Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee

April 5, 2000

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

         7        BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 

         8   5th day of April 2000, there came on to be heard 

         9   matters under the regulatory authority of the 

        10   Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the 

        11   Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and 

        12   Wildlife Headquarters complex, Austin, Travis 

        13   County, Texas, beginning at 2:35 p.m., to wit:


        17   Chair:         Carol E. Dinkins 
                            Lee M. Bass (absent) 
        18                  Dick W. Heath 
                            Nolan Ryan 
        19                  Ernest Angelo, Jr. 
                            John Avila, Jr. 
        20                  Alvin L. Henry 
                            Katharine Armstrong Idsal 
        21                  Mark E. Watson, Jr. 

             Andrew H. Sansom, Executive Director, and other 
        23   personnel of the Parks and Wildlife Department  


.                                                                     2

         1                     APRIL 5, 2000 


         3                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  If you 

         4   would, please come back to order.  This is the 

         5   continuation of the committee meetings, and we 

         6   will move now to the agenda for the Conservation 

         7   Committee. 

         8                  The first order of business is 

         9   approval of the committee minutes from the 

        10   previous meeting, and you all have a copy of that 

        11   in your briefing book.  And the Chair would 

        12   entertain a motion for approval of those minutes. 

        13                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  So moved.  

        14                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Second. 

        15                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Thank you. 

        16   It's been moved and seconded.  Are there any 

        17   additions, corrections, other changes?  Okay.  

        18   Hearing none, then all in favor of approval of the 

        19   minutes, say aye.  

        20                  COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Aye.

        21                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Those 

        22   opposed?  

        23                  (No response, and motion carries 

        24   unanimously.)

        25                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Motion 
.                                                                     3

         1   carries. Thank you.  

         2                  Next we move to the briefing by 

         3   Mr. Sansom of the Chairman's Charges.  

         4                  MR. SANSOM:  Madam Chairman, in the 

         5   interest of time, I would recommend that you allow 

         6   me to present those charges at our next meeting, 

         7   because there's nothing on there that can't wait 

         8   until June.  

         9                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  All right.  

        10   They'd better be good in June.

        11                  MR. SANSOM:  They'll be better in 

        12   June.  

        13                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Thank you, 

        14   Andy. 

        15   AGENDA ITEM NO. 2:  ACTION - SEA GRASS 


        17                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Our next 

        18   item is an Action Item, and this is the Sea Grass 

        19   Conservation Proposals, which you'll find the text 

        20   at Page 44 in the book; and Dr. Harvey is our 

        21   presenter.  

        22                  Welcome.  

        23                  DR. HARVEY:  Thank you, Madam 

        24   Chairman.                   

        25                  Madam Chairman and Members, I'm 
.                                                                     4

         1   Bill Harvey from Resource Protection Division; and 

         2   with me is my trusty sidekick, Larry McKinney. 

         3                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Well, we 

         4   welcome you, too. 

         5                  DR. McKINNEY:  Thank you. 

         6                  DR. HARVEY:  We're pleased to have 

         7   the opportunity to bring forth to the Commission 

         8   for consideration today two proposals regarding 

         9   sea grass conservation in Texas.  You may recall, 

        10   Members, that Dr. McKinney and I briefed the 

        11   entire Commission at the November meeting on the 

        12   progress of the sea grass conservation efforts 

        13   along the Gulf Coast.  We're very pleased to have 

        14   the opportunity to bring forth two proposals for 

        15   consideration now which would actually begin 

        16   implementation of that initiative. 

        17                  Sea grasses are very important 

        18   marine organisms.  They actually are marine 

        19   flowering plants.  There are five species in 

        20   Texas, and they are a very important part of the 

        21   Texas coastal ecology.  

        22                  They serve as nursery areas, food 

        23   and cover for many species of game fish and 

        24   non-game fish.  They are important in maintaining 

        25   the stabilization of bays and estuary bottom.  In 
.                                                                     5

         1   terms of water quality, they provide important 

         2   benefits.  They're sites of superb fishing.  

         3                  And of particular importance to us 

         4   is that these sea grasses tend to grow in very 

         5   shallow water.  

         6                  Again, just quickly, in 1999 the 

         7   Parks and Wildlife Department, along with the 

         8   General Land Office and the TNRCC, adopted the 

         9   sea grass conservation plan for Texas.  The plan 

        10   identified many causes of sea grass loss, not the 

        11   least of which is dredging and changes in water 

        12   quality.  

        13                  But one of the most immediate and 

        14   obvious causes of sea grass fragmentation in Texas 

        15   deals with prop scarring.  Prop scarring really is 

        16   a result of boats operating in very shallow water 

        17   such that the propellor of the boat, the outboard 

        18   of the boat, actually gets into the substrate and 

        19   into the grass and actually cuts it or removes the 

        20   grass and the substrate such that the sea grass 

        21   can no longer thrive.  

        22                  To help us put together plans for 

        23   implementing the sea grass initiatives, we've put 

        24   together a Citizens' Task Force; and we made every 

        25   attempt to ensure that all the different areas of 
.                                                                     6

         1   interest were represented.  

         2                  I might take just a second to 

         3   mention, too, that two of the Members of our Sea 

         4   Grass Task Force, Will Myers from Austin and

         5    A. C. Yeamans from Rockport, are here with us 

         6   today. 

         7                  We specifically sought out members 

         8   of Chambers of Commerce, guides associations, and 

         9   retailers.  We tried to cover the entire spectrum 

        10   of people who might be involved in this particular 

        11   issue.  

        12                  The goals of the task force were 

        13   four.  First was to protect Texas sea grass 

        14   resources.  Second was to maintain and enhance the 

        15   quality and access to our superb Texas coastal 

        16   fishing.  Third was to create new recreational 

        17   activities.  And fourth was to make sure that 

        18   whatever plan was put into place, that it was 

        19   consistent with both the spirit and the tone of 

        20   the Sea Grass Conservation Plan.  

        21                  The Sea Grass Task Force made 

        22   several findings.  First was that prop scarring 

        23   indeed was a substantial contributor to sea grass 

        24   fragmentation in many areas of the Texas Gulf 

        25   Coast, and that in fact prop scarring may 
.                                                                     7

         1   exacerbate bottom erosion and further sea grass 

         2   loss.  

         3                  We also found that prop scarring, 

         4   as one might suspect -- it certainly would be a 

         5   surprise to no one -- tends to be concentrated 

         6   near popular fishing areas.  

         7                  The Sea Grass Task Force also found 

         8   that boater education could result in decreased 

         9   sea grass fragmentation; that rerouting of boat 

        10   traffic would be a substantial means of protecting 

        11   sea grasses; that the sea grass research that was 

        12   initiated by Dr. McKinney about two years ago 

        13   should continue; and that we, as always, should 

        14   look at means of improving access. 

        15                  The first of these two proposals 

        16   that was brought forth is centered around an area 

        17   we call Redfish Bay.  This is actually a subarea 

        18   of Aransas Bay and is bounded on the north by 

        19   Rockport.  If you think of a triangle, then, with 

        20   one angle at Rockport, the base would run through 

        21   Aransas Pass down to Ingleside, back to Port 

        22   Aransas, and then back to Rockport, that would 

        23   essentially encompass the area of Redfish Bay.  

        24                  Redfish Bay is one of the prime 

        25   fishing destinations along the Texas coast.  It 
.                                                                     8

         1   can truly be superb fishing in this area.  It also 

         2   has extensive sea grass beds.  And importantly, 

         3   two of the most northern extensions, or perhaps 

         4   the most northern extension of both manatee grass 

         5   and turtle grass are found in this complex.  

         6                  There are areas in Redfish Bay with 

         7   severe prop scarring, and it has excellent boating 

         8   access.  There are approximately 14 boat ramps in 

         9   this particular area.  

        10                  The strategies for Redfish Bay:  

        11   No. 1, we would ask the Commission to consider a 

        12   consideration of creating a Redfish Bay scientific 

        13   area, where we would continue research into the 

        14   causes and remedies for sea grass destruction.  

        15   We've hired a sea grass coordinator, who will 

        16   continue to oversee these efforts over the long 

        17   term.  

        18                  We would like to implement a boater 

        19   education program, which would include marking of 

        20   navigable channels in the area; and we've had 

        21   superb support from local CCA chapters and guide 

        22   associations in that process.  

        23                  We would look at creating voluntary 

        24   prop-up zones; in other words, areas where we 

        25   would ask boaters to no longer traverse those with 
.                                                                     9

         1   their motor down.  And I would like to stress that 

         2   in this area we're looking at doing that on a 

         3   voluntary basis initially.                    And 

         4   we would look at ways of improving access to 

         5   fishing in this area.  

         6                  We'd like to concentrate on four 

         7   areas of Redfish Bay, and I'll run through those 

         8   for you quickly.  The first of those is an area 

         9   called Redfish Cove, and it is the northernmost 

        10   extension of Redfish Bay.  

        11                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Estes Cove. 

        12                  DR. HARVEY:  Or Estes Cove.  

        13                  It is an area which is subjected 

        14   to -- has been subjected to some extreme prop 

        15   scarring.  The strategy here would be to create 

        16   two prop-up zones.  They would be to essentially 

        17   set this area aside from boat traffic in the 

        18   future.  And, again, we stress that this is 

        19   voluntary.  We would mark the navigable channel 

        20   through the back of that cove, which would allow 

        21   people to leave the Intracoastal Waterway, go 

        22   through the back of Estes Cove, and then back out 

        23   into the areas east of Trailer Island. 

        24                  There are two cuts there we would 

        25   mark as being non-navigable because, except in 
.                                                                    10

         1   periods of high tide, they are not.  You simply 

         2   cannot pass them with a boat.  As we look at sort 

         3   of the distribution of prop scarring in these 

         4   areas, they tend to concentrate on these cuts 

         5   which are not navigable.  

         6                  We would also mark Yucca Cut as 

         7   being navigable.  

         8                  The second area is the area we call 

         9   Terminal Flat, and it lies at the intersection of 

        10   the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the shrimp boat 

        11   channel that runs between Aransas Pass and Port 

        12   Aransas.  This area is used to shortcut, largely 

        13   by boaters who, instead of taking the time to go 

        14   down to the Intracoastal intersection, making a 

        15   left, and going into Port Aransas, will cut across 

        16   this flat.  It's an extensive turtle grass flat 

        17   which has been substantially damaged.  

        18                  The strategy here would be to again 

        19   create a voluntary prop-up zone and to mark 

        20   running lanes which would allow individuals to 

        21   still not have to make that corner, but would 

        22   direct them around the turtle grass flat and back 

        23   out into deeper water.  

        24                  The third area is the area that's 

        25   referred to as North Harbor Island.  It's a really 
.                                                                    11

         1   marvelous complex of shallow-water creeks and 

         2   lakes which has very little prop scarring over its 

         3   entirety, largely as a result of the fact that 

         4   except at exceptional tides, it is pretty 

         5   difficult to navigate.  It's also difficult to 

         6   navigate if you're not familiar with the area 

         7   because of its complexity.  

         8                  So our strategy here would be not 

         9   to limit boat traffic in any form or fashion, but 

        10   rather to actually mark a series of access trails 

        11   through the North Harbor Island area to allow 

        12   people to navigate it, whether they were 

        13   kayakers, whether they might be out to do 

        14   bird-watching, fishing; but essentially take an 

        15   area which historically has been very difficult to 

        16   access and to open up access to it.  

        17                  The fourth area of Redfish Bay is 

        18   called Brown & Root Flat.  It lies south of the 

        19   causeway that runs between Aransas Pass and Port 

        20   Aransas.  Interestingly, this flat has extensive 

        21   turtle grass beds which have largely not been 

        22   affected by prop scarring at all.  

        23                  The strategy for the Brown & Root 

        24   Flat would be to continue to protect those sea 

        25   grass beds, but to increase access to this flat 
.                                                                    12

         1   by marking the navigable channels which actually 

         2   allow people to access that flat to create a large 

         3   run zone in the sort of depression that lies in 

         4   the middle of Brown & Root Flat, and then have 

         5   voluntary no-run zones in the areas around it.  

         6                  A kind of neat thing about this 

         7   area is it's one of the few places where anglers 

         8   can actually park and walk out to go fishing.  And 

         9   we'd like to set aside those areas along the 

        10   shoreline and the shallow water not only to 

        11   protect sea grasses, but to kind of cut down the 

        12   conflict between people who are out wading or 

        13   poling and boats that would be running through the 

        14   area.  It still allows access, but it sort of 

        15   partitions that resource to different sorts of 

        16   activities.  

        17                  Members, the second proposal is for 

        18   an area called the Nine Mile Hole or the 

        19   Graveyard.  It lies south of Baffin Bay.  It's a 

        20   shallow off-channel depression right off the 

        21   Intracoastal Waterway.  It used to be called the 

        22   Graveyard.  It's characterized by very shallow 

        23   water, and the access to the Graveyard or Nine 

        24   Mile Hole is largely determined by tides.  It can 

        25   have excellent fishing at certain times of the 
.                                                                    13

         1   year, and the Nine Mile Hole overlays part of the 

         2   Padre Island National Seashore.  The objective 

         3   here was to look at ways to enhance the fishing 

         4   experience, again by managing boat traffic.  

         5                  The strategy for the Nine Mile Hole 

         6   would be, again, to create a State scientific area 

         7   that we would use to promote low-impact use during 

         8   low tides, and would create a mandatory no-run 

         9   zone in the State water section of Nine Mile 

        10   Hole -- roughly the section that I guess is sort 

        11   of surrounded in yellow there -- and a voluntary 

        12   no-run zone in the national seashore, and the 

        13   national seashore has agreed to partner with us in 

        14   that effort.  

        15                  Essentially, you would no longer be 

        16   able to enter the Nine Mile Hole from the north.  

        17   You would have to enter from one of the three 

        18   access channels:  Either the one that's known as 

        19   the Roll-Off Channel; through the middle channel, 

        20   which is called 201 Channel; or the far south, 

        21   which is called the Nine Mile Hole Channel.  

        22                  There's been some talk during the 

        23   course of this about a running lane, which would 

        24   be in the middle of the middle channel and the 

        25   most northerly, which would allow people to do a 
.                                                                    14

         1   drift part of the way across that area, run back 

         2   out to the east, and then drift back out to the 

         3   Roll-Off Channel.  

         4                  We spent a lot of time looking at 

         5   this proposal and decided that it probably was not 

         6   a good idea for several reasons.  We believe it 

         7   would negate the benefits of having an area that 

         8   was largely motorboat-free.  The running lane that 

         9   was proposed would be in an area which was very 

        10   shallow.  There's no natural cut there, so to 

        11   allow boat traffic through there would simply 

        12   disturb the bottom; create turbidity, which would 

        13   flow north.  We also believe it could potentially 

        14   invite running into the voluntary prop-up zone, 

        15   and there are some law-enforcement issues with 

        16   having that lane there.                 

        17                  We held a public hearing on 

        18   March 15th in Corpus Christi with 120 attendees, 

        19   including Commissioner Watson.  We had about 64 or 

        20   74 people speak.  Fifty-two were in favor of both 

        21   proposals as they were presented.  Thirteen were 

        22   opposed to the Nine Mile Hole project.  Nine 

        23   opposed both projects.  

        24                  The projects as we presented them 

        25   were supported by the CCA, Coastal Bend Guides 
.                                                                    15

         1   Association, Corpus Christi Bays and Estuaries, 

         2   the Bays Foundation, and the Environmental Defense 

         3   Fund.  We also received a letter today from the 

         4   Aransas County Commissioners Court in support.  We 

         5   had one organization in opposition, and that was 

         6   the Recreational Fishing Alliance.  

         7                  As a result of phone calls and 

         8   letters we received after this meeting, we'd like 

         9   to also consider a possible other ripple to the 

        10   strategy for the Nine Mile Hole; and that is in 

        11   the no-run zone, to do it in the period of May 1 

        12   through September 30th.  This is a period when the 

        13   tide in here tends to be at its lowest.  It's 

        14   really not appropriate for boat traffic.  But 

        15   other times of the year, when the tides start to 

        16   come in again, boat traffic would be unrestricted 

        17   during the high-tide periods.  We'd like to 

        18   explore this as an alternative to the proposal as 

        19   we presented it in March, on March 15th, during 

        20   the comment period.  

        21                  I will tell you that the concept of 

        22   scientific areas was a concern to some of our 

        23   constituents, as we mentioned earlier, because 

        24   they felt like it would be the first step in the 

        25   restriction of shallow-water fishing.  So we would 
.                                                                    16

         1   propose that both the Nine Mile Hole and the 

         2   Redfish Bay scientific area would be in place for 

         3   a period of five years, at which point, in the 

         4   absence of further Commission action, that these 

         5   two scientific areas would sunset; and we would as 

         6   a staff, as an agency, reserve the right to come 

         7   back and look at these no-prop zones on an annual 

         8   basis. 

         9                  And with that, Members, I'd be glad 

        10   to entertain any questions and ask the 

        11   Commission's permission and guidance in posting 

        12   these proposals in The Texas Register for 

        13   consideration of rule-making.    

        14                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  On the Nine 

        15   Mile Hole, that is going to be mandatory?  

        16                  DR. HARVEY:  Yes, we propose that 

        17   as being mandatory.  

        18                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  But now 

        19   you're talking about lifting it in September?

        20                  DR. HARVEY:  Well, Commissioner 

        21   Watson, the tide in that area is so low, as you 

        22   may well know, in the summer that running a boat 

        23   through there is really inappropriate.  There is 

        24   no way to operate a boat in that area of the Nine 

        25   Mile Hole, to stop it, and then get it back up on 
.                                                                    17

         1   a plane again without tearing up the bottom, 

         2   without disturbing the bottom. 

         3                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Right.  

         4                  DR. HARVEY:  Most of the people who 

         5   use that either for wading or poling will do that 

         6   in those summer months when they can sight-cast to 

         7   fish, when the water is shallow enough that 

         8   they're able to do that.                    

         9                  During the spring tides and the 

        10   fall tides, when the water comes up, you can 

        11   actually run back into those areas, stop, and get 

        12   out again.  And most of the people who would 

        13   sight-cast either through wading or kayaking are 

        14   tupically not going to be in those high-tide 

        15   periods.  

        16                  So it sort of parallels what we had 

        17   proposed for the Brown & Root Flat in that we've 

        18   taken an area and we have partitioned the activity 

        19   there.  

        20                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  On the Nine 

        21   Mile Hole, I'm looking at the map you have in 

        22   here.

        23                  DR. HARVEY:  Yes, ma'am.  

        24                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  And you have 

        25   the island, and then the mainland over on the 
.                                                                    18

         1   left.  And how do people get through there and 

         2   down -- I mean, can you go from Baffin Bay to Fort 

         3   Mansfield?

         4                  DR. HARVEY:  Yes, ma'am.  

         5                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  How do you -- 

         6                  DR. HARVEY:  On the inside of the 

         7   Spoil Islands, or on the west side or the east 

         8   side?     

         9                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  How do you do 

        10   that now?  How do they get all the way down now?  

        11                  DR. HARVEY:  Down the Intracoastal. 

        12                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Take the 

        13   Intracoastal?  

        14                  DR. HARVEY:  Right.  And this 

        15   proposal would limit access into the Nine Mile 

        16   Hole through the three entryways that come off the 

        17   Intracoastal.  We could back up and take a look at 

        18   that.   

        19                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Do you mind?  

        20                  DR. HARVEY:  No, ma'am.

        21                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  I want to see 

        22   the bigger -- do we have a bigger map?  

        23                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  The 

        24   Intracoastal is where you've got basically the 

        25   numbers 1, 2, 3.  
.                                                                    19

         1                  DR. HARVEY:  Right.  It's that very 

         2   shallow --  

         3                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  I see; I see. 

         4                  DR. HARVEY:  That is the 

         5   Intracoastal.

         6                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:   Okay.  I 

         7   couldn't see that. 

         8                  DR. HARVEY:  In fact, the Nine Mile 

         9   Hole lies almost at the very beginning of the land 

        10   cut.       

        11                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Okay.  I've 

        12   got you.  I see now.

        13                  DR. HARVEY:  And part of the 

        14   difficulty with this area is that at certain times 

        15   of the year it tends to hold huge schools of fish.  

        16   And so what boaters will do, they'll get up on a 

        17   plane, come off of the area north of the Nine Mile 

        18   Hole, and simply run the Hole looking for fish 

        19   until they can find them, sit down, and then pick 

        20   up again to get out.  

        21                  Well, at periods of low tide, if 

        22   someone has taken the time to come in, to walk in 

        23   or pole or wade, and you get up and run past them, 

        24   then it's a pretty serious problem in terms of 

        25   users.  And in the low-tide periods, it also is 
.                                                                    20

         1   very destructive to the bottom.  

         2                  So we're really looking, again, to 

         3   sort of answer Commissioner Watson's question, 

         4   we'd look at partitioning the use of that, based 

         5   upon the tide levels.  

         6                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  What kind of 

         7   tide fluctuation do you get at Nine Mile Hole?  

         8                  DR. HARVEY:  I've been there a 

         9   couple of times, Commissioner Ryan, when, where we 

        10   might be standing in water that would be ankle-

        11   deep, it would be about mid-shin to knee-deep 

        12   during periods of high tides.  So I'm going to 

        13   guess it would not be not unusual, unlike most of 

        14   the coast, in terms of that sort of tidal 

        15   fluctuation.                   

        16                  It does tend to be influenced by 

        17   storm tides.  For example, the tide was very high 

        18   in the Nine Mile Hole after Hurricane Brett this 

        19   year.  But I would say, I don't know, 12 to 15 

        20   inches normally. 

        21                  DR. McKINNEY:  It's one of those 

        22   things that when the winds turn around -- I mean, 

        23   it keeps the water blown out of there pretty good 

        24   during the summer.  When the winds change during 

        25   the fall, it fills back up.  That's when it gets 
.                                                                    21

         1   deeper.  There's some daily fluctuation, but it's 

         2   more seasonal, really, than anything else there.

         3                  DR. HARVEY:  It's pretty 

         4   interesting, too, in terms of use; that the wade 

         5   fishermen, for example, people who historically 

         6   have waded, are pretty much out by the 1st of 

         7   October and not really in there until the tide 

         8   starts to fall off in the summer.   

         9                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Well, say like 

        10   after September 30th, when the tides are going to 

        11   be a little higher in there, even at low tide if 

        12   they were to take a prop boat in there, would they 

        13   do damage?

        14                  DR. HARVEY:  I think, again, it 

        15   depends sort of where you are in that Hole, 

        16   because it's not uniform bottom.  But there 

        17   certainly is a potential for that.  

        18                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  What I'm 

        19   wondering is, if we have a ban on it from May 1st 

        20   till September 30th, if we'll get a lot of boat 

        21   traffic in October in there because people know 

        22   they can go back in there in the boat traffic, and 

        23   they haven't been in there all year because they 

        24   didn't want to wade or pole.  That's something we 

        25   may take into consideration, because I could see 
.                                                                    22

         1   where we might all of a sudden, if the fishing is 

         2   good, get an awful lot boat traffic in there; and 

         3   if there's still a potential to do damages --  

         4                  DR. McKINNEY:  I think those are 

         5   all good suggestions.  This idea came up right at 

         6   the last meeting -- it came up after our public 

         7   hearing.  But there was a little compelling part 

         8   of it in that some of the folks that came to me 

         9   said, "Look, I just can't get back in there.  I 

        10   can't pole like you're talking about.  I'm too 

        11   old.  I can't do it.  Now you're going to" --

        12                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  And that's a 

        13   legitimate point.  

        14                  DR. McKINNEY:  -- "and you're going 

        15   to preclude me for good."  

        16                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Right. 

        17                  DR. McKINNEY:  So this was, "Well, 

        18   maybe this is one way to do it."  But your 

        19   argument is a good one, because that happen.  So 

        20   our proposal that we would publish in The Register 

        21   doesn't include that provision, but we want to let 

        22   people talk to us about it a little bit and kind 

        23   of feel out with the people to see if -- what 

        24   would work.   

        25                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  So we could put 
.                                                                    23

         1   it in or we could take it out if we felt like it 

         2   was being abused?  

         3                  DR. McKINNEY:  Yes, sir.  We have 

         4   some time, and that's why we want to take a little 

         5   bit of time to study it, because there's pluses 

         6   and minuses on all these things.  But we could add 

         7   it.

         8                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  What 

         9   experience or data do we have, or any at this 

        10   time, regarding how fast the sea grass will 

        11   recover if it's left alone?  

        12                  DR. McKINNEY:  It depends on what 

        13   species it is.  But, for example, in Redfish Bay, 

        14   the reason we've set those zones up there is 

        15   because it's mostly in turtle grass, and it can 

        16   take eight years to come back, and that's a long 

        17   time.  

        18                  Other sea grasses, like we were 

        19   talking about here, two or three years.  They're 

        20   pretty fast.  They can come back.  So it varies 

        21   with the species.  That's why in Redfish we've 

        22   focused our up-prop zones in places where that 

        23   particular type of sea grass is, to try to protect 

        24   it, because it takes so long for it to come back.  

        25                  COMMISSIONER HENRY:  What was the 
.                                                                    24

         1   basis of the opposition from the Recreational 

         2   Fisheries Association?  

         3                  DR. HARVEY:  Commissioner Henry, 

         4   basically, in a nutshell, it was just that -- this 

         5   sort of basic philosophical issue of taking areas 

         6   which you could no longer freely access.  

         7                  DR. McKINNEY:  With a boat.  

         8                  DR. HARVEY:  With a boat.  

         9                  DR. McKINNEY:  It would be the 

        10   first of closing off areas to all types of 

        11   access. 

        12                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Is that the 

        13   fellow from Rockport?  

        14                  DR. McKINNEY:  Mr. Smart. 

        15                  DR. HARVEY:  Yes, sir; Tim Smart. 

        16                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  He's not a 

        17   real objective thinker.  

        18                  DR. HARVEY:  If I might add, too, 

        19   Commissioner -- 

        20                  DR. McKINNEY:  I don't think I 

        21   would add anything to that statement.  

        22                  DR. HARVEY:  I was just going to 

        23   say that so far our research has shown that where 

        24   we actually see the substrate removed under the 

        25   sea grasses, regardless of species, that those 
.                                                                    25

         1   begin to serve as erosion channels and that the 

         2   area actually begins to widen.  

         3                  And we tried some replanting there 

         4   this last year which was not successful, and it 

         5   may have been the result of it being washed out 

         6   from some fairly strong winds associated with the 

         7   hurricane.  But it does not look like, at this 

         8   time -- and the results are preliminary -- that 

         9   remediation is going to be much of a solution. 

        10                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Naturally it 

        11   will recover, given time, you think?    

        12                  DR. HARVEY:  We believe as long as 

        13   the rhizomes are intact. 

        14                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  So sea grass 

        15   reproduces from its root system?  

        16                  DR. HARVEY:  With the exception of 

        17   widgeon grass, which I think reproduces by seeds.  

        18   But the rest of them spread through rhizomes.  

        19                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Well, we 

        20   would like to see the visual aids that you've 

        21   prepared. 

        22                  DR. HARVEY:  Yes.  

        23                  MR. SANSOM:  (Inaudible.)   

        24                  DR. McKINNEY:  These are the signs 

        25   that we would be using to mark those areas in 
.                                                                    26

         1   various postures our Executive Director is 

         2   displaying to you. 

         3                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  How shallow of 

         4   water does that sign go in?  

         5                  COMMISSIONER HENRY:  Three inches.  

         6                  DR. McKINNEY:  That's it right 

         7   there.               

         8                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Is that the 

         9   length of that sign?  

        10                  DR. McKINNEY:  I would say in 

        11   conclusion on that -- I know you need to move to 

        12   other matters, and we do appreciate it -- but this 

        13   has been one of those examples where we started 

        14   this, and there was a lot of concern and a lot of 

        15   divisiveness.  

        16                  We put the task force together with 

        17   a broad range of views, and almost to the person 

        18   (inaudible) that task force stood up in our public 

        19   meeting and said not only was this a good idea, 

        20   but they were fully behind it.  

        21                  And I think that's great, a 

        22   reflection on Dr. Harvey, Larry McEachron, Bill 

        23   Hogarth, and all the staff down there who work in 

        24   that community, worked together to get something 

        25   that I think will be very meaningful for the 
.                                                                    27

         1   future of fishing; and I'm quite proud of all of 

         2   those folks. 

         3                  MR. SANSOM:  I would like to echo 

         4   that and say that when we first started this, that 

         5   I really didn't feel like this kind of consensus 

         6   was possible.  And the hard work that Larry, Bill, 

         7   and Larry and the rest of the guys have done has 

         8   really been extraordinary.                 

         9                  I would also like to particularly 

        10   thank Will Myers, who was the guy that really got 

        11   the anglers to come together and say, "This is 

        12   important."  

        13                  DR. McKINNEY:  Yes, I would echo 

        14   that, absolutely.  Thank you, sir, for saying 

        15   that.

        16                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Well, we 

        17   appreciate the members of the group who are here, 

        18   coming today.  And I remember when you gave the 

        19   briefing before the Commission when you were 

        20   working on this, that it was very well done and a 

        21   very compelling briefing, and it's good to see 

        22   such good results on such an important issue; and 

        23   we'll look forward to your reports on how that's 

        24   working.

        25                  DR. McKINNEY:  We will be making 
.                                                                    28

         1   them.

         2                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Are there 

         3   any other questions?  Because this is an Action 

         4   Item, then, the chair would entertain a motion 

         5   that this be forwarded to The Texas Register. 

         6                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  So moved. 

         7                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Second.    

         8                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  All right.  

         9   Any further discussion?  Hearing none, those in 

        10   favor say aye.  

        11                  COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Aye.

        12                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Those 

        13   opposed, nay.                (No response, and 

        14   motion carries unanimously.)

        15                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Motion 

        16   carries.                    Thank you again.  

        17                  DR. HARVEY:  Thank you.  

        18                  DR. McKINNEY:  Thank you.


        20                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Our next 

        21   item also is an Action Item, and Tim Hogsett is 

        22   here to talk with us about the grants rules.  

        23                  MR. HOGSETT:  Thank you, Madam 

        24   Chairman and Members of the Commission.  I'm Tim 

        25   Hogsett, Director of the Recreation Grants Program 
.                                                                    29

         1   in the State Parks Division.  This is a preview of 

         2   Item No. 7 for the public hearing tomorrow, which 

         3   you can find on Page 124, I believe it is.  Yes, 

         4   Page 124.  

         5                  We're at this time bringing back to 

         6   you for adoption the proposed rule changes for the 

         7   Texas Recreation and Parks account.  You will 

         8   recall that the programs that are under the 

         9   umbrella of the Texas Recreation and Parks account 

        10   include the Outdoor Recreation, the Indoor 

        11   Recreation grant, and the community Outdoor 

        12   Outreach grant programs.  

        13                  We need to adopt new rules for a 

        14   number of reasons.  One is the passage in the last 

        15   session of the Legislature of House Bill 2108, 

        16   which I will tell you a bit more about in a 

        17   second.  House Bill 2108 did add some new 

        18   initiatives to the Parks and wildlife Code for the 

        19   Texas Recreation and Parks account, which include 

        20   facility transfers, transfer or potential transfer 

        21   of Parks and Wildlife-owned facilities to local 

        22   governments, and an initiative that we're calling 

        23   the Regional Park Initiative.    

        24                  The last time we did this was in 

        25   1993, so we think that it's timely that we readopt 
.                                                                    30

         1   and make some changes in the rules.  In the State 

         2   Auditor's Report that was done last fall, there 

         3   were some recommendations for a couple of changes 

         4   that we will take care of, and there was a large 

         5   increase in the Community Outdoor Outreach grant 

         6   programs funding.  

         7                  And last. I don't believe anyone 

         8   except the Chairman, Chairman Bass, was here in 

         9   1993; so we have new members of the Commission and 

        10   want you all to have the opportunity to adopt 

        11   rules that you think are appropriate.  

        12                  Again, House Bill 2108, passed in 

        13   the last session of the Legislature, allows the 

        14   Department to look at potential facility 

        15   transfers.  Walt Dabney, State Parks Director, has 

        16   been in charge of that program, so I won't spend 

        17   any time talking about that issue, other than to 

        18   tell you that it's got to be mutually agreeable 

        19   and it's political subdivisions which would 

        20   receive grants potentially for overhaul of 

        21   facilities and/or for operations for a short 

        22   period of time.  

        23                  House Bill 2108 legitimizes the 

        24   Community Outdoor Outreach program by placing it 

        25   in the Parks and Wildlife Code.  Previously it was 
.                                                                    31

         1   as a rider to our appropriations.  We're pleased 

         2   to see that it is now in the law.  It defines the 

         3   eligibility for that program as political 

         4   subdivisions.  

         5                  (Pager sounds in Hearing Room.) 

         6                  MR. HOGSETT:  Got me.  

         7                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  It sounds 

         8   like someone's telephone.    

         9                  MR. HOGSETT:  Programs:  It 

        10   specifies programs, and we did have public 

        11   hearings on this issue.                 

        12                  (Pager continues to sound.)

        13                  MR. HOGSETT:  Maybe it's me.  No, 

        14   it isn't me.  

        15                  MR. DIRECTOR SANSOM:  Don't answer 

        16   it.  

        17                  MR. HOGSETT:  Okay.   

        18                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  You're wired 

        19   today.  Is that what it is?  

        20                  MR. HOGSETT:  No, it's not me, I 

        21   promise.                 

        22                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Low battery; no 

        23   winding.  

        24                  MR. HOGSETT:  We did hold public 

        25   hearings on these issues.  We had a total of seven 
.                                                                    32

         1   around the State, fairly well attended.  We had 

         2   253 people attend.                  

         3                  We also posted this, as is 

         4   required.  The proposed rule changes that you will 

         5   find in Item 7 were posted in The Texas Register.  

         6   We received no comments, either written or verbal, 

         7   as a result of that posting.                       

         8                  The changes that we're proposing in 

         9   the Outdoor Recreation Grants program related to 

        10   administration include:  We're proposing to create 

        11   a $500,000 pilot set-aside program for small 

        12   communities or projects that are limited in scope.  

        13                  What we heard throughout the 

        14   hearings from particularly rural communities was 

        15   the current scoring system, they did not feel, was 

        16   applicable to projects which they would propose to 

        17   do, which would just involve a small development.  

        18   For example, someone who just wants to build one 

        19   ball field would not be competitive.  

        20                  So the idea is to set aside in a 

        21   separate small pilot program the equivalent of one 

        22   of the full-sized $500,000 grants.  We're 

        23   proposing to put those guidelines out by July and 

        24   hopefully bring a group of projects back to you in 

        25   January.  
.                                                                    33

         1                  An administrative issue that will 

         2   be helpful to us as staff is that we will allow 

         3   sponsors to certify that they are in compliance on 

         4   projects which were previously assisted.  We will 

         5   spot-check that on an audit basis.

         6                  We're going to require status 

         7   reports on a quarterly deadline basis as opposed 

         8   to quarterly, based on contract approval.  

         9                  And another administrative action 

        10   which the Code made as a result of House Bill 2108 

        11   would reduce the requirement for land appraisals 

        12   from two appraisals to one, so that will save 

        13   folks some money and some time. 

        14                  You'll recall in the January 

        15   meeting when we briefed you on this, one of the 

        16   issues which was brought to our attention was the 

        17   Commission's concern that this program more 

        18   accurately and closely reflect the Mission 

        19   Statement of the Department.  Here is the area in 

        20   which we're hoping that you will think that that 

        21   is at least somewhat accomplished.  

        22                  As a part of the outdoor scoring 

        23   system, we are proposing a new criteria which 

        24   would add up to 25 additional points for projects 

        25   that provide for significant wildlife habitat, up 
.                                                                    34

         1   to 5 additional points for projects that provide 

         2   facilities that enhance outdoor education 

         3   opportunities, and add up to 5 additional points 

         4   for wetland creation.  None of these by 

         5   themselves, in my opinion, would be a make-or-

         6   Break criteria; but scoring, particularly 

         7   25 points for wildlife habitat, could really make 

         8   a project rise to the top in any given review.  

         9                  On the indoor program, the indoor 

        10   recreation -- 

        11                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Tim?  

        12                  MR. HOGSETT:  Yes, ma'am.

        13                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Before you 

        14   go on, I just wanted to thank you for your hard 

        15   work on that.  I know that's what we talked about 

        16   when you brought this before the committee last 

        17   time, and I really do appreciate your searching 

        18   for ways to make sure that that got into the 

        19   rules, and I think you came up with excellent 

        20   ideas. 

        21                  MR. HOGSETT:  Thanks.  I appreciate 

        22   that.                 

        23                  We did run this past the leadership 

        24   of the Texas Recreation and Parks Society just to 

        25   see how they would feel about these changes, and 
.                                                                    35

         1   they were very strongly verbally supportive.  

         2                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Oh, well, 

         3   that's good to know. 

         4                  MR. HOGSETT:  So I was please that 

         5   that was the case.  

         6                  The Indoor Recreation Grant 

         7   program proposed revisions:  We're proposing that 

         8   you allow us to increase the funding cap -- in 

         9   other words, the maximum amount any applicant can 

        10   ask for -- from $500,000 to $750,000.  Most of the 

        11   applications that we're receiving for indoor 

        12   recreation facilities, even at the $500,000 level, 

        13   that is only a small percentage of the total cost 

        14   of the facility.  And we heard in our hearings 

        15   consistently that they were hopeful that even 

        16   though it would increase competition, that it 

        17   would be helpful if they could receive more money 

        18   for these types of facilities.   

        19                  And this was just a small item that 

        20   I mentioned last time.  For some reason, in our 

        21   questionnaires that we had people review, one of 

        22   the things they thought we ought to do away with 

        23   is support for steam and sauna and whirlpool 

        24   facilities.  

        25                  The Community Outdoor Outreach 
.                                                                    36

         1   grant proposal:  Four proposed revisions.  We 

         2   propose to increase the funding cap -- this is 

         3   not typically a matching program -- from $20,000 

         4   to $30,000.  This would just be a small amount, 

         5   but it would make an awful lot of difference to a 

         6   number of the programs that are using our state 

         7   parks and wildlife management areas for their 

         8   programming.   

         9                  COMMISSIONER HENRY:  Are you saying 

        10   matching shouldn't be in that sentence?  

        11                  MR. HOGSETT:  No, it should not be.  

        12   They can provide a match.  If the local match is 

        13   provided, it gets them additional priority.  

        14                  COMMISSIONER HENRY:  Matching 

        15   funding cap is one thing; funding cap is something 

        16   else.  

        17                  MR. HOGSETT:  It is funding cap.  

        18                  COMMISSIONER HENRY:  It should be 

        19   funding cap?

        20                  MR. HOGSETT:  Correct.  And we 

        21   propose going from one round of funding a year to 

        22   two.  That is a result primarily of the increase 

        23   in the amount of money from $500,000 a year to 

        24   $1.5 million per year.  

        25                  Regional Park Grants is the most 
.                                                                    37

         1   interesting.  Unfortunately, it's the smallest in 

         2   terms of funding, but the most interesting new 

         3   initiative that we have.  

         4                  Approximately a million dollars a 

         5   year is set aside by the Legislature for each of 

         6   the next two years for what we're calling regional 

         7   parks.  We propose that that be done through a 

         8   pilot program.  Hopefully, the experience will 

         9   give us some successful projects that we can then 

        10   take back in the next Legislative Session to show 

        11   as examples of how this could work at a higher 

        12   funding level.  

        13                  These projects can be either 

        14   significant conservation projects such as river 

        15   corridors, greenbelts, acquisition of properties; 

        16   or they can be intensive recreation facility 

        17   development.  Either way, they need to be in the 

        18   urban areas of the State.  We're thinking probably 

        19   one or two large grants with this pilot.  

        20                  And we already have proactively 

        21   contacted Houston.  I have a second meeting set 

        22   with them for next week.  The City of Dallas and 

        23   City of Fort Worth have contacted us.  El Paso 

        24   County, City of San Antonio, City of Austin, 

        25   Williamson County, and Hays County have all 
.                                                                    38

         1   expressed some interest.  

         2                  Mr. Sansom sent a letter out about 

         3   two weeks ago asking for proposals to be submitted 

         4   to us by the end of April for the pilot.  We will 

         5   then hopefully  evaluate those and bring those 

         6   back to you with a proposal for funding of a pilot 

         7   project or two in the June meeting.    

         8                  EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SANSOM:  

         9   Members, I know that one of the things that's 

        10   preoccupied a lot of our time is the discussion of 

        11   how we get conservation investments into 

        12   metropolitan areas, and the two programs that he 

        13   has just briefed you on are right at the edge.  

        14                  I think particularly this one will 

        15   ultimately, as it grows, provide the opportunities 

        16   for local governments to leverage their funds 

        17   against ours and put in places like Sheldon 

        18   Reservoir and others where we only put up a part 

        19   of the capital costs and they undertake all of the 

        20   operating costs.  And so this is a program that 

        21   really ought to stimulate some significant 

        22   wildlife outdoor habitat and open-space 

        23   conservation in local areas.  

        24                  MR. HOGSETT:  There are some 

        25   miscellaneous items that we're going to take care 
.                                                                    39

         1   of in this adoption, and some administrative 

         2   details regarding our actual administration of the 

         3   program.  

         4                  We heard consistently that we need 

         5   to be quicker on reimbursing people that have done 

         6   work, and we will work towards that.  

         7                  We are already beginning work on 

         8   getting the grant requirements and the application 

         9   procedures on the Website.  

        10                  We are scheduling probably two 

        11   workshops this year to bring folks in and educate 

        12   them about these new rules and show them through 

        13   their paces on how to do an application; a master 

        14   planning guide, which we have just begun this week 

        15   working on a draft of.  

        16                  We will be publishing as a part of 

        17   the agenda item, as part of the rules adoptions, 

        18   the full ranges of the scoring criteria.  This was 

        19   a recommendation from the State Auditor that 

        20   applicants need to know how projects are scored 

        21   within the range, not just what the range was; and 

        22   then some housekeeping. 

        23                  And that's all I have.  We're 

        24   asking your permission to present this to you 

        25   tomorrow in public hearing for final adoption.  
.                                                                    40

         1                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  You see the 

         2   recommendation on Page 126 of the agenda book, and 

         3   this is an item that is eligible for the Consent 

         4   Agenda.  The draft rules, of course, were posted 

         5   in The Texas Register and, as Tim said, it's in 

         6   the briefing book.  

         7                  There were no written comments, but 

         8   you did have a large number of people show up at 

         9   the public hearings?  

        10                  MR. HOGSETT:  In public hearings, 

        11   yes.

        12                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  I move 

        13   approval of the recommendation for the Consent 

        14   Agenda.   

        15                  MR. HOGSETT:  Should I read the 

        16   formal recommendation into the record?  

        17                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  That's not 

        18   necessary.  It's on Page 126.  It's not altered, 

        19   is it?

        20                  MR. HOGSETT:  Okay.  

        21                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Is it 

        22   necessary for the court reporter?  

        23                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Second.  

        24                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  There is a 

        25   second by Commissioner Watson.  Any discussion?  
.                                                                    41

         1   Those in favor, say aye.  

         2                  COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Aye. 

         3                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Those 

         4   opposed, nay.

         5                  (No response, and motion carries 

         6   unanimously.)         

         7                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Motion 

         8   carries. 

         9                  MR. HOGSETT:  Thank you very much.  

        10                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Tim, thank 

        11   you; and thank you again for your hard work on 

        12   this.  

        13                  MR. HOGSETT:  Thank you.    

        14                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  We will 

        15   defer Item 4 on the Conservation Committee agenda 

        16   and take that up at our next meeting and move on 

        17   to Item 5, and Bob Cook will give us a briefing on 

        18   the Nature-Based Lodging Economic and 

        19   Environmental Feasibility Study.  

        20                  MR. COOK:  Thank you.  Chairman 

        21   Dinkins, Commissioners, my name is Robert L. Cook.  

        22   I'm Chief Operating Officer, Texas Parks and 

        23   Wildlife Department.  This briefing is for your 

        24   information.  

        25                  We've been involved in an 
.                                                                    42

         1   interesting and challenging and possibly a very 

         2   significant project for the last year or so, and 

         3   we wanted to kind of bring you up to speed on it.  

         4   I know that many of you have heard some about it.  

         5                  Basically, the project envisions us 

         6   working out some kind of agreement with private 

         7   investors to build a nature lodge or nature 

         8   tourism facilities on some of our property, 

         9   operating all or part of that lodge themselves, 

        10   possibly providing educational -- conservation 

        11   education and education outreach there on our 

        12   site. 

        13                  First, I think it is important to 

        14   recognize right up front that we've been in the 

        15   lodging and the nature tourism business for many 

        16   decades.  As you can see on the chart here, we 

        17   have like 65 hotel-motel rooms in three different 

        18   parks that right now will accommodate over 300 

        19   visitors at a time.  We have 83 cabins in 10 

        20   different parks that will accommodate about 380 

        21   people, 10 group lodges in six different parks, 

        22   three group barracks.  And some of these 

        23   facilities, again, were built in the 1930s, so we 

        24   have been in this business a long time.  

        25                  We've also been in the conservation 
.                                                                    43

         1   education and interpretation business a long time.  

         2   So this is something that is not new to us.  It 

         3   has a new name when we talk about nature tourism; 

         4   but the new part of this is, I believe, that there 

         5   are private investors out there who are now 

         6   actually spending money and getting into this 

         7   business themselves.  

         8                  Some of the recent developments 

         9   that we have been involved with at Texas Parks and 

        10   Wildlife Department include an agreement at Ray 

        11   Roberts State Park, where a private investor is 

        12   utilizing totally private money; is in the latter 

        13   stages now of constructing a lodge, a visitors' 

        14   center/lodge on our site under an agreement with 

        15   us in which he will provide all of the labor, all 

        16   of the materials, all of the people who will work 

        17   at this particular site, and work in conjunction 

        18   with us to provide educational programming at this 

        19   site.  

        20                  The lodge there, Lantana Lodge on 

        21   Ray Roberts Lake State Park, will be a 30-room 

        22   lodge, have a restaurant, gift shop, and meeting 

        23   facilities.  I anticipate that that will be open 

        24   for business sometime early this fall.  

        25                  At Colorado City State Park, we are 
.                                                                    44

         1   currently involved in constructing some cottages 

         2   up there, again to provide additional services, 

         3   additional facilities for people who prefer this 

         4   type of lodging over camping in a tent or some 

         5   other more rustic means.  It's an interesting 

         6   project here in that almost all of this labor, 

         7   almost all of this work, is being done by inmates 

         8   from TDCJ; so we're getting that project done 

         9   relatively inexpensively ourselves.  

        10                  Park and Wildlife Management Area 

        11   users want more interpretation and educational 

        12   programming.  That's something that we 

        13   consistently hear.  The people who come to our 

        14   sites, who hear our people, meet our people, learn 

        15   from them and enjoy that experience.  That adds so 

        16   much, I think, to the experience that they have 

        17   while they're at our sites that there is a lot of 

        18   demand for that.  

        19                  Our Parks and Wildlife Management 

        20   Areas also rank high as premier destinations for 

        21   watchable wildlife and birding activities.  

        22                  Some of the trends that we hear and 

        23   see and have demands upon us:  Our overnight 

        24   users, some of them are aging, as our entire 

        25   society is; and many of them are seeking more 
.                                                                    45

         1   comfortable accommodations.  They put the tent up 

         2   when the kids left home, but they still enjoy 

         3   coming to our sites.  And they would love to come 

         4   and be able to spend two or three nights at our 

         5   sites; but the thought of the sleeping bag in the 

         6   tent, I think, is not so attactive.  

         7                  The demand for lodge rooms, cabins, 

         8   and shelters far exceeds our availability.  For 

         9   instance, at Indian Lodge now we have well over a 

        10   70 percent occupancy rate, which -- that's a 

        11   pretty good occupancy rate in the Davis Mountains 

        12   of West Texas.  

        13                  We have experienced a decrease in 

        14   overnight camping revenues.  Again, people coming 

        15   and rolling out their sleeping bag, putting their 

        16   tent up, putting their camp pop-up -- that revenue 

        17   has decreased, while day-use revenue has increased 

        18   in our parks.  

        19                  So those are some of the trends 

        20   that I think -- that we're considering are 

        21   involved in here.  

        22                  A couple years ago we got involved 

        23   in a project on a very small scale up on some LCRA 

        24   property on Lake Buchanan.  

        25                  And I want to point out that John 
.                                                                    46

         1   Gosden -- I believe John is still here -- and some 

         2   of the folks from LCRA have waited us out all day, 

         3   and I appreciate that very much.  

         4                  John and LCRA have done a project 

         5   at what they call "Canyon of the Eagles," and I 

         6   think some of you have even been there.  It is a 

         7   wonderful project in which -- I guess what 

         8   impressed me the most about it was the 

         9   conservation message; the effort at outreach, 

        10   interpretation, and conservation message that 

        11   they're putting in.  

        12                  The facilities are excellent.  The 

        13   place that they have has 64 rooms and a conference 

        14   center.  Conservation education and intepretive 

        15   programming, as I said, is a big issue for them.  

        16                  They have an astronomy observatory.  

        17   And from personal experience, I can tell you that 

        18   if you go there in, say, the month of February, do 

        19   not loan your down jacket or your even emergency 

        20   light jacket out to your associates whom you 

        21   travel with.  That was a big mistake on my part.  

        22                  The nature tourism -- these folks 

        23   at LCRA have -- I mean, I think one of the first 

        24   things that's presented about Canyon of the Eagles 

        25   is nature tourism and learning about nature.  
.                                                                    47

         1   That's why the people are going there; people in 

         2   conferences, individual families.  That is how 

         3   their facility is oriented -- the eagle tour.  

         4   They connected right in with local groups who are 

         5   already providing some of those services.

         6                  There's a wine farm across the 

         7   lake that they go to and have a brunch over there.  

         8                  So they're doing a lot of things to 

         9   involve a lot of the local people and a lot of the 

        10   local businesses in the same area at the same 

        11   time.  

        12                  So seeing that happen -- and at 

        13   about almost the same time, Mr. Sansom and I had a 

        14   group of people approach us from the Dallas-Fort 

        15   Worth area, as I recall, talking to us about, "How 

        16   could we make a deal with you folks to build a 

        17   lodge, a nature lodge, on one of your facilities?  

        18   Under what conditions would you entertain such an 

        19   idea?"  And we spent an afternoon with them, and 

        20   they made a little presentation to us, and again 

        21   stimulated us to take some action on this thing.   

        22                   And in February of 1999 we put out 

        23   a Request for Proposal for an economic and an 

        24   environmental feasibility study.  We had really, I 

        25   believe, only three contacts on it; and the end 
.                                                                    48

         1   result was, we actually only had one group of 

         2   investors who made a solid offer.  And after some 

         3   negotiation and discussion with them, Presidian LC 

         4   -- which, by the way, is the same basic group that 

         5   did Canyon of the Eagles on Lake Buchanan -- after 

         6   some discussion and negotiation with them, we 

         7   settled on a contract with them.  And they began 

         8   their study period in May 1999 and will wrap up 

         9   next month.  And that's why we thought it was 

        10   important to kind of bring you up to speed of 

        11   where we are right now.                 

        12                  The goals and objectives of this 

        13   study, of this feasibility study, were to assess 

        14   the environmental impact on State lands caused by 

        15   development and increased visitation.  And, of 

        16   course, that can involve many factors.  

        17                  Another goal here was to assess the 

        18   economic impact of lodge development and 

        19   maintenance on individual state parks.  What's 

        20   going to be involved if this happens?  What is the 

        21   potential?  What is the economic potential?  I 

        22   mean, certainly, if we're going to go into an 

        23   agreement with a group of folks like this, private 

        24   investors, we want to have, as best to our 

        25   ability, some assurance that it is economically 
.                                                                    49

         1   feasible; that it will work for them and for us.  

         2   So, as I mentioned, we kicked that study off.  

         3                  I put this slide in specifically 

         4   because I think it's kind of what separated the 

         5   men from the boys on this study.  This group came 

         6   to us willing to do this study totally at their 

         7   cost, no cost to us.  

         8                  The additional group that we talked 

         9   to, just in discussion stages, was talking about, 

        10   "Well, for us to even consider doing this, we've 

        11   got to do a study, and that's probably going to 

        12   cost $250,000, $350,000 $400,000."  

        13                  So Presidian has that kind of 

        14   commitment.  They have that kind of interest.  

        15   And, of course, that impressed us.  And, 

        16   certainly, when I would be talking to our 

        17   financial people, that was a part of this study 

        18   that was very important.  

        19                  We sat down with them and agreed on 

        20   24 sites that we would take a brief look at, I'll 

        21   call it; just a first-cut look at these 24 sites 

        22   through the summer of 1999.  And Presidian hired 

        23   consultants well-known in their fields and went to 

        24   work immediately that summer, worked all summer 

        25   long on these 24 sites, came back to us in the 
.                                                                    50

         1   early fall of 1999, and again in a mutual 

         2   discussion with us, some give and take both ways, 

         3   we settled on six sites.  

         4                  One of the things that I want to 

         5   point out to you here is, not only did we shoot 

         6   for geographical distribution of sites across the 

         7   State, but we involved both State Parks and 

         8   Wildlife Management Areass.  We thought that there 

         9   was some potential both ways.  We wanted them to 

        10   look at, "What are the real economics here?  If 

        11   you get involved with us, what is the potential?"  

        12   Because we thought that there was some potential, 

        13   and I believe there still is some potential for 

        14   involvement of different sites.  

        15                  We settled on six last fall:  

        16   Indian Lodge out in the Davis Mountains, Palo Duro 

        17   Canyon, Caddo Lake State Park Wildlife Management 

        18   Area, Brazos Bend, Mustang Island, and Guadalupe 

        19   River.  

        20                  And Presidian and their staff and 

        21   their consultants have been working very hard on 

        22   this ever since.  They've spent a tremendous 

        23   amount of time and effort on it.

        24                  Our staff has been very 

        25   cooperative, have worked with them very closely; 
.                                                                    51

         1   and we got the first draft report last week.  But 

         2   these sites are the six sites that we have 

         3   narrowed this study down to; and are anticipating 

         4   very detailed, very complete studies and analyses 

         5   of this.  

         6                  I mentioned that we got our first 

         7   draft on Indian lodge last week.  We are currently 

         8   reviewing that draft, and I plan to take a few 

         9   members of our staff, key people on our staff, and 

        10   go out on-site, sit down and actually work right 

        11   there on-site with the Regional Director, the Site 

        12   Manager, Walt and some of our folks here to really 

        13   go through their final report -- which we should 

        14   receive in the next week to 10 days -- go through 

        15   that report and determine what we believe the weak 

        16   spots are, what we need more information on.  And 

        17   then at that point, then we can begin to talk 

        18   seriously about, "Where do we want to go with this 

        19   agreement?  Do we want to have an agreement?"  

        20                  What's next?  Our final reports on 

        21   the remaining five sites are due next month.  We 

        22   should have them all by the end of May, I believe.  

        23   And at that point, when we have all of those 

        24   reports, I think probably two or three of these 

        25   sites will fall out pretty quick.  But I think we 
.                                                                    52

         1   will spend a lot of time through the summer in 

         2   discussing and seeing if we can reach an agreement 

         3   with Presidian on any of these sites.

         4                  Our Request for Proposal -- and I 

         5   would ask that you look at this very closely -- 

         6   this study has, of course, created quite a bit of 

         7   interest in our users, in our employees, and in 

         8   people interested in conservation in Texas.  

         9   Basically what this says is that at the end of 

        10   this study, Presidian has the right to negotiate 

        11   with us to see if we can reach some kind of 

        12   agreement that works for both of us for a 

        13   six-month period.  We may or may not reach 

        14   agreement on one site, two sites, three sites, up 

        15   to four sites is what we envisioned as the maximum 

        16   from the very beginning at this stage.  

        17                  In closing, what's come out to me 

        18   in this process is that this is a real 

        19   opportunity.  This provides us an opportunity, if 

        20   we can reach an agreement, to do something that 

        21   otherwise we cannot do.  

        22                  But there are two real, real 

        23   important considerations that are always at the 

        24   front of our minds.  First is our concern for the 

        25   conservation and protection of our natural 
.                                                                    53

         1   resources.  That's No. 1.  That's top on our list.  

         2   If we do something on one of these projects, it 

         3   has got to fit.  It has got to work.  We have got 

         4   to be assured that that footprint is such that it 

         5   is not detrimentally impacting our natural 

         6   resources.                 

         7                  The second is our concern for our 

         8   employees on those sites, if we settle on any 

         9   sites.  We have wonderful employees at every 

        10   single one of these sites, and they are concerned 

        11   about this.  "What happens to me?"  We have 

        12   reassured them about that, and we will take care 

        13   of those employees.  That's bottom line.

        14                  But those are two concerns that we 

        15   have as we're proceeding along here, and this 

        16   thing has quite a bit of publicity.  I'm sure 

        17   you've seen some of it in the papers.  But, again, 

        18   we thought it was responsible to explore this.  

        19                  The Comptroller has been very 

        20   supportive, very interested in this.  I'm in 

        21   regular contact with people at the Comptroller's 

        22   Office who believe this is a study worth looking 

        23   into, that this is a project that we should 

        24   seriously consider in the State Government.  

        25                  So that's kind of where we are, and 
.                                                                    54

         1   I hope that within the next 45 to 60 days that 

         2   I'll have some more positive information for you.  

         3   It's an interesting project, one that's going to 

         4   take us a lot of time through the summer, but 

         5   we're looking forward to it.  

         6                  And if you have any questions, I'd 

         7   be glad to answer those.  

         8                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  That was an 

         9   excellent briefing.  Thank you, Bob. 

        10                  MR. COOK:  Thank you.

        11                  Any questions from the Members?  

        12                  MR. SANSOM:  May I just comment 

        13   that one of the things that we are trying to do 

        14   here is to potentially provide the opportunity, 

        15   particularly through the Indian Lodge proposal, to 

        16   open up some access to some of the other areas out 

        17   there that we have otherwise not been able to do.  

        18   And as Bob says, it's going to be real tricky to 

        19   make sure, if we go forward with this, that we 

        20   keep the employees in mind; but also be real, real 

        21   sensitive about these resources.  

        22                  And I can tell you that one of the 

        23   things about this urban challenge that we've all 

        24   been talking about is that we are raising people 

        25   in our cities who are simply not going to go out 
.                                                                    55

         1   and buy a tent or a pop-up camper the first time.  

         2   They are not going to do it.  They must have some 

         3   intermediate way to use the out-of-doors.  

         4                  And, frankly, for any of you who 

         5   have not been to Canyon of the Eagles, my comment 

         6   is "Bravo."  I mean, it is a stunning 

         7   accomplishment, in my judgment, of how you can put 

         8   together a facility.  And Canyon of the Eagles was 

         9   put together in the middle of endangered species 

        10   habitat.  I mean, it is a serious area for 

        11   black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler, and 

        12   yet it is a succesful enterprise.  

        13                  MR. COOK:  I want to say, too, 

        14   that, again, the people that Presidian have used 

        15   and the people that Canyon of the Eagles and LCRA 

        16   have used, these are "known" people in their 

        17   field.  I mean, the environmental studies 

        18   Presidian did, the people don't just walk out 

        19   there and cruise around.  I mean, they have hired 

        20   firms who are known throughout the entire South to 

        21   do their environmental impact part of this.  

        22                  I was really pleased to see, like 

        23   on the draft that we got on Indian Lodge, that one 

        24   of the consultants hired was a former employee of 

        25   ours, in fact, who is basically an expert on CCC 
.                                                                    56

         1   structures.  And one of his keen interests was 

         2   that the integrity of that original CCC structure 

         3   be maintained and even improved.  Some of the 

         4   later additions that we made were not quite up to 

         5   par, to say the least.  

         6                  And so that is part of this 

         7   package.  That kind of consideration is part of 

         8   this study and part of this package.  

         9                  Thank you very much.

        10                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Bob, I would 

        11   just say that I think your comments about the 

        12   experience of staying in the parks are very well 

        13   put.  I've stayed in a few of the accommodations, 

        14   and it's quite a better experience to be in the 

        15   park overnight than out of it; but I am one of 

        16   those who is not going out to buy a pop-up camper, 

        17   let alone a tent and a sleeping bag.  

        18                  MR. COOK:  I haven't used my 

        19   sleeping bag in a couple of years myself.  It 

        20   seems like it's kind of shrunk. 

        21                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Hot running 

        22   water is (inaudible).  

        23                  MR. COOK:  My sleeping bag used to 

        24   be a lot bigger.  

        25                  Thank you very much.    
.                                                                    57

         1                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Thank you.  


         3   COUNTY (SAN JOSE MISSION).               

         4                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Our next 

         5   agenda item is No. 6, and this is an Action Item; 

         6   and Kathryn Nichols is here to present the Action 

         7   Item for San Jose Mission.  

         8                  MS. NICHOLS:  Good afternoon, 

         9   Madam Chairman and Commissioners.  My name is 

        10   Kathryn Nichols, with the Land Conservation 

        11   Program; and today I'm going to talk to you about 

        12   a land transfer in Bexar County involving Mission 

        13   San Jose.

        14                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  And this 

        15   is, I think, in the briefing book also, isn't it?  

        16                  MS. NICHOLS:  In the Public Meeting 

        17   portion.  I don't have the page number.  

        18                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  It's on 

        19   Page 147. 

        20                  MS. NICHOLS:  The Department first 

        21   acquired interest in Mission San Jose in 1941, and 

        22   we've added tracts to it as late as 1977.  

        23                  In 1978 Congress passed legislation 

        24   creating the San Antonio Missions National 

        25   Historic Park, and San Jose was included within 
.                                                                    58

         1   those boundaries.  The Federal legislation 

         2   provided for the National Park Service to enter 

         3   into cooperative agreements with the owners of 

         4   those historic properties for the Service to 

         5   manage them, but Congress prohibited the Park 

         6   Service from purchasing properties from 

         7   governmental entities.  

         8                  In 1983 the Department entered into 

         9   such a cooperative agreement and placed all our 

        10   properties under their management.  

        11                  Just recently the Superintendent of 

        12   the San Antonio Missions National Park has 

        13   requested a transfer of our Department lands and 

        14   facilities to them, and the transfer must be by 

        15   donation, according to that Congressional Act.

        16                  This map shows in gray the 

        17   boundaries of the mission, San Antonio Missions 

        18   Park, and in red the 23 acres in which Parks and 

        19   Wildlife owns some interest.  Seventeen of those 

        20   acres are held in fee ownership, and about six 

        21   acres are covered by indefinite lease agreements 

        22   with Bexar County, San Antonio Conservation 

        23   Society, and the Catholic Archdiocese; so we would 

        24   be proposing to transfer the leaseholdings as 

        25   well.  
.                                                                    59

         1                  The National Park Service has had 

         2   full responsibility for maintenance, operation, 

         3   interpretation, and capital improvements.  In the 

         4   past five years they have invested more than $12 

         5   million in visitor facilities and in site 

         6   rehabilitation, and they have plans to continue 

         7   investing in the site.  And it's primarily for 

         8   this reason that they would like to obtain the 

         9   ownership control over the property.  

        10                  Staff believe a transfer would be 

        11   in the best interests of the Department and of the 

        12   resource, and we believe that they have 

        13   demonstrated a commitment to the site.  While they 

        14   haven't asked for any contribution from the 

        15   Department for management or for their capital 

        16   improvements, a transfer would prevent the need 

        17   for the State to ever invest dollars in it again.  

        18                  I would just note, too, that if the 

        19   Department does go through with the transfer, then 

        20   we would also recommend that the curators of the 

        21   two agencies coordinate transfer of appropriate 

        22   artifacts to the Park Service. 

        23                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Kathryn?  

        24                  MS. NICHOLS:  Yes.     

        25                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Excuse me.  
.                                                                    60

         1   On that point, I don't recall us talking about 

         2   the artifacts before.  Could you tell us what 

         3   those are, just generally?  

         4                  MS. NICHOLS:  Is Bill Dolman -- do 

         5   you want to speak to that?  

         6                  DR. BILL DOLMAN:  I didn't hear the 

         7   question.                 

         8                  MR. SANSOM:  Artifacts.  

         9                  MS. NICHOLS:  What are the 

        10   artifacts that are involved?  

        11                  DR. BILL DOLMAN:  There are 

        12   several.  It's from archeological excavations and 

        13   a few other things.  They're fairly minor, but 

        14   it's just a legalistic matter of transferring the 

        15   ownership. 

        16                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Okay.  

        17   That's what I was wondering, was there anything 

        18   very significant in that. 

        19                  DR. BILL DOLMAN:  Nothing for any 

        20   other site.                 

        21                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Okay.  Thank 

        22   you.                  

        23                  MS. NICHOLS:  This is the 

        24   recommendation that would be on tomorrow's agenda:  

        25   To transfer the 23 acres by donation to the 
.                                                                    61

         1   National Park Service.  And if you move today to 

         2   place it on tomorrow's agenda, this would be a 

         3   candidate for consent.  

         4                  From the San Antonio Missions, 

         5   today Stephen Whitesell, the Superintendent, is 

         6   here.  And he's brought with him James Jonas from 

         7   Los Compadres -- they're a Friends group -- if you 

         8   have any questions for them or any questions for 

         9   us.     

        10                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Well, we 

        11   appreciate their being here and particularly their 

        12   patience, as our day went on longer than I think 

        13   any of us expected; and the same for others who 

        14   have waited this long.  

        15                  Thank you, Kathryn.  

        16                  Any questions?  All right.  Then 

        17   the Chair would entertain a motion that we move 

        18   this to the agenda for tomorrow's hearing and also 

        19   ask that you consider whether this should go on 

        20   the Consent Agenda.  

        21                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  So moved. 

        22                  COMMISSIONER HENRY:  Second.  

        23                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Thank you.   

        24                  Any discussion?  Hearing none, all 

        25   in favor say aye.
.                                                                    62

         1                  COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Aye.

         2                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Those 

         3   opposed, nay.                

         4                  (No response, and motion carries 

         5   unanimously.)

         6                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Motion 

         7   carries.                    

         8                  Thank you, Kathryn.  


        10   BURNET COUNTY.

        11                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  You have the 

        12   last Action Item on the agenda, I think, also, 

        13   which is the land exchange in Burnet County; and 

        14   it is at Page 150 of the agenda book.  

        15                  Kathryn?  

        16                  MS. NICHOLS:  This involves 

        17   Longhorn Caverns.  The Department purchased the 

        18   property in 1932 and '37, and there are 

        19   essentially three portions of the park.  The main 

        20   body of about 525 acres contains the large cave 

        21   opening where the visitors enter.  There is a 

        22   smaller tract of about 25 acres that was believed 

        23   at the time to be the land above the cave or the 

        24   caverns, and another portion of about 150 acres 

        25   created a strip in which a scenic park road was 
.                                                                    63

         1   developed to link Longhorn Caverns with Inks Lake 

         2   State Park.  

         3                  Over the years we have learned that 

         4   the cavern, the main body of the cavern and side 

         5   passages extend at least a half a mile, if not 

         6   more, north of the park boundary and are 

         7   underlying private land.  

         8                  Burnet County is experiencing 

         9   subdivision growth pressure, including properties 

        10   that are in the vicinity of Longhorn Caverns and 

        11   Park Road 4.  One adjacent tract was recently 

        12   purchased by a local developer, and that tract 

        13   does not have legal access.                    

        14                  The owner, Mr. James Crownover, 

        15   came to the Department asking for a driveway 

        16   easement through park land.  And initially the 

        17   staff declined his request, informing him that we 

        18   didn't have a legal obligation to provide it 

        19   through park land -- it's not technically a 

        20   right-of-way -- and urged him to work with 

        21   neighboring properties to find access.  

        22                  At that point, he informed us that 

        23   he had a cave opening on his property that he 

        24   believed led Longhorn Caverns and wondered if we 

        25   might have an interest, offering either the whole 
.                                                                    64

         1   400-acre tract or some smaller acreage in exchange 

         2   for a driveway easement.                 

         3                  So we're bringing you a proposal 

         4   today for the smaller exchange, rather than 

         5   acquiring the whole property, because that would 

         6   be more cost-effective.  This would give the 

         7   Department an opportunity to acquire about 17 more 

         8   acres for Longhorn Caverns, and the map shows just 

         9   the bottom portion of Mr. Crownover's tract where 

        10   it's located adjacent to Park Road 4.  And the 

        11   location of the driveway easement would be 

        12   entering in on the west end of his property 

        13   through our park land, and the blue indicates the 

        14   two tracts that are proposed for exchange.  

        15                  Tract 1 is 10.8 acres.  It includes 

        16   the entrance to a side passage that leads to 

        17   Longhorn Caverns.  This access to the surface did 

        18   not show up on any maps that we previously had and 

        19   wasn't known to Department staff until he notified 

        20   us about it.  And, actually, it's only recently 

        21   been opened to the surface.  The previous owner 

        22   excavated enough to make an opening.               

        23                  This same tract contains several 

        24   karst features or fractured limestone formations 

        25   that provide recharge into the caverns.  
.                                                                    65

         1   Acceptance of this tract would protect the quality 

         2   of water that's entering into the caves below.  

         3   Mr. Crownover would also grant us access to cross 

         4   the property that he's retaining to reach this 

         5   cave site.  

         6                  Tract 2 is 7.3 acres.  It runs 

         7   parallel to Park Road 4, and it's essentially a 

         8   100-foot setback from the road that would be left 

         9   as a scenic buffer.  It would minimize the viewing 

        10   of houses that he would be putting into that tract 

        11   next to the park land.  

        12                  The exchange would grant him a 

        13   50-foot-wide driveway easement about 200 feet deep 

        14   into our property.  

        15                  This would not require any 

        16   acquisition funds to pick up 17 more acres.  The 

        17   significant benefit of owning the cave entrance 

        18   site would be the ability to secure the opening 

        19   and prevent entry into the tour area of the cave 

        20   from an off-site location.  No new operating funds 

        21   are expected to manage the additions.  We wouldn't 

        22   propose any visitor access to that new opening.  

        23   And it's recommended that the cave tract be 

        24   fenced, and that the cave be gated to prevent 

        25   unauthorized entry.  Those construction costs are 
.                                                                    66

         1   estimated at about $18,000, and the funds would be 

         2   requested in the 2001 budget.  

         3                  This is tomorrow's recommendation:  

         4   To authorize acquisition of the two tracts at 

         5   Longhorn Caverns in exchange for a driveway 

         6   easement, and this would be a candidate for 

         7   consent if you choose to move forward.  

         8                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Kathryn, if 

         9   we were not to approve this, what would be 

        10   Mr. Crownover's access?  

        11                  MS. NICHOLS:  He would have to go 

        12   out through a neighbor's property.  There is a 

        13   neighbor directly to the east, and that neighbor 

        14   fronts Park Road 4, but it's a portion of Park 

        15   Road 4 that's outside of our fee-ownership land.  

        16   And he has contacted him more than once; and 

        17   whenever he thinks he's not getting far enough 

        18   fast enough with us, he goes back to this person.  

        19                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  What was he 

        20   doing before?  

        21                  MS. NICHOLS:  Well, he didn't own 

        22   it before.  

        23                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Did he buy 

        24   landlocked land without --

        25                  MS. NICHOLS:  He bought landlocked 
.                                                                    67

         1   land.

         2                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  -- without 

         3   an easement or a right-of-way for access? 

         4                  MS. NICHOLS:  Yes.  There are some 

         5   like two-tire-tracked access into some of the 

         6   tracts along there, but none of them have been 

         7   legally granted, and we have not yet run them all 

         8   off.  For them to go out through another 

         9   direction, they would actually have to cross a 

        10   huge canyon-like creek and probably destroy more 

        11   resources than that 200-foot strip through the 

        12   edge of our park road.  

        13                  MR. HERRING:  We referred 

        14   Mr. Crownover to contact all of the adjacent 

        15   landowners, which he did.  He produced letters 

        16   from all of them denying him access through their 

        17   property.  If we deny this, he will probably be 

        18   forced, if he intends to continue with his 

        19   development, to take us to court for some sort of 

        20   prescriptive easement, since he is on a landlocked 

        21   piece of property. 

        22                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  That's what 

        23   I was driving at, is whether he's left with 

        24   searching for his legal remedies for a 

        25   prescriptive right of access.  That also, I think, 
.                                                                    68

         1   hits a good prelude to explain how it is that you 

         2   achieved the 17 acres total, part of which is that 

         3   scenic buffer in a very good location, which when 

         4   you drive on that road, that makes a big 

         5   difference to have what you've got out there right 

         6   now remain. 

         7                  MS. NICHOLS:  A little more 

         8   protection, and set back.  

         9                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Yes.  Thank 

        10   you.                   

        11                  Any questions or comments by the 

        12   Members?                 

        13                  Well, I think you all did a fine 

        14   job with a very difficult situation.  

        15                  MS. NICHOLS:  Thank you.  

        16                  MR. SANSOM:  I would like to 

        17   comment here that Ms. Nichols is going to work for 

        18   the National Park Service, and she is --   

        19                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Oh, 

        20   congratulations.

        21                  MR. SANSOM:  Well, you know, I 

        22   guess.  

        23                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  I was 

        24   congratulating her.  

        25                  MR. SANSOM:  Mainly, I'm sorry that 
.                                                                    69

         1   she's going, because she has been a wonderful, 

         2   wonderful employee of this Department, and we all 

         3   wish her well; and she is going to be a wonderful 

         4   asset to them.

         5                  And we will miss you.   

         6                  MS. NICHOLS:  Thank you.  

         7                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Yes, 

         8   Kathryn, thank you for all the deals that you've 

         9   brought before us while I've been on the 

        10   Commission.  They've been some, I think, very 

        11   thoughtful and creative ones.  And good luck with 

        12   your new position.  

        13                  MS. NICHOLS:  Thank you.  

        14                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  With that, 

        15   the Chair would entertain a motion for this to be 

        16   moved to the agenda tomorrow; and please remember 

        17   that it is eligible for the Consent Agenda, I 

        18   believe. 

        19                  Is that right, Kathryn?  

        20                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  I would so 

        21   move.      

        22                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Second.   

        23                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Any further 

        24   discussion?  All in favor, say aye.  Those 

        25   opposed, nay.                
.                                                                    70

         1                  (Motion carries unanimously.)

         2                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Thank you.   

         3                  Excuse me.  Commissioner Watson, as 

         4   Vice-Chair of the committee, would you take over, 

         5   please?  And then we'll move on to the Ad Hoc 

         6   Infrastructure Committee with the conclusion of 

         7   this next item.  

         8                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Certainly.  

         9   The next item on our agenda is the briefing on the 

        10   Grand Parkway in Fort Bend County, and Dr. Larry 

        11   McKinney is going to take care of that for us.  

        12                  DR. McKINNEY:  Thank you, 

        13   Mr. Chairman.  I'm going to exercise one of my 

        14   prerogatives, and that's to ask Bob Spain to 

        15   present that briefing, who has been my 

        16   coordinator. 

        17                  MR. SPAIN:  Good evening.  My name 

        18   is Bob Spain; and for the record, I'm Assistant 

        19   Director of Resource Protection.  The item that I 

        20   want to give today concerns a project I think many 

        21   of you may have heard about or may have received 

        22   letters on; and that's the intent, to give you a 

        23   little more briefing on the status of this 

        24   project, and in particular how it might impact our 

        25   park, and that is Brazos Bend Park. 
.                                                                    71

         1                  It's a large project that is also 

         2   known as State Highway 99.  It is being planned 

         3   and would be operated by the Grand Parkway.  It 

         4   was created in 1984 by the Legislature, and this 

         5   plan would be to build a third corridor around 

         6   Houston in addition to 610 and 6.  It's about a 

         7   170-mile project.  

         8                  And you can just barely see the two 

         9   parcels there, the two parks, that are potentially 

        10   being impacted.  There's one on the north, which 

        11   is Lake Houston State Park; and the one on the 

        12   south is Brazos Bend State Park.

        13                  Just a little background; and I'll 

        14   be brief, because I know it is getting late.  

        15                  The Grand Parkway is a nonprofit 

        16   organization that reports to TxDOT.  They acquire 

        17   their lands by donations.  They receive funding 

        18   from various sources, one TxDOT and then the 

        19   counties that may have interests, as well as 

        20   landholders that have an interest in having the 

        21   road near or on their properties.  TxDOT would 

        22   construct and maintain the roadway.  

        23                  This is the different planning 

        24   regions that we're talking about.  In all there 

        25   are 11.  
.                                                                    72

         1                  The first four that you see in blue 

         2   are not in consideration at this time.  There's 

         3   not a need for those.

         4                  Four other segments, those on the 

         5   north that cross Katy Prairie and then on the 

         6   north the San Jacinto River, are in corridor 

         7   studies currently.  

         8                  One segment I-2, has been designed 

         9   or is being completed and would would presumably 

        10   be constructed in 2000-2001.  Segment D has 

        11   already been built.  And the one that I'll talk 

        12   the most about is Segment C, and that's the one on 

        13   the south there.

        14                  Segment D was built in 1994, and it 

        15   runs from Interstate 10 down to Highway 59.  And 

        16   the plan in the next phase would be to connect 

        17   with that and come down from 59 to Highway 288.  

        18                  This is the area that we're talking 

        19   about, just to get you oriented.  Brazos Bend 

        20   State Park is on the south, and the green line in 

        21   Option A or B are two different options that are 

        22   being looked at and will be in the draft 

        23   Environmental Impact Statement.  

        24                  There are significant land holdings 

        25   that have to be dealt with or at least considered 
.                                                                    73

         1   in this process.  You have the George Historic 

         2   Ranch.  You also have a large oil field, 

         3   Thompson's oil field.  You have the Lake 

         4   Worthington area that's a conservation area the 

         5   Fish and Wildlife Service holds.  You've got a 

         6   unit of the prison system, the Darrington Unit, on 

         7   the opposite side of the river.  You have Brazos 

         8   Bend Park, a very highly used, ecologically 

         9   diverse park.  

        10                  Other resource considerations are 

        11   Smithers Lake on the north part just out of this 

        12   corridor currently.  Big Creek loops through there 

        13   and might be crossed as much as twice, depending 

        14   upon the route we choose.  

        15                  The Brazos River runs north and 

        16   south and has significant bottomlands in various 

        17   reaches along there.  And also we have two eagles' 

        18   nests that are active, one near Big Creek and one 

        19   up by Smithers Lake.                  

        20                  So it's difficult, as one can see, 

        21   to try to snake your way through there and miss 

        22   all of these resources.  

        23                  Here are some of the routes that 

        24   have been considered in the planning process.  The 

        25   routes that we're looking at now that will be in 
.                                                                    74

         1   the EIS -- in the process, the EIS is due out this 

         2   month.  This is what it's been narrowed down to.  

         3                  A public hearing would presumably 

         4   occur in May in the Houston area.  

         5                  A selection of the route and the 

         6   final right-of-way would then be determined, and 

         7   then that would be in the EIS; and it may come out 

         8   in February.  

         9                  In looking at the routes, Parks and 

        10   Wildlife has concerns about a project through this 

        11   area.  On Option A, of course, urban sprawl will 

        12   occur and stimulate secondary development and 

        13   growth.  It has to cross the Brazos River, and so 

        14   there's going to be an impact there.  And a very 

        15   unique and highly significant bottomland-wetland 

        16   complex is Rabbs Bayou, which is a real concern if 

        17   they cross there.  

        18                  The second option -- which again we 

        19   have some major considerations, and the park is 

        20   involved -- again, there will be urban sprawl from 

        21   this.  It would fragment the Big Creek riparian 

        22   corridor -- and it would cross it twice, which 

        23   flows down into the park.  

        24                  And there's a number of things, and 

        25   I'll hit on some of those, in Brazos Bend Park.  
.                                                                    75

         1   There's the development that could occur adjacent 

         2   to the park just on the north side that we're 

         3   concerned about.  There's the light pollution from 

         4   the road, and the secondary development.           

         5                 And I say "light pollution," because 

         6   there is an observatory that is open to the 

         7   public.  It is operated by the Houston Museum, and 

         8   it is on the facility.  

         9                  We also have a concern because 

        10   there is about a 1,000-acre complex of wetlands 

        11   and sloughs called Pilot Lake.  And any 

        12   modification or reduction in the flows or timing, 

        13   our water quality from secondary development 

        14   non-point source is a concern; and the increased 

        15   traffic as well.  

        16                  So the park can be converted to 

        17   more of an urban park, obviously, with a lot more 

        18   development.  

        19                  There are some other considerations 

        20   that we would like to see, and they're not a part 

        21   of the process and planning at this time.  One is 

        22   to use an existing right-of-way.  And these are 

        23   just ones we've come up with.  

        24                  One is to follow an existing road, 

        25   Highway 2759, which is in place.  And then another 
.                                                                    76

         1   possibility would be connect with another proposed 

         2   road, which is the Fort Bend Parkway Toll Road 

         3   that -- I don't think there's any active planning 

         4   going on, except it's on most of the 

         5   transportation maps you see.  

         6                  We met with Grand Parkway, 

         7   Dr. McKinney and I, last week.  And I should 

         8   mention that Diane Shiki, their Executive 

         9   Director, is here; and she provided many of these 

        10   graphics that make this possible.  

        11                  The concerns that they had -- and 

        12   I'll hit on them briefly -- is an impact on Siena 

        13   Plantation, which is a development, a very large 

        14   residential development that's in planning and 

        15   there's some construction.  

        16                  And bottomland hardwoods that are 

        17   just south of that area are also very significant.  

        18                  There's two small communities 

        19   called Thompson and Juliff that would have to be 

        20   considered, and they're not big communities and 

        21   don't have a lot of influence and that sort of 

        22   thing.  

        23                  There's Thompson's oil field, which 

        24   is obviously a concern there.  

        25                  Fort Bend County and Brazoria 
.                                                                    77

         1   County are sponsors in the project, and they 

         2   wanted to come further south, I'm told.  And the 

         3   congestion that this road would not provide -- or 

         4   at least some relief on Highway 6 if it went 

         5   further north.  

         6                  Another alternative that I just 

         7   learned about yesterday, and it's a similar one 

         8   from that one:  Let's follow the north corridor 

         9   over this Lake Worthington area, then hook up with 

        10   this toll road and come across and parallel 

        11   Highway 6 or expand Highway 6.  This is just 

        12   another alternative.  It's not one -- I just 

        13   learned about it recently.  

        14                  In closing, we know that Houston 

        15   has grown through the time, and this shows what's 

        16   happened as we moved west in '76 and 1990 and 

        17   1995; and this is some work we've done.  We know 

        18   it's going to grow, and we know it's going to grow 

        19   south.  So what we're trying to do is do our best 

        20   job to avoid the impacts as best we can.           

        21                  When we can't, we look for a way to 

        22   minimize and ask for particularly the wetlands, 

        23   the bottomland hardwoods, and the prairies, and, 

        24   of course, our park.  

        25                  And last, when we can't avoid all 
.                                                                    78

         1   those, we ask for mitigations; and we also look 

         2   for areas we can concentrate that, and not scatter 

         3   it out along the line.                  

         4                  I apologize for going fast, but I 

         5   know it's late in the day.  I'd be glad to answer 

         6   any questions if you have any.  

         7                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Bob, Larry, 

         8   thank you very much.

         9                  That concludes the Conservation 

        10   Committee's meeting for today, and we'll pass the 

        11   meeting on to Commissioner Avila.  

        12                     (SESSION ENDS)

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