Presenter: Jack Bauer

Commission Agenda Item No. 17
Land Donation – Freestone County
Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area
April 2006

I. Executive Summary: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been offered 68 acres of adjacent bottomland hardwood habitat to Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area as partial settlement for damages incurred from an oil and gas operation on the facility.

II. Discussion: The 13,788-acre Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area (RCWMA) was acquired in 1987 as mitigation for the construction of the Richland Chamber Reservoir on a tributary creek to the Trinity River in Freestone County. The facility is operated as a component of a complex of wildlife management areas called the Middle Trinity River Ecosystem Project that includes the Gus A. Engeling WMA, Keechi Creek WMA, Cedar Creek Island WMA and Big Lake Bottom WMA. This complex of sites represent mostly bottomland hardwood habitat, a highly impacted and important habitat type to fish and wildlife in Texas.

In June and July of 2000, several large brine spills permanently damaged approximately 13 acres of bottomland hardwood habitat and contaminating ground water on the North Unit of the RCWMA. These brine spills resulted from the oil and gas operations of a company called Southwest Operating, Inc. (SWO). The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) intervened by stopping all SWO operations and required remediation of the site to include removal of contaminated soil, addition of new soil and soil amendments, construction of an underground drain to ameliorate ground water contamination, and revegetation of the site. These actions are still underway. Injection of brine by SWO into existing wells on RCWMA was also terminated by the RRC.

Simultaneously during the time of intervention of SWO operations by the RRC and after more than a year of only partially successful attempts to get SWO to satisfactorily remediate the damaged areas and compensate the public for the losses, the matter was referred to the Office of the Attorney General in December of 2001 for action on a claim by TPWD for trespass and negligence. The Office of the Attorney General and TPWD reached a settlement with SWO in February of 2006. As part of the negotiated settlement, SWO agreed to enter into a surface use agreement governing its future operations on RCWMA. In addition, SWO agreed to donate to TPWD an inholding of a forested tract of land consisting of approximately sixty-eight (68) acres (see Exhibit A). SWO will provide title insurance, a boundary survey and a Phase I environmental assessment of the property. In addition to the land donation, SWO will provide $10,000 in attorney's fees to the Office of the Attorney General.

III. Recommendation: The staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion:

"The Executive Director is authorized to take all steps necessary to acquire as a donation or transfer approximately sixty-eight (68) acres of land as an addition to Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area."

Attachments - 1

  1. Exhibit A - Property Map

Commission Agenda Item No. 17
Exhibit A

Proposed RCWMA Land Transaction

This image is a representation of where the 68 acres to be acquired lies in relation to Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area

For help in interpreting this map, please contact Jack Bauer.