Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee

April 7 , 2004

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

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 7th day of April, 2004, there came on to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, beginning at 2:00 p.m. to wit:



Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: In the absence of Commissioner Parker, I'll chair this one.

First order of business is approval of Committee minutes, which have been previously distributed.

Motion for approval?


CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Motion for approval, second?


CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: That was by Holmes and seconded by Brown.


MR. BORUFF: Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee is charged with two charges from the Chairman. The first is to successfully complete existing bond issues.

The Committee today is going to be brief and will summarize the proposal to change the scope of work for the renovation of the Battleship Texas, one of five major construction projects identified in the 77th Legislature to be funded with Proposition 8 funds.

The Infrastructure staff is exploring different repair options to identify the most cost effective solution and ensure the long—term preservation of the ship.

The second charge that will be addressed today is to track and appropriately manage the Lone Star Legacy Development projects in the infrastructure. I think I'm going to talk to you about that right now.

The World Birding Center is moving forward towards hopefully some day getting off the books. We're in construction administration.

For those of you that are new commissioners, I might let you know that this is a project that's been going on for a few years. There are three state park sites involved in this — Mission, Weslaco and Brownsville.

The Mission site is under construction and should be completed early this summer.

The Weslaco site — we have a memorandum of agreement with the City of Weslaco finally. Construction is expected to start within the next month or two. It will take us about nine or ten months to complete that construction.

The last remaining site then for us will be the Brownsville site at Resaca de la Palma. We are currently in the process of developing a memorandum of agreement with the Brownsville City leadership.

Mr. Whiston and I will be down there next Monday and Tuesday, I think, to try to finalize that MOU.

We hope to begin the construction before the session, so that when we role into the session in January, we'll have one site completed and one near completion and the other started.

The last project I want to talk a little bit about today is Government Canyon. Planning and design has been completed. We are under contract for the development of the new Government Canyon state natural area.

Construction began in November last year. Anticipated to be completed at the end of this calendar year, December.

The total cost is about $5.8 million and will include a new visitors center, exhibits, classroom spaces, camping, picnic sites, maintenance building, hiking roads and trails.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And without a power line.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: Where is Government Canyon?

MR. BORUFF: It's fairly unique in the system, because it is so close to a large metropolitan area. And it's a large park, some 8,000 acres.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Okay. Thank you. Next, Steve you're up.

MR. WHISTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and good afternoon, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Steve Whiston. I'm the director of infrastructure.

Our briefing this afternoon is intended to share with you our plans for dry dock repairs, as Scott indicated for the Battleship Texas.

The last real significant repair that occurred for this ship was in 1988, when the Department towed the ship to dry dock in Galveston, where we performed about $14.5 million worth of structural and hole repairs to that ship — gave it a new coating system and then towed it make to its slip at San Jacinto.

If you'll recall, as a part of our general obligation bond program, our Prop 8 program, the Department is authorized $12.5 million of repair funds for the next following cycle of repairs for the battleship.

Anticipating that issue, that Prop 8 issue, in FY '06-07, we've stepped back and tried to reevaluate our approach to this project, reevaluating our strategy for getting this work done, in part in keeping with your charge to us, to try to determine what is the most cost effective way to ensure the longtime preservation of this ship, the most cost effective method for these repairs.

With that introduction, I'm going to bring to the table our resident expert on the Battleship Texas, Mr. Barry Ward from parks division. He's been working hand in hand with us in developing strategies for this repair.

He's the battleship manager at the ship, as well as Jim Burton, our senior project manager and project manager for the battleship project.

They're going to share with you this afternoon our strategy and our new design in approaching this project.

MR. WARD: Good afternoon. I'm Barry Ward. As Steve said, I'm the manager of the Battleship Texas. I've been there about five years now.

This current image that you see is essentially how the ship is now in her berth. She's open to the San Jacinto River, the Houston ship channel on one side.

The ship the Texas is going on her sixth decade of commemorative status. We were on the cutting edge of commemorative ships when the ship was brought here.

She was under the auspices of a commission until the mid—80's. At that time Texas Parks and Wildlife assumed control of the ship.

She's arguably the most significant remaining vessel of the post—sail era, and almost certainly the last significant vessel in the world of the dreadnought era. She's indeed a unique artifact.

Keeping that in mind, we should not take lightly the stewardship we have of her.

Her history encompasses at her beginnings, the Mexican Revolution of 1914 and our intervention therein and all the way through the atomic era.

And, as Steve mentioned, she sat idle in the mud up until '88, at which time Texas Parks and Wildlife did the first significant and only major restoration work since she was deactivated by the Navy. That was in 1988.

Her current status is such that, while she's reasonably well—maintained, given her physical location, she does have failing hole integrity.

The berth — the slip she's in — is filling in due to sedimentation from wave action, tidal action and standard seasonal sedimentation from the river.

Her deck and plating are deteriorating. And the modified mooring system, which you'll see photos later on are also in need of some significant repair.

All of those items are exactly what you would expect, given the fact that she was last drydocked over a decade ago.

I would also probably mention here that drydocking is nothing more than a standard maintenance item, a cyclical maintenance item.

Drydocking is something that you have to do on a drydocked ship like this probably every ten to 12 years. On an active ship, you'd do it much more often.

Our goal is to establish what we would consider to be a long—term preservation scenario for the ship.

Again, drydocking is not in and of itself a long—term solution. It is something that will buy you time until the next cycle comes around. The best option is we need to do an engineering study.

The two basic options when reduced probably to its most succinct point is can you repair the ship on site, or do you have to tow it to a dry dock, what we'll call a conventional drydocking situation offsite somewhere.

I should probably say that scenario of us towing the ship like we did in '88 is conventional to North America. In Europe they tend to do it differently. They try to do on site. And that would be the convention.

Pros and cons. For towing the ship as we did in '88, it is a cheaper initial investment, though not cheap as the figure Steve gave you indicate.

It is however an expensive long—term investment, since you have to repeat this ad infinitum. As long as there is a ship there, you're going to have to keep towing it and repairing it cyclically.

There is potential that eventually, given lack of funds, given lack of institutional will, given the degradation over a riveted warship that is now 90 and will be eventually even decades older, that you will not have the ability to tow her.

Right now we're in a situation where she has to go on an open Gulf tow. It is well within the realm of possibility that her hole integrity is not such that she could be towed. Although that question will be answered via a survey.

Towing in itself is an expensive proposition. An open Gulf tow would probably cost $800,000 to $1 million. That is just for the tugs to tow it there.

With towing you have the quite obvious, but sometimes missed hazard, that when you tow it out in the Gulf, it can sink. If you leave it where it is, nothing's going to happen to it.

If the hole burst open tomorrow. It would settle about a foot and a half into the mud.

If you're towing that out into the channel and get outside of the intercostal canal — in fact they will not let you tow it in the intercostal canal, you'll have to go into the Gulf.

But even if it sank between its current slip and the intercostal canal, you'd have the largest impediment to navigation that the Houston Ship Channel has ever seen. And Texas Parks and Wildlife would be liable for it.

Now, that is not a likely scenario, but it is within the realm of possibility and therefore should be considered at the end of the day.

At the risk of talking myself out of a job, I will continue.

Another problem with moving the ship to an outside dry dock is the historic integrity of the ship and the artefacts thereon.

There are literary thousands of historic objects which comprise the ship itself. And when you take it to a dry dock, you have to catalog, move, account for every one of those items.

In reality, it cannot be done in a way that is commensurate with standard museum practices. You can't do it. You don't have the money, and you don't have the resources.

It wasn't done last time to a degree that I would consider acceptable. It wouldn't be done this time. It's not a reflection on any staff that were there. It's just a reflection on reality. It's too big of a job.

The other item attendant to that is that every ship, including the Texas, that has gone to dry dock like this, has lost a small but significant amount of their collections to theft.

That is just something you just have to account for when you do this. You are turning your ship over to a towing company and then to a dry dock.

And they are not going to have the same level of stewardship we are when they are in control of the ship.

Dry dock availability is another issue. As it stands right now, the nearest dry dock that can take the weight of the Texas is in Port Arthur.

Initially they were unavailable, so we would have to go out of state potentially, which means somewhere like Mobile, Pascagoula, someplace like that.

So are most definitely to the vagaries of the marine repair industry, when you're looking at using a commercial dry dock.

You also, once you turn over the keys, so to speak, of the ship, you lose a certain amount of control over this ship.

Once they have you under tow and in dry dock, they have a lot of leverage over you in terms of the scope of the project, and therefore the cost of the project.

Onsite repairs. Pros and cons. Suppositionally, it is a more expensive initial investment.

We don't have the engineering study done yet to tell us exactly what it's going to cost. But almost certainly, it'll will be more than towing to a dry dock.

However, it is, relatively speaking, a permanent solution. Once you have that facility built right under the ship, you never have to tow it again. You can copper dam the ship in, pump the water out. It'll settle into its own cradle.

You effect a much higher percentage of your own repairs without contracting out, and you are no longer risking the ship in a tow.

The mooring system which would be required for such an in place docking situation is already in place. That was a multi—million dollar investment attached to the last drydocking phase.

We are looking into repairs of that in the near future.

If we drydock in place, you can then depend on current institutional experience to do a much larger percentage of your repairs, via the establishment of an ongoing maintenance program. You're deferring a lot less of your maintenance, as well.

That being said, there's a certain amount that you're still going to have to bring in — heavy equipment, heavy machinery from outside contractors.

You've eliminated your collection security issue, and you've obviously greatly enhanced your cost controls if you're doing it in—house.

Some examples of some other ships that have done this recently. The U.S.S. Massachusetts is a fast battleship from the World War II era, in the 8500 foot range. This is her, the image you're currently seeing in a dry dock in 1998.

To give you an idea of what she went through. This was about a six—month process for them. Cost about $9 million that they will admit to, and it didn't even get them the basic plating they need.

And in fact they dewatered her, and they ran out of money so quickly, that the drydocking company pumped back in a quarter of a million gallons of tainted water back into the ship that she had returned her slip in.

So they threw $9 million at a band-aid that might buy then eight or nine years.

So in a sense, given situations like that, the rest or the historic fleet, the Navy, everybody's kind of looking at us to see where we go. We are effectively the leadership on this.

In terms of towing options, if we did so, a lot of people are familiar with the Cole that was damaged a few years ago, October. They did not tow her. They used the a lift ship for her.

So are other options to towing to obviate some of that danger. However, it is extremely expensive, and it is not clear whether the weight of Texas could be sustained by a lift ship like this.

The U.S.S. Cole probably weighs one—fifth, one—sixth the weight of Texas. One turret of Texas weighs just as much as that entire vessel right there.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: What is the weight of the Texas?

MR. WARD: Her displacement weight as is, is about 28,000 tons. Her dead weight is in the hundreds of thousands of tons.

This is the U.S.S. Alabama. You're seeing an excavation that occurred on her last year. They spent about four months and about $5 million on their salvage operation. Twenty feet of her hull is still buried underneath mud you see there.

In a sense what they did is they spent $5 million to buy themselves time. If they drained the water around her, built a copper dam, pumped it out, and then they've excavated down as deep as they thought they could afford, and then replace hull plating that way, they've bought themselves time as well.

But what they have done is given them enough time to stage the operation, just bought them time. The next time around they probably will be able to raise enough money to hopefully build a cradle underneath her as well.

But again, that picture you're seeing where the mud hits the hole there, there's 20 more feet of steel buried underneath that. It is rusting away.

This is the splash line of the Alabama, the splash zone, the tidal zone, if you will. Texas has the exact same problem.

On our ship, we did a lot better job of periodic maintenance on ours. Ours does not look nearly as bad as this. Our slip give us better protection as well.

But if we do not fix her, we're looking at this kind of damage on Texas probably within six to seven years. I did a survey from the water Saturday. And there were three holes in the side of Texas that I could put my fist through right now.

The U.S.S. Kidd has done in large part what I would like to see done eventually on the Texas, if the engineering and the costs turn out to be feasible.

If you look under the forward section of the ship, you'll see a concrete cradle. This is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She's moored on the Mississippi. As the river rises seasonally, the ship floats.

She's on a mooring system identical to what we have. As the water lowers seasonally, she settles right back into the cradle, and they just paint her every year.

When you keep a coat of paint on her, you can effectively stave off your deterioration and oxidation issues for a much greater length of time.

The engineering on this would be virtually identical to what we would do on the Texas, just a lot heavier.

MR. BURTON: I'm Jim Burton. I'm the senior project manager for Infrastructure. I actually had the same reaction you gentlemen did when I understood that I could be the project manager that sunk the Battleship Texas. It definitely caught my attention.

Where we are right now is starting to examine what would be other feasible options to actually dry docking it in a conventional fashion, as we've done in the past.

Where we feel like we need to go is do some due diligence and go out and get at least an engineering feasibility study to decide when can it be done.

It's a very, very heavy ship. Each gun turret weighs more that a supertanker, and there's five of them. It's very heavy.

Is it possible? How much would it cost? All of those sorts of things, so that we can at least do due diligence to say that tried to put it right there on the site, so that we could guarantee its long—term survival.

Ultimately our costs — obviously we're going to have to do life cycle costs analyses and see ultimately what are costs are going to be to keep it there. And, as he says, the institutional will of keeping something like this.

I think that's where we are now. We've just got to do some engineering feasibility studies to see what we can do with this ship. Can we keep it on site? How much would it cost? Whatever our options are.

I really don't have any other comments, unless you all have questions for us.


COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Quick comment. With a fixed appropriation, it seems that anything other than something like a fixed or a capped cost is a non—starter for us. We'd also have to go back to the legislature.

So to me, all these other options that don't involve some lock on the cost aren't even worth talking about.

MR. BURTON: Well, I've actually thought a little bit about that.

I think there'd be a very real possibility that, suppose we go out and do a little engineering feasibility study and it comes, acknowledges, that it costs $30 million to dry dock this thing in place.

We obviously don't have that kind of appropriation to do that. But it might very well be that we might say, we're going to put another band-aid on it. That's going to last ten or 15 years.

And in that ensuing time period, we're going to go back to the legislature and say, if you really want to keep this ship forever, here's what we're going to need.

We're going to need $30 million 15 years from now to go ahead and put this thing in place. So it may be two steps as opposed to one to make this happen.

Mr. WHISTON: But clearly our next step is cost—dependent on what these engineering studies provide us in terms of anticipated costs, not only to create this onsite dry dock situation, and then to whatever extent we can go forward with, subsequent repairs.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: We've got eight or nine million. How much do we have?

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Who gave it to us?

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: The legislature did.

MR. WARD: Originally in '48, it was a grassroots movement that brought the ship to Texas. It was a government—appointed entity that ran it for years.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Federal government?

MR. WARD: State. Their effectiveness or lack thereof resulted in us being here.

Mr. WHISTON: To answer Commissioner Ramos' question, no, this is not an action item. This is just to share with you.

MR. WARD: Ultimately, the historic fleet collectively throughout the nation is going to face this. It is quite clear to everybody involved in this sort of endeavor, that we cannot collectively afford every ship we have out there.

It is as plain as the nose on your face. I'll reiterate. We are on the cutting edge of deciding how, when and where to keep these ships.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: You've done your homework. There's no doubt about that. Tell me if you know. Who owns and operates the U.S.S Lexington that's in Corpus? You've probably been there.

MR. WARD: My understanding that is a private non—profit, and she's in Corpus. She is widely regarded by the historic ship community to be probably the first one to face catastrophic failure of her structure.

She's sitting abeam the prevailing currents down there in the bay. She came there in the '80s. They deliberately sunk her in the mud. And put her abeam the prevailing current. She's essentially the breakwater.

Without major engineering, which probably already is cost—prohibitive, eventually she will fail. You may be looking at three decades, maybe five. But it may also be ten — ten years.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: I had an opportunity to visit there about a month ago. And one of the things that struck me among others was that [indiscernible] and the cost of going aboard as a visitor.

Break it out for me.

MR. WARD: We get about 150,000 people a year, give or take. It varies from year to year. That money of course goes back to Austin. I don't see a dime of that.

I raise a small amount of money. I use volunteers to give guided tours, things like that. I'm probably on track for raising about $10-, $15,000 a year from my Lone Star Legacy account. That's a relatively new program.

I essentially am quite limited in what I can do in terms of offsetting those costs. The reality is this ship like every other ship out there is going to cost a lot more money than you're ever going to bring in on it.

Did I address your question?

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Right there at the end you did.

MR. WARD: If you look at a $15 million dry dock cost every 15 years — you're looking at deferring a million dollars a year in costs.

So you have to raise that much more money just to break even than we do right now. That's not going to happen.

You might be able to do it if you operated the ship in such a way that you totally ignored the educational aspect and the historical fabric of the ship.

We'd start violating Texas Historical Committee, Texas antiquity laws, the contract of the Navy for the donation of the ship. Those sorts of things.

Making it profitable is not reasonably within the realm of possibility.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Of the 150,000 visitors, how many are paying visitors?

MR. WARD: The majority of those are paying.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And they pay how much?

MR. WARD: Five bucks. And we are undercharging. We are easily the lowest paid for admissions within the historic fleet for a vessel of our nature.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any particular reason for that?

MR. WARD: Historically that's what our fee structure was. It's always been that way. My feeling now is that the onus of going through the procedure to change that fee is not even worth it to the administrative structure above.

It's not something I have control over.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: It didn't go up with the other state park fees we raised?

MR. WARD: We do not have a fee for San Jacinto State Park. We are in San Jacinto State Park. In the past I've been told the San Jacinto State Park is somehow different, and it's more difficult to charge a fee there just to get in the gate.

The battleship itself — to my knowledge there's no reason that we could not and in fact should not raise the fee. We should probably increase that by at least 30 percent, maybe double it.

MR. DABNEY: Walt Dabney. State park director. I can make that comment on every site we have. None of them are huge money making operations.

But the battleship specifically comes really close to a break—even point as far as pure operating dollars. You have to remember that San Jacinto itself, we don't charge to go into. The battleship we do.

Budget and revenues are in the 700,000 are year range. But we make in profits $65,000 at the gift store. Not counting these big repairs to the ship, as far as the day—to—day operating costs, it's kind of carrying itself.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: What's missing is the $20 million endowment.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Who sets that fee though? Obviously it didn't change when others did.

MR. DABNEY: We didn't change a whole lot of park—specific fees this last time. Very few of them —

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Answer my original question, though. Who sets the fee for the battleship?

Mr. DABNEY: You set the range of fees. We make the recommendation to Bob and Scott. They sign off on any increases or decreases in the fees on an annual basis. The fee to go into the ship is what, now?

MR. WARD: Five dollars.

Mr. DABNEY: If you've got a family of five or six people, and you're just a Houston inner city kid, are you going to charge them $5 a person to go on the battleship.

We want them to go on the battleship. That card you just bought is going to let you and your whole family go on that battleship. As our button says, One price, all 120 parks.

We think that's a good way to go. We're making our money back. When he says he doesn't keep any of the funds there, that's true of every single park. It all goes into a pool. You approve the budget that goes back out to operate each of these parks.

MR. BORUFF: Where is that in the range right now, Walt?

Mr. DABNEY: It's at the top of the range of what we have on a per person entry fee to parks now.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Compared to other historic ships?

MR. WARD: We're at the bottom of the range. The U.S.S. Missouri is $8 I think. The Lexington's probably $9, $10, something like that.

Mr. DABNEY: I can't break out the battleship per se, but we're talking in '01, $641,000 in operating costs and $641,000 in revenue. A few hundred dollars different.

$692,000 in '02, and $774 in revenue. So we were actually above our operating costs that year.

Last year it was $834,000 in operating. We must have done something specific there, minor repair or something, and nearly $700,000 in revenue, plus $65,000 in the store. So that's still almost an operating break—even.

And a whole lot of our visitors, as you know, Commissioner, are kids. So a lot of them are the school programs going in there. We don't make much money at all on them.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Do we charge them the $5.

MR. WARD: Discounted rate.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: That's why I asked the question. Of the 150,000, how many of them are fully paid visitors?

MR. WARD: At the $5 rate. I don't have that information at my immediate disposal. I'd have to look that up.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, you have dollars coming in —

MR. WARD: I mean, in terms of the breakdown.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: It's averaging about $4. Do you have any instinct about what it would do to visitation if you doubled that from five to ten?

MR. WARD: It would reduce it. It depends on what you did with the school fees. If doubled that, you would have a noticeable, measurable impact.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: What is the school thing?

MR. WARD: I think it's $2 a head, if you hit a certain number of kids. If you have a handful of kids and you come on board, it's $3, if they're under 12. If you doubled the school fee, you might eliminate in the tens of thousand of kids.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: We might leave that one alone.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: What percentage is that in the hole? At the Freshwater Fishery Center, it's a third.

MR. WARD: I would guess you're in the 25 percent range. But that's just supposition without looking at my numbers.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: You could leave the schoolchildren fee alone and increase the other.

MR. WARD: You could. And that would have an impact on revenue. It would not address our major maintenance issues. I've been here five years and it's not been visited in that time —

If you could add an extra $300,000 a year in revenue, a majority of which, even half of which could come to the ship in yearly or biyearly major repair projects, you could put a big dent in the deferred maintenance.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Then we need to look seriously at the next meeting and making the fee change there, because it is different. It's not like every other park.

To charge the same thing for that as you are at Waco State Park. That doesn't make any sense.

MR. WARD: We did an in-house survey of historical ships across the country. We have the information on what everybody charges back at my office. So I could forward that if it becomes necessary.

COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Could we have that presented at the next meeting?

Mr. WHISTON: Yes. Just to conclude — are there any other questions? Certainly we welcome your council on this project. We are going to proceed with the engineering study.

Until we're armed with that information, we're not going to know what we're going to come back with to you, which certainly we'll do as our next step.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: There's a little side conversation here that I think is an important piece of arithmetic.

I jokingly said, all you need is a $20 million endowment. Bob said, or a million dollars a year over those 15 years. And it will be higher 30 and 45 years from now.

But the point is, that extra $300- to $450,000 that you might be able to generate from increasing the fee could cut that endowment need in half. That's a significant —

And the Watson principle is you raise the fee and sell more tickets.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Without hurting the kids.

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Keep the schoolchildren fixed.

Any other questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other business come before the Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee?


(Whereupon the meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m.)


MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee

LOCATION: Austin, Texas

DATE: April 7, 2004

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 29 inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731

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