us so long to spend money. Moving on to our portfolio, our current portfolio has 157 projects, $150 million. The breakout of that $150 million, 25 percent of that we have fully expended. 18 percent has been encumbered but not expended. And the remaining 57 percent is money that is allocated to projects but hasn't been encumbered or expended yet.
As we look across the Department, 60 percent of that money is for projects in the state parks, 38 percent for Fund 9 divisions. And then 2 percent for the headquarters.
Our General Obligation Bond Programs, our '03 bonds have been fully expended. But we received over $600,000 in interest on those bonds. And we are going to expend all that money before the end of this calendar year.
The '06 Prop 8 bonds, the life of those bonds expires next year. As you can see, we are well on our way to fully expending those, and I don't anticipate any problems doing so. '09 and '10 bonds I will talk about over the next two slides.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you move on, the interest that was earned in the '03 bonds, are we free to spend that any way the Commission determines?
MR. MCMONAGLE: No, sir. Those bonds are to be used for the purpose of what the bonds were. Right. So we are using those right now, probably in two headquarters projects.
The 80th Legislature in '07 provided us $69 million in bond funding. Of that, of course $25 million went to the Battleship Texas. Now we tried a different project delivery method in that, rather than dealing with each project individually, we bundled the projects together in three geographic packages.
And the purpose of that was to encumber the money faster, to gain staff efficiencies, and, especially, that there are remote sites where we have trouble getting good quality contractors. And by packaging them this, that way, we have got a contractor who had to take the good places along with the bad.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And how has that worked out?
MR. MCMONAGLE: It has accomplished those three things, Chairman. One of the things we did not necessarily get the big companies that we thought we were going to get. But we got quality contractors.
We have also learned some lessons that will apply in our next bonds, about how to do them more efficiently. For example, we organized them just geographically the first time. And I think we are going to break them out functionally as well.
Because we have some engineering projects that we really didn't need to put architects on. So I think we have learned a lot, and we will be even more efficient in our '10 projects.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: But it is the right way to go. Just you have got to keep fine tuning it like any process.
MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes, sir. I think that we are in agreement that it is the way to go. And again, we have learned lessons that are going to make it even more efficient as we move forward.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It just takes forever. I mean, it is a state requirement. We are doing it by the law. We are going to do it by the law and the book. But they are trying to find ways to move these things along. I mean, it takes as much to build a bathroom in a park as it does to build a $100 million highway, I mean relative to the process.
MR. MCMONAGLE: And I will show that a little bit at least, how we sped up the encumbering, which you will see a little bit later. So two-thirds of those projects we did in the packages. Seventeen of the projects were done with our internal construction teams. And then 16 projects were being done independently as what we call one off projects.
When we look at the timeline, It took a long time to get funding. It took almost twelve months into the fiscal year before we had funding. We then hired our architectural engineering firms in December of '08. We began design. And we are scheduled to begin construction in December of '09. So a year later, as you can see.
When I overlay that expenditure curve back on here, you can see that we are right on the brink of really beginning to encumber the large portion of the money. So in December, January and February, we worked through the contracts with the contracts managers at risk; we will encumber that money that had been expended through the construction phase. We are scheduled to finish November of 2011 and again, that money expires in the summer of 2012.
Moving on to the FY '10 General Obligation Bond Program which is what the Legislature, this last Legislature authorized, we had $38 million in bonds broken up into two different categories. As you can see there. The schedule, you may remember that in August in Fort Worth, you approved these lists.
We have now sent those lists to the LBB, and we are waiting for their approval, in which case we will make those gates down at the bottom to really begin design in the summer of 2010 for completion of construction in the summer of 2013. In that first group, the statewide capital repairs is $28 million. Again, the same timeline and our breakout of those projects are 68 percent for state parks, 25 percent for the Fund 9 divisions and 7 percent for the headquarters here.
In the second group, which was the weather-related repairs, the Legislature told us specifically to do projects to repair damages by flooding at these three locations. Again, they are on the same timeline.
What I would like to do is take the opportunity now to talk a little bit about Mother Neff, which you can see is receiving considerable money. Mother Neff State Park is 259 acres. It is on the Leon River, just west of Moody, Texas. It was a CCC park. It was built by the CCC in the '30s.
In 1954, Belton Dam was built, creating Belton Lake. And the problem with that is that the normal level of Belton Lake is 594 feet. The lowlands in the park are just about 600 feet. So as you can see how the lake looks there, this is what happens. The five-year flood is 604 feet. All of the CCC structures are at an elevation of about 612 feet.
There are three CCC structures as well as a camping loop. Then you look at the ten-year flood, and we are almost getting our stuff wet. And then the 25-year flood, we begin to take on water at the CCC structures. Now the ten-year flood level is kind of a misnomer, because the artificiality is that there is a dam downstream that catches that water and holds the water.
So in a dry year, two to three times a year, and in a wet year, four to six times, the water rises to that 25-year flood level. And so they will get mud and debris and flooding in the park. For one to two, up to five days, each of those times, they will have water, standing water in the park.
As we move on to the 50-year flood level and then the 100-year flood level, you can see that in the summer of 2007, we exceeded the 100-year flood by a foot, which also put the CCC structures, at least the base of them, 15 feet underwater. And of course, because there was a lot of water, downstream as well, the dam was forced to hold that water for about three months.
So for three months, the result was the Tabernacle, which is the stone structure on the upper left in this slide, looked like it did in the bottom picture there. On the right is the recreation hall. And you can see by the watermarks that that is actually after the water has started to recede.
That summer, the water was held by the dam. There was water in the park for three months. Needless to say, it was quite a mess. Our way ahead, we originally looked at thinking about moving those structures. And I am not, at this point I don't believe that that is going to be possible.
Instead what we will do, we are going to create a new master plan. And we have begun that planning process. We will do a structural assessment of those CCC structures and look for opportunity to repair them and shore them up. But more importantly, we are going to relocate the permanent facilities up to the high ground, and that will include a camping loop with full RV hookups.
Mother Neff was one of the first state parks. And we are talking about our goal is going to be that it will be the first State Park with zero net energy consumption. So a goal in properly using the resources in that area.
The 81st Legislature also provided us supplemental appropriation to deal with the damages caused by Hurricane Ike in September of 2008. $2 million of that was directly for Sea Rim. And then $12 million was for Ike repairs in general.
You can see how we broke out that money. The majority of that money is to go to Galveston Island. Almost 4 million is to go to three wildlife management areas where we will repair levees and water control structures. And we are also going to repair the roof at Sea Center, Texas.
So let me talk about first about Galveston Island. Galveston Island State Park is a little over 2,000 acres on the west end of Galveston Island. As you can tell from the photographs, since the park was built in the '70s, there is quite a bit of density on each side of the park. The park has both beach access and bay access.
And talking to Justin, this morning, he continued to comment about what a heavily used park this is. When the hurricane came ashore the evening of 12/13, September 2008, I am sorry 2009.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Eight. A year ago.
MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes. We are in 2009. Thank you. 2008. Not only was the island of Galveston devastated, but so was the State Park. And the picture on the right, that is the former park headquarters that has since been demolished.
The supplemental appropriation came with a two-year life span. And when we found out that was the way that the appropriation was going to work, we made the decision to, rather than asking for all of the money, we asked for money just to do the planning and design. And then once we have that design, we would go back to the Legislature and ask for appropriations to do the construction.
Therefore, it is our plan to conduct master planning and design and then to expend, although we believe the appropriation requires just encumbrance. But we will expend that money within the two-year life. The request for qualification for the designers has gone out, and we have received them. It closes at the end of this month. And we plan to begin design in February of '10.
We look at this as an opportunity to redesign, rebuild a very important park in our system. And it can become a premiere park in our system due to the density and the use, not only in the Galveston area but in the Houston area as well. And likewise, we want this to be a model of resource conservation.
Moving on to Sea Rim, which is outlined in yellow there, Sea Rim State Park is 4,141 acres of marshland. There is also 5.2 miles of coast or Gulf beach. As you can see, it is backed up by J.D. Murphree WMA, and it is just to the west. And you can see it is to the right of the picture there. Just to the west of Sabine Pass.
This park was also devastated. The picture on the left is looking from the Gulf, inland. Of course it is marshland behind the park, although that certainly looks like a bay. And on the right is the former, I guess it is the current park headquarters too.
Again, the same timeline involved with the two-year life of the money, although for Sea Rim we plan on doing the design and construction during that two years. Sea Rim was hit in 2005 by Hurricane Rita. We had just finished the repairs but had yet to reopen when Hurricane Ike hit. We had been undecided what to do with the park. But with the Legislature giving us this money, we have determined to reopen the park as a State Park for public use. Primarily as a minimally developed park, but there will be both day and overnight capabilities.
Finally, I will talk about the Game Warden Training Center. Mr. Smith said we were 80 percent done or completed in construction. I don't have much more to add to that. As he said, we are scheduled to be completed in time for Colonel Flores' next class in January of 2010.
Just thought I would show you a couple of pictures. On the left is the original rendition of the administration building. And that is what it looked like at the beginning of last month, on the right. And then the lecture hall.
So we have encountered some rain delays, but we are on schedule to finish in January, well in time for Colonel Flores' class, as I said. That completes my presentation, pending any questions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Questions or comments. Mark?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: How are we on the fund-raising for the Game Warden Training Center?
MR. MCMONAGLE: Let me start with, this of course, was just the Phase One part.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Right.
MR. MCMONAGLE: And we have about $150,000 left over in Phase One which Colonel Flores has asked us to use to build a front gate and to build one of the residences. As far as the Phase Two funding, I don't have that information, sir.
MR. SMITH: I would say on that front, Commissioner, we still have very realistically another $10 million that we need to raise to complete the second phase of this. The Aquatic Training Facility, the firing range, some other buildings on site. I think as most of you are aware, we had a very generous contribution from Governor Clements that we celebrated in Dallas, of a $2 million gift to help facilitate this.
The timing hasn't been great, given the economic climate. You know, we continue to express to the Foundation, this is our absolute highest priority from a fund-raising perspective.
But we could certainly benefit from some additional discussions with all of you about additional prospects. It may be able to help us. I think we made a lot of headway. We have a lot to show for the resources that we put into it. And I think if we do it right, we can use this as a springboard to raise that second part of it.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Great. Any other questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Item 3, Update on the San Jacinto Battleground Monument State Historic Site, the Battleship Texas Dry Berth Project. Mr. Rhodes, Mr. McMonagle and Mr. Kester.
MR. MCMONAGLE: Commissioners, again, my name is Rich McMonagle; I am the Director of the Infrastructure Division. I will be joined for this item by Justin Rhodes, who is the Director of State Parks Region 4 and also Jeff Kester who is the Program Manager for Infrastructure Region 2, which includes State Parks Region 4. So with that, I will turn it over to Justin.
MR. RHODES: Thanks, Rich. Good afternoon, Commissioners; again, I am Justin Rhodes, State Parks Division, Region 4 Director.
And I am going to start this out, I have a button that I want to pass around to you guys, ought to take a look at it. We can even pass it around out here, as long as we promise to get it back when we are done. But that button is actually from the San Jacinto site. It was recovered. And it is believed to be a button off of an enlisted man's uniform from the Mexican Army.
And the significance of that is, if you guys know who are familiar with the story, the day after the battle, April 22, 1836, Santa Ana was captured. And when he was captured, he was wearing an enlisted man's uniform, disguised in that uniform. Obviously, the disguise did not work that well. And that ultimately led to sorry guys.
It ultimately led to not only our independence in Texas, but the United States acquiring over a million acres of land and making the United States a bicoastal nation. In 1883, Texas saw the significance in this site and set aside our first public land acquisition of ten acres. In 1907, San Jacinto became the first Texas State Park.
In 1936, we began work on the San Jacinto monument. It was a Public Works Administration Project. And three years later, we had in Texas the tallest monument in the world. And it still is known as the tallest monument, freestanding monument in the world today. In 1938, we formed the San Jacinto Museum of History Association to help operate the museum and take care of the monument. And they are still going today.
Each year, on the 21st, we remember, honor and celebrate that day. And we do it on the steps of the monument. We have local leaders come out as well as Sam Houston's great grandson, Sam Houston, IV. The following Saturday, we have the reenactment and festival, which is a huge event for the community of Houston. It routinely draws 20- to 30,000 participants.
Archaeology continues to tell the story out at San Jacinto. And some of the recent work which was funded through Parks and Wildlife and the friends of San Jacinto, helped this discovery. If you look at number 6 down there, what we believe to be a formal surrender site of the Mexican Army.
Through advanced metal detecting and instruments to exactly GPS and coordinate where these artifacts are, again, it continues to unravel, pieces of the battle, and tell us things we had not previously known. In interpreting the battle and protecting the site and the resource, one of the challenges we have in that area is subsidence. This map right here is from 1906 to present time.
The San Jacinto site has subsided over ten feet. And that is primarily due to industrial groundwater pumping. And being familiar with the battle, you guys know the Mexican Army retreated through the marshes to the north and to the east. But what they retreated through, this shot here is from 1995, are now lakes.
And in 1995, Parks and Wildlife began a marsh restoration effort where we were pumping dredge material in there. And it was very successful. And through continued work and replanting, we have what we believe to be the conditions as where the soldiers went through. And just another before and after shot. The one on the left is the photo from '95.
And again, we focused on the north marsh. We have yet to tackle the one to the east. But you can see the photo recently taken on the right. Again, that upper right hand corner is the marsh area. You can see the greenery in there now. It is getting back to a true marsh.
Not only is the site significant for historical content, but it is also an escape for Houstonians to get out. We are being surrounded by industry and the petrochemical industry, it is a 1,200-acre green space. And people routinely come out there, bring their families, just to get outdoors.
The Battleship Texas is also part of our site. It was commissioned in 1914. And it is the only remaining dreadnought-style battleship left in the world. It fought in both World Wars I and II. It was berthed at our site in 1948.
When visitors come aboard the ship, we don't want them just to walk through and see an empty ship, we want them to feel as if the sailors have just stepped away. And working with our I&E shop here in Austin, we have been able to develop some exhibits to bring the ship to life.
The cafeteria for example, has food that you really cannot tell the difference. If you walk by and see this food sitting on the table. It really makes you feel that we are getting ready to serve a meal. The same thing in the canteen. Again, we want the visitors to feel that they are on a living ship, and the sailors have just stepped to the side.
We have several partner groups and support groups at the site. Our three formal partner groups with formal MOUs and one being the San Jacinto Historical Advisory Board which is Governor appointed. We also have several stakeholder groups that assist us from leading tours on the Battleship, to archaeology work to prairie restoration. You know, it is hard for us to not operate without this assistance.
And with that, I am going to turn the presentation over to Jeff Kester. And he is going to get more into the upcoming master plan and design concepts we have going. Thank you. Any questions before?
MR. RHODES: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MR. KESTER: Thank you, Justin. And thank you for this opportunity to share a little bit about the project at San Jacinto with you. For the record, my name is Jeff Kester. And our focus today will be on two of the major projects at the site. The Visitor Center, and the Battleship Texas.
Before we address these two projects, I would like to share some of the recent history of the site. Due to the size and nature of the historic site, with the battleground, the monument and the battleship, this park is one of our busiest in terms of ongoing capital repair and development projects.
In 2003, we spent $476,000 restoring the exterior stone cladding at the monument. And in 2005, $2 million was spent for fire protection, water line replacement and elevator upgrades at the monument.
In 2006, we repaired the Battleship Texas monopiles. Those are the things that anchor that ship it its berth so it doesn't float away in case of storms. And in 2009, $73,000 was spent on replacement of one of the two 70-ton chillers at the monument, which keep the monument cool.
Currently, we are working a $4 million Visitor Center jointly funded by TxDOT, Parks and Wildlife and its partners. A $1 million replacement of wastewater lines and lift stations throughout the park, funded by the '08-'09 capital bond program. And finally, the $29 million Battleship Texas dry berth project, funded with $25 million from the '08-'09 capital bonds and $4 million from the Battleship Texas Foundation.
Finally, in the future, we plan to initiate a new water line project to replace old water lines that were built in the 1960s, and the reconstruction of the seawall facing the Houston ship channel. And then finally, there are plans to replace or to build a 1945-era wharf after the dry berth is completed, sometime in the future.
As with all of our park sites and other sites in our Agency, there are a lot of unmet needs, unfunded needs out there, that need to be addressed at some point. The same is true here, even to a greater extent.
The needs of San Jacinto can be broken down as follows; there is 700 unfunded needs of the battleground totaling about $21 million. Five unfunded needs at the monument, totaling $734,000. And six unfunded needs of the Battleship totaling $27 million for a grand total of about $49 million worth of development and capital repair needs at the site.
Some of these were generated by the master plan showing restoration of the battleground for $12-1/2 million, and other major development projects. The master plan was developed in 1998. It described a vision for restoration of the battlefield, providing for a Visitor Center and outlining a need for the interpretation of the battle. Soon thereafter, TPG Partners was hired to more fully develop the master plan.
And they produced what was called a schematic design package, completed in 2005. The TPG documents developed after meetings with our stakeholders, delivered to us a battlefield restoration design and budget. Development of the Visitor Center concept. Recommendations for interpretation of the battle, the museum and the Battleship.
And a plan to consolidate all the service facilities in one location, out of sight and away from the battlefield. Right now, they are currently visible to everybody driving up for the first time at that site.
One of the hurdles that we have to clear in order to go forward is our resource clearances, which we are currently engaged in right now. They are required of all capital projects in our Agency. Most projects only need an internal natural and cultural resources review, which our staff performs for us and takes just a few months.
On other projects, if wetlands are impacted, Parks and Wildlife must obtain a 404 permit from the U.S. Corps of Engineers, a process that can take from six to twelve months. And projects like the Visitor Center and the Battleship Texas dry berth, federal reviews are triggered by virtue of the fact that we are using federal funds on these projects.
This means that these projects must be reviewed and approved in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. And also conform to the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which requires us to perform an environmental assessment. This can take two to three years to complete these Section 106 and EAs.
If the EA determines that adverse impact is going to occur on the site, then we have to elevate it to an Environmental Impact Statement, which could take five more years. So these are the complications that we are looking at, at this site, for our projects, undergoing the federal fund, the federal clearances.
At this time, there is opposition to the Visitor Center by one of the stakeholders. And as a recognized consulting party, it is telling TxDOT that this project will significantly and adversely impact the site. Parks and Wildlife has answered and rebutted the concerns, but the opposing stakeholder is asking TxDOT to elevate the review from an EA to an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS.
If their boss, the Federal Highway Administration rules in their favor, according to TxDOT, TPWD could plan on spending more than a million dollars in addressing this EIS. And expend another five years in the schedule. So we are hoping that it is not elevated to an EIS because it will put our project at risk.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Who makes the determination of whether or not it is elevated to the level where an EIS is required?
MR. KESTER: The Federal Highway Administration, which is the lead agency. They are providing the funding for us on the project, through TxDOT.
As a part of the EA process, we are looking at five alternative sites, potential sites for our Visitor Center. They are chosen based on recommendations from the master plan, the TPG schematic design package and stakeholder input. As a requirement to EA, archaeological investigations have been completed at each of these sites. And currently, each site is now being evaluated under a number of criteria to ascertain which site best meets the need and purpose of the Visitor Center and has the least impact on the natural and cultural resources. Shown here is one of the presentation boards displayed at the May 12 public meeting that was held in the Houston area, at La Porte, actually. And it specifically shows the site, alternative sites A and B. It shows the building placement, and also the parking placement. And the green overlay shows wetlands that are impacted by these sites.
Per the environmental assessment, the architect has prepared a design for the Visitor Center that fits the unique qualities of each of the five different sites. So we have to understand what the design is like at each of the five sites, what the parking impacts are, and so on, for an effective analysis.
At whatever site is selected, the Visitor Center is going to do this. It is going to be the first point of arrival for the visitor at the site. It will provide restroom facilities and refreshments for the visitors. It will provide a store to purchase retail items and tickets for the different venues at the site.
And also, offer the visitor an orientation to the site, and an interpretation of the 1836 battle. An interpretation of the Battleship Texas and its role it played in both World Wars. So it has a very valuable function in terms of the visitor coming to that site.
Finally, this slide is going to go away in nine seconds. It is on a timer, unfortunately. This is the schedule. It just shows that by September go ahead. September 14, we hope to close this project.
The reason the length of time was so long between now and then is because of these environmental clearances we are having to go through. And at every step of the way, TxDOT must review our planning process. So it is a back and forth with months involved, and all of the different reviews that go back and forth in the design phase. We hope to kick off the bidding and construction phase at the end of 2011.
So that is all I have got. And I would be happy to answer any questions you have, before we pass it on to Rich to wrap up the presentation.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Questions or comments?
MR. KESTER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MR. MCMONAGLE: And as Jeff said, transitional. I will bring it home with the future. In, as I mentioned in my last presentation, the 80th Legislature provided us with $25 million in bond funding for a project to dry berth the Battleship Texas. In the summer of 2008, we prepared, as part of the requirements for that funding, a project plan for the dry berthing of the Battleship Texas. And I will talk a little bit about that.
This slide shows some of the depictions of the possible concepts of what the dry berth would look like. We have not chosen a concept or a plan to go with that is what we are leaving up to the design company to come to us. But this gives you an idea of some of the potential concepts.
And the last time the ship was in dry dock for repairs was 1988 to 1990. And these pictures kind of give you a vision of both the size of the ship as well as what it looks like below the water lines, at least it did when it went into dry dock the last time.
Our schedule is that in July of this year, we received funding. We have out right now the request for qualification for a design firm. That has closed. And we plan to begin design in January of next year.
We foresee about a year for in the ideal world, we see about a year for clearances, twelve months for design, 18 months for construction, and we would be done in the fall of '13. Or clearances could take two years, and move it back to the fall of '14, or as Jeff talked about, we could get bogged down in clearances and it could extend the timeline considerably.
One of the things however, is that if the Visitor Center goes to requiring an Environmental Impact Statement, we will look to combine that with the clearances that are needed for the Battleship. We will be able to team those up so that they won't go sequentially. And we will save ourselves some time and some headache there.
As Jeff mentioned, and you may have heard the total before, the $27 million in other projects for the Battleship. This comes from our project plan. But I am not sure how accurate these numbers are going to be once we put this ship in dry berth.
Some of these things may not be required. For example, replacing steel, hull plating. We may be able to find a better solution since the ship won't be sitting in the water any more. So these numbers are just numbers that were developed in 2008. But once we get the ship up into the dry berth, we will be able to get a better assessment of what the needs for the ship are going to be. As far as other projects in the area, the picture on the left is the seawall. That is southwest, or just below the slip there, that the Battleship is in. That seawall is deteriorating. And we have requested a $2.6 million grant from the under the Coastal Impact Assistance Program from the Department of the Interior.
The great thing is, this is a no match grant. And so with that $2.6 million, we would be able to fix 1,100 of the 1,600 feet of that seawall.
Unrelated to our requesting that grant, is the fact that we will be looking for a place to put the Battleship when construction goes on in the dry berth. And an ideal location would be one where we could continue to provide access to the public. And along that seawall may very well be the place that is chosen to do that.
And finally, purely driven by the Battleship Texas Foundation, is the desire and need for a 1945 era wharf that would be alongside the dry berthing of the ship. Those are artist's rendering. We are still working on a design that will probably be much more elevated due to the flooding that we encountered, and we have learned about during Hurricane Ike.
The wharf would be completely funded by the Battleship Texas Foundation, but we would not even be able to begin work on this until after the dry berthing is complete. And with that, that completes our presentation. Pending any questions from the Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Questions, comments?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you, Rich.
Item 4 Post-Hurricane Ike Natural Resource Status Briefing. Jim Sutherlin and Lance Robinson.
MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, or good afternoon. My name is Lance Robinson. I am Regional Director for Coastal Fisheries on the Upper Texas coast.
And we have been asked to give you a briefing of some of the impacts of Hurricane Ike on natural resources in that area last year. And I will turn it over to Jim to start the presentation.
MR. SUTHERLIN: Good afternoon. I am Jim Sutherlin. I am project leader in Region 4 of the Wildlife Division for the Upper Coast Wildlife Management Areas.
The wildlife management areas that I am going to talk about this afternoon are the Murphree Area in Jefferson County, and Neches Wildlife Management Area in Orange County, and the Candy Abshier Wildlife Management Area on Galveston Bay in Chambers County. Here is a picture of those WMAs. And you can see Candy Abshier is just a little green dot on Smith Point in Chambers County.
The picture on your left is October 2008, right after Ike. Candy Abshier WMA had approximately 31 acres of heavy debris from Bolivar washed across the bay onto the island. And we also lost about 4-1/2 acres of shoreline on the bay side on September 13, 2008. And the picture in March 2009, is after TxDOT under contract, contracted to clean up the debris from the storm, did a really good job of cleaning up for us, spent close to $600,000 removing debris from the area.
Here is the hawk watch tower on this site, with debris around it. And almost finished up in March, this site was reopened to the public on the first of April in 2009. Over in Jefferson County in the Murphree area, we had close to 140 acres of debris in the wetlands. It presented a much bigger problem to us as far as access to get the debris off the area.
You can see the amphibious equipment we used under TxDOT contracts. Money provided to us through the Governor's Office to clean the debris up in east coastal counties. This amphibious equipment was utilized to drag the debris out on small barges, out of the marsh, to our waterfront. It was separated there, and hauled off by truck.
Quite an operation. It cost just under a million dollars to clean up the Murphree area. And again, by May, these guys were cleaned up and gone. A tremendous effort. The picture, the March picture on your right here, is a little grappler barge that was used in Keith Lake. And that debris and that lowboy trailer actually are debris from the storm. That lowboy was quite a boat trap out in the lake. It was right out in the middle of Keith Lake after the storm.
In addition, we burnt close to 7,000 acres using prescribed fire, on the Murphree area to rejuvenate our marshes after the storm, because of all the salt impacts to the grasses. And TxDOT also cleaned close to five miles of our ditches in our wetland impoundments that were silted in from the storm on the Murphree area.
This is an aerial photo, two aerial photos. One from 2006 on the left, and one from 2009 on the right. What I want to show you where that one is, just to the right of the one in the 2006 photo is a little round lake called Blind Lake. Blind Lake is about 360 acres historically. If you look to the photo in 2009, Blind Lake is about 1,400 acres. That occurred on the 13th of September. That is scouring the marsh from Hurricane Ike.
The next photo, I will show you a little bit closer up. That is the marsh above Johnson and Keith Lake in the Salt Bayou unit of the Murphree area. And if you look above the shoreline of the lakes, just above the two, you can see when the grass is scoured out in the 2009 photo, into several new open flats.
And these are the kind of emergent marsh impacts we had from the storm. And I want to turn this thing over to Lance now. He is going to tell you about some of the recovery money we have got to do some restoration work in this area.
MR. ROBINSON: As most of you know, hurricanes are natural events, and they have been impacting coastal habitats for thousands of years. And fishery resources specifically are pretty resilient to the impacts of those storms. Not so much so, for humans. And certainly, this picture that you see here in front of you kind of depicts one of the issues that we still are having some challenges with, and that is access for recreational fishermen to the water, and to the resources that are out there.
The picture on the left is a post-Ike photograph of the Texas City dike. The infrastructure down in kind of the lower part of the picture there is a boat ramp that actually was one of the top three busiest boat ramps in the State of Texas. Hundreds of trailers on the weekend would show up there, fishermen and launch. And that access point has not come back into operation even to today.
Other resources that were certainly impacted were those that couldn't move in advance of the storm surge. We had significant impacts to oyster habitat throughout Galveston Bay. More so in the east bay area, the area that the Commission closed at the August meeting, to allow some restoration to occur over there, and recovery of that resource.
What you are seeing on the images here are results of some site scans. Sonar surveys that we have conducted, both pre- and post-Hurricane Ike. You will see the polygons that are drawn around the oyster habitat in the top picture, and what it looks like right after the storm. About 83 percent of that oyster reef in that area, in that particular image was silted over by sediment.
Not all of the impacts from the hurricane were so negative. There were some positive effects. This particular shot is again, some site scan imagery from pre- and post-Ike. If you still look in the top left hand corner, you see a picture of Galveston Bay in the small little square. That is the area that we are focusing in on. The Houston Ship Channel is labeled in the bottom left hand corner to kind of give you a reference.
What we see happening here is, as the storm surged, the ten to 15 feet of water that came into Galveston Bay, came in, and then it exited the bay, it funneled out right around the Houston Ship Channel. And that fast retreat of that water removed sediments over the top of some of the reef, that reef complex there. It also scoured the sediment and removed sediment from the edges.
And the picture on the right, which was taken after the storm, or the site scan imagery taken after the storm actually, that reef is elevated another foot above the surrounding bay bottom, simply because the sediment was scoured and flushed out of Galveston Bay. That is a benefit. It removed sediment off the top of the reef, which will allow oyster larvae to settle. It also raises that reef up higher in the water column relative to the surrounding bay, which makes oysters and other filtering animals there, makes food more available to them.
There were some restoration projects that the Department had conducted prior to Hurricane Ike. But I am happy to say that those projects came through pretty well. The picture on the right that you see is a debris field along the north Deer Island breakwater in Galveston Bay. That breakwater was originally designed to serve as a wave attenuation or abatement of wave energy in the marsh. And it was not designed certainly for the force of wave energy generated from a hurricane the size of Ike. But was it afforded some protection, from the standpoint that that area was ten feet underwater. So you didn't have that wave energy pounding into that habitat.
What I would like to do now is to shift a little bit, and talk about some of the projects, and some of the work that has started and will continue over the next year or so. The picture that you see on the right is a picture in the J.D. Murphree area. Out in the background, that open water habitat that you see there was the result of scour from the hurricane. And the Department received a $7 million grant for fisheries disaster grant from the NOAA, from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Some of that money, $1.5 million of that funding will be used to restore that open water, kind of return it to what the habitat looks like in the foreground of that picture. Another half a million dollars making up that 2 million there, and the NOAA Fisheries will be spent on restoring some of the beach ridge at the McFadden National Wildlife Refuge. The storm surge breached the beach ridge. And so we have even in high tides, we have ocean water moving over into these marshes, and burning the vegetation there.
There is also a $5 million restoration in the lower Neches Wildlife Management Area. The funding is coming from the Corps of Engineers at the request, or sponsored by the Port of Orange. The funding is for dredging of navigational channels. And they will be working with doing some restoration work at that wildlife management area. Additionally, there is a $6 million project in west Galveston Bay. $5 million of that money, a little over 5- was funded by the American the stimulus dollars. The restoration Recovery Act funds. And some additional matching funds will be used to restore about 300 acres in west Galveston Bay.
Some work that took place in late August and early September were some oyster restoration projects. The picture on the right are the east bay restoration project was an effort to restore some of that lost habitat from Hurricane Ike. And is now in that closed area allowing that habitat or that restoration project to actually recruit oysters and let them grow and develop without being commercially harvested. The photo in the bottom right kind of shows what the barges, we took nine barges like that, and created about 20 acres of oyster habitat. About 12,000 cubic yards of material.
The north shore restoration project is a much smaller effort, but it is kind of a unique project. We restored two acres of oysters small oyster habitat, small pads. It is a collaborative effort funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the escape the title. Fish and Wildlife Service funded it.
We are also getting some assistance from the Galveston Bay foundation, and local property owners. We worked with the local community. Several had interests in kind of restoring some of the oyster habitat there. And so we have worked within to strategically place these small oyster pads in locations where they will not be accessible to any commercial activity.
And then upcoming, in addition to the $2 million from the fisheries disaster funding that we received from NOAA, we also have a little over $3 million that we will be using for oyster habitat restoration. This is some preliminary information that some work that we have contracted with Texas A&M in Galveston to assess the depth of the sediment over these reefs that were impacted by the storm. And we will use these maps, these images to kind of guide our restoration efforts, the goal being to get the maximum bang for our buck.
What you see in this image, what it is showing is that light yellow-colored area, is the area of a reef. And this is about a 1,700 acre reef. But the yellow area represents habitat that is silted over with about six inches or less of sediment. Those would be the primaries that we would want to focus on, as we get to utilize more of the culture material spread over a larger area.
Plus, we are also planning to utilize the commercial industry in having them pull bagless dredges over these shallow sediment areas, and turn the shell back up, allowing that hard substrate to have some exposure for juvenile larvae to settle on and then grow. And kind of in conclusion, you heard a little bit about Galveston Island State Park. Here is a couple of images showing immediately after the storm, the visitors facility, and the temporary facility that is in place now, that allows this park to function and operate.
Another interesting shot is of the campgrounds on the beach side. Put this in here, kind of give you an idea that there is some restoration, even in the habitat. You can see the vegetation is coming back. Kind of come back to the way it was prior to the storm. And with that, I will close and certainly entertain any questions anybody may have.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you, Ken and Lance. This concludes the business of the Infrastructure Committee.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You made it awfully easy, didn't you? The first time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Any other business?
MR. SMITH: Well, I just want to comment. I don't want this to get lost at the end of the day. This is an extraordinary effort in terms of the restoration, in terms of what our team on the upper coast confronted, in terms of the damages and the impacts.
I mean, not only to the properties and resources they steward, but to their personal property and the families. How quickly they shifted gears into working on the conservation and restoration. I mean, it really is an extraordinary story.
And if you look at what they have accomplished in a very short time, starting to see that, in terms of people getting out and using the resources, it is a wonderful milestone for the Agency, and the people that represent us on the upper coast. I just, I don't want that to get lost here at the end of the day.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. That is right.
MR. SMITH: It is really important work they are doing.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: A good point. And you have got to remember, between Katrina and then Rita and then Ike. And I mean, so that whole upper coast has just been creamed kind of year after year the last three or four years. So thank you; I appreciate it. Immediately headed back to the upper coast. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Chairman, may I ask that we have Rich make a report at the January meeting on the Battleship Texas. The status of the situation, given that apparently we were waiting on the federal government to determine whether we go to that
MR. SMITH: Go to an EIS or not.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think it is important. I mean, the Legislature has decreed that we get this project done. And I think we are doing as much as we can do. But I think it would be helpful for this Commission to know on an ongoing basis where we are, so that we do what we can to fulfill that mandate from our Legislature.
MR. SMITH: Absolutely. We will just plan on reporting back to you in January, and from there on after, regularly on it.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Please.
MR. SMITH: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you, everybody. I declare us adjourned. And I guess we meet at 9:00 tomorrow morning. Is that correct?
MR. SMITH: That is it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. Thank you.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded at 3:55 p.m.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 4, 2009
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 44, 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