Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting
Nov. 7, 2007Commission 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 November, 2007, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas, Committee Chairman
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: The first order of business is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Moved by Brown. Seconded by Hixon.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: In light of the time, I will now go immediately to items 11 through 14, which require recess to Executive Session. I would like, therefore, to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and the purpose of seeking legal advice from the general counsel under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act, and the purpose of deliberation of a prospective gift or donation under Section 551.073 of the Open Meetings Act, and the purpose of deliberation of personnel matters concerning the Executive Director search under the Personnel Provisions Section 551.074 of the Open Meetings Act. We hereby stand recessed.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir.
(Whereupon, at 12:30 p.m., the meeting was adjourned, to reconvene this same day, Wednesday, November 7, 2007, at 2:30 p.m.)
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: At this time, we will reconvene the regular session of the Conservation Committee and go to Bob Cook with the Land and Water update.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. There are several notes on major issues in our Land and Water Plan that I want to touch base with you on. Our TPWD Wildlife biologists have just worked closely with private landowners to implement, at this time, 5,572 active wildlife management plans encompassing 20,465,617 acres at the end of FY '07, thus exceeding the goal in the land and water resource conservation plan for our Managed Lands properties. Kudos to all staff and the landowners for that step. That's a good one and one that we need to continue to build on.
The state of Texas and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be hosting the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife agencies' annual meeting in Corpus Christi on these dates, October 12 through 15, 2008. I would ask that you put those dates on your calendar. The Southeastern Association group of Fish and Wildlife agencies will include a commissioner activity afternoon or evening. I hope that you will be involved in that. We have participated. It's 17 states in the Southeastern portion ‑‑ you know, we're the westernmost with 17, 18 states from Oklahoma and Texas and then on east ‑‑
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Say the dates again.
MR. COOK: ‑‑ up through Maryland. It's October 12 through 15, 2008. It's a great conference. We send staff every year. We are very, very active and involved on their committees. Mike Berger is our point person here. We've got Lydia, Pete, everybody involved. We'll have a lot of staff working at this thing. We're going to ‑‑ it will be first class. We hosted it several years ago and it's sort of one of those things between the states where everybody tries to outdo everybody else. We certainly have the support and the people involved to do it first class. So we'll be bringing more ‑‑
COMMISSIONER PARKER: It's Southeast ‑‑
MR. COOK: I'm sorry?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: It's Southeast what?
MR. COOK: It is the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, state agencies very much like us.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Can you just send us an email on that?
MR. COOK: You bet.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: All right.
MR. COOK: We'll include you all in our ‑‑
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Do we win every year?
MR. COOK: We win every year.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Absolutely.
MR. COOK: On another completely different kind of a line, regarding desert bighorn sheep, I know several of you were at our Expo banquet this year, at the Foundations banquet, where they auction a bighorn sheep hunting permit for $82,500. When our staff out there this year did their surveys, they recorded ‑‑ they saw, 991 desert bighorn sheep during the annual sheep surveys. The result of that was we issued 13 desert bighorn sheep hunting permits, another new record. Ten permits were issued to private landowners and three on our TPWD lands. So, again, a program that's going well. I see Clay Brewer back here ‑‑ and some of the guys that have been involved in this program a long time have seen it come from less than 100 sheep just not that many years ago to where we are today. I don't know that there's 992, but there might be. I think 991 is a conservative estimate.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: What kind of increase would that be from last year to this year?
MR. COOK: I don't remember the numbers ‑‑ Clay, can you tell from last year to this year what kind of numbers, or Mike Berger?
MR. BREWER: It's about a 10 percent increase.
MR. COOK: A 10 percent increase in observed sheep?
MR. BREWER: Right.
MR. COOK: And so ‑‑
MR. BREWER: The population is estimated at 1,200.
MR. COOK: Clay Brewer reports that the population is currently estimated at 1,200. So that's good.
The second annual Toyota Bass Classic Tournament, another date to put on your calendar, will be held on Lake Fork April 18 through 20, 2008. Toyota has again pledged a donation of $250,000 for conservation education and support of inland fisheries from the tournament. Another great event ‑‑ again, some of you were involved in it this year and I hope you all will be involved in it in 2008.
Finally, again directly related to our Land and Water Plan and initiatives, you've been hearing possibly, and reading, some of the issues about a location, a piece of property, called the Christmas Mountains out in the
Trans-Pecos of West Texas. I noted as of yesterday that Commissioner Patterson had said that he was going to put on hold any further action on the sale of the property for at least 90 days giving the Big Bend National Park the opportunity to meet or exceed the bids that they had accepted. Now, where we get looped into this was in the initial donation from the Conservation Fund, Mellon Foundation, and that group, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department was mentioned as one of the conservation agencies that they hope that the property might end up with one of these days.
What I wanted to show you here ‑‑ and I had Ted put up one of his maps ‑‑ is approximately ‑‑ I have this really handy, dandy pointer right here ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Watch out, Danny. He might get you.
MR. COOK: ‑‑ Christmas Mountains is connected to Big Bend National Park right about there. I believe they share a common boundary. I read in the paper they share a common boundary of about a mile to a mile and a half of common boundary. The property itself has a perimeter of about 17 or 18 miles, but they share a common boundary with Big Bend National Park right in about there. From the edge of Big Bend Ranch State Park straight across, it is about 18 miles.
So it is a very disjunct piece of property from our standpoint. We never have really campaigned in any form or fashion to own or acquire or operate the piece of property. It has a very, very good conservation easement on it. When I say good, it has quite an extensive conservation easement on it. Whoever ends up owning that piece of property is going to have to comply with that easement, but I think most people would agree that if the national park folks can come up with the resources to acquire the property, then that's a suitable and natural fit. I would not recommend that we go there, but hopefully they'll get it resolved on the path that they're on now.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Is there public access to it now?
MR. COOK: To the best of my knowledge, there is not public access to it now.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you, Bob.
Committee Item Number 2, Water Legislation, Ms. Cindy Loeffler and Ms. Colette Barron.
MS. BARRON: Good afternoon, Commissioners. I'm Colette Barron from the Legal Division. Cindy Loeffler and I are going to focus on Senate Bill 3, which was the recent omnibus water bill. I'm going to provide you a quick little background of Parks and Wildlife's role in certain water arenas.
Parks and Wildlife plays a lead role in the data collection and methodology development for the state's instream flow and bay and estuary study programs. We are both the protector of the state's fish and wildlife resources and the voice for those resources. We have a seat at the table when TCEQ issues permits to use surface water. Parks and Wildlife staff reviews every single water right application in the state and we provide recommendations to protect the fish and wildlife resources and habitat that are affected by those particular water rights.
If you don't know already, Texas operates under a prior appropriation doctrine, which is summed up as "First in time is first in right," which means that a right is senior and superior to every right that's issued after it. The older the right, the more valuable, the more reliable the right is. Water rights are issued in perpetuity. There are very little opportunities to go back and revise any conditions in those water rights.
While the state has been issuing surface water rights since the late 1800s or so, it was only in 1985 that the state mandated that there be some kind of consideration of the impacts of those rights on fish and wildlife habitat and water quality. The majority of the water rights in the state, of course, were issued prior to 1985. So we have only a small percentage of rights with any kind of environmental protection conditions associated with them. So while the 1985 laws were very helpful and necessary, the best that they could accomplish was this piecemeal, permit by permit approach to environmental protection. That again placed the burden of that kind of protection on all post 1985 rights.
You know, I'm going to concentrate on the environmental flows legislation part of Senate Bill 3 and I'm going to say environmental flows a lot, but we always have to step back and remember that these flows are not just important to the environment. They are in fact critically important to support the state's agriculture, manufacturing, hydropower, sport and commercial fishing, recreation and tourism. Additionally, flowing water helps to filter and break down pollutants and it provides really a primary means of protecting water quality and it reduces the cost of industry and municipal waste water treatment. So it's very, very important.
Following what I would call some contentious water rights proceedings, some litigation and some previous legislative attempts, in about 2003, there was a meeting of the minds between water developers and environmental interests who got together and began exploring opportunities to sort of comprehensively address environmental flow protection and water rights and to try to ease conflict between traditional adversaries, different water users, and water uses. So after a period of several state advisory committees and some previous legislative attempts, the work of this consensus group between environmentalists and water developers culminated in Article I of Senate Bill 3 of the last session, which laid out a bottom-up consensus-based process involving stakeholders who would look at the local needs for their basin and take a basin-wide approach for environmental flow protection.
So this is just a quick schematic ‑‑ I'm not going to go through it ‑‑ of the layers of players in this new process with this process replacing the current water rights-permitting scheme that provided only limited opportunities for addressing environmental needs and only allowed certain parties with protected legal interests in on that decision making. So our new process begins with a nine member statewide environmental flows advisory group appointed by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House. One appointee will come from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
The advisory group will appoint this statewide science advisory committee to provide technical support and advice for them and really throughout the whole process. The advisory group will also appoint these regional basin and bay area stakeholder committees that are going to be charged with recommending appropriate environmental flow regimes for their entire basins.
I hope you can read that slide. SB 3 sets out a really aggressive schedule for particular basins to complete their processes. If you look at the map, you can see that the earliest deadlines come up in the eastern part of the state. I think that was a recognition on the part of the legislature that that's the area of the state that may actually have water available to meet environmental needs, unappropriated water that may be used for these purposes.
I should explain that simply determining the environmental flow needs within this process does not mean actually finding water or providing water to meet those needs. This is really just a first step of determining what we should be doing for each particular basin. You know it's a whole other complicated issue to discuss what options we may have for finding water as in this state we have many rivers that are either fully appropriated or even over-appropriated.
I should quickly mention before the ghost of Chairman Fitzsimons strikes me down that one of the things that happened in SB 3 was clarity over one option for finding water, which was the ability of a water right holder to use an existing water right, convert it to an instream use to meet environmental needs. That's really going to open the door for private participation for protection of fish and wildlife through water rights. Chairman Fitzsimons was instrumental in getting support for the idea and in getting that passed as part of the legislation.
So, quickly, we have this big process. There are going to be these basin stakeholder committees with at least 17 members who represent a fair and equitable balance of interest groups pursuant to SB 3. They will each appoint an expert science team to help them with the technical information and to guide them. Parks and Wildlife, TCEQ, and Water Development Board staff provide assistance to these science teams and agency staff can indeed be non-voting members of these teams.
I have this slide up just to show you the tall order for this fair and equitable representation in these basins. There are going to be some very disparate and competing interests that are going to have to work together side by side in a consensus-based process to tackle some really complex issues.
This is the schematic of the process itself. Those were just the players in the previous schematic. You can see that it's not necessarily a linear process. There are a lot of continuing roles for the players and a lot of overlapping opportunities for participation. Basically, this whole thing will culminate in the TCEQ conducting a rulemaking process.
This whole thing starts with ‑‑ and I think rightly so ‑‑ with a focus on science. It's the expert science team that initially looks at the needs of the basins and determines what they think the environmental flow regime might be that is protective of that basin that ensures a sound ecological environment. They will come up with a recommendation that has to be based solely on the best available science. This is really important that the legislature recognized that you have to protect that science and keep it independent of policy. I think that's important for the credibility of the whole process, so that the stakeholders are the ones that can deal with all the other policy and economic and quality of life issues that may influence the outcome of what they decide. We may very well see some conflict between the technical answers and the policy decisions that follow.
We have this slide. This is the legislative definition of this environmental flow regime that these groups are supposed to be coming up with. I put it on there because it's extremely complex in its breadth and it's something that we haven't done before. We haven't delved that deeply. We haven't had the opportunity in water rights and environmental flow protection. You know, marshaling the science and the information that it's going to take to come up with consensus-based recommendation is a very steep task for both the stakeholders and, in fact, a science-based team to agree on.
So it's extraordinarily difficult and Cindy and I can speak from experience that it's something very hard to put together, but we're hopeful that it will be done. This is not about just picking some kind of minimum subsistence flow for critters and there's certainly not going to be a one-size-fits-all answer.
So the stakeholder committees will consider their science team recommendations. They will come up with their consensus-based recommendation. And then, those recommendations are provided to the TCEQ, which conducts a full notice and comment rulemaking process that will ultimately end up in the setting of environmental flow standards that are adequate to support a sound ecological environment to the maximum extent reasonable when considering human needs. Those standards will be applied to pending and future water right applications. If, for example, in East Texas there is water actually available, unappropriated to meet those environmental flow standards, the TCEQ can in fact set aside an adequate amount to meet those standards, basically reserving it from appropriation by others.
After this whole complicated process is through, SB 3 goes a very welcome and very innovative step forward and makes these flow standards subject to adaptive management. So they must be periodically reviewed and they may be revised. Permit conditions, which has previously been hands-off, you can't change anything, are now subject to a limited adjustment to reflect any new revisions to the environmental flow standards.
So this is a radical departure from the old permitting system where we had a one shot in time determination of environmental flow protection and then that was stuck in perpetuity. So I think Senate Bill 3 really recognized the need for monitoring, for validation, for continuing study, and it really does mandate that we rely upon the best available data in science to make informed decisions.
So with that, I'm going to turn this over to Cindy Loeffler who is an expert scientist in her own right. She's going to delve a little bit more into the science foundation and the other articles in Senate Bill 3.
MS. LOEFFLER: Thank you, Colette.
Again, for the record, I'm Cindy Loeffler with the Water Resources branch in the Coastal Fisheries division. I just want to re-emphasize the importance of science, kind of following with what Colette said a minute ago and the discussion this morning about much of what we do at Parks and Wildlife has got to be based on this sound science base.
At the agency, along with Texas Water Development Board, over the years, we have been performing these legislatively mandated studies. These came about back in the 1980s to go out and determine freshwater inflow needs for the bays and estuaries. So to make sure everybody is aware of that, studies have been largely completed for the Texas estuaries, the seven major estuaries. That information is available and we consider it to be the best available science for looking at estuaries.
Throughout part of this discussion over the past number of years, there has been quite a bit of debate about the science including the bay and estuary studies. There was a science advisory committee that was part of one of the interim legislative efforts to delve into this issue of how to protect environmental flows, that took a very close look at the work that the state had done regarding freshwater inflows and had some very good advice for us. Some of it has been acted upon, and other things, we're still working on. We're working closely with our sister agencies, Water Development Board and TCEQ. So just to make sure that you're aware that this is going on behind the scenes and this information is out there.
On a similar note, with the rivers and streams, the Texas instream flow program that directed the agencies five years ago or so to look and come up with the similar information for rivers and streams, instream flows. Again, a joint effort with the Water Development Board and TCEQ. One of the things that Senate Bill 3 did for us was to extend our deadline for getting that work done. Here at Parks and Wildlife, the freshwater film division ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Fish.
MS. LOEFFLER: ‑‑ fish, Inland Fisheries ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Inland Fisheries, right.
MS. LOEFFLER: ‑‑ freshwater and saltwater, Inland Fisheries division has been largely responsible for Parks and Wildlife's coordination of these studies on the SB 2 instream flow studies. We've had our deadline extended till 2016. So that's a very welcome addition there.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good.
MS. LOEFFLER: Yes. And then, these are some of the rivers and streams that are included in the SB 2 studies, as we call them, kind of shorthand, with the red segments being the priority segments that will be done sooner rather than later, by 2016, for information that would be used then subsequently in environmental flows protection.
So, to shift gears a bit to different parts of Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 4, hearing Colette talk about Article I of Senate Bill 3, in this legislative session that was one of the least controversial parts of Senate Bill 3 and the water legislation that was discussed. I think due in large part to all of the work that had gone before to get us to that point, but there were other things in Senate Bill 3 that also affect us.
One particular area having to do with water conservation in planning ‑‑ Bob Cook was very instrumental in some of the work that has gone on in the past with the Water Conservation Task Force, and the Water Conservation Task Force recommendations were carried over into Senate Bill 3 Article II. So one of the things that we were happy about is having this recognition in the Texas Water Code now that voluntary land stewardship is an important way of helping to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of water resources in the state. I think we can give thanks to Mr. Cook and others who got involved in this effort to get that into the Water Code as state policy.
Article II also requires the Water Development Board to develop and implement a statewide water conservation awareness program. Those of you in the Metroplex, and I think here in Austin, this summer we saw some of the "Water IQ" campaign. That's an example of a statewide water conservation awareness program. We'll be seeing more due to this part of Senate Bill 3.
The Water Conservation Advisory Council is created under Senate Bill 3. There are 23 members including Parks and Wildlife. I'll be the agency's member on that council. There are a number of requirements of the council, that you can see there, having to do with new technologies and water conservation trends.
An area that we're particularly interested in is this concept of monitoring implementation of water conservation, technologies, gallons per capita per day. GPCD is the buzz word that becomes very important when you talk about water conservation. One of the reasons it's a very big issue for us at Parks and Wildlife is that water conservation is the most cost effective, least environmentally damaging alternative out there for protecting water resources and creating water for future needs. So we like to encourage that wherever possible.
This was one of the more controversial parts of Senate Bill 3, Article IV having to do with unique reservoir site designations. What Article IV does is to designate 19 reservoir sites that were included in the 2007 state water plan the Water Development Board produced as unique reservoir sites. What that designation means is that an entity of this state, another state agency, could not come in and take an action obtaining fee title to the land, or a conservation easement, or something like that, that would prevent a reservoir from being built there.
So on that list of 19 reservoir sites were a few sites that contained some pretty high quality habitat, Marvin Nichols and Fastrill reservoir being a couple of examples. So from our standpoint, we are concerned about potential habitat impacts. We're working with project sponsors wherever possible to minimize that. We're working on mitigation requirements, things of that nature.
Senate Bill 3 also added a new requirement I guess it is that if an entity being a project sponsor does not show some affirmative action, take a vote on a project, or take some action to provide funding, or to begin permitting for a project by 2015, September 1, 2015, then that designation goes away. That was not there before.
On a similar note, also in Article IV is this concept of designating ecologically unique stream segments. Parks and Wildlife compiled information at the beginning of regional water planning back in 1997 to help the regional planning groups identify which stream segments in their regions could be characterized as ecologically unique. These are things like ‑‑ are there threatened or endangered species, are there wetlands, you know, a number of things like that. Senate Bill 3, Article IV, actually designated ‑‑ of the 227 I think segments, we had identified there are 15 that the legislature did actually give the designation of being an ecologically unique stream segment. So what that means is that the state cannot finance the actual construction of a reservoir on that segment.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Can I ask you a question?
MS. LOEFFLER: Yes.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Will you go back to the previous slide?
MS. LOEFFLER: Let's see. There we go. Yes?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Now, go over that September 1, 2015.
MS. LOEFFLER: Okay. All right. What that means ‑‑ there was a concern I would say primarily with landowners who were concerned about potentially having land converted to a reservoir site, that if this designation could cloud the kind of status of their property. And so, one of the compromises that was reached during the session was to include this stipulation that if a project sponsor ‑‑ so a city, or a river authority, or some entity that would be pursuing construction of a reservoir ‑‑ if they did not take an affirmative action to show progress towards construction of the reservoir, then the designation of being a unique reservoir site would go away.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is there is a definition of expenditures necessary?
MS. LOEFFLER: There was discussion about it at the Capitol. There was not anything put in the Water Code that we're aware of. I can remember there being some discussions and hearings that that could be filing, paying an application fee for filing, for a water right at TCEQ or something of that nature.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay.
MS. LOEFFLER: And then, the last part of Senate Bill 3 is Article XII, having to do with the Edwards Aquifer. This was also another fairly controversial part of the bill. What Senate Bill 3 Article XII sets forth is a process that is being called a Recovery Implementation Program, a RIP for short. It has requirements there for the Edwards Aquifer Authority along with a number of interested stakeholders including Parks and Wildlife to develop this Recovery Implementation Program for threatened and endangered species associated with the Edwards Aquifer.
Fish and Wildlife Service also has a RIP process, a type of process that they do in other parts of the country, and they're interested in doing this here in the Edwards region. It is a voluntary inclusive process so any interested stakeholders are part of the process to do the same kind of thing. We've had a little bit of a challenge. Colette has really been on the front lines of this one, of trying to marry to the Senate Bill 3 definition that spells out who the members are with the Fish and Wildlife Service's voluntary, inclusive ‑‑ everybody who wants a seat at the table gets a seat at the table, kind of bring all that together. I think we're getting there, but Senate Bill 3 lays out a 21-member steering committee. So we'll have at least 21 members doing this.
Parks and Wildlife is also required to name a recreational interest in the Guadalupe Basin, which you all did at the last Commission meeting. Now, we are working on, the steering committee is appointing a 15-member science committee. There are I think it's six Parks and Wildlife staff members who have been nominated to be on that science committee. That is required to be done by the end of this calendar year.
The heart and soul of Article XII, there are kind of two things at play here. One was that Article XII raises the pumping cap on the Edwards Aquifer. For those of you who have followed along with the issues in the Edwards region over the years, it's all about aquifer levels, spring flows, protection of those ecosystems. And so, the pumping cap for the Edwards has been raised from 450,000-acre feet to 572,000-acre feet.
Hand in hand with that though is this requirement for the stakeholders, Edwards Aquifer Authority, Parks and Wildlife and others, to work together and jointly prepare what's called a program document. This program document will need to have recommendations in it for how to adjust pumping limits over time to ensure that protection of the springs and the threatened and endangered species associated with the springs, that that protection is there. So it's, I think, a pretty tall order. This is something that's been attempted over the years, at least the last 20 years or so. In a way, this is the next iteration of that challenge.
So, with that, that's a very quick overview of water legislation. I'd be happy to take any questions.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Is there any comment?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Question.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Please.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: What is the little guy in white?
MS. LOEFFLER: That is a San Marcos blind salamander.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Cindy, you might explain what that little creature and a few others created.
MS. LOEFFLER: Well ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: How much time do we have?
MS. LOEFFLER: You know, I kind of characterize this Edwards issue as being ‑‑ you know, I don't think this is an understatement ‑‑ one of the, if not the, most challenging natural resource issues in Texas and maybe in the United States ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MS. LOEFFLER: ‑‑ in terms of looking at the number of threatened and endangered species that are there in the springs and the aquifer, looking at the water requirements of an area like San Antonio and Bexar County. You know, up until very recently the Edwards Aquifer was the sole source of water for San Antonio. And so, when you kind of put those two things together and then what the RIP envisions is also looking at not just the ecosystems at the spring, but at the river, the Guadalupe River, San Marcos River, all the way down to San Antonio Bay at the coast, trying to manage and protect all of those ecosystems. This is a pretty big deal in terms of trying to bring all these interests to the table and come up with a solution that everybody can live with, maybe not be happy with but can live with, and most importantly that the endangered critters can survive.
MR. COOK: Commissioners, the good thing is that we're talking about it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, you've got to start somewhere.
MR. COOK: You know that Texas is working on it, and that we are involved, and that we have people like Cindy and Colette, Phil and his crew, the rivers team that we have, Doc and his guys on the coast. We've got really good science. We've got people who understand that water for people, water for industry, water for agriculture, water for fish and wildlife is important. We're so far ahead of many ‑‑ as Doc alluded to earlier today ‑‑ we're so far ahead of most of the other states, not all but most of the other states, and we've got a long way to go.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MR. COOK: It is complex. It is difficult. I encourage you all to get involved and stay involved.
MS. LOEFFLER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any further discussion?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: All right. We'll move on. Thank you for all that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. This is a big one.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: You did a really good job.
All right. Committee Item Number 3, Land Transfer, Calhoun County, Corky Kuhlmann.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good afternoon. For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann in the Land Conservation Program. This is an item we saw last meeting. It is a land transfer in Calhoun County. It's a boat ramp just south of Seadrift in San Antonio Bay. We have already donated 5.1 acres to the county in 2004. There's a remaining 4.6 they've asked us to transfer. They already have built bulkheads, picnic tables, and landscaped the 4.6 acres and they would just like us to transfer it.
The transfer will happen with reversion clause in the deed and a clause that says it can only be used for public use as a boat ramp. So this is the motion you'll see before you tomorrow.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you, Corky. Is there any discussion, any questions, by the Commission?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Item Number 4, Land Donation in El Paso County. Once again, Corky.
MR. KUHLMANN: This is a land donation in El Paso County. Again, this is the second viewing of this item. You saw it last session. I left this slide in to show the building and developments going on around Franklin Mountains State Park. The tract that's going to be donated is on the southern tip where most of the development is going on around the park. It is approximately 150 foot wide by 18,000 foot long, a right of way that the power company owns that they wish to donate. This donation amounts to about 62.7 acres and the electric company will keep a standard utility easement on the property after the donation. This is the motion you will see before you tomorrow.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any discussion or questions?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: All right. Hearing none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Committee Item Number 5, Utility Easement in Brown County.
MR. KUHLMANN: Again, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This is a new WMA in Brown County. We have been approached by a company who got a grant for a rural water development in the area of the Muse. They would like to put a two-inch water line 10 foot inside the property fence line, which is a little unusual. Usually, they run them in the bar ditch. In this case, as you can see from this photo here, there's no room between the edge of the road and the fence. This is an actual picture of the site. So we've had our biologist look at it. There will not be a negative impact to the area to place it inside the fence. In exchange for the easement, they are offering all landowners whose property they go across a meter hookup to the public water supply. This is the item you'll see before you tomorrow, the motion you'll see before you tomorrow.
VOICE: That's a two-inch line?
MR. KUHLMANN: A two-inch line, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any further questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Committee Item Number 6, Land Donation in Van Zandt County.
MR. KUHLMANN: For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann. This is an item that I presented to you back in May '07. This was presented in '07. In speaking with the landowner, he had consistently talked about donating a right-of-way easement to Parks and Wildlife for park use. The easement, as you can see, is the only access to the northern part of the park. I got to talking to him about the deal. His intention was to donate the two acres, not an easement. So you had given permission for an easement donation and now we're coming back to you say, Would we accept the two-acre donation. This is the motion that you will see before you tomorrow.
MR. COOK: In other words, as opposed to just an easement, he's donating the two acres to us?
MR. KUHLMANN: He's going to donate the land to us.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you, Corky.
Committee Item Number 7, Land Exchange, Presidio County, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Mr. Chairman, Commissions, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to Big Bend Ranch State Park. This is part of an ongoing effort to eliminate barriers to public use, to eliminate inholdings, improve access to the park. Big Bend Ranch is a very important part of a larger landscape scale, a regional scale, a conservation and recreation effort going on in West Texas.
In this illustration, you can see the small inholdings in blue. I say, small, they average about 500 acres. We've been working with this landowner for several years now and have worked out a deal whereby the small inholdings would be transferred to Texas Parks and Wildlife. We would transfer acreage to the landowner allowing him to consolidate his holdings into a single holding shown with a black line around it. That area is carefully located to be out of all of the areas planned for public use and public access.
The landowner would receive about 850 acres from Texas Parks and Wildlife. We would be receiving about 2,667 acres from the landowner, including several miscellaneous inholdings. The one section he does want to keep, which is on the river, we would receive a
10-year renewable public recreation easement across.
There is an appraisal of those tracts underway. We expect there to be a small difference and we anticipate that monies will be donated to pay the landowner the difference in those values. This is the first hearing of this item. At this hearing, we're requesting permission to consummate a contract based on those terms, to solicit public notice and public comment, and come back to you at some point in the future with a recommendation. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I will ask staff to begin the public notice and input process.
Committee Item Number 8, Land Sale in Palo Pinto County. Once again, Ted.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. The Lake Mineral Wells Trailway is a long and narrow strip of land. It was a railroad bed at one time. When we bought the property, it came with a few odd tracts of land that really have no use. In fact, they're more of a liability than an asset for the trailway. Two of those are shown in red. They are in the city of Mineral Wells. The adjacent landowner for both of these tracts is interested in buying those at fair market value. Staff recommends that we sell those at fair market value. This is a first reading. Staff requests permission again to publish that, solicit public comment, in this case conduct a local public meeting, and then return to the Commission once that has been concluded. I'd be happy to entertain any questions.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing no questions or comments, I will ask staff to begin the public notice and input process.
Committee Item Number 9, Land Acquisition in Grimes County. Once again Ted.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is still Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is the second reading of this particular item. Fanthorp Inn, a state historic site, is a very significant historic site. The original structure was built in the 1830s, added onto in the 1840s. The history is well documented. The site is located in Anderson and it is a very small site, currently 1.4 acres, which limits the types of public programming that can take place. Also, much of the archaeological record is contained on the adjacent tract. The tract shown in red is for sale. We have a contract on that property at appraised value. This is the second reading. Staff recommends that we proceed to close and acquire that tract. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.
The acquisition would increase the size of the site to six acres which would make it much more amenable for living history programming and other type of programming we are currently unable to do. It would incorporate much more of the archaeological records associated with the site. This is one we've been trying to acquire for 20 years now. The original owner has passed away and his daughter is a willing seller.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions or comments on this?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you, Ted.
Moving on, the next item is Committee Item Number 11 which was dealt with in the Executive Session regarding conservation easement in Bastrop County. I'll ask staff to begin the public notice and input process.
Regarding Committee Item Number 12, Access Issues at Big Bend Ranch State Park, no further action is required.
Regarding Committee Item Number 13, Possible Land Donation in Palo Pinto County, once again, no further action is required.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Did you have an Item Number 10, sir?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Yes, actually ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I'm very sorry. Item Number 10, excuse me.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Item Number 10 pertains to a request for an irrigation easement in the Anacua Unit of Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area. This is just a little upstream from Brownsville and in extreme south Texas. In this case, the local irrigation district has been transferring water to adjacent property owners through an irrigation canal for at least the last six decades. They're looking to improve the efficiency in water delivery by bringing water through a 15-inch irrigation pipe.
They approached us to advise that they were going to excavate the old irrigation ditch and place the pipe in the ditch. That ditch has vegetation in it that is good wildlife habitat. Staff negotiated with the irrigation district and convinced them that they should run a new line across the adjacent pasture and leave the old irrigation ditch intact and not disturb it. So they're going to abandon their easement on the old irrigation ditch in exchange for new easement to construct that 15-inch irrigation pipeline.
It is in the best interest of the habitat at the site. Staff recommends that we exchange those easements per the motion you will see tomorrow. I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment. Ted, I do apologize for shortchanging you.
Ann, do I need to re-read that?
MS. BRIGHT: No.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Moving on then, Committee Item Number 13, Possible Land Donation in Palo Pinto County. No further action is required.
Regarding Committee Item Number 14, Executive Director Search, efforts to fill the Executive Director position are still in progress. Therefore, Item Number 2 on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda is withdrawn.
If there is no further business to be brought before this committee, I will hand it back over.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Do you want to go to Regulations Committee next, Chairman Holt? I have something to do.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Very well.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Adjourned?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, the Conservation Committee has completed its business. We'll move on to the Regulations Committee.
(Whereupon, at 3:00 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 7, 2007
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 38, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731