Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., May 29, 2002

Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Subject Public Hearing
Agenda Item No.
  Approval of the Committee Minutes from the previous meeting.  
  Summary of Minutes  
1. Chairman's Charges (Oral Presentation) Committee Only
2. Land and Water Conservation Plan Update
Staff: Bob Cook
Committee Only
3. Streambed Task Force Update
Staff: Larry McKinney
Committee Only
4. Nomination for Oil and Gas Lease – Jefferson County
Staff: Jack Bauer
5. Prairie Dog Conservation Plan
Staff: Paul Robertson
Committee Only
6. Release of Land Use Restrictions – Galveston County
Staff: Ronnie Ray
7. Land Acquisition – Cameron County
Staff: Jack Bauer
8. Land Acquisition – Nueces County
Staff: Jeff Francell
9. Land Acquisition – Harris County
Staff: Jack Bauer
10. Other Business  

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
April 3, 2002

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 3rd day of April 2002, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the commission hearing room of the Parks and Wildlife Headquarters complex, Austin, Travis County, Texas, beginning at 2:50 p.m., to-wit:


Katharine Armstrong Idsal, Chairman
Ernest Angelo, Jr.
John Avila, Jr.
Joseph Fitzsimons
Philip Montgomery, III
Donato D. Ramos
Kelly W. Rising, M.D.
Mark E. Watson, Jr.
II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES: The minutes of the last committee meeting were approved.



Presenter: Robert L. Cook
Mr. Cook briefed the Committee on three charges. First he described the work accomplished on the Land & Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan accomplished by Jeff Francell, Emily Armitano and Jack Bauer, along with the ad hoc committee appointed by the Chairman. To date the committee has met three times, published a draft outline and scheduled two constituent meetings, with a draft report expected by May 1, 2002. Second, he discussed participation in the Texas Water Advisory Council as directed by S.B. 2. He stated Chairman Idsal has appointed Commissioner Fitzsimons as the TPW council member. The initial meeting was held on January 23, 2002, with the second meeting tentatively scheduled in May. The duties of the council are to provide a forum on significant water policy issues and, in an advisory role, strive to provide focus and recommendations on state water policy initiatives. The council will also review river authorities’ performance according to standards established by the Legislature and report to state leadership by December 2002.

The third charge Mr. Cook discussed was to negotiate with the Texas Department of Transportation for the use of obsolete bridges, tunnels and causeways for the artificial reef program. A meeting with TxDOT was held in February, during which TxDOT provided staff with a partial list of bridges and overpasses scheduled for demolition. Also discussed were issues regarding the stability of materials for artificial reefs that were contaminated with oil; availability of funds to transport materials offshore and costs associated with the transport of these materials; and what it would take to reef the existing Galveston causeway. Personnel from both agencies are working together to find a way to enhance the artificial reefs off the Texas coast.


Presenter: Ronnie Ray
Mr. Ray presented the nomination for oil and gas lease for 51 mineral acres at Tyler State Park. He stated there is a restriction against entry on TPW lands. The terms are standard with a minimum bonus bid of $150 per acre, 25 percent royalty and $10 per acre-delayed rental. Commissioner Ramos asked questions relative to the number of acres contained in the pool and the minimum royalty. There was discussion about the lease form furnished by the General Land Office. Jack Bauer, Director of the Land Conservation Program, explained that lease arrangements are done through the Board for Lease for Parks and Wildlife Lands at the General Land Office, and they honor the Commission’s recommendations for the terms. Commissioner Fitzsimons recommended that a small ad hoc unofficial committee of the two oil and gas lawyers be formed to look at riders involving TPW surface-use provisions, as well as the GLO lease form. It was decided that Commissioners Ramos and Fitzsimons would meet with Jack Bauer and Ronnie Ray to accomplish that. The item was placed on the Thursday Commission agenda for public comment and action.


Presenter: Dennis Gissell
Mr. Gissell described how in 1999 two petroleum pipelines were installed by a contractor of Penn Octane Corporation on Resaca de la Palma State Park (part of the World Birding Center) under presidential permit without Parks and Wildlife permission, in order to provide liquid petroleum gas, gasoline and diesel to Mexico. The pipelines are located just inside the boundary of the park on the southeast corner, along a power line easement, approximately 1,493 feet long. The easement requested would be 30 feet wide; therefore, this encompasses just over one acre of land.

Once the pipelines were discovered staff negotiated with Penn Octane to survey a boundary of the property, as well as the pipeline locations, to do an archaeological survey, and to assess damage fees and easement fees. One pipeline is currently transporting liquid petroleum gas; the other one is currently idle but could be used for either gasoline or diesel in the near future. Applicant and staff are requesting permission to proceed with a ten-year easement to the Board for Lease for a total of $118,096 in damages and fees ($100,000 in damages and $18,096 in easement fees.

During discussion Mr. Gissell stated that the easement fee is a one-time ten-year easement fee restricted to those two pipelines and the General Land Office furnishes the lease form. The item was placed on the Commission’s Public Meeting agenda for public comment and action.


Presenter: Jack Bauer
Mr. Bauer explained that this item is to convert construction permits for fiber optics on Smith School Road into easements. Beginning in 1999, there were several urgent requests to lay conduit for fiber optics along Smith School Road. Several providers wanted to hook up to the infrastructure circuit at Level 3 Communications, located in a building at the end of Smith School Road. Texas Parks and Wildlife owns Smith School Road; therefore, after due diligence for archaeology and finding no significant impacts from an operational standpoint of running TPW headquarters, Level 3 was granted ME #20000012 (miscellaneous easement) along the east side of Smith School Road, with their payment of $25,000. In January 2001 an agreement to install fiber optic conduit was granted to MCI WorldCom Network Services, Inc. (as an assignment of the Level 3 easement) and XO Texas, Inc., along opposite sides of the same Smith School Road route. Staff and applicants are requesting permission to convert these permits to permanent right-of-way easements.

The first request is that MCI WorldCom’s permit (consideration of $25,000 was paid for a ten year period) be assigned the existing miscellaneous easement from the Board for Lease granted to Level 3 Communications, with the same terms and conditions. The second request is that the XO Texas permit (consideration of $75,000 was paid for a ten year period) would be converted to an easement with the same terms and conditions contained in the permit.

During discussion Mr. Bauer explained that Level 3 paid $25,000 for their easement and MCI WorldCom paid another $25,000 for a permit to construct in that same easement. The permit to XO Texas cost $75,000 due to the fact they were actually providing capacity for three other customers. The construction permit is for laying conduit, with the understanding it will be filled to capacity with fiber optic cable. MCI WorldCom’s conduit is in Level 3’s easement; however, it is a foot or two higher. Also, it was decided that the price standards for this type of easement no longer apply.

The item was placed on the Commission’s Public Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

IV. ADJOURNMENT: The meeting adjourned at 3:15 p.m.

Committee Agenda Item No. 1

Conservation COMMITTEE
Chairman's Charges
May 2002

(This item will be an oral presentation.)

Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Bob Cook

Conservation Committee
Land and Water Conservation Plan Update
May 2002

I. Discussion: This item will brief the Commission on the Land Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan Draft. The process will include: public comment meetings, advisory committee input, stakeholder input, and adoption at the August meeting.

Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Larry McKinney

Conservation Committee
Streambed Task Force Update
May 2002

I. Discussion: Staff will present to the Commission its report summarizing the work of the “Motorized Vehicles in Navigable Streambeds” Task Force. In November 2001, the Commission directed staff to convene this task force to provide a broad spectrum of views and information on this issue. Concurrently, two interim legislative committees have been holding hearings and collecting information on this topic.

Staff has determined that while consensus exists on some aspects of this issue, overall there are widely divergent views about use of motor vehicles in streambeds. Landowners and environmental groups believe that current levels of motor vehicle use in rivers damage public resources and are inappropriate in riparian areas. Motor vehicle enthusiasts do not believe they damage resources and point out the scarcity of public areas for motor vehicle recreation other than riverbeds.

In addition to presenting the report, staff will request guidance from the Commission regarding future efforts on this issue. This is a briefing item only and no action is required.

Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Nomination for Oil and Gas Lease – Jefferson County
May 2002

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 9.)

Committee Agenda Item No. 5
Presenter: Paul Robertson

Conservation Committee
Black-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation and Management Plan in Texas
May 2002

I. Discussion: Staff will brief the Commission on the status of black-tailed prairie dogs in Texas and the status of the management plan being prepared by citizens and conservation groups in cooperation with TPW.

In response to a petition and threatened legal action, in March 1999 the USFWS placed the black-tailed prairie dog on the threatened-species candidate list due to declines of the species throughout its range, which once included approximately 80 Texas counties. Unless states can show that they have plans that will secure the species in its remaining range, the black-tailed prairie dog could be listed as a federally threatened species in the near future. The species has declined by over 95% in Texas due to land conversion, public and private poisoning campaigns, and bubonic plague.

In response to the proposed federal listing, an interstate committee was formed and supported by nine of the 11 states within the U.S. portion of the species’ range. This action led to the formation of stakeholder working groups in all 11 states.

The Texas working group, which is comprised of representatives from ranching, farming, state and federal agency, private landowner, and conservation groups, has met 11 times since its formation in 1999. TPW personnel have served as members of the working group, acted as group coordinators, served as representatives on the interstate working group and acted as liaison with the USFWS. In addition, TPW initiated a statewide inventory which will be completed this year. Accurate population numbers and distribution data are critical to determining the future actions of the USFWS and to developing a credible conservation and management plan.

A statewide conservation and management plan has been drafted and is ready for public release and comment. The Texas working group developed this plan based on the following mission statement: “Develop and initiate a statewide plan that will conserve the black-tailed prairie dog, while simultaneously protecting personal and private property rights.” The good news is that the prairie dog is more abundant in Texas than was thought; it should not take much additional effort to conserve the species. As a result, the plans’ emphasis is on voluntary actions and landowners will still have flexibility and freedom in their need to manage prairie dogs when problems arise.

TPW has obtained a Section 6 grant to complete the statewide inventory and to hire a coordinator for three years to begin implementing the plan in FY2002.

Committee Agenda Item No. 6
Presenter: Ronnie Ray

Conservation Committee
Release of Land Use Restrictions – Galveston Island
May 2002

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 10.)

Committee Agenda Item No. 7
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Land Acquisition – Cameron County
May 2002

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 11.)

Committee Agenda Item No. 8
Presenter: Jeff Francell

Conservation Committee
Land Acquisition – Nueces County
May 2002

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 12.)

Committee Agenda Item No. 9
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Land Acquisition – Harris County
May 2002

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 13.)

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