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TPW Commission

Work Session, November 7, 2012

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

NOVEMBER 7, 2012

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

WORK SESSION

REPORTED BY: PAIGE SLOAN WATTS

PROCEEDINGS

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right, let's get started. Good morning everybody. This meeting is called to order November 7th, 2012, at -- I can't see it, what is that -- 9:12 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe, Mr. Smith, you have a statement to make.

MR. SMITH: I do, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agendas has been filed in the Office of Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Okay, I'm now going to call the work session to order and a quick little description of what we're doing. Just to remind everyone, we're getting away from our traditional Committee structure a little bit and working toward functional strategic areas that, you know, we're sweeping and reporting on and so it's a little bit of a different format and this is -- had a little bit of this at the last meeting, but this will be our first full work session. So we'll go ahead and get started in calling the work session to order.

First order of business is approval of minutes from the previous Committee meeting held August 29th, 2012, which have already been distributed. Motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: So moved.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Hixon. Second Commissioner Falcon. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Okay. Hearing none, motion carries.

Okay. Before we proceed, I want to mention that Work Session Item No. 20, Acceptance of land donation, El Paso County, 600 acres as an addition to Franklin Mountain State Park has been withdrawn from the agenda at this time.

And our -- we'll move to our Committee Item No. 1, Update on the progress of implementing the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, Mr. Carter Smith.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: You're going to be moving around a little bit I guess, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Temporarily. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. Just for the record, my name is Carter Smith and I want to do a couple of things this morning. First, just provide a update on a -- short update on a couple of reports that I want to share with you; and then secondly, provide an update on some of the key initiatives related to the implementation of the Land and Water Plan, the strategic plan.

And so just as a point of departure, let me share a few words on the Internal Affairs front. Over the last month, we've had two very high profile incidents involving law enforcement officers across the state in which our Internal Affairs team is involved and I just wanted to give you a quick update on that front.

Certainly as the Chairman and Vice-Chairman and others of you or some of you are aware, we had an incident in East Texas in Upshur County in which one of our game wardens was disarmed at gunpoint. He had been ambushed while he was on patrol. Really thanks to his very quick thinking, he was able to extricate himself from a very, very dangerous situation and helped to defuse a very tense situation, allow for law enforcement to be able to get there and resolve that situation safely. The individuals that were involved were arrested and have been charged and that case is under investigation by the Texas Rangers and our Internal Affairs team.

Also, as I think all of you are aware, in the last couple of weeks there was an incident down in Hidalgo County in which our officers along with DPS troopers were involved in a chase of a vehicle that resulted in an officer involved shooting involving a trooper with DPS. Again, very proud of how our officers handled that situation. That case, too, is still ongoing, under investigation by the Internal Affairs team and the Texas Rangers and then last week the Colonel at DPS requested that the FBI conduct their own investigation of how that situation was handled. But again two very, very significant issues that transpired in the last month and our Internal Affairs team have handled those very well with respect to supporting our officers there.

Yeah, Commissioner Falcon.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Please.

COMMISSIONER FALCON: Can I stop for one second? I assume this is on. Yes, I would like to address that just from a personal perspective.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Please.

COMMISSIONER FALCON: Having -- or being down from the border in the area where this particular incident happened with the -- with the shooting. First of all, I commend the Department and the officers involved for their professionalism and the way they handled this. Also want to thank Internal Affairs for the support that they gave those officers. Those are very traumatic events that involve an enormous amount of anxiety and having the Department support the officers I think was just a heartwarming event for me when they told me how supportive the Department had been with them during the process of investigating this particular event.

And this is also reminder I think for all of us, for the Commission and for those of you out in the audience that our law enforcement officers that work along the border just deal with a different type of law enforcement and I think it's critical to understand that it's a terrible, horrible dark world out there that we're dealing with. I just finished a term as the foreman of the grand jury down there and am appalled at the amount of violence and the type of violence that occurs.

In this particular instance, I know that there's some questions about what do our game wardens do. In this particular incident, they weren't doing anything. The crime walked right up to them, and so you never know what's going to happen. You don't know if it's sex trafficking, drug trafficking, illegals, weapons, I mean cash. And I think we just need to be extra sensitive to the fact that the border is just a different world and our law enforcement officers are going to be exposed to things that we probably normally would not see in the rest of the state and see it differently.

And I just want to express my strong support for our Law Enforcement division and especially those that work down there and I think we're very, very lucky to have a group of wardens that work the border there. Just very professional, very well-trained, and very, very capable of doing what they're doing and doing it in a way that makes this Department very, very proud. Thank you, sir.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Thank you, Commissioner. Appreciate those words of support. Mr. Vice-Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Can you tell us what the status of the East Texas criminal -- or have there been criminal proceedings initiated against the people that took our warden hostage? I would just like -- if you could give us an update on that.

MR. SMITH: Sure. And I'm happy to provide more details later, but there have been charges filed with respect to aggravated assault of a peace officer and so the District Attorney is handling that and -- but still under investigation, and so maybe we could talk a little later about some of the details of that front.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. I was just -- that is ongoing?

MR. SMITH: It is, yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: You bet. Thank you, Commissioners. Last thing on Internal Affairs I just want to share with you. You know, Grahame Jones has been part of our Internal Affairs team for nine years and for the last seven, he's been the Major in charge of Internal Affairs. There's no more consummate professional or leader than in Grahame. He's really served the Agency extraordinarily well leading that very high performing team of Internal Affairs officers.

Grahame recently received a promotion in his move to Chief of Special Operations in Law Enforcement in which he's going to be overseeing the special operations, environmental crimes, all of the Assistant Chiefs relating to Fisheries and Wildlife related functions here out of the Austin headquarters and so we're awfully, awfully proud of Grahame for his leadership and proud of him for his promotion.

What that also means is that we have asked Joe Carter in the back to serve as our acting Director of Internal Affairs and so Joe is handling that situation very, very well, that transition. And, Commissioner, thanks for your words about his support and Captain Davis' support for our wardens down in South Texas. Really proud of how they supported our team during that incident.

We are finalizing the job description for the new Director of Internal Affairs position. We expect a good applicant pool for that. We're going to keep that position open to internal candidates only. We think we've got a great qualified pool of officers inside the Agency for that and so we'll certainly keep you posted as that progresses.

Mr. Chairman, you mentioned that I was going to be moving around a bit and I'm going to hold you to it. I forgot something here -- yeah, no, this is good. I'll get my exercise this morning, so. The other quick report I want to share and this is an annual report that the Project Management Office puts together with Ross Melinchuk and then Clayton and Gary and Ross and it provides really a summary of the annual Fish and Wildlife stocking activities around the state and it's really a great summary of some of the important work that our Fisheries biologists and Wildlife biologists do around the state, just to make sure that we've got ample and robust populations of fish and game across Texas.

The report is -- provides again a good summation of what's transpired around the state. Particularly on the fish stocking. You know, as a reminder, we've got eight fish hatcheries, three freshwater, five saltwater hatcheries. They're there to help augment the natural recruitment and help improve the quality of both the fisheries and the fishing opportunities around the state. As you'll see, our Coastal Hatchery team, you know, stocked over 21 million fingerlings around the state. Mostly redfish and trout. They continue to do pioneering work on the propagation of southern flounder there at Sea Center. We really don't have all of the facilities and infrastructure or capacity to really amplify that work; but again, they're cutting a lot of new ground there and we're proud of that effort.

I think probably the key thing on the freshwater fisheries side that, if Gary were here, would probably highlight, you know, the two species that we focus most on with respect to stocking, obviously largemouth bass but also striped bass. We had a paucity of brood stock in striped bass last year for a number of reasons. You know, one obviously low water flows in many of the rivers. Difficult conditions to try to capture brood fish. Also, our principal hatchery that we really had dedicated to propagation of stripers, Dundee up near Electra which gets its water from Lake Kemp, y'all may recall that we essentially had to suspend operations there because of the drought. So you'll see our striper numbers down considerably in that report.

Gary and his team, Todd Engeling, are working on a plan to if we're not able to increase production is just shift some from production next year away from largemouth bass to stripers to remedy that. So I wanted to highlight that.

Lastly on the wildlife front, the principal stocking effort last year involved the translocation of bighorn sheep from private lands there in the Baylor and Beach Mountains to Big Bend Ranch State Park and so that was the second year that we stocked bighorns there in the Bofecillos Mountains at Big Bend Ranch State Park. We've learned a lot from that effort. You know, the sheep are moving back and forth between Mexico and the United States and so that's been important for us to be able to track their progress there. The sheep also are moving on and off the park onto private lands. We are seeing a fair amount of mountain lion predation down there, which is not unexpected given that part of the state.

We will be proceeding in December with another sheep stocking effort, this time on private lands on a ranch in southern Brewster County and so we're excited about that development. And then also sometime this winter our Wildlife biologists are looking at another potential translocation of pronghorn from up in the Panhandle over the Trans-Pecos, where as all of you know we've had some significant issues with our populations there.

So please take a look at that. That report provides a nice summary of the work of our Fisheries and Wildlife biologists for part of the work they do. As y'all know, they do a whole lot more; but this really an important element of their efforts and if you've got any questions, please talk to Ross and Clayton and Gary and Robin.

Always nice to celebrate the work of one of our colleagues. In this case, Mark Lockwood, who's the Regional Natural Resource Specialist for State Parks out in Fort Davis. Not a bad gig working out there in West Texas. Mark is a very, very accomplished ornithologist. He was recently honored with what many perceive to be the most prestigious award for an ornithologist or a field ornithologist with the Ludlow Griscom Award from the American Birding Association. So we're awfully proud of Mark. Mark has written a number of books about Texas birds and so occasionally, you'll pick one up at the bookstore like this one and see Mark Lockwood on there and so he's really contributed a lot to the field of ornithology and awfully proud of him. And so he's not here to recognize him personally, so we'll do it in absentia; but just nice to celebrate that.

I think all of you are familiar with our Rigs-to-Reef Program. This has been a very important program out in the Gulf of Mexico in which, you know, we work with the oil and gas industry to transition rigs that are no longer producing and when they're being decommissioned, essentially transition them into an artificial reef to provide habitat for marine organisms. Following the Deep Water Horizon incident, the Department of Interior through the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Agency put in place a new policy that required all oil and gas rigs that were no longer producing to be immediately plugged and then moved or decommissioned completely within five years.

So a lot of consternation about that among marine biologists, conservation community, and the fishing community because of the value of those artificial structures to marine organisms and so a lot of feedback that has been given to the Department of Interior over the last year and a half or so. One new change that they put in place was that if we had an approved planning zone, that we could then reef those rigs that were no longer producing in those areas.

This shows two planning zones that we recently got approval on. There's 62 potential reefing platforms in that area. Encompasses a little over 600,000 acres. So we're pleased with this step forward; but this is an issue having to do again with that Idle Iron policy that many of you are familiar with, and so we'll keep you posted on that front.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Carter.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Who had to approve these?

MR. SMITH: The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Agency. It's a new entity. It's the former -- I forget the agency that previously existed under -- Minerals Management Service, yeah. This is the old Minerals Management Service and there was a reorganization within Interior.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But this is in State water?

MR. SMITH: This is -- this is out of State waters. This is in gulf waters.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Never mind.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I thought it was in the state.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yep.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So these planning zones are inside of...

MR. SMITH: No. These are --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Outside.

MR. SMITH: -- outside. These are -- it says here right about 16 to 30 miles offshore of Corpus Christi. But there's a number of states that have Rigs-to-Reef programs that have worked in partnership with the Federal government and industry. Really all of the Gulf states have them. We're one of them. We've been doing it since the mid 90s I think, Robin, and have been very, very successful with those relationships with industry and have created a lot of valuable habitat over time. So we're very, very concerned about losing this tool.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes. But they're approving the planning zones or the specific platforms or both?

MR. SMITH: They're approving those planning zones and so within those planning zones --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yeah, I've seen --

MR. SMITH: -- any rig that gets decommissioned then is potentially eligible for --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Eligible.

MR. SMITH: -- a rig-to-reef conversion. And I think we're estimating 62 potential reefing platforms in those two areas; so -- yep.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah, before the rigs get decommissioned, they're already a natural -- act as a natural reef. So I think as an agency, we ought to do everything we can to try to keep the rigs where they are. Of course, they need to be plugged and need to be safe and last -- you know, kind of the last circumstance would be to turn it into a reef because they're already reefs right now. They're acting as reefs. There's a tremendous amount of fish life. So me personally, I would like to see -- I know we -- there's only a certain amount we can do, but at least encourage them to leave the rigs in place as long as we can.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I agree. Traditionally, the way that's dealt with is, again, sometimes we'll lay them down on the bottom or take off the top part of the reef and leave those kind of jacket-and-pile structure there, Commissioner. Occasionally, they're towed and moved to another place. But you're right. Organisms affix themselves to those legs as soon as they're placed in the water and they start acting as a reef immediately.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I've dove the rigs several times in the Gulf of Mexico and there are -- every 15 feet or so you have a different ecosystem and it's pretty incredible and the amount of fish life in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly Texas, has to be somewhat attributed to all the production platforms that are out in the Gulf. So again, I think it's -- the longer we can leave them up, the better off the fish habitat is.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely, yep.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are they marked in any way so we know where they are?

MR. SMITH: Sure, yeah. Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And is that known to --

MR. SMITH: Anglers and divers, yes. Yep, yep. Provide great recreational opportunities in that front. Yeah, red snapper and a bunch of other species.

Share a few words about the Outdoor Family Program, which all of you are familiar with. I think it's important to recognize kind of what our goals are in State Parks and really arguably for the Agency with respect to getting more youth outdoors, getting more families outdoors, and really expanding the diversity, families that are using our state parks. And so those three goals are really driving our outreach programs in state parks and the Outdoor Family Program, again, has been at the cutting edge of it.

And so these just show the metrics for FY 12 in which you see we vastly exceeded or our team vastly exceeded the number of families that we projected to get out there and we're well on track for meeting the goal for '13. And again as you can see, also pleased with the percentage of minority families that are coming out and participating in the program. Being able to create mentor relationships and entire families that are going out and using the state parks or really participating in any of our recreational activities is much more likely to make that recreational activity sustainable over time and so Chris Holmes and his team here are really doing a great job.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are we -- do we have in our budget proposals, requests for additional funding for this? I know it was cut in the last biennium.

MR. SMITH: Well, actually we didn't cut it last biennium. And so that was a program that we made sure that we didn't cut. It was proposed.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Not cut.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, but we kept that program whole and so that was -- we had gotten strong feedback from the Commission about the significance of that and had made sure that that program was largely insulated from budget cuts.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How about in the current...

MR. SMITH: In the current proposal, we do not have a proposal for additional funding for that program, assuming we have some flexible dollars that we're able to utilize in state parks and certainly that would be an area that we'd look at. I'll talk in a minute about really some of the salient issues we're facing on state park funding that are serious that we're going to need to focus on.

COMMISSIONER JONES: It's not out of the budget?

MR. SMITH: No, no, no, no. Of course not. Yeah. No, no, it's still there.

COMMISSIONER JONES: You just didn't ask for an increase.

MR. SMITH: That's right. That's right, yeah, yeah. Our Infrastructure team really had a banner year last fiscal year. You know, they completed upwards of 87, 88 major capital improvement in repair projects and spent a little over $40 million investing in facilities on state parks and wildlife management areas and fish hatcheries and so really a wonderful portfolio of things that they worked on last year and are obviously working on going forward.

This just highlights a couple of them that I hope at some point y'all have a chance to go see. I know Commissioner Morian has seen the John Jacob observation tower there at Sheldon Lake, which is just an extraordinary facility and really gives you a great bird's eye view of that park and named also after just a remarkable, remarkable individual who's just done a lot for the state and the nation.

In addition, the renovation of the old CCC cabins at Garner State Park. Y'all know what a flagship park that is and our Infrastructure team just took great pains to go back in and reconstruct and refurbish those with kind of period appropriate refurbishment for all the furniture, etcetera, and they really look great. And then up at Palo Duro Canyon, the new Mack Dick Pavilion on the lower right-hand side here which is down in the bottom of the canyon looking up over at Fortress Cliffs. Just a masterful piece of architecture and infrastructure work with native masonry modeled after the old CCC buildings and I want to encourage y'all to get out and see them. Really proud of the work that our Infrastructure team did not only on those projects, but also all of the things that nobody sees behind the scenes -- water and wastewater, roads, utilities -- the things that really make our parks and hatcheries and WMAs run. So a good year for them.

One of the more interesting collaborations that a lot of our biologists and legal staff have worked on over the last year is a collaboration with the Brazos River Authority. Colette Bradsby from our Legal team has been our lead on that working with really a gaggle of biologists. BRA is pursuing through TCEQ the -- what I think is the first one in Texas, a systemwide operation's permit which allows them really to look across the entirety of the basin with respect to how they manage water resources for all of the various commercial and agricultural, industrial, and environmental uses and so it's a very strategic look across the basin. Obviously, there are important implications with that with respect to instream and environmental flows and also reservoir levels.

And so one element of that work and BRA's pursuit of that permit from TCEQ involved developing a Water Management Plan with a bunch of stakeholders, including the Department. And one element involved our Inland Fisheries biologists projecting different reservoir levels based on different water management strategies and how that would impact recreational opportunities, but also fisheries habitat. And so they provided some good insight and input into that plan that ultimately will go to TCEQ for consideration and approval; but a really, really strong partnership there and appreciate the work of our team on that front.

This slide, just a reminder, we're by no means out of the drought. Don't let the green sheen fool you. And, you know, this is a fairly common phenomena around Texas now still in many of our lakes with very dry and exposed boat ramps. So we're still very, very concerned about the state of our water resources in the -- in Texas.

Also, just I wanted to give you a quick update on the 58th game warden cadet class which will start in January. Again, we had an extraordinary applicant pool to choose from and wanted to highlight in particular kind of the composition of this class. I think as all of you know, our Law Enforcement team has been working very diligently on diversity related issues and this is a snapshot of what that class will look like with respect to the 27 cadets that will start in January, all of whom are imminently, imminently qualified to become game wardens and we certainly hope that they make it through the seven-month academy. We've got fifteen Anglos, nine Hispanics, two African-Americans, and there's one Asian female; and so we look forward to that group of cadets making it through all their required testing and starting the Academy in January and so we'll keep you posted on that front.

COMMISSIONER JONES: You might want to check on the instructors there. They're not doing that plan right.

MR. SMITH: Duly noted. We'll have Craig Hunter maybe demonstrate. Colonel Hunter, if you can...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You said you were concerned -- or not concerned, but you hoped they would all make it through. They're guaranteed to make it through because Danny is sitting here now. Just kidding. That's levity. That's levity for the record, or an effort at levity.

MR. SMITH: Share one last word here on our Landowner Incentive Program, which has been a great landowner collaboration program with our Wildlife division providing cost-share assistance to private landowners that are doing proactive habitat work to benefit a variety of species and habitat types on private lands and tends to be focused on kind of communities of interest and habitats of special interests, species that may be kind of rare or imperiled.

Our Wildlife division recently received a grant of a million dollars over five years from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. So Linda Campbell and her team are out soliciting proposals from private landowners around the state as we implement this round of LIP grants and so excited about that development.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's all federal, right?

MR. SMITH: That's all -- those were all federal funds, yep.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Administer it, okay.

MR. SMITH: So with that, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my report on the Land and Water Plan and happy to answer any questions on that front.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Carter on that. Thanks, Carter.

Okay. Item 2, Legislative preview and update. Back at it, Carter.

MR. SMITH: All right, let's see. Yeah, thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. Again, for the record, my name is Carter Smith. I want to give you kind of a quick preview of what we believe is ahead in the Legislative session. I think as all of you are aware, you know, this process is already well under way.

At the end of August, we submitted our Legislative appropriation's request. In September, we had our first joint budget hearing with members of the Legislative Budget Board. In October, the House Oversight Committee in Cultural and Recreation -- Recreation, Culture, and Tourism had their inaugural meeting and so the Department provided testimony at that. On Friday, there's a subset of the Appropriations Committee that's looking at general revenue dedicated accounts that will be holding a hearing and we've been asked to provide testimony on that. So a lot going on on that front already.

I want to do kind of three things this morning. One, just have a reminder again of kind what are those key fiscal issues that are facing us with respect to Department funding going into the next session and so I want to talk about those six exceptional items. I also want to talk a little bit about a couple of key budget riders that are very important to Department business. And then last but not least, highlight a few items that are likely to come up from a statutory perspective or policy perspective in the session that I want to make sure that the Commission is advertent to.

Just as a reminder again, you know, there's six major exceptional items that we had asked for in our appropriation's request, totaling $103 million. The first one, of course, is state park funding and we have a request there of a little over $18 million and this is really twofold. One, to keep the state parks open; and, secondly, to address the longstanding deterioration issues that we're facing in parks just because of a lack of funding to address critical repairs and maintenance issues. And so this pie chart breaks that out.

I guess I would ask you to focus on really two things. First, the state park operations of 11.2 million; and then secondly, that 2.4 million in salary fringe. These get at some structural budget issues that we have with respect to funding for state parks. There's a fair amount of the state park's budget that is predicated on contingent revenue and really in this session, we need to work with the Legislature on establishing a more stable and predictive source of revenue for our parks and so some significant issues there if we're going to keep all of our state parks open.

In addition -- and you'll see on that blue part of the pie chart a preventive cyclical maintenance, 4.2 million. Again, this just gets at these repair needs that have compounded over time. So a very significant ask for our state parks, but one we think is very important.

The second one has to do with capital equipment and transportation needs, and an $11.9 million exceptional item request. You know, really this is the guts of the Agency. This is the vehicles, the transportation, the weed eaters, the mowers, the boats, the trailers, all -- the computers. All of the things that we need to support really a field based operation and our various fleets of vehicles, our raft of computers are all aging by the day. You know, well over 60 percent of our computers are over 50 -- over five years in age. And over 50 percent of our vehicles are past the recommended replacement schedule. So this is a significant issue for us.

You will recall last session that our capital equipment and transportation budget was reduced by 75 percent; so we really have not had very much money to invest in making those critical replacements, and so this would be a big help for supporting the operations going forward.

The third item, capital improvements and major repairs. Again, this the important work that our Infrastructure team does across the state on parks and fish hatcheries and wildlife management areas, Law Enforcement offices. Our request is $40 million on that front, 32 million in general obligation bonds, 3 million from Fund 9 sources -- basically, license sale revenue -- and then a request of $5 million from the freshwater fish stamp, which can only be used for the production of fish and/or the construction or maintenance of our fish hatcheries. And so we've got a long litany of projects that need our attention and so certainly we're asking for this continued funding to help our infrastructure efforts across the Agency.

The fourth item has to do with really some core Fish and Wildlife related work needs that we have. We asked for $13 million as part of that exceptional item request and that's really for a variety of needs and can provide, again, more of the details on that. But, for instance, reinstating our Aquatic Invasive Species Program. We asked for a million and a half dollars, which is not nearly enough to address the myriad of issues associated with hydrilla and water hyacinth and giant salvinia and now zebra mussels, funding for Public Hunting Program, funding to help bring back biologists that are working on threatened and endangered species issues and y'all know how significant that has gotten in recent years.

We've asked for funding to help reinstate some of the licensed Buyback Program on the finfish and commercial crab licenses. There's roughly seven and a half million dollars of dedicated funds from stamp funds that we've asked for appropriation for from really all of the accounts. Probably the biggest one there is the upland game bird stamp and a particular $4 million that we've requested to help us with respect to Bobwhite quail research and management and conservation. We've also asked for some funding to help address issues with the Eastern turkeys over in eastern part of the state. A million dollars from the migratory game bird stamp to address migratory game bird needs. A million dollars from the saltwater stamp to address our biological monitoring and harvest surveys. So this is a very, very important funding request for our Fisheries and Wildlife divisions and wanted to make sure that we had a chance to highlight that again for you.

The fifth item has to do with our local park grant funding. As y'all know, other than really federal funds and some funding to be able to keep on staff to administer past grants, new state funding was eliminated last session and so we've asked for 15 and a half million dollars over the biennium. That's about half of what we have traditionally gotten over the biennium. This also includes some funding to help restore our CO-OP Program. This is a really important grant program overseen by Darlene Lewis that provides grant funding to get underserved communities and children and families from less privileged backgrounds into the out of doors and so provides important support to nonprofit partners on that front. So wanted to call your attention to this local park and CO-OP grant funding request.

And then last but not least, our capital IT request of $3.7 million; and on this graph again, you can see how that's broken out. About a million and a half of that is for continued escalating costs associated with the migration of the Department servers to the State data center. I will say I think that since there's been new management of that project, I think we've seen some improvements there with respect to the relationship of the Department; but we're still being asked to bear additional costs, and so we need to find funding for that.

In addition, we have funding requested for a variety of IT initiatives inside the Agency and also some support for our TexParks Help Desk and funding that. So we've asked for $3.7 million there.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, on the IT services, what general category does the Agency technology -- is this -- how much of this is hard costs for computer servers, whatever?

MR. SMITH: So, yeah. Good --

COMMISSIONER JONES: How much of this is technology services or technologies that you might need for upgrading whatever it is that you have?

MR. SMITH: So the hard costs for new computers and printers and so forth was in that second budget item, part of the capital equipment request. And I can get that breakout for you with respect to how much the request was for IT equipment. This --

COMMISSIONER JONES: But -- and that's what I'm asking.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I'm a little confused. That's -- that's the --

MR. SMITH: Those are the hard costs.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- hard costs you need for new computers.

MR. SMITH: Yep, yep.

COMMISSIONER JONES: This is other stuff.

MR. SMITH: That's right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So Help Desk, you know, migration and paying for cloud services where we're storing data, paying for the costs that we accrue as being a participant in the statewide data center in the storage of data in that -- those consolidated servers that are managed from DIR. So these are really service related costs.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Can we talk about -- not right now, but can we start thinking in terms of -- and maybe that's what you're doing here -- of moving away from server technology storage to cloud type storage because it's cheaper, easier, you don't have to by new equipment every time you get in, you know, a terabyte of information, you can -- it's just a better alternative for data storage.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Well, we agree wholeheartedly. And, in fact, you see a specific request here to help pay for additional hosted cloud services. Under the statewide data center agreement, you know, we are required essentially to move all of our data storage to the function that's managed by the Department of Information Resources. And so, you know, we're no longer really going to be having servers, physical servers, here at the Department. Our data will be stored somewhere else and I assume there's a move afoot there to move more of that to cloud services.

Is that -- George, do you want to elaborate on that?

MR. RIOS: For the record, my name is George Rios, Director of IT. Thank you for the question. I appreciate that. No, I think Carter is right. What you're seeing here is most of these are hosted services or you're paying for services. Even for the data center component of it, it's a service that we're paying for. And looking at cloud services, it's going to be that hosted cloud service item that we're looking at. There's a lot of initiatives that we're doing within the Agency, and what's really working well is the business areas are really looking at services that are being hosted by someone else. Some of those services we have to work with DIR to get an exemption from them in order for it not to be hosted within the data center. Some of these are other services that we're using, especially within HR. We're using some here within IT where we look for other options, and it is a cost savings in there. But from what Carter explained, House Bill 1516 requires us to run our infrastructure at the DIR data center.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: What about backup?

MR. RIOS: That's part of that component of it as well. But again, it's different with hosted services and we are looking at hosted services as an initiative, yes, as far as moving forward and trying to get the economies to scale and trying to get the costs down.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Cheaper.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

MR. RIOS: Is that it?

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Thanks, George. Appreciate that. Thank you, Commissioner. So those were -- Yeah, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Quick question on --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Help me reconcile the state park funding request of 18.9. I just -- you know, we want to be mindful that we don't get whittled down into putting other necessary repairs off. And so a couple of years ago we went through the process of identifying the state park funding requirement and that identified upkeep and maintenance and, you know, everything from, you know, tractors and physical assets to just basic repairs and, you know, basic facility repairs and clean water and things like that.

So where -- and then we sort of in the last Legislative cycle, a lot of that was put on hold frankly. Where do we stand? Where -- reconcile the 18.9 to that initial identified basic state park maintenance need that we established a couple of years ago.

MR. SMITH: So I think there's a couple of ways to look at that. You know, one is minor repairs versus major repairs.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.

MR. SMITH: And based upon the studies that the Department did in concert with an outside consultant, the consulting firm recommended at least on the major repairs we ought to be investing every year, you know, roughly 4 to 6 percent of the gross asset values of our infrastructure back in to major repairs. Conservatively, if you assume that our infrastructure is worth 800 million in state parks, which I think is a very, very low estimate, then that would necessitate somewhere on a 30 to $40 million a year investment in major repairs alone.

Our Infrastructure team working with state parks and really all of the Divisions, each year assess those needs and so track them and then there's kind of a Commission approved process by which, you know, we look at what's a priority repair that we need to make for health and safety reasons, from a regulatory perspective, from a business continuity perspective, from a mission-driven perspective, a safety perspective, and then we'll stratify and rank those and based upon the dollars that we get, then we prioritize those projects. So that's an ongoing process, Chairman.

With respect to the minor repairs that we have and in that $18.9 million request, you know, we'd asked for I think 4.2 million to deal with just some kind of minor repairs, deferred maintenance which we define are anything below 25,000. You know, there are tens of millions of dollars of those kind of repairs out there.

Brent or Rich, do you have a more specific number or Scott on that?

MR. BORUFF: For the record, my name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of Operations. The Commissioners that have been around a while may remember that six or eight years ago, we were going through an annual process of trying to identify our backlog repairs and we were consistently coming up with four to $500 million of backlog major repairs that we needed to do.

We weren't real confident in those numbers and as a part of this exercise Carter referenced earlier, which was mandated by the Legislature for us to go through the exercise, the consultant came back and said that we were not spending our time wisely recreating a $500 million list every year because the list changes so quickly. Things happen and new repairs appear that we need to get done and so they recommended basically that we do what Carter just described, which was spend $32 million a year just to keep us where we were. Not to make up the backlog.

And since that time, we have not received $32 million a year. So the assumption could easily be made that we're falling further behind that earlier four or $500 million number. The secondary issue is the minor repairs. At one time, we had $2 million a year in a minor repair budget in state parks six or eight years ago. That number has waxed and waned over the years with the budget problems. We've not consistently had that much money. And you can see in the appropriation's request item there, we have asked for some restoration of both the minor repair money and the major repairs.

I think it's safe to say even if we get the money that we're asking for, we are not going to make up a lot of ground; but it will help us from falling further into the hole.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, thank you.

MR. SMITH: Thanks, Scott. Yep, good question. Thanks, Scott. Thanks, Chairman. Any other questions on those exceptional item requests?

Okay. And that packet that we've provided has a pretty good articulation of each of those six items, as well as kind of the other key elements that we expect kind of going forward into the session. And so let me move to the second one on that -- on that front and that has to do with some of the budget rider requests that we have.

Again in your packet, it articulates a bunch of those. Those again are key riders which help us manage Agency finances and support key operations inside the Agency. I'll highlight a couple of existing riders that we would like to see changed and then some new riders that we are proposing just to give you an example of that. Rider 27, again for some of the Commissioners that have been around for a long time will remember that in its original state, and as you all know, you know, we have a certain appropriation cap that we're given each year. That's our appropriation authority. We can spend up to that cap.

And so if we earn revenue above that cap, then it's deposited in fund balances, which then can be appropriated in subsequent sessions. Rider 27, at least in its original form, would allow the Agency to adjust that appropriation cap upward if we earned revenue above and beyond the Comptroller's biennial revenue estimate. And so she provides an estimate going into the session of how much hunting and fishing license revenue, how much state park fees, how much interagency grant revenue we may have; and so this rider in its pure state would allow us again to adjust that cap upward if we generated more revenue that we earned above and beyond that cap. Then we would have the benefit of being able to use that on kind of one-time, non-recurring critical related expenses to support the mission. For example, Scott highlighted all of that minor repair and maintenance.

There's a lot of equipment related needs or habitat work and so when the rider was originally established, it was very, very valuable to helping to, one, incentivize the Agency to generate more revenue; encourage a lot of entrepreneurial spirit out there; and then Divisions were rewarded with being able to have a little bit additional funding to invest in key non-recuring needs. So that's an important one for us.

Rider 32, the TPWD volunteer services. Around here, we sort of call that jokingly the hotdog rider. You may recall by law, you can't use state funds to purchase meals for anyone. You know, we have an extraordinary corp of volunteers which give service to the Agency. In state parks alone, I think we've estimated the benefit of those volunteers as, you know, encompassing something commensurate to 230, 250 employees. So this rider last session essentially allowed us to be able to, you know, buy and cook hamburgers for volunteers that came out and worked at Bastrop State Park. And so what we would like to do is expand this budget rider or this rider so that those at other divisions could utilize that, whether it's at a fish hatchery or a wildlife management area.

There's two new riders that we have proposed for the Legislature's consideration. One is some additional bond proceed authority by project. It would just give our Infrastructure team a little bit more flexibility with respect to how they manage money from different approved revenue streams to help facilitate the completion of a project. It would eliminate a lot of bureaucracy in having to go back and forth between multiple agencies for approval for something that really has already been approved and agreed on. So we think this is just an effort to streamline good government.

Another rider I'll highlight, the last one, has to do with appropriation of oyster shell receipts. Last session, there was a bill passed in which really the oystermen and oyster community had voluntarily agreed to pay a 20-cent per sack surcharge on each sack of oysters that they harvested, have those funds go to Parks & Wildlife to invest in getting new oyster cultch material or substrate to go out and place in public oyster reefing areas to help rebuild oyster reefs. So a good partnership with industry. That was capped at $50,000.

It's impossible to do an oyster reef project for $50,000 and so this would allow us essentially to be able to use all of the funds that are collected in a year for the oyster reef restoration. So those are some examples of some of the budget rider requests that we have in the Legislative appropriation's request.

Yeah, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Just a question. How much (inaudible)?

MR. SMITH: I think last yeah, I -- was it 250,000, Robin? Was that -- do you --

MR. RIECHERS: I think we estimated about 170.

MR. SMITH: 170,000, okay. Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Robin. Any other questions on those?

Okay. Some other Legislative issues that I think are likely to come up during the session that just wanted to highlight one and you'll certainly hear this recommendation from the Coastal User Working Group, is looking at more of a statewide solution to seagrass protection as opposed to trying to accomplish that by designating specific state scientific areas like we have at Redfish Bay. Recognizing the value and criticality of seagrass as really the foundation for the health of the bays and seeing if there's any interest from the Legislature in looking at a law to protect seagrass across the entirety of the coast. So a lot of constituent interest in that, a lot of angler interest, and obviously a lot of detail to potentially be worked up; but I expect that that is an issue that may be raised in the session and so I wanted to make you aware of it.

The second one certainly is an issue that needs to raised at the session. In the session, y'all will recall the Parrie Haynes Youth Ranch that we've operated for a number of years, we terminated that lease that we had from the Juvenile Justice Department in October because really of a lack of funding; but also some changes on site which just no longer made it conducive for us to operate as a state park or state park-like facility. In the Agency's sunset legislation, we were required to work with the Office of the Attorney General and the then Texas Youth Commission, now the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, to petition the probate court to move the Parrie Haynes' trust over to the Department to be overseen by the Commission, including the assets in the trust, which the biggest one was the roughly 4,000-acre site there on the Lampasas River.

The Attorney General's Office feels like because of that existing legal mandate, we need to go back to the Legislature and get that cleaned up to reflect the new realities, which is that we have again discontinued our lease on site there.

The third item with respect to EEZ jurisdictions and this is an issue that came up in August that the Commission was pretty focused on with respect to red snapper and fishermen that were taking more than what was lawfully allowed in federal waters and then coming back into state waters, our state game wardens didn't have an established venue for prosecution for that. All of those cases in federal waters that our game wardens make through the Joint Enforcement Agreement get referred to the National Marine Fisheries Service Law Enforcement division. They have certain thresholds for what they will take forward or will not take forward for prosecution.

So for instance on red snapper, if someone has exceeded the acceptable daily bag limit by something less than 20 fish, then the feds are not going to take that forward for prosecution. So there's a lot of concern about that from the fishermen and charter boat captains and this would be a proposal that would essentially give our state game wardens a venue for prosecution in state court for some of these federal fisheries violations. So I wanted to let you know that we want to follow up on that. There was a lot of discussion from the Commission following up on the August public session.

Last one that I'll mention -- and, again, there are others that we think potentially could come up. You know, the pictographs and petroglyphs that are contained in some of our state park system are literally priceless. There's just no way that you could put a price on the value of that historic rock art that we steward. And so our State Parks team is interested in hopefully seeing the Penal Code modified to include penalties for deliberate graffiti or defacement of rock art in historic buildings, to make that a state jail felony consistent with other penalties associated with deliberate acts of acts graffiti. And so that's an issue that we just wanted to raise to you that's an important part of our mission on the cultural resources side and stewarding that.

So, Mr. Chairman, that's a -- that's kind of a quick overview of kind of those three key areas going into Legislative session. Again, those major fiscal issues, those key budget riders, and then again some of these other policy related issues that may end up coming up in the session that just wanted to make sure that y'all were aware of and that certainly we're hearing from. We have all of that summarized in your packet, and I'd be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, that was very helpful. Thanks, Carter. Any questions? Okay, appreciate it. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Item 3 is Sand and Gravel Permit Program Rules, request permission to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register.

MR. HEGER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Tom Heger. For the record, my name is Tom Heger. I'm with Inland Fisheries Division, and I administer the Sand and Gravel Permit Program. I'm here today to present proposed changes to the Sand and Gravel Rules.

Let's see. Under Chapter 86 of the Parks & Wildlife Code, the Parks & Wildlife Commission has the authority to regulate disturbance or take of sedimentary materials within navigable streams and tidewater areas of the state and with that authority comes the authority to issue permits for activities that would disturb material within these areas. Currently, the Sand and Gravel Permit Program issues two to three individual permits per year. These are permits somewhat larger, over a thousand cubic yards of material. They include commercial building operations in the lower Brazos and occasional other projects like removal of sediments from Barton Springs Pool and removal of flood deposits in Salado Creek up in Salado and projects like this.

The program also issues 20 to 25 general permits per year. These are smaller projects, less than a thousand cubic yards and typically are like bank stabilization, road maintenance, pipeline crossings, and projects like that. The Sand and Gravel rules haven't been updated since 1997 and since then, a need for some specific changes have developed. And one of those developments is a recent internal audit that made recommendations that we include provisions for penalties and interest on reports and royalties from these commercial operations.

The commercial operations are required to file monthly reports of their activities and make monthly -- excuse me -- monthly royalty payments based on the material they remove. There's also a need to address the public notice and application processes for improvements and to correct some inaccuracies within -- references internal to the rules and there's been some Legislative interest as well in the form of a letter from Representative Hilderbran, basically expressing support for improved protection for streams through a rules change process.

Therefore, the proposed changes to the Sand and Gravel rules include establishment of penalties and interest for late royalties. And these numbers are based on the oil and gas lease process or program at the General Land Office and the proposal is to include a 5 percent or $50 penalty, whichever is greater, for royalties that are 30 days late or less and 10 percent or $50, whichever is greater, for royalties that become 30 days late or more. And also interest on late royalties at 12 percent simple interest with accrual to begin 30 days after the due date.

And it's worth noting that Parks & Wildlife retains the ability to revoke permits and consider noncompliance in reviewing renewal applications and new applications. So these measures are intended as, I guess, incentives for compliance. Not an ongoing financial feature. We also propose to include $25 penalty for late reports or documents with an additional $25 fee -- or excuse me, penalty for each additional 30 days late or each additional 30-day period.

As a quick background, the current public notice requirements for individual permits include notice in the Texas Register, two newspaper notices, one which is in the newspaper of greater circulation in the county of the project and the other is in the newspaper from the community nearest to the project. There's a public comment meeting that allows public to be present and make comments in person. There's mailed notice to along shore landowners a half a mile upstream and downstream from the project area and associated with this is a 30-day public comment period that begins on the later of the Texas Register or newspaper notice dates.

And we propose to eliminate the Texas Register notice because it has not been shown to be effective at all in reaching the general public and we also propose to clarify the contents of the required newspaper notices because in the rules right now, it basically just lists the public meeting as a required element within the public notice and we propose to also include project description, location, and contact information as a requirement in the public notice. And with these changes, the public comment period would begin on the later of the two public -- excuse me, the newspaper notices.

Again, quick background. The current application requirements for individual permits, there's a standard application form. There's a requirement to submit a study evaluating the potential affects of the project on sediment, erosion, and receding waters; but this -- in the rules right now is a requirement just for individual projects -- excuse me, individual permit projects, new sites within state owned streambeds. And there's a requirement for other supplemental information as well.

We're proposing basically to require the sediment and erosion study be supplied for all new projects in all navigable streams, which is basically just a broadening of the requirement so that all individual permit applications need to have a submitted study that fall within Parks & Wildlife's jurisdiction. Proposed changes to the requirements for the general permits include changing the application fee from 250 to $500. The $500 more closely approximates the amount of staff time and resources needed to review permit applications.

We also propose to require date of birth, driver's license, and Social Security number in order to facilitate doing the background checks that are required. Because currently the rules list a variety of information that needs to be provided with this application, and these items are not on that list. We propose to increase the application review time from 30 to 45 days because currently the rule calls for a 30-day review period and a 30-day comment period; so we propose in order to better incorporate those public comments into the review, to extend the review period by 15 days.

We also propose to change the required best management practices that are in the rules for general permits. These are conservation measures basically that have to be implemented by general permit projects and we propose to add a requirement that these projects pass through low flows in the stream through the project area when they're being implemented.

And finally, just some basically clean up changes. A couple of incorrect references from an agency whose name has changed. The 69.101 reference is to the list of best management practices in the rule. They're actually in .118, so we need to change that reference. And basically just to use justiciable interest regarding contested cases to more appropriately reflect that these are interests that can be resolved in some way in a legal context.

So those are basically the proposed changes. So staff would like to request approval to publish these changes in the Texas Register. Thank you very much, and I'll entertain any questions you have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it. Any questions? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Tom, I met -- I don't know whether Bob and you have had a chance to visit, but I met with Bob this morning because I think that we ought to slow down on a portion of these proposed changes. Let me take the easy part first.

The new provisions that are at page 29 of our notebook on penalties and interest. Because the audit has recommended or maybe even required that we add those, I suggest that we go ahead and move forward with those. Although I do question whether a $25 penalty is going to get anybody's attention for a late report. I wonder if whether that shouldn't be more like $100. Throw that out for consideration.

Anyway, I suggest that the highlighted language that begins on page 29 under 69.121(a)3, we move forward with publication on that; but I request that we hold off on the remainder of the proposed changes because I think we can clean up this language. There are inconsistencies. Some places we use sedimentary material. Other places we actually define it as sand, marl, gravel, instead of using sedimentary materials. In looking at the book, just a few comments if you want to start on page 22. Under 69.102, we say that an application is administratively complete when all information required. Required, I would say by these rules. And I know some of this may come across as wordsmithing, but I think we could be a lot more specific.

When you come over to page 23, one of the changes that staff has recommended is that you allow any request by a property owner. Any request, an oral request could be sufficient to get the notice. I think that's opening yourself up for complaints by people that say "I called in and requested it and didn't get it" and then try to slow up the process. I don't know why we couldn't say -- leave that either as a written request and say it could be by e-mail, but I think you're getting -- inviting problems from people to say "I called. I don't know who I talked to, but I asked for it." You're going to slow this down because of it.

The posting, you talk about posting in the two different newspapers. Consistent with our desire to push more business to our website, I think we should look at requiring these to be posted on the website. I just think it's something we ought to start looking at doing is sending more of our business to the website. That's on page 23.

MR. SWEENEY: Commissioner, we --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Under -- on page 24 under 69.107(a), we talk about how to initiate a contested case through a written request. I think the written request ought to have to specify the basis for the opposition. But perhaps my -- I'll come back to that. On page 25 under C, we -- you -- staff proposes using navigable stream instead of state owned streambed. Well, navigable stream, as I said as Bob and I talked about, is defined differently under Texas law than it is under Federal law. So I think make sure if we're going to switch to navigable stream, we ought to say as defined by Texas law so we're not running into the feds here.

And then over on page 29, this is I think the most significant issue I have is the exemptions. In 69.120, we list as one, two, and three the exemptions that are in the statute in Section 86.021 of the Code; but we leave out what's in the statute as item one, which exempts projects resulting in insignificant takings or disturbances of marl, sand, gravel, shell or mudshell. Again, if it's in the statute, it ought to be in our regulations that that's an exemption and I think the reason that we don't -- I don't think we should try to regulate landowners who are insignificantly disturbing streambeds when they're periodically removing silt and debris.

And I went back and found in November 2006, there was a pretty good discussion by the Commission with Bob and others at the time where this was -- this was discussed at length in trying not to -- trying to make these general permits not something -- something that's not difficult to obtain and that shouldn't be difficult to obtain. But my biggest point is I really think we ought to add what's in the statute as B1 to the regulation of 69.120 and that would be one and you renumber one, two, and three, which are two, three, and four in the statute because they're -- they're practically the exact language of the statute except we've left that one out.

So to give you and Bob and Ann, if necessary, time to tweak this, I would like to suggest we push this off to the next meeting, the publication of that segment of the rule changes.

MR. SMITH: So, Mr. Vice-Chairman, are you suggesting that we'll put off really kind of the main body of that; but that portion of these proposed rules beginning on page 29 really dealing with the penalties and royalties, that we go ahead and publish those proposed changes now for potential action by the Commission in January and then we work with you and others on these other issues between now and the next Commission meeting?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's what I'm proposing for the rest of the Commission to support or say no, but I think we should make some adjustments. This -- Bob -- as I say, Bob and I visited. I think he agrees we can improve it. He inherited it. Ann inherited it, these regulations. And I just think we need to be very careful before we -- if we're going to look at these, let's do it -- get it right once and not --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- have to do it a number of times. But, yes, in short I say let's go forward with the penalty and interest changes and then work on the others between now and January.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Reviewing it and coming back to the Commission. Ann.

MS. BRIGHT: For the record, I'm Ann Bright, general counsel. And if I could just make a minor comment on the timing of this. We can move forward with these rules for adoption, just the penalty and interest portion for adoption in January. However, based on sort of the rules of the Texas Register, it would have to be probably March or May before we would come back with the second batch of rules. I just wanted to make sure the timing was okay with you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's fine with me. I just -- I just would like to suggest we get it right once, and I think Bob can -- he's really good, and he knows this. He's obviously worked with it a long time, if we can make the language consistent. Like I say, we talk about marl, sand, gravel, shell, mudshell one place and then sedimentary materials another. Those are picky little changes, but I definitely think we ought to make sure we're not trying to regulate or make it hard to get a permit for these insignificant disturbances. And I fully appreciate Representative Hilderbran's concern, but that's not what I think we -- I think we're too inconsistent, two different things rather.

MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely. We can definitely take care of that.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Everyone comfortable with that?

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's fine. I do have a question about just a couple of the areas. On page 17 where it refers to -- and it refers to it in a couple of other places as well, and I'll ask about that in conjunction with this question -- gathering of the Social Security numbers, Texas driver's license, date of birth, etcetera, as part of the application process. Do -- I have two questions. One, are most of the applicants individuals that are attempting to do something in a streambed or navigable waters or are most of the entities entities?

MR. HEGER: I would say it's pretty mixed, but there's a large number that are small contractors who are getting a permit to do work for an individual. But a lot of them are small business.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So --

MR. HEGER: So I guess they're entities. Not an individual.

MS. BRIGHT: So your question is whether it's a company as opposed to an individual?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Exactly. I guess what I'm asking is what -- you will not be able to capture what you're trying to capture with the Social Security number if it's a -- I assume a company is exempt from giving you a Social Security number, right?

MR. HEGER: I imagine there would be no way that they could, yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. And do -- do we currently require Social Security numbers for other stuff at the Agency? I just can't remember for even hunting licenses, is that required?

MS. BRIGHT: Yes, we do. Actually --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, okay.

MS. BRIGHT: -- there's a legal requirement --

COMMISSIONER JONES: It's been so long since I've bought a hunting license.

MS. BRIGHT: -- pursuant to Federal and -- Federal law and State law. Pretty much anybody that gets any kind of professional, recreational license or permit has to provide their Social Security number and it's for purposes of child support collection. We work with the Attorney General's Office and we provide that information. There's a process actually that's handled not at this Agency for taking away licenses and permits for folks that are delinquent in child support, so we have to have that information for that. And it's also, by the way -- you probably know this -- it's confidential. So we can't disclose it otherwise.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it. The public utility exception, is that required by law? Are we required to exempt PUC -- PUC, public utility construction of lines for the permit?

MR. SWEENEY: I think that's verbatim from the statute.

MR. HEGER: Those are taken from the statute, Chapter 86.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, okay. And I think that was it. I have one more tab, but I don't think it's on this one. Nope, that's it.

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Tom, Bob, Ann? Commissioner Morian, please.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I just -- don't forget you raised the issue about that $25, which sort of caught my attention. It probably costs $25 to send out a $25 invoice. I don't know if $100 is appropriate, but...

MR. HEGER: Basically the reason for that particular number is when we were looking for a defensible number, we looked to the General Land Office program which is already established and that is the number that's in there. So it's not to say that it's the best number, but it was an existing program with a number that seemed more defensible.

MR. SMITH: But I guess let me be clear. If the Commission thinks that that is not a significant enough deterrent and is recommending that we raise that above $25, now is the time to give us direction before it's published. And so I hear your point, Commissioner. Would you like for us to consider a different number on that? Okay. And so is -- do I hear 100? Is that --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: (Inaudible) those changes at this point.

MR. SMITH: Is that the number you're thinking?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think it ought to be. I mean we're talking about fewer than 20 to 25 general permits, which are commercial -- excuse me, are not the commercial permits. And then, what, two to three on the individual permits a year that are issued and roughly five at a time. You're not talking about -- those are commercial, so that's not going to affect -- really make a big difference.

MR. HEGER: Yeah. There are currently four permitted commercial operations and they have been renewing for decades and then the fifth, that is usually an operation that is just an occasional project like Barton Springs Pool and things like that where there's not a commercial operation. So I would say there are four operations that it would apply to.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I think 100 gets everyone's attention. Anything more than that starts looking like a fee structure. So, yeah, why don't we go ahead with 100 if everyone is comfortable with that.

MR. SMITH: And again, this is just to publish and get comment and if y'all reflect on it and think that number ought to be changed, then obviously we can make those changes at the time in which you consider it for adoption. Okay?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Good feedback.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions? Good. All right, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes with regard to penalties and interest in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thanks, Tom.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it. Item 4, 2013-14 Statewide Hunting Proclamation Preview Briefing, Mr. Shawn Gray. Proceed, sorry. Thank you.

MR. GRAY: Everybody ready?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We are.

MR. GRAY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Shawn Gray. I'm the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader. And today, I will brief the Commission on potential changes to mule deer and pronghorn regulations.

As you recall, this Commission was briefed during the March meeting on the results of a mule deer MLDP season extension opinion survey mailed to landowners and hunters in the fall of 2011. As a review, this graph depicts statewide mule deer MLDP landowner participation and associated enrolled acreage. Participation has increased by nearly 350 percent, and associated acreage has more than tripled since it's beginning.

Because of the growing interest in the possibility of extending the mule deer MLDP season, this Commission asked us to address the potential in extending the season. Therefore, staff sent out an opinion survey last fall. A total of 647 questionnaires were sent to all MLDP cooperators who received permits in 2010 and a comparable number of non-MLDP landowners in proportion to MLDP participation within the Panhandle and Trans-Pecos regions and a similar number of mule deer hunters of roughly one-to-one ratio of landowners to hunters.

Participants were asked ten questions varying from demographics, support of season extension, length of extension, hunter opportunity, possible biological concerns, and antlerless harvest. A total of 354 questionnaires were returned with a response rate of about 57 percent. Mean respondent rate for supporting an extension given that the season would begin on the first Saturday in November, which is the current opening day, was 60 percent. An average of 26 percent said that they would not support an extension. The average for undecided respondents was about 14 percent.

Based upon data collected from our survey, the majority of participants supported an extension to the existing mule deer MLDP season. Given several choices of extension dates, most respondents strongly favored a January closing over dates in February. Overall average preference and landowner preference was very similar for closing either the third or last Sunday in January.

Staff have no biological concern extending the MLDP season to the third or last Sunday in January. And before I proceed to the pronghorn section, I would like to ask if this Commission has a preference regarding the closing dates in January, and address any questions concerning the potential MLDP season extension.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a question. What was the response rate essentially equal over all of the participants? Landowners, hunters, and non-MLDP participants?

MR. GRAY: I actually have that data handy if you give me like 30 seconds.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I'll give you 35.

MR. GRAY: The response rate for hunters was 53 percent, MLDP landowners and agents was probably somewhere around 75 percent, and non-MLDP landowners was 44 percent.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So you had a pretty good cross section of respondents --

MR. GRAY: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- of all types.

MR. GRAY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And were there any follow-up verbal, e-mail, letter responses of those who were opposed indicating why?

MR. GRAY: No, there was no follow up. I did receive some phone calls from some landowners that were adamantly opposed, that would be in that 26 percent; but again, there was 60 percent that was in favor of it, too.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right, right.

MR. GRAY: But, no, we didn't really have a follow up on verbal communication with landowners or hunters or...

COMMISSIONER JONES: No. What I was asking is if they -- if any of them contacted you.

MR. GRAY: Yes, yes, several of them did.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But you had -- but you had 60 percent of folks who said we're fine with extending?

MR. GRAY: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Let me ask a question just along the same line. Of the participants, landowner participants and MLDP, can you break down how they favored extension versus not extending it? If you just -- just the ones that are --

MR. GRAY: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: -- that were participants in the MLDP, taking out the non-participants and the hunters, if we don't know they participated or --

MR. GRAY: It was very high for the -- for MLDP participants.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So the 6.1 million acres, a hundred and whatever you said, most of them favored extending the season?

MR. GRAY: That's correct. I would say 75 percent of those or greater favored extending the season.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think you raised a great point there because 70 percent of your respondents were the landowners who've got the six to 7 million acres in the program.

MR. GRAY: MLDP participants, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think that's a good point. And I -- you asked about what date, if the staff has no concerns from a biological standpoint and the support is there, why not extend this -- maximize the flexibility and give them until the end of January?

MR. GRAY: Okay. So I would assume in this next January Commission meeting, we'll be proposing the last Sunday in January.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But it will be for the next hunting season. Not the current.

MR. GRAY: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: 2013-14, right? Yes, okay. Dan Allen, you good with that?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah, that sounds good.

MR. GRAY: Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That was end of January as the close.

MR. GRAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Move on to the pronghorn section. Over the last 10 to 15 years, pronghorn populations in the northwest and northeast Panhandle have increased steadily and continue to expand their range. As a result, pronghorn permit demand, staff time spent on permit issuance, and crop depredation complaints have risen. To address these issues, staff would like to propose an experimental permitless system in three different herd units in the northwest and northeast Panhandle.

Staff reason that because herds in the northwest and northeast Panhandle are healthy and have stable reproduction, that a permitless system for bucks might work in these areas and would decrees permit issuance conflicts. In addition, landowners and hunters would not have to wait for the Department to conduct surveys and issue permits before planning their hunting season each year. Because staff only have a small time frame to conduct surveys and issue permits, this adds much complexity to the pronghorn hunting season each year for landowners and hunters.

Panhandle staff spend numerous hours not just on surveys or actual permit issuance, but other activities associated with issuing permits such as tracking acreage and ownership changes, as well as documenting changes to landowner/agent contact information. Permit issuance is based upon available surplus within a herd unit. Therefore, staff intensively survey herd units to determine harvest quotas. Although pronghorn herds in these areas are healthy, pronghorn accessibility to hunters could increase with a permitless season and may increase buck harvest beyond what is biologically acceptable.

Therefore, staff would like to conduct a pilot project within three different herd units and closely monitor populations for three years. This map illustrates current pronghorn herd units within the northwest and northeast Panhandle. The herd units colored red are the select herd units that the experimental permitless season would be tested in. Each represent differing pronghorn densities from high to low. These experimental herd units are located near the towns of Dalhart and Pampa.

During the experimental season, the Department will provide hunters a tag for legal requirements. So this would be a shift from the Department issuing landowners permits to putting the requirement on the hunter to obtain a tag. More in line to our deer model, if you will. We have discussed several different means to provide these free tags to hunters, which has -- such as having them pick up tags at Department offices or acquire them online.

Only one tag will be issued to a licensed hunter and contact information will be gathered from each person for follow-up data. We will collect harvest data to estimate buck harvest and age structure. Annual population surveys will also continue in these herd units throughout the experiment to document population trend, reproduction, and sex ratios.

Ultimate success of the experimental season will be based upon data gathered and our estimates of population perimeters. If data suggests minimal or no decline in pronghorn numbers, sex ratios, and average buck age structure, then staff believe no negative biological impacts would occur with a permitless system for bucks. Staff would then recommend moving towards a permanent permitless season for bucks in the northwest and northeast Panhandle after three years of the experiment if data supports the decision.

At this time, I would like to address any questions that the Commission might have on the potential pronghorn regulation change.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Shawn. So going back to the map, so the three units would be obviously the red ones. Outside of that would continue to be landowner issued permits?

MR. GRAY: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And so are there any -- obviously, there's herd movement for these three herds in and out of that area. You know, are there any concerns from a Law Enforcement standpoint? I mean how -- okay, confusion about whether it was a land --

MR. GRAY: Yeah. We have been --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Would you have landowner permits as well within portions of those areas?

MR. GRAY: Right. And we're talking with our -- with Law Enforcement on this issue. And those herd units are defined by roads, so we feel like we could have a defined area to where these tags would be legal to use in and then the permits outside of those, would be able to use outside, too. It would be very similar to what we do for deer in properties that have MLDP versus properties that are just on the general season.

MR. SMITH: But, Shawn, for each of the herd units that we're looking at experimenting with, we wouldn't have a system of both permits and tags. I mean the three pilot ones, it would just be the tags.

MR. GRAY: That's correct.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, so we wouldn't have that confusion there.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Within the three identified units, are those -- what's the ownership of that land? I mean who...

MR. GRAY: It's a mix of ranchers and farmers. A good representation there.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It's all private there? It's all private?

MR. GRAY: It's all private. That's correct. And we picked those because it's well represented of that landownership and habitat.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And easy to define the area.

MR. GRAY: Right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do they know about this? Have you discussed this with any --

MR. GRAY: Yes. Our field staff have discussed this idea to landowners and for the most part, we're getting really good support for it because it's very simple for them now. There will be some opposition from more outfitter types that are worried about maybe the quality of the buck age structure and trophy quality might go down with some increased buck harvest. And that's one reason why we would really like to intensively monitor these three herd units for three years before we make a decision.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Shawn, do you know approximately how big are these herd units? As far as looking at this map, is that -- how big --

MR. GRAY: The -- I believe 17 and 25 are somewhere around 150,000 acres and then herd unit eight is like 250,000 acres, I believe.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm still not clear about who can hunt in the three areas. I mean can every licensed hunter in the state of Texas conceivably go in there?

MR. GRAY: As long as they have permission from a landowner. We would like to limit these tags one tag per licensed hunter and so if they obtain a tag, then it's up to them to go find access to private property to utilize that tag. Just similar to a deer tag I guess, deer hunting.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And do you not have any concern that in those areas, in the three proposed areas where there are farmers that might have depredation on their mind, that there could be an abuse there?

MR. GRAY: Yeah, there is some concern there. Yes. I wouldn't say that -- we're -- I think we could set up the system enough to where, you know, if they're going to abuse the system, anybody is going to abuse the system; but I think we could set up enough side boards to where it would really work for us.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, they're not abusing the system if we say it's all based on hunter tags. I mean we're going to issue the tags to the hunters, they're not abusing the system.

MR. GRAY: Right. But your question is one --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: From a biological perspective --

MR. GRAY: Oh, right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- do you have a concern that --

MR. GRAY: There is some concern --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- a farmer who's growing crops may say I'll take every hunter who wants to come in here because I don't want the antelope to --

MR. GRAY: Yes, there is some concern there and that's the reason why we would like to collect this data for three years to see if that would happen. We do have a mix of landownership throughout there, so most of the ranchers really like pronghorn. I would say even the farmers have some affinity for pronghorn, too. So there's going to be a hodgepodge of harvest intensity, if you will, and the pronghorn aren't stupid. They're going to figure out that -- they're going to move. They are more visible than a white-tailed deer, even a mule deer. But even in states where they're more intensively hunted than Texas, they start to figure out that I need to go real fast from this pickup, go over here.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is your goal to reduce the load on staff?

MR. GRAY: That's one main goal, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What other goals are there?

MR. GRAY: We could potentially -- because we issue per herd unit these permits, we have to very intensively survey these herd units to have enough information for staff to feel comfortable issuing these permits. So if we didn't have to issue permits by herd unit, we feel like we could reduce our survey effort and still even -- maybe even have better survey estimates.

We wouldn't be stuck having to survey at a certain time frame. It's a very short time frame where we have to get our surveys completed and issue those permits so landowners and hunters can figure out how many permits I'm getting, how many hunters I can have, how many that I can sell.

So if we didn't have to do that, we feel like we could reduce our survey effort, have really good survey information, biological data, as well as maybe even improve our survey techniques.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But how are you -- isn't it all dependent on hunters responding to inquiries or surveys?

MR. GRAY: Oh, for the harvest intensity? Is that your question?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah. How --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hunters in those areas?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: In those three areas.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So your question is is there some requirement for them to report that information as opposed to --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that and how are you going to do the survey in those three areas?

MR. GRAY: It would be similar. It would be exactly what we're doing right now. But to get at our harvest data, we would document hunter information to where we could go back and contact them either by phone, e-mail, address, snail mail, and ask them did you use your tag or not.

So we can have a really good idea of harvest intensity that way and we'll also use pronghorn, harvested pronghorn. We'll take a tooth from the harvested pronghorn to estimate our age structure in the harvested pronghorn.

MR. SMITH: Commissioner, also, we're not going to abandon our traditional fixed-wing aerial surveys of pronghorn populations. That's an integral part of it.

MR. GRAY: Right.

MR. SMITH: I think what Shawn is saying -- and this is an issue that we've talked about with the Commission about how can we work smarter and so how can we reduce kind of the permit fatigue that our Wildlife biologists are feeling out in the field and see if we might innovate and experiment with some new ways kind of managing hunter harvest pressure on the resource. Still monitor it biologically and if we find out that we're still achieving our biological goals and making sure that those herd units are where we want them to be biologically and we freed up our biologists to have more time to work with landowners on habitat related considerations, we see that as a plus.

And I think given where pronghorn are in the Panhandle right now in these three specific herd units, it really is an opportune time for us to experiment with this at a relatively small scale and then see if we might extrapolate this to potentially other permit systems. So, you know, is there some risk here with respect to a farmer or a landowner encouraging too much hunter harvest of pronghorn? Sure, I think that risk is inherent in this. Is it manageable given the landownerships and the diversity of ownerships and how pronghorn will respond to extra hunting pressure? Probably, but we'll know in two or three years and can come back and report on it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I understand, and I agree with the idea of reducing permit -- the whole permit fatigue. But what I'm concerned about is I'm not sure you're going to find -- you're not going to get the hunter harvest information --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Data.

MR. SMITH: Information.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- that you're counting on.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So your suggestion I think is a good one. Is that we need to have some mechanism to make -- to ensure that we get harvest information.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Can we require -- if we issue them a permit, can we require them to report back after the season? I mean if we're going to give them the privilege of having a permit, can we require them to send in a survey after the season that let's us know who is successful, maybe what landowner they hunted on or ranch, so you can start compiling? If 80 people went on the same 640 acres, you can see there's a problem.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right.

MR. GRAY: Yes. And right now we have mandatory harvest reporting for those permits, and we would like to extend that to these tags. And also, Mitch made a really good point. We're going to pick up the harvest intensity in the buck age structure as well, so that's going to be a tip-off that if we don't, for whatever reason, we don't get the harvest data back from the landowner, we're going to pick that up in the harvested pronghorn because as intensity -- if it's excessive, then the buck age structure will come lower. Will get younger on average and vice versa.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But aren't -- if you issue -- if you issue a permit to the hunter to go into these three areas to hunt pronghorn and the hunter uses that permit to go into Area 25, say, in Roberts County to harvest a pronghorn, don't they have to somehow send that information to you anyway? I mean don't they have to fill out the tag information and send it back or is that not anticipated?

MR. GRAY: Yes, that's what we anticipate. In the current system, they do that now. We have --

COMMISSIONER JONES: No, no.

MR. GRAY: -- harvest reporting cards that --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. For the owner, landowner.

MR. GRAY: Right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But now I'm talking about this new system.

MR. GRAY: Yes. There's several different scenarios that we've been discussing throughout field staff and even with Law Enforcement on what would be the best way to get this done so we could have a very good representative sample of harvest utilization through the hunter.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. So all you've got to do is just require the hunter to send in that information when they make the harvest. The same thing that you require the owners to do now in these green areas.

MR. GRAY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And so that would -- it seems to me that would get the information that Commissioner Duggins is asking about is, well, how would we know what we've harvested and where it was harvested.

MR. WOLF: For the record, Clayton Wolf, Wildlife Division Director. And, you know, if -- Commissioner, if the Vice-Chairman's concern is that we won't capture all the information, I've visited with Ann Bright and she believes that if we put this in the rule, we could -- we could add some extra incentive by disqualifying a hunter the following season from receiving a permit if they did not provide those data.

So, you know, if the Commission wanted to -- wanted us to investigate a little added incentive or disincentive for not putting -- for not turning in your harvest information, we could do that as well to just help ensure complete compliance.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And, Clayton, I'm sorry. I was -- so what would that -- what would that -- how would that -- what would that incentive be? I mean is --

MR. WOLF: The incentive or disincentive would be if you don't turn in your harvest information one year, because we have all your information, you wouldn't qualify for a pronghorn tag the following season.

MR. GRAY: We actually do that now with the permits.

MR. WOLF: But in this case because it would be for everyone, we could put that in rule.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yeah, and I...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think it defeats the purpose though.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right. I mean as we're coming to understand this a little better, we're a little bit slow on it; but --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I am.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I have been. So, you know, the whole idea is to try to reduce administrative burden and Department burden and make this more efficient and we can capture the meaningful population information through surveys. So let's maybe not -- the whole idea is to not try to gather so much information, to see if this works through the survey mechanism, and doing it through this pilot program. So I would support, you know, as you've described it, three-year pilot program and come back to us and let us know how it's going.

MR. GRAY: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: One last question. If after year one you see a noticeable, significant downward shift in population --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good point.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- are we able to pull the plug on it?

MR. GRAY: Yes. I would like to come back to you and pull the plug with it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I -- just when we say three years, I think --

MR. GRAY: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- with the flexibility.

MR. GRAY: Right, right. And field staff have those same concerns and we would like some flexibility that way. We appreciate that.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Just curious. In those -- any of those three areas, what's the land mass and -- approximately -- and what is the offtake that, you know, just given population dynamics --

MR. GRAY: Land mass, I believe Herd Unit 8 is about 250,000 acres and 17 and 25 is somewhere around 150,000.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: How many pronghorn would likely come off of those areas, and what's the current density?

MR. GRAY: Current density, great question. Herd Unit 8 is, I believe, 300 acres per pronghorn in there. So there's roughly probably around a thousand pronghorn in there. Several hundred bucks. You know, one -- 17 or 25 is what we classify as a medium, and then the other one is a low. So we get that good range of pronghorn densities, and harvest intensity throughout the Panhandle on average is about 50 to 60 percent utilization on our permits right now. We don't know if that would stay the same, increase. I would bet that it would increase some, but we just don't know that.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I have just one more quick question. Is a permit issued specific to a herd unit, or if I -- if you issue a permit, can they shoot a pronghorn at any one of the three herds or units?

MR. GRAY: On this experimental?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yes.

MR. GRAY: It would be -- right now, we were just discussing it would be in any one of these three herd units they could go use that tag.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So to be clear to his question, you get a tag with your license and to any hunter in the state of Texas; but it's only usable in one of those three areas and then otherwise, you've got to have the traditional landowner permit outside the three areas.

MR. GRAY: That's correct. However, the tag probably wouldn't be on a license. We would issue it maybe just like a sandhill crane permit or something.

MR. SMITH: We could make those available online or through our Law Enforcement offices. I mean we -- and we'd publicize that widely where a hunter who was hunting in those areas could go to access their tag.

MR. GRAY: And during this three-year season, we probably will have somewhat of a different type system on issuing these tags or providing these tags for when -- if we go permanent, then we could probably maybe go the route of putting it on our hunting license tag if we -- or our hunting license if we have room on it.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's great. Thanks, Shawn. Any questions? Okay, appreciate it. Thank you.

MR. GRAY: Yep, thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Moving on to Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation preview briefing for 13-14. Starting with Ken. Good morning.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski, the Inland Fisheries Division; and I'm here today to give you a preview of the regulation changes we're considering for the upcoming regulatory year.

As always, these are proposals that have been reviewed by our staff. Many of them developed from data collected by our staff with input from angler groups. It undergoes a process of district and regional review, plus a statewide review and also we did in October present these before our Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee for their consideration and they supported us moving forward with these proposals that we're considering.

First one is on Lake Jacksonville, a 1200-acre reservoir near Jacksonville operated primarily for water supply. Has a lot of houses around that. In the past, hydrilla was problematic there and we did stock some grass carp to reduce that. It's primarily a largemouth bass fishery, and there's also some spotted bass in there. Currently, we have an 18-inch minimum length limit for largemouth bass that we enacted in 2000 and at that time, our goal was to increase the abundance of bass over 14 inches. It's under the statewide regulation for spotted bass, which is no minimum length limit and the -- also the statewide bag, which is five fish combined for all the black basses.

The current status there, we have seen those bass 14 to 18 inches increase. Tournament activity has also increased there, and anglers have expressed a desire to weigh bass 14 to 18 inches. Under the current 18-inch, they can't do that. Staff worked with anglers in that area to explore some alternatives to the current regulation.

The potential change we're looking at there would be the proposal to remove the 18-inch minimum for largemouth bass and we would retain the five fish bag; but allow the harvest of two largemouth bass less than 18 inches. This is a regulation we have in place at Alan Henry and O.H. Ivie since the early 2000s, and anglers seem to -- after they got used to it, seemed to support this and it does allow them the opportunity to harvest a few fish and also does allow tournaments to operate like they do on most southern reservoirs. So this would allow those bass under 18 inches to be weighed in the tournament and it would also continue to reduce harvest of bass under 18 inches versus the 14-inch limit, as was the original goal.

Some of the impacts that we anticipate, this would increase tournament activity on that reservoir. Should allow some additional harvest and we think at this rate, the population can handle that. We did conduct an online survey to gauge some -- to kind of get a feel of public opinion in that area. We did get 91 responses, and 63 percent of those were in favor of a change to this type of regulation.

Our next -- another smaller reservoir, Lake Kurth near Lufkin, was operated by the City of Lufkin for water supply previously for lumber mills. Currently is just recreational activity. It had limited access prior to 2000, and currently it's operated under a permit system. You need to purchase a permit system to -- permit to fish the lake, and it's been very popular in that area. It has good habitat, flooded timber, aquatic vegetation, primarily hydrilla. It has an excellent largemouth bass fishery and a good sunfish population and it's currently being managed under the statewide limits of 14-inch minimum length limit and a five fish bag.

Based on what the staff has seen there in surveys, staff believes it has the potential to produce some trophy bass. The change we're proposing there is a 16-inch maximum, that would entail no harvest over 16 inches, maintaining that five fish bag, and we would allow anglers to retain those bass over 16 inches -- actually 24 inches or longer for weighing or if they do happen to get a fish that weighed over 13 pounds during the ShareLunker season, we would allow them to call and contribute to the ShareLunker Program.

Our goals there is to protect that quality of bass population that the staff believes is developing there and increase the potential for possibly producing some trophy bass. We did -- took a sample from lake users there. A lot of them are interested in fishing for trophy bass and they are catching a lot of fish over 7 pounds. A lot of those fish currently aren't being harvested. There's some harvest. And they did express a desire for a more restrictive regulation to try and protect that -- the good quality of that population.

Finally, on hand fishing. This was made, as you know, was made legal by a Legislative action in June of 2011. We're seeking here to add the definition -- there was a definition of hand fishing in the statute. We want to add that definition to our rules and also clarify some of the terms used in there and that will aid in how enforcement is enforcing those and it will give the wardens and the persons participating in hand fishing a better -- a clearer understanding of what is required there. We also -- based on some of the -- last year was really -- this year was really the first year that there was a hand fishing season, so to speak. We did see some large catches of flathead catfish on some of our reservoirs, especially Lake Palestine. We are doing a research study investigating -- to investigate what is happening in those populations, trying to get some exploitation information and also get a handle of how many anglers are out there doing this.

Just a little program note, if you will allow me. We recently collected -- conducted the Toyota Texas Bass Classic and the recap of that tournament that was held in September 28th and 29th will be on the NBC Sports Network on November 11th at 8:00 a.m. That's the network that was previously Versus on most cable systems. And as you may know, that bass -- Toyota Texas Bass Classic has contributed $1.5 million to TPW programs and that support programs such as Neighborhood Fishin', the state art, some of our habitat programs. So that's been a great contributor each year to support some of those programs.

And those are all the changes we have at -- considering at this time. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try and answer those for you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ken, first of all, just an observation. It's a shame Mr. Kirkpatrick wasn't here to see that last slide, but my question is this. Where are we on the alligator gar, getting back on the alligator gar situation?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, we're continuing to conduct research. We have the -- had that ongoing work there on the Trinity River and also been doing some sampling work on other reservoirs, Choke Canyon, to take a look at those populations to get some exploitation information. So we're continuing to work on that and staff is, you know, continuing to collect more information to see if there's anything else we need -- we can do to help those populations.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean has it been two years or three years?

MR. SMITH: I think it's been two. Didn't we pledge to come back in three years with a more formal update? Yeah, yeah. I think we're two years into the three-year commitment.

MR. KURZAWSKI: And as you know, you know, talking to Craig Bonds and that -- you know, those populations -- they're long lived populations, changes don't happen very quickly and we're not -- I guess we're confident that we're not seeing any really negative impacts at this time. The populations seem to be holding their own and we're happy with that one fish limit, seems to have -- is doing what we had, you know, designed it do.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's my concern is that should we make a change to ratchet back further.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, we're -- you know, we're trying to collect that data to see where we're at on that, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So you think it will be about another year before we'll be back?

MR. SMITH: (Nods head affirmatively).

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Ken? Thanks, Ken. Appreciate it.

Okay, Robin Riechers.

MR. RIECHERS: Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Robin Riechers. For the record, I'm here to present the 2013-2014 Coastal Fisheries scoping items. Our presentation will be brief today because what we really have before you is just three clarifications of existing rules. One is a migration of the rule regarding recreational possession limit, and I'll explain these further as we go along. The second is a clarification of fish harassment definition, and then the third is to remove the prohibitions concerning possession of red drum tag and bonus red drum tag.

When we basically went through the restructuring process, we continued to find a couple of items that were missed in that restructuring and this one basically is migrating the rule that deals with the possession limit at their permanent residence over into Chapter 57. Basically, we're carrying that language over that says the possession limit shall not apply after the wildlife resource has reached the possessor's permanent residence and is finally processed. So basically that rule is in place. We're just now putting where it's very clear that it applies to the recreational limits as well for fisheries.

Our second clarification is regarding the fish harassment definition and fish harassment rule that's currently on the books. The Coastal User Working Group, which you will receive a report about later in the day, had quite a bit of discussion regarding this fish harassment rule recently. Basically having to do with how that impacts user conflict when people see this harassment going on. Herding of fish, how that has caused some of the user conflicts we have along the coast. And when having that discussion with them, we looked at our definition and there was some concern that the definition didn't allow us to -- wasn't clear enough and it somewhat made the definition that we have now currently unenforceable. And so we brought back to them this proposed scoping language where we've modified that definition to some degree and what we would hope to do is take this language out to scoping and maybe get further comments on that and come back to you with a proposed change in that respect.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Can I make a comment now? Harassment, when I was looking at this, I kept thinking of the old "I'll know it when I see it." You know, it's hard to define it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's obscenity.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: But I had a comment that -- use and vessel, I think you mean "a vessel." But take out "repeated," you may have to take out that comment afterwards; but you don't -- I've seen people harass just on their arrival by making a big sweep, and that's enough to move fish. You don't have to continually circle. So if you took out "repeated," took out that comma, wouldn't that allow you if you saw somebody who had maneuvered their boat in order to harass or corral the fish, an opportunity to discuss it with them?

MR. RIECHERS: A lot of discussion surrounding this repeated circular motion occurred with the Coastal User Working Group and one of the notions is when you go into these systems, sometimes you may circle and then come back to where you saw fish. So at which point does it become a harassment as opposed to trying to find fish? And that's why repeated is in there now is us trying to more clearly articulate that.

But I think the other part that you talked about, which is obviously people have seen this go on and when you see it, you know it. But it obviously is a challenge for us to write this in a way that it doesn't prohibit people from trying to find fish; but at the same time when there is a violation, an officer can go make that case. So, you know, we can -- those two changes you made --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I still think that --

MR. RIECHERS: -- we can certainly look at as we move forward into scoping and try to look at maybe better ways to clarify this definition.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What if you said more than one instead of --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I'd go back to --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Not one, but more than one. Repeated to me means more than two. You know, that -- I agree it's kind of a fuzzy word.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: But I mean operating any vessel in a circular coarse for the purpose of a resulting -- so to me, that -- that's about as clear as you can get.

MR. SMITH: I hear you, Commissioner. I think our game wardens would say having something like "repeated" would help reduce an already ambiguous situation. And so there's going to be some difficulty here kind of assessing, you know, what's deliberate and I think, you know, our perspective is if you're seeing an obvious effort to, you know, harry or herd fish, then that's an easier one that not only do we know it's happening, but we can prove it's happening. Because ultimately it comes down to what can we prove and I think if it's just a loop, I think that would be a harder threshold to be able to prove is my sense of that. But I guess why don't we do this. Why don't we take this language and continue to work on it. I mean this is just a --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You know the difference if you're out there. You go out. You know the difference between someone coming in and making an observational loop around and somebody coming in to...

MR. SMITH: Proving that is the challenge I think in court, and getting a judge to agree with that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I agree with that; but it also doesn't mean that if you make two loops you're guilty either, so.

MR. SMITH: That's true. Yep, yep, good point.

MR. RIECHERS: And, of course, we're at the scoping phase; so we'll take this out and we'll continue to work on it and then hopefully come back with either this definition or one that we've tweaked some with some of that input to you in January. So we'll continue to work on it.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. And, Commissioner, if you've got any other thoughts on that or ideas on how we get at it, please share them with us because I --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I tried to. I tried to come up with something.

MR. SMITH: I'm more open-minded than I appear, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any further discussion? All right. Thank you, Robin.

MR. RIECHERS: Okay. We have one more slide.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, sorry. Go ahead.

MR. RIECHERS: That's okay. Yeah, the last item that's in is possession of red drum and bonus red drum tags. Currently, it's illegal to simultaneously possess a red drum tag and a bonus red drum tag. So what we basically are doing is making the angler purchase these at separate times. After reviewing this, we really don't believe there will be any negative impact to the population to allow an individual to walk in and actually purchase that bonus at the same time he purchases his other license. It will make it easier for the anglers, so we basically recommend removing that prohibition.

When we're talking about these fish that are greater than 28 inches, they make up only about 3 percent of our total harvest and from the biological side in 2010, we were at almost an all-time high or right at an all-time high and we've even gone above that in 2011. So we really don't believe this will in any way hurt our population recovery there, so. Now that concludes my presentation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dan Alan.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah. Robin, can an angler purchase more than one bonus tag or is it limited to one bonus tag annually?

MR. RIECHERS: No. The notion is that they can only purchase one bonus tag per year. So basically a person could catch two of those greater than 28-inch fish per year.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You say the notion. Is it -- do we keep a record of, or we don't keep a record of it?

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah. No, we keep a record of it in the point-of-sale system. You know, they certainly can't purchase more than that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anything further? Robin, you finished?

MR. RIECHERS: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just kidding, thank you.

Okay. Item No. 6, Deer Breeder Regulation Change --

MR. SMITH: Just one thing. We have Brandi Reeder and so we have a Law Enforcement component of this, too. I'm sorry, Commissioner. I think -- I'm not sure that was part of that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's not in the book.

MR. SMITH: It's all right. She's on the agenda.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We didn't mean to cut you out, Brandi.

MS. REEDER: Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Brandi Reeder. I am Assistant Chief of Fisheries Enforcement. I'm here to speak with you on an issue brought forth in the public hearing portion of the August Commission meeting. Differences between State and Federal regulations currently exist in the Gulf of Mexico. An example would be of regulations pertaining to sharks.

State rules provide certain allowable species of shark must be 64 inches or greater. We allow one shark per person. Whereas Federal regulations require the same species to only be 54 inches in length or greater, and the bag limit is reduced to one shark per vessel. Red snapper in state waters must be 15 inches or greater with a bag limit of four. Federal regulations require red snapper to be 16 inches in length with a bag limit of two. Federal regulations also provide for closures on the possession of certain species and/or impose permit requirements which our regulations do not require. These are just a few -- just a few examples where our State laws differ from Federal regulations.

As mentioned in the August Commission meeting by the general public, individuals will commonly travel to Federal waters where they will harvest aquatic resources -- oh, I'm sorry, let me get this -- in violation of Federal regulations and return to our State waters in possession of those same illegally taken resources. While patrolling in State waters, state game wardens frequently encounter evidence of these violations in Federal -- violations of Federal regulations.

Typically, these violations include but are not limited to possession of undersized snapper, exceeding bag or possession limits, or failure to obtain or possess required Federal permits and others. Increasing case loads in Federal courts have resulted in prosecutors that are very selective when choosing cases to prosecute. If a case is not selected for prosecution in Federal court, the case cannot be pursued in State courts at this time. The absence of prosecution is interpreted by the public as evidence that compliance is unnecessary.

To combat this enforcement issue, we propose creating a violation for possession in State waters of aquatic products taken in violation of Federal regulations in the exclusive economic zone. We propose an addition to our current rule, Proclamation 57.976, regarding possession of wildlife resource importation to provide a State violation for possession of any aquatic product taken in violation of Federal regulation.

Do y'all have any questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Why do we limit it to taken in the EEZ as opposed to just taken in violation of Federal regulations in Federal water or taken in violation of Federal regulations?

MS. REEDER: We can look into that. The EEZ is typically where -- I mean anything past 200 -- oops, sorry. Anything past 200 miles is international waters anyway, so the EEZ is going to be Federal waters anyway. So we could revise the language on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: As long as you're going to do it, it seems like you might want to maximize the flexibility there.

MS. REEDER: We'll go back and look at the Magnuson-Stevens Act to make sure of where the jurisdiction -- but I mean it is Federal regulations, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody have comments or discussion?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I've just got one question. We're not talking about having the same bag limit or size limit in Federal waters per state. You're just talking about being able to prosecute in the event the fish were caught in the Federal waters and brought back into State waters.

MS. REEDER: It makes a State violation to -- or to possess anything in State waters that has been harvested or possessed in violation of Federal regulations. So, you're right. That way we can continue to manage our aquatic products, our aquatic resources as we feel necessary; and it doesn't make us make any changes. It just makes it a violation of State regulations to harvest anything in violation of Federal.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: And I guess we can do that?

MS. REEDER: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: That regulation allows us to issue citations to anglers who broke laws in the Federal water?

MS. REEDER: Correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you, Brandi.

Try again. Committee Item 6, Deer Breeder Regulation Changes, Mitch Lockwood.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director. This morning I'm requesting permission to publish in the Texas Register a proposed change to our deer breeder regulations. Specifically, this proposed change concerns the means by which a person may apply for a deer breeder permit and the means by which a permitted deer breeder report all deer transactions into and out of a facility.

Currently, an applicant may submit a hard copy application when applying for a deer breeder permit. Likewise, a permitted deer breeder may submit a hard copy of an annual report with handwritten changes to the herd inventory, such a list -- such as a list of all deer that were born or died in that facility during that reporting period.

There are many challenges associated with hard copy reporting. The obvious challenge of a limited number of staff entering data and reconciling 12 to 1,300 herd inventories containing over 100,000 deer is exacerbated by the numerous errors that these reports contain. I commonly hear our permitting staff talking about deer that resurrect from the dead on these handwritten reports. It's -- seriously, it's not uncommon for somebody to enter a report -- to submit a report that indicates there are deer in the facility that had previously been reported as dead in previous years' reports, say two or three years ago, or to report deer that are in the inventory that may have reported two or three or four years ago that the deer was actually transferred out to another deer breeder or to a release site.

And we suspect that many of these challenges are nothing more than poor recordkeeping; nonetheless, the problem does exist and the problem does require thousands of man hours to rectify. The other main reporting activity -- excuse me. The other main reporting activity that is associated with the transfer of breeder deer, any time deer are transferred from a breeder facility, a transfer permit must be activated no more than 48 hours prior to transport and then that transfer permit must be completed no more than 48 hours following transfer.

Well, this report can also occur through a hard copy report and it can even be faxed into the Department and these faxed reports commonly contain many errors as well. Some of the same errors that I just shared with you. But in the case of transfers, the problem becomes more serious because now this problem is shared not -- isn't just a problem in that source facility, it's now shared with the destination facility. And so now we have multiple herd inventories that aren't reconciled, requiring yet many more thousand man hours to rectify.

So we propose to cut down on the volume and the frequency of these errors by requiring all reporting to occur through our internet based deer breeder application. I may commonly refer to it as our online deer breeder system. This slide before you shows a screenshot of the new TWIMS deer breeder system that we anticipate will be available early in 2013. But in the meantime, we already have a system that is available. We have had a system for several years that deer breeders have been able to use to complete these reports. We've put a lot of effort in trying to encourage deer breeders to utilize this system over the years and we've learned from those who do utilize this system to report all of their transactions, that there's a tremendous time savings to the Agency and that those deer breeders have reconciled herd inventories.

The system is designed to prevent many of these errors from occurring and any time that a deer breeder -- that there is an error encountered when data are being entered, it would be the responsibility of that deer breeder to reconcile that issue himself before being able to activate that transfer permit in that example. So this is a benefit not only to the Agency, but to the deer breeding industry.

We do need more participation to be effective; and therefore, we propose that all deer breeder transactions be reported through the online deer breeder system with the exception of the activation of a transfer permit. We have visited with our Breeder User Group on two different occasions about this item. We have their endorsement. The Texas Deer Association has also endorsed this proposal; but the one request that we did receive from the Breeder User Group was that they do have the option to go ahead and activate a transfer permit by phone, which is common -- which is currently an option for them where they would call our Law Enforcement Communication's Center; but they agree anything beyond that, such as completing the transfer permit, would need to occur through this online application.

So staff have no concern with allowing a phone call activation because they would still need to receive a confirmation number from our Law Enforcement Communication's Center. But again, any other reporting such as actually completing the permit would be required to be conducted through this online system. And one other thing. The main advantages to this change in reporting requirements include a significant reduction in reporting errors, which would provide a far more efficient means of herd inventory reconciliation; but it would also make data more immediately available to the Department regulatory and enforcement personnel.

The other aspect of this proposal I'll touch on briefly is that we're also proposing to eliminate the $400 fee option. You might recall that back in 2010, I believe this Commission adopted a rule that provided an incentive to try and get more deer breeders to provide their reports through our online system and the incentive is a 50 percent reduction on their permit fee. So instead of a $400 permit fee, if they enter a certain number of transactions, their permit fee would be 200 if they do it online.

Well, if this proposal is adopted, then by default all deer breeders would qualify for the $200 permit fee. And so just as a matter to avoid confusion, we propose to strike the option of a $400 permit fee and just have a uniform $200 permit for all deer breeders.

That concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mitch, thank you. Any questions? Okay, appreciate it. That's all logical and efficient, so good work. Thank you.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Make things easier. No further discussion, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

And Chronic Wasting Disease Rules, Committee Item 7, Recommended adoption of proposed changes, Mr. Mitch Lockwood.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Hello again, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director. Tomorrow, I will seek adoption of our proposal pertaining to Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD and this morning I'll provide a brief summary of that proposal.

Put simply, this -- we're proposing to put our Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan into action and this is a plan that our staff developed a partnership with Texas Animal Health Commission, has recently been revised as we've discussed. And I've got to say that we're very fortunate to have such a strong partner in our sister agency with Texas Animal Health Commission. We work with them on a regular basis, and have benefited from that tremendously.

We propose to designate three different CWD zones in this state based on the best available science and data. The containment zone is an area within which Chronic Wasting Disease has been detected or the detection of this disease is probable. The high risk zone is an area in -- an area within which the detection of CWD could reasonably be expected. And I would like to stop right here and bring one thing to your attention and that is these graphics and the graphic showing these CWD zones that was published in the Texas Register is accurate. The actual description of the western boundary of this high risk zone that you see yellow in the map before you has an error in it. And so if this rule is adopted, that adoption -- we'll need to make a slight change to the adoption language showing the written description of the western boundary of that high risk zone.

And just also for clarification, those purple dots that you see on these maps indicate known or detections of Chronic Wasting Disease. The buffer zone is an area within which the probability of discovering CWD is greater than in any non-CWD zone in the state. We also propose that the Executive Director may designate any geographic area in the state as a containment zone, a high risk zone, or a buffer zone -- and I'll just refer to those collectively as a CWD zone -- using the best available science and data. But before doing so, the Executive Director shall notify the presiding officer of this Commission. He should also ensure that the Department makes a reasonable effort to provide public notice in the event that a CWD zone is declared. And finally, the Department shall initiate rule-making to adopt any CWD zone designated by the Executive Director as soon as practicable.

As I shared with you at the last Commission meeting, our primary goals with our management plan and with this proposal are to determine the prevalence and the geographic extent of this disease and also to contain this disease to the area in which it is known to exist. We have proposed management actions for each of these CWD zones with the intention of being to minimize the risk of disease transmission through what I'm going to refer to as unnatural deer movement.

Most will agree that the movement of live deer in a trailer pose the greatest risk of spreading a disease to naive populations. But before I address the rules focusing on disease containment, I'd like to address the rules that will aid the Department in determining disease prevalence and extent. In order to accomplish this goal, we need to be able to collect far more CWD samples in that part of Texas than we've been able to do thus far. So we intend to do this through the use of check stations, and our Department currently has the authority to require hunters to present harvested game animals to check stations for the collection of biological data.

Currently, there are no check station requirements anywhere in the state. So on this table that you see unpopulated here, as I go through this presentation, we'll begin to see what our proposed rule change is for each of these zones for each of these different rules that are -- have been proposed and so we can compare the differences between the zones. With that left most column saying statewide, what I mean by that is that's our current rules throughout the state. So currently, we have no CWD check station requirements or any check station requirement for harvested white-tailed deer or mule deer.

We intend to require that all white-tailed deer and mule deer harvested within the containment zone be presented to a check station for the collection of CWD samples. Our proposal states that the unfrozen head of a white-tailed deer or mule deer must be presented to this check station within 24 hours of harvest, unless otherwise authorized by the Department in writing. This tissue that is necessary to test for CWD is a soft tissue. It deteriorates rather rapidly, and that is the reason for this 24-hour requirement. But we do recognize that there are some circumstances or could be some circumstances in which that period -- that tissue could remain usable for a slightly longer period of time, which is why we put this exception that could be authorized in writing. We do --- we intend to implement voluntary check stations for any deer that's harvested within our high risk zone or a buffer zone.

The remainder of our proposal is designed to minimize the risk of spreading Chronic Wasting Disease through unnatural deer movement. Our current rules pertain to the movement of breeder deer require that the source facility have a movement qualified status, which in part requires that at least 20 percent of the eligible mortalities in that facility be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease and return a not detected result of course, with an eligible mortality meaning any animal that's at least 16 months of age.

At this time, we propose that there be no movement into or from a deer breeder facility that's located in the containment zone and we will revisit this after we have a better idea of the prevalence and the extent of this disease. In the high risk zone, we propose to allow the movement of deer into or from a deer breeder facility, provided that facility has tested at least 100 percent of the eligible mortalities in the previous five years and has a reconciled herd inventory and has received a Level C status with Texas Animal Health Commission. This is a rule and most of these rules that I'm sharing with you today are consistent with a rule that recently has been adopted by Texas Animal Health Commission.

For the buffer zone, we propose to -- we do propose to allow the movement of breeder deer into or from a facility that's located in the buffer zone, provided that that facility currently has the movement qualified status or I should say they have a movement qualified status by the current rule. But then in addition to that, they would be required to test at least 50 percent of the mortalities, of eligible mortalities, that occur in that facility from January 1, 2013, forward. Basically, the intent is starting with the adoption of this rule and we think starting with January 1 makes it simple to remember.

I should state before I move on that there are zero -- currently, we have zero permitted deer breeders in the containment zone. And you may recall that another aspect of this proposal was that if there was a new facility to become established or to become permitted in a containment zone, we propose to not allow that facility to establish a herd inventory at this time. The idea is to not increase the number of disease hosts in that containment zone. You might recall that the statutes require us to issue a permit to anyone that qualifies, so we would have to issue the permit; but we do have the authority to restrict the number of deer in that facility, and we propose it to be zero. Again, only for any facility that doesn't currently exist. But we do have zero permitted deer breeders in the containment zone, we have one permitted deer breeder in the high risk zone, and we have eight permitted deer breeders in the buffer zone.

This concern of disease transmission through unnatural deer movement is not restricted to breeder deer. The current Triple T -- the current CWD testing requirements for any deer that are moved by means of a Triple T permit is that at least 10 deer, possibly up to 40 deer, depending on how many deer are to be trapped and moved, must be sampled for Chronic Wasting Disease from that perspective trap site. We currently have no disease testing requirements for -- associated with a DMP permit.

Staff propose to not authorize any Triple T or DMP activities within a containment zone or a high risk zone. In the buffer zone, staff propose to allow for the movement, to permit Triple T and DMP activities after that perspective trap site has tested and received not-detected test results for at least 30 deer of the species that's proposed to be trapped and moved from that perspective site.

And I'll also make a note here to give you an idea of how many different stakeholders could be affected by this particular rule change. Over the last several years, we have had one Triple T site within our containment zone, one Triple T site within our high risk zone, and 13 Triple T sites within our buffer zone. We have had no DMP permits in any of that part of the state. But looking at just the past three years, we've had only one Triple T site. And when I say that, I mean trap site or release site. We've had only one in all of these zones in the past three years and that was in the buffer zone, which under this proposal would still be able to serve as a site or be permitted as a site after meeting these testing requirements.

And then finally, we do have another suite of permits that are located under Chapter 3 -- I'm sorry, Chapter 43, Subchapter C of the Parks & Wildlife Code that authorize the possession of white-tailed deer and mule deer and those permits include the wildlife rehabilitation, the scientific research, the zoological and the education display permit. And currently, there are no CWD testing requirements associated with those permitted activities. But similar to what we have proposed for Triple T and DMP, we propose to not authorize the movement of any white-tailed deer or mule deer held under the authority of one of those permits; but then we also do not propose any rule changes for those permitted activities within the buffer zone.

This does conclude our proposed rule changes. In summary, I would like to reiterate that this has been and will continue to be a dynamic process. As we learn more about this disease, as we learn more about the occurrence of this disease in our state, we may very well have a need in the future to further modify our CWD Management Plan, which could include fewer restrictions or it could include restrictions that cover a smaller geographic area. We believe that we have proposed the most responsible action that would be required that pose little risk to the captive cervid industry, our hunting industry, and the resource itself without placing undue restrictions on individual stakeholders.

We have received ten comments on this proposal. Three of which have been in opposition. Seven have supported -- I'm sorry. It's now 11 comments. Eight support it. I received one personally last night. Of the three in opposition, two gave some reason for their opposition. One really wasn't germane to this proposal. The other one did express some concern for having one individual, the Executive Director, designate a CWD zone. But as I shared with you during my presentation, that would be followed up very quickly.

First, it would involve notifying the presiding officer of the Commission and then would follow a public comment process and a rule adoption as well. So that's the one comment of opposition that pertained to this proposal. With that, I'll be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great, appreciate all your efforts on that. I know it's been a dynamic process and certainly will evolve, but thank you. Any questions? Okay. Mitch, thanks. I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Committee Item 8, Revised Environmental MOU with the Texas Department of Transportation, request permission to publish proposed rules in the Texas Register, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth. How are you, Ted?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Great. How are you this morning? Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. I'm here this morning to discuss with you a proposal to publish a revision in the Memorandum of Understanding between this Agency and Texas Department of Transportation for -- pertaining to how we review -- do environmental reviews of Transportation projects.

Before I discuss the specifics, I would like to pass out a letter from TxDOT we just received that confirms their concurrence with the proposal we're going to discuss this morning. In 1997, the Texas Legislature added to the Transportation Code a provision that the two agencies would enter into a Memorandum of Understanding that would result in TPWD review of Transportation projects and the making of recommendations back to TxDOT for ways to minimize those projects' impacts on fish and wildlife resources.

In 1998, the first MOU was adopted by the two agencies and we are still operating under that original MOU. The Legislation does provide for periodic update of that MOU. Staff has been working for a number of years on ways to accomplish that update. There are actually two very specific goals that the two agencies have in these revisions. One is to streamline the environmental review coordination process. There is a 45-day review period. Historically, projects tend to come over at the last minute and so that review process often results in delays to implementing projects.

Likewise, projects come over that have such minimal impacts to fish and wildlife resources, that staff time and energy to review those projects is probably better spent elsewhere. And so one of the primary goals of the revisions is to streamline that process so that effort is concentrated on projects that have the most fish and wildlife impact and the project is obviously as efficient as possible.

One of the ways we would like to do that is to encourage review earlier in the project planning phase. As it is, many projects that come over, the siting has been accomplished, the design work is finished, the engineering work is finished, and there's really little way that we can impact what occurs on the ground when that project is constructed. By moving that review process up much further, even during the siting phase before the route, final route selection is made, we hope to have a greater influence on the way that project is designed, placed on the ground, the way it's actually constructed to minimize those impacts to fish and wildlife resources.

We would like to reduce, significantly reduce, the number of projects that are actually reviewed. A lot of projects that come over impact a very small area. They involve adding shoulders to road or widening shoulders on roads, replacing existing bridges. A lot of those projects, if we did not see those projects, probably wouldn't change the net impacts of those projects to fish and wildlife resources; so we're going to try to reduce the number of projects that come over and by reducing projects, hopefully we can reduce the turnaround time for those project reviews.

The other goal, of course, is to improve the value of environmental review process to fish and wildlife resources. We want to do that by concentrating our effort on those really big projects that really do take out habitat, significant habitat, and focus our efforts on recommendations to TxDOT that will result in them changing those projects in ways that reduce those impacts.

We would also like to increase the effectiveness of our comments. We make -- well, we see -- last year, for example, we reviewed about 400 projects and most of the comments made on most of those projects were not incorporated into the project design and so really had no affect on fish and wildlife resources. So we're committed to making comments in such a way that they can actually influence the design and implementation of those projects.

We also currently have what we call a mitigation banking MOU that was adopted in 2005 that was intended to result in the two agencies working close together on projects with large impacts in an effort to find ways to improve the actual compensatory mitigation done. In many cases, TxDOT spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultants on individual projects and then they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars -- oftentimes $30,000 an acre or more -- on mitigation for those impacts.

We recognize that if those resources were applied a little more holistically, it might be possible to add significant acreage to state parks, wildlife management areas, refuges, other areas that would address the compensatory needs of TxDOT and result in much greater fish and wildlife benefit. And that's the fourth bullet. We want to adopt a more holistic approach to how we -- in other words, we don't want to just mitigate specifically for those wetlands or those endangered species that are impacted; but we would like to try to impact for the whole suite of state fish and wildlife resources that are impacted by projects.

So the changes that we're proposing in this version of the MOU as opposed to the version we've been operating under since 1998, would include a threshold table below which -- acreage based and habitat based, below which projects were not referred to Texas Parks & Wildlife for review. In other words, if the project was going to propose -- going to impact areas of habitat less than those found in the habitat table or the threshold table, they just simply wouldn't come over. TxDOT would track those impacts and aggregate those and report those annually, but we wouldn't look at each individual project and comment on it.

The MOU proposes to result in two staff positions. One of which would be dedicated to reviewing TxDOT projects to take some of that burden off of the staff in the wildlife habitat assessment branch that are currently reviewing those projects. Again, hopefully reduce that turnaround time on project reviews. And another position that would specifically focus on looking for ways to better mitigate for those projects that do end up requiring fish and wildlife mitigation.

Another big item would be the creation of an interagency team that would look at these changes, would look at the number of projects that are referred and not referred, determining -- to determine if we're making that 50 percent goal or if we're getting close to that 50 percent goal. Would be to look at the mitigation and the changes in mitigation and then would be to make recommendations back to both agencies for how to improve this process, which we're hoping is going to be a more cooperative process in the future.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And those are TxDOT FTEs, right?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: TxDOT is paying for those FTEs. Right now, they're envisioned to be Texas Parks & Wildlife Department employees. One would be in the habitat -- again, the wildlife habitat assessment program shop to be able to put more staff time and effort on the projects that are reviewed. The other one would, again, focus on coordination of the regulatory review of those impacts of those projects with greater fish and wildlife impacts.

I would point out that the draft MOU has evolved some since the copy was put in your packets. There are no real substantive changes to it. There are some significant formatting changes. The FTEs or the two staff positions, for example, and the threshold tables have been taken out of the rule and moved into programmatic agreements for two reasons. One of which is that gives us more time to -- it gives us the ability to flesh out and put more detail into those agreements than it's possible to capture in the MOU. Also, it means that if as a result of this interagency team making recommendations we decide to make changes to the threshold tables -- for example, we decided to increase or decrease areas to capture or reject projects that don't need to be reviewed, we would be able to do that on a regular basis or as recommended by the team and the Executive Directors of the two agencies would be able to do that, which is the reason we've moved those out of the MOU and into programmatic agreements.

And I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about the MOU.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Scott -- Hixon, sorry.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: A question. Just regarding the threshold tables, I understand that. But if, you know, a project does come to you and the Department does make comments, do those comments have to be included in the siting? Is there any language that says -- I noticed before it said, you know, that they don't necessarily make it into the siting or design.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: There is no provision in the Legislation or in Code that mandates that. There is Legislation as of the last session that requires TxDOT to report back to us what they did with those comments. As often as not, they report back thank you very much for your comments, it was not practical for us to incorporate those.

The intent of moving the process earlier into the design and siting cycle for the Transportation project is to make it feasible to incorporate more of those comments into the actual design, the actual design and engineering part of the project.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: On page 79 of the book, there's that section about the two funded positions.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: In A -- excuse me, in B it says the position will be established within six months of the adoption. My first question is do we mean adoption by both Commissions or do we mean effective date or are they the same? I think we ought -- I just want to be clear on that. And then secondly, we don't have an effective date on the first position. We only mention that for the second position.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. And that section is specifically moved out and into a programmatic agreement and the two agencies have agreed to draft and adopt those programmatic agreements prior to the adoption of the MOU, so that those details will be captured and we can easily report back to this Commission prior to that adoption what those details are.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Will it be the same? Will both positions be -- established is the word you've got in here. Will they be established within a set period of time and on the same date or are they --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's our intention to establish those within a set period of time. We haven't discussed whether or not that would be the same date or not. It would probably make sense to make that commitment to 90 days out or 180 days out, whatever the two agencies agreed to in the programmatic agreement.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So what you're saying is 2.116 is being moved to these other agreements?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, that's correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

MR. BORUFF: Mr. Chairman, if I might make a couple of comments and one point of clarification about the process as we move forward. First of all, I would like commend the staff. It's not only Ted, it's been Kathy Boydston and many other folks here, several of Ross' folks and several of my folks have been working on this agreement for a decade, ten years. It's gone through multiple iterations.

It is very important for both of our agencies. Clearly, we do want to expedite TxDOT's ability to put those kinds of projects on the ground; but at the same time, we're very committed to our mission of protecting state fish and wildlife resources. And this has been an ongoing iterative process. We're very proud of the fact that we've landed here with a document that we think both agencies can live with that will accomplish to some extent both of those goals.

I do want to share with you there's a little bit of anomaly in the way this is going to roll out. Normally, we come to you one meeting with a briefing and then we come back in the next meeting for your approval. This will probably not happen in this case because of the way the two organizations' Commissions meet. We don't meet on the same schedule. So TxDOT has a different Commission meeting schedule than Texas Parks & Wildlife. With the help of Ann Bright in kind of reviewing the procedural elements of this, what we believe is going to happen is we're going to do this briefing for you relative to what we believe we have an agreement on. TxDOT Commission is going to hear this next month in December, but they will not be able to bring it up again until their February meeting because of posting requirements and those kinds of things.

We need to do this after they've done their approval because this is a TxDOT rule that's coming out, and so we will probably be bringing this back to you at the March meeting and not in the January meeting simply because of the fact of the process that's out there. So I wanted you to be aware of that and not be surprised when we don't bring it back in January. I'm not saying we wouldn't bring -- if we have any substantive changes, we'll obviously bring it back in January; but assuming we don't, you may not see this until March.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Any other questions for Ted or Scott? Thank you, appreciate it. Thanks for all your hard work on that. Okay, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed rule in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Item No. 9, Coastal User Working Group Report, Mr. Jeremy Leitz.

MR. LEITZ: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Jeremy Leitz. I'm with the Coastal Fisheries Division, and I'm here to provide a briefing regarding the Coastal User Working Group that recently completed their work.

Back in March, you invited various representatives from the angling community, as well as different representatives from conservation based organizations to participate in this working group. In the end, there were 19 members consisting of representatives from anglers, guides, birders, paddlers, airboaters, as well as these different conservation based organizations. Two Parks & Wildlife staff were also in this group. One from Law Enforcement and Robin Riechers chaired the group.

They did operate through a consensus based approach, and met monthly between April and August of 2012. The group was formed to discuss and recommend solutions for two different issues currently facing the Texas coast. One is the protection of seagrass habitat. The second was for reducing current and expected future user conflict.

As you've heard from us in the past on multiple occasions, seagrass plays a critical role in our coastal environment. It provides nursery habitat, a food source for fish and other aquatic organisms, helps to stabilize erosion, as well as many other roles. In general, these areas support higher biodiversity and production than any other biotic community along the Texas coast. However, both natural and man-made factors can influence the health and distribution of seagrasses.

These man-made disturbances, specifically boat propeller scars, led to the creation of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area in 2000. This SSA designation was renewed again in 2005. However, during this time, the voluntary measures that were in place to prevent scarring were proven ineffective and so in 2006, a regulation prohibiting the uprooting of seagrass became effective.

Both the SSA designation and this regulation were renewed again in 2010, but this time without a term of expiration. And due to the success we were seeing in Redfish Bay, we were asked to identify other areas that would benefit from similar protection. So just last year, we proposed expansion to the JFK causeway area for purposes of seagrass protection. However, due to concerns we heard at public scoping meetings, we pulled this item from consideration and instead moved forward with a coastwide education and outreach campaign. As part of this, this working group was formed.

After a lot of discussion and debate during this six months, this group did develop nine recommendations to protect seagrass. Seven of these were assigned to high priority, while two were assigned to medium priority. However, with near unanimous agreement, the group felt their highest priority recommendation was to develop a statewide seagrass protection regulation. Due to its ecological importance and for ease of enforcement, the group felt that all seagrass areas along the coast should be under the same protection.

As they continue to work through this recommendation, at one point a member did provide a resolution in support of it. However, the last sentence in that resolution pertaining to Parks & Wildlife's ability to maintain current state scientific areas and develop new ones, gave some members some concern. They felt that if a statewide rule existed, there was no reason for Parks & Wildlife to have SSA authority. However, staff did inform the group that SSAs are used for a variety of regulations, including wild rice protection that was recently done along the San Marcos River. And as you can see, this would require Legislative action; so the group did recommend that we work with outside organizations and the Texas Legislature to create a rule.

There were six other recommendations provided, and all assigned a high priority. These really all focused on education and outreach. The first you see here is to produce detailed maps depicting these seagrass locations. These would certainly aid and assist boaters in identifying areas susceptible to boat damage. They recommend that these maps be placed at boat ramps for boaters to be able to see them before they go and also made available electronically so they can download them from our website or place them into electronic navigation aids.

A second recommendation was to develop a local knowledge website where one could go to gather all their relevant information they need before going on the water. Things like weather reports, tide reports, rookery island information, fishing and boating ethics, which you'll hear about here in a second. They felt that these -- kind of like a one-stop shop. A know before you go website that could be linked to our website as well. They also felt that we should develop a seagrass awareness campaign similar to what's been used in the past for aquatic invasive species and they also felt we should develop tide indicators that would assist boaters in identifying shallow water areas and also helping them determine where they can safely run their boats.

The final two high priority recommendations include the implementation of run lanes in areas where boaters cannot easily enter or exit an area without damaging seagrass. They felt this would help to concentrate and minimize that impact. They also felt we should coordinate with other state and federal agencies, commercial fishermen, as well as the oil and gas industry to conserve seagrass.

The final two recommendations you see here involve engaging boat owners, retailers, dealers, manufacturers, distributors in regard to seagrass protection, boater ethics, and responsible marketing of boats. These two were given a medium priority as they felt emphasis should be first placed on those other seven that I just went through.

As I indicated earlier, the second charge to this group was looking at ways to reduce user conflict. We're certainly seeing a growing and more diverse recreational population along our Texas coast. We're seeing increases in traditional activities such as fishing and boating and in hunting. We're seeing increases in non-traditional activities such as kayaking, windsurfing, wildlife watching. And not only are the number of these people increasing, but the ways in which they recreate are diversifying. And, of course, they're doing all this in a static and finite space, making it reasonable to assume that conflicts may occur.

So in an attempt to reduce this conflict, the group did develop five recommendations and assign them all as high priority. The first one you see here is to develop and promote a code of ethics. Certainly there are numerous activity specific codes that currently exist, but they felt the development of one that encompasses all the different activities that occur along the Texas coast is important. They did provide input on some essential messages that should be included, but asked us to continue to further refine and edit this code.

A second recommendation was to work with other agencies to allow for more effective rookery signage. This signage is sometimes placed near islands indicating people may not land their boat or walk on these islands during nesting seasons. However, governing agencies and lease agreements dictate where these signs can be placed. So the group thought we should work with those agencies to allow for more effective placement of those signs. And similar to the seagrass protection recommendation, the group felt we should also develop a user conflict awareness campaign of which this code of ethics would certainly be an integral part.

The final two recommendations you see here would both require Legislative action as we currently don't have authority to implement either one. As you've heard throughout this presentation, a lot of these recommendations center on education and outreach. And while there was a mandatory boater ed. law passed during the last Legislative session, this group felt expanding that age range required to take that course is important. During the course of our discussions, Law Enforcement did inform the group that, you know, really violations can occur with any age group; but for those ages between 20 and 35, that's where a large number of violations are committed. So the group recommended expanding the age range to capture that critical age group.

The final recommendation from this group was to require paddle craft registration. The majority of members felt it would be beneficial if each kayak was registered. This would certainly help us give -- you know, give us an accurate census of the number of kayakers on the water; but would also help us to identify the owner of the kayak in cases of harassment or accidents and other situations. While --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: How does that registration currently occur or typically occur?

MR. LEITZ: There's no kayak registration currently.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, for other craft. Is it -- there's nothing with any agency on any paddle craft in public water? Oh, okay.

MR. LEITZ: You mean in this state?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.

MR. LEITZ: No, not for paddle craft. Unless it has -- I believe unless it has a horse -- or a certain size motor on it.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Are average vessel registrations typically conducted online?

MR. LEITZ: For other boats? Yes. I mean you can do it online. You can do it at different locations across the state.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks.

MR. LEITZ: The group -- one other formal recommendation. The group did ask Parks & Wildlife to refine that fish harassment language and based on the discussion you heard earlier today, the Department proposes the language you see here in blue. But whether or not this or similar language is adopted, the group felt including or emphasizing fish harassment in the code of ethics is essential. And last --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Is the -- help me understand something. Is the paddle craft a problem with the grasses? It can be?

MR. LEITZ: No. This is more in relation to the user conflict, of really trying to identify those users on the water. But in terms of seagrass, no. In general, no, because there's no submerged propeller.

Lastly, I would just like to bring to your attention that the group did discuss low impact fishing areas under both the pretense of seagrass discussion -- or seagrass protection and the reduction of user conflict. However, during the course of the discussion, the majority of the members felt that these should only be developed as a last resort. Really after we've exhausted all other options. And at one point, they did actually vote on pole and troll zones. There was very minimal support from members in attendance.

And while that does conclude my presentation, I just would like to acknowledge that we did receive a letter from the Boating Trades Association, as many of you saw as well, in regard to the report and that as we move further along with these recommendations under your direction, we would certainly intend to work with those affected stakeholders, such as the BTAT or CCA or SEA and any others that would be affected from this. So with that, I'll be happy to address any questions or comments you have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Any questions? Discussion? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Jeremy, was there any discussion in context -- in the context of paddle craft registration about lighting for paddle craft? I seem to remember we've heard --

MR. LEITZ: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- some complaints from the motorized boaters that they're -- it's a safety issue --

MR. LEITZ: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- in low light.

MR. LEITZ: There was quite a bit of discussion about making yourself more visible on the water. Part of that being, you know, wearing bright clothing or if you're on a paddle craft, some kind light that goes up on some type of a fixed pole. There was -- and that would be, as we kind of refine these recommendations, try to narrow that list down, that would go under -- they felt that could probably go under the code of ethics just to kind of emphasize that point to stay visible on the water, be lit, wear bright clothes, stuff like that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, if you have a paddle craft on a freshwater lake, do you have to have it registered or lighted?

MR. LEITZ: You don't have to have it registered, I believe, no. I would defer to Law Enforcement for the lighting question.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Pardon me? If you have to have it lit at night on freshwater, then why shouldn't we require lights in saltwater?

MR. LEITZ: There -- I believe there is a minimal lighting requirement right now on all paddle craft, but it's not very specific or it's not -- they would like -- as they talked about it, they would like that light kind of -- I'll defer to Jeff.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Jeff, what's the answer here.

MR. PARRISH: Let me see if I can squeeze in here. For the record, my name is Jeff Parrish. I'm the Boating Law Administrator and over the Marine Enforcement section. During the discussions that the group had about lighting a paddle craft, we really couldn't go there. We couldn't make it a State law because that's in violation of Federal law. A Federal law doesn't require it, it would be kind of tough to make us require it on a paddle craft because it's not part of the Federal law carrier's requirement on their end.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But can't we always be more restrictive than Federal law?

MR. PARRISH: In some situations, but not like this. We can't -- we can't -- we can't change what's in the Code of Federal Regulations and the Code of Federal Regulations says on stand-up paddle craft or any paddle craft, lighting is not required unless you're out after dark.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The other question I had is on the final -- under the slide final user recommendations, lower the minimum age for required boater education. Does our boater ed. curricula/curriculum contain any education about seagrass presently and if not, should we add it? I know we're trying to make sure the class is not -- doesn't require too much time or the appropriate amount of education, but I'm just asking was that discussed?

MR. LEITZ: It was discussed and my understanding of the boater education law is that we have given information to the different instructors across the state to incorporate some kind of seagrass component to their education packet, but I believe it's up to the discretion of the instructor whether or not to go through that and to what detail.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Should we -- should it not be discretionary if it's this important?

MR. SMITH: I think that's an easy change we can look at with our area chiefs, you know, our volunteer education coordinators and just work on a more comprehensive education effort on seagrass. Tim, do you want to come address it.

MR. SPICE: Mr. Chairman --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You've gotten shorter.

MR. SPICE: I don't have my boots on, sir. I'm Tim Spice, the Boater Education Coordinator for the Agency. We do have a component as part of the chapter. There's one chapter that's state specific, and it does have information. It's very small. We can expand it if we want to about seagrass and invasive species. Most of the manual covers required training and information based on NASBLA's standards, again, set by the Coast Guard.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I sure think we ought to make both of those mandatory, invasive species and seagrass. It doesn't take very much time to cover that, and you're starting with a whole new generation making sure they're aware of how significant that can be.

MR. PARRISH: Commissioner Duggins, this is a good time. The contractor that we have that provides us with the training materials and the video, is going to go through a revision this next year; so I can ask them to do that.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good. Good suggestion, okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thanks so much.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I have a couple of comments, Dan. First of all, I've read the report that's put out by the Coastal group and I thought they did an outstanding job. We asked them to meet several times under a fairly short period of time, and they did some very good work. Because they saw such a high priority in protection of seagrass statewide, I would like to see us -- can we fast track that, Carter, and try to get that in front of Legislature bodies this session that's coming up?

MR. SMITH: That's certainly something that the Legislature could consider this session, and so I expect there will probably be some interest in that. I think what will be important on that is to step back and work with all the partner groups -- Boating Trade Association, CCA, the angler groups -- and see what kind of language would be most appropriate and most reasonable and also most enforceable.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Most of those groups are represented on the advisory panel, so I would hope that they had gone back and talked to their -- to whoever was running the groups, I mean, before they voted on this. It's a pretty big vote they made, so that's -- I would like to see us -- knowing there's a lot of other issues that we're trying to deal with with the Legislative body, see if we couldn't --

MR. SMITH: Prioritize this.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, I would like to see it prioritized and pushed through if possible. Assuming that all of our user groups, everybody agrees. The second question I have is on the paddle boat, on the kayaks, has there been any consideration as opposed to -- many people own more than one kayak. They may own four or I don't know how many they own.

MR. LEITZ: Right.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Was there any consideration maybe giving a -- I hate to use the word stamp because stamps are a bad idea around here. But some type of a -- letting the user have some type of a permit that he can use a paddle craft and not try to -- not try to permit every craft out there.

MR. LEITZ: There was quite a bit of discussion on that about whether or not, you know, for those people who have multiple kayaks -- you know, three, four, five -- if they have to register each one versus just a single stamp per user. You know, the group -- the majority of the group felt that the goal was really to get an accurate count of the number of kayaks on the water. Not the number of kayakers. And so they preferred going the paddle craft registration route instead. But there was a lot of discussion about what if I own four or five kayaks, how does that registration process work; but that would be the only way to really get us an accurate count of the number of kayakers on the water.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Any other questions? Thank you.

MR. LEITZ: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate all the effort there. That's great.

Committee Item 10, Boater Education Deferral Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Scott Boruff.

MR. BORUFF: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of Operations. I'm here today to brief you on an action item that you will see tomorrow relative to a deferral for boater education.

Just as a little bit of background on boater education law in Texas. In 1997, the 75th Legislature passed House Bill 996, which required boater education; but the requirement only extended to persons 13 to 18 years of age. In subsequent sessions, there were discussions about how to strengthen that boater education law and process. And so in 2009, the 85th -- 81st Legislature passed House Bill 3108, which created an advisory panel for recreational boating safety that was comprised of nine members appointed by the Governor or Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House and these members represented multiple constituencies out there that represented all aspects of the industry.

The panel met in the interim during mostly 2010. Presented a final report to the 82nd Legislature. It had two primary recommendations. The first was to change the date on or after that would apply to persons that had to have boater education requirements met. You can see the date there. It was changed to 1993. And that secondarily, TPWD Commission should create a deferral program that made sense.

The requirements or the recommendations that fell out of the advisory panel were just that, which were to create a born on or after date of '93 and to establish a deferral. This is the language -- I'm not going to read it for you there -- but around which we were asked to create this deferral program that you're going to see tomorrow or at least recommendations for it. After a lot of discussion with the industry, both the boating sales industry and the rental livery industry out there, the staff has settled on a recommendation for the Commission of a one time and one time only 15-day deferral for persons that are 18 years of age and older.

As a point of clarification, this recommendation would also include a prohibition against those persons supervising other individuals that are operating boats and it would cost $10 through a point-of-sale purchase. Just for clarification, we have point-of-sales that are in the retail industry, Academy and other places. You can also go online and buy -- you could go online under this proposal and buy this deferral. That would cost you an additional $5 service fee. So it's $10 if you go to one of our retailers. It ultimately is $15 if you do it online.

Just to make clear what this does in practice, is it requires -- if you approve this recommendation tomorrow, it would require only persons 19 years and younger right now to get a deferral. The law was passed with that specific kind of phased in intention, which was basically to start now, only impact younger users, and as we move forward through time, impact more and more. One interesting piece of data you might be interested in, the average boat purchaser is 45 to 49 years old. And so for the average boat purchaser, this deferral mechanism would not affect them for 25 years; so this will be slow to impact.

It does give, we think, some reasonable time for accommodating those folks that are going to currently rent a boat or buy a boat, if they want to buy a boat and get this deferral. It only applies now as of this year to a 19-year-old or younger. If a 19-year-old wants to buy a boat, they can get a 45-day deferral under this. Next year, it will be 20 years and younger and the year after 21 years and younger and so forth and so on. That's not something that's up for consideration. That was passed by the Legislature in the last Legislative session. I just wanted to kind of give you a practical.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You said 45-day deferral?

MR. BORUFF: No, a 15-day deferral. I'm sorry if I said 45. I meant 15. The 15 -- one of the things we struggle with, Commissioners, is trying to keep this simple per your direction for all kind of regulatory issues out there. We looked at several different iterations of this. Just so you'll know, when you go down to purchase a boat, you have 15 days to go acquire your regular license. You have a temporary license in effect for the first 15 days. So this accommodates some simplicity in that if somebody is going to buy a boat, it gives them 15 days to get their license and 15 -- a 15 day deferral.

It makes it much more simple for the public to remember the rules and it also makes it much simpler for Law Enforcement in terms of enforcement. I passed around to you a letter from the Boating Trades Association in which they endorse this proposal. We received two comments supporting and two opposed. The two that were opposed, opposed any kind of deferral. They weren't really opposed to this plan, other than they thought there should be no deferral and you can see the reasons there why they opposed it, because they thought it would be safer if there was no deferral primarily.

So our recommendation tomorrow would be that you adopt this amendment to create this proposal that I just described. I'd be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Scott? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Scott, as I understand it, somebody who wants to rent a jet ski does not have to go through this boater education program. They get a one -- they can get a one time deferral? I mean explain -- I guess let me just instead of commenting, let me ask you. How does this apply, if at all, to somebody who rents versus purchases?

MR. BORUFF: It's the same deferral. It's 15 days, Commissioner. So whether you're renting a boat or a jet ski or whether you're purchasing one, you can still purchase this 15-day deferral. Now remember, it only applies right now to 19 year olds and below. So if you want to go out and rent one tomorrow, you don't have to do this. If your 18-year-old son or daughter does, they would have to get this deferral or they would have to complete boater education.

We have worked very closely with BTA and others to look at simplifying the acquisition of the boater education certification. So if you're a vendor out there, let's say you're a large vendor on Lake Travis and you may hear from one tomorrow that rents a lot of boats and jet skis, if you get your staff certified through our boater safety education process, they can in turn apply a test on site to anybody that comes in and award them a boater safety certificate.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But conceivably a 13-year-old could come in and rent a jet ski and pay the deferral and get out on the lake and go to town.

MR. BORUFF: That's correct. One of the problems or one of the issues, I guess I wouldn't call it a problem necessarily, we did a lot of work trying to look at statistics from around the country. We polled all 50 states. We looked at what they're doing in terms of their boater education and their boater deferral. There was no consistent model out there. Everybody is doing something different, and virtually there were no two states that were alike. Some states don't have a deferral at all. Some states have very restrictive deferrals, no days, one day, three days. Some states have up to a one year deferral. And so, you know, we couldn't find any really consistent application of a boater education deferral process, nor could we find much data that was significant enough to help us draw some conclusions. We looked at trying to find data about who has accidents more frequently and the data is all over the place and there's not much of it.

One of the things we plan to do is really operate, assuming y'all approve this tomorrow, basically a three-year pilot. We're going to start collecting our own data through the Law Enforcement Division and be able to come back in a couple or three years and tell you if we see any trends relative to that and then obviously if we do even before the three years is up, we may be coming back to you to look at some change.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: What's the timing involved now with the boater education certification? And you referenced the -- kind of an instructor rental certification or sales -- point-of-sale certification. And what would the -- you know, how long does it basically take to go through that?

MR. BORUFF: Well, my understanding is that the most common way to do this is our online education process and I'm hearing it takes from two to four hours. Somebody want to correct me? Yeah, here comes Tim. He's got that detail.

MR. SPICE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Tim Spice, Boater Education Coordinator. The Coast Guard through the National Association for State Boating Law Administrator set the standard for the online course. That changed this past January. There is a minimum three-hour requirement. So if you go on to take the online course, which we have three providers -- one is free through Boat U.S. -- it would take a person three hours to take that course.

And a little point of clarity. Anyone who rents a vessel by statute is required to take an education component when they do it about local hazards and how to operate that vessel at that time. So that is not negated. Even with a deferral, they would still have to take that local education and the rental operator is required to keep that data on file.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, thank you. Any other questions? All right. No further discussion, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Item 11, Rules Regarding Official Corporate Partners and Licensing Department Brands, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Darcy, how are you?

MS. BONTEMPO: Good morning. Good morning, Commissioners and Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Darcy Bontempo. I'm the Marketing Director for the Department and this morning I'm here to brief you on a proposed rule, change to the rule, for the Department's for-profit partnership rules and that will be an action item on tomorrow's agenda.

Last January, I was here before you. Actually, I presented the rules for the implementation of House Bill 1300 and that law gave the Department new opportunities and new authority to partner with for-profit entities to raise incremental revenue for the Department. Those rules were adopted, and they went into effect in May of this year.

Following that, in July the Department issued a Request for Proposal, an RFP, for official corporate partners and we did a very thorough job researching companies in Texas, including targeting several industries and we actually sent out an e-mail to more than 3,000 companies with the solicitation for the request for proposal. We also -- our media relation's effort also resulted in extensive coverage. We got terrific coverage throughout the state, as well as outside the state with a AP story that ran. So people knew about the opportunity, which is what our intent was.

The news stories that ran were, for the most part, positive. They were informative. We did have some stories that expressed the concerns that we were possibly going to commercialize the -- overcommercialize the parks and negatively affect the visitor experience and the integrity of the brand, so there were some of those comments that we heard. But for the most part, you know, what we did -- what would happen with the Request for Proposal is we did hear from some companies.

Those companies called us and expressed interest in coming in and sitting down with us and meeting with us and discussing ways that they might be able to partner with us. As I think all of you are aware, the Request for Proposal process is a pretty formal process. It doesn't allow the Department to sit down and have individual negotiations with companies, not until the actual process itself is complete. And so we followed through with the process. At the end of August, the RFP actually closed and at that time, we learned that we had absolutely no responses to the Request for Proposal.

This really was not a big surprise to many of us and maybe not to some of you. Companies are not in the practice of coming in and -- or committing to six-figure business arrangements without actually having any discussions beforehand, especially not with a State agency; but we all feel that we took the necessary and prudent steps of going through this process, the Request for Proposal process. We felt that that was what we had to do to ensure that we were giving all companies fair opportunity to respond to the RFP and to the opportunity to partner with the Department.

I just might, you know, make the comment that we, as I mentioned back in January, we are the first State agency in the country to do this. So we're charting some new waters, we're learning as we go, and we continue to learn and we've been very prudent I think in following through with this new opportunity and this new authority and we continue to learn. We've made follow-up calls to companies and we do believe there's interest from these companies based on preliminary discussions in joint promotions, in licensing opportunities, and as well as in the official corporate partner designations; but we've seen some concerns about the level that we were asking, the hundred thousand. So, you know, we are -- as I said, we do believe there's interest out there.

However, having completed what we believe is the due diligence of issuing the RFP, now we are at -- we believe the next appropriate step is to look at amending the for-profit partnership rules so that we can waive the competitive process when we believe it's in the best interest of the Department to do so, both for the official corporate partner Departmentwide designations, as well as for licensing of the brand. So we believe at this point, the flexibility is appropriate and that is the -- our recommendation in terms of moving forward.

The proposed rules that reflect those exceptions were published in the October 5th Texas Register. We have not received any comments, positive or negative, regarding those proposed changes to the rule. And so tomorrow, I'm going to come before you again to present staff's recommendation, you know, for the Commission to adopt that speaks to these exceptions related to waiving the competitive process when it's in the best interest of the Department for the designation and for the licensing of the brand.

And that concludes my short presentation. I'm always happy to answer questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Darcy. Any questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Looking at the language, what's meant by "Or designee"? Executive Director's designee?

MS. BONTEMPO: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Any other questions? Okay. Thanks, Darcy.

MS. BONTEMPO: Thank you, Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

At this time, we're going to take a little lunch break and I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 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 seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act. We'll now recess for Executive Session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right, we're going to carry on. We'll now reconvene the regular session of the Work Session, November 7, 2012, still, at 2:08 p.m.

I'm going to flip back to Committee Item No. 12, Regulations Rule Review, Ms. Ann Bright.

MS. BRIGHT: Good afternoon, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel, and I'm here to talk about the rule review. You will notice, if you haven't already, in your materials that a lot of these are really minor changes; so I'm going to go through them fairly quickly.

The rule review process is something that we have to do every four years. The -- we have to determine whether or not the reasons for initially adopting rules continue to exist, we publish a notice that we're going to review the rules in the Texas Register, and then we either readopt, adopt with changes, repeal based on the review.

Normally, we do this over three meetings. The first meeting is when we notify you that we're going to begin the process. Second meeting, we seek permission to publish any changes. Third meeting, we request adoption. We have -- we're doing this by chapter, and we have rules that are in each one of these categories. And this is kind of a busy chart, but I'm going to break it down a little bit.

We're here to notify you to begin with that we're going to start the review on Chapters 57, 58, and 65. We'll be coming back to you in January with recommendations to publish changes on those. We may on some of these do these in conjunction with the statewide. Fifty-seven and sixty-five include rules that are part of the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation; so those should be in pretty good shape, but we'll maybe take care of that as part of the statewide.

We're also here to seek permission to publish changes to 53, 59, and 69, although we don't have any changes proposed to 69. Fifty-three is Finance, and these are really just clarifying. There's the process for issuing -- this is just a clarification about the process for issuing licenses electronically. We want to clarify what kind of permit or what kind of license is part of the culmination senior license.

There is some confusion regarding the cost for replacement licenses, and we're wanting to clean that up a little bit. Again, we've got the issue with replacement licenses. There was an oversight a few years ago where the furbearing fee was set at an amount that is actually below the statutory amount, and so we need to increase that. And then I mentioned the replacement fees. We -- currently, we no longer charge for Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area; so we're recommending that we eliminate that fee. You heard a reference this morning to Parrie Haynes Ranch. Any fees regarding that, we would like to delete. Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area, it used to be a WMA. Now it's part of the State park system. State park system fees will take care of that. Again, modifying some references to fishing in the finance rules.

There's some confusion in terms of the types of vessels that are exempted from the requirement for boat registration. Proposing some clarifying language there. Park entrance fees, I want to mention a couple of things about that. First of all, in going through the rule review, one of the things that we often see is that there's a need for expansive rule amendment changes. So we're going to be coming back to you in the next few Commission meetings with some additional changes to some of the State park rules.

There are a couple that need really some more immediate attention. One of them is the facility fee for the recreation meeting hall. I think you saw a photo earlier today of the Mack Dick facility at Palo Duro Canyon. Right now the fee for those facilities is maxed out at $300. We would like to be able to enhance revenue and increase that. It wouldn't automatically go to a thousand dollars, but this would mean that the Executive Director has authority to bump it up each year based on market analysis, that sort of thing.

Display of boat -- I'm sorry, that's an error. Actually, Subchapter E is actually acceptance of gratuities. We need to clarify that gratuities can be accepted by employees of the Hospitality unit of the State Parks Division. Actually, employees who actually serve as waitstaff can already accept gratuities and this would clarify that. So we're going to seek -- we're seeking permission to publish changes really to 53 and 59 in the Texas Register for public comment. Then we'll be back tomorrow seeking adoption of some rule changes, also as part of the rule review.

The procedure for adoption -- the procedure for adoption of rules in terms of petitions for rule-making would increase the time for staff to make a recommendation to the Executive Director. We're recommending a change really to be consistent with the investment policy regarding approval of gifts to the Agency. Under the contract dispute provisions, there's some non-substantive clarifying changes we're requesting adoption of. And then disclosure of information, we're required to have rules on that and we would like to replace commercial customer information with non-recreational customer information for purposes of accuracy and then to change the exemptions for disclosure of commercial -- of commercial or magazine customer, so that -- eliminating the opt-out provision regarding disclosure, but also we want to make sure we comply with the magazine standards of -- industry standards for those.

On advisory committees, previously we had a general expiration date for all advisory committees. We propose to eliminate that. The advisory committees' expiration dates will be as stated in the rule for each advisory committee. The advisory committees there that are listed, the 11, all of those have expired. We would recommend that we just get those rules off the books. And Chapter 61, it's really just a clarifying change.

We only received three comments supporting the changes to Chapter 61. This is the motion we'll be presenting tomorrow regarding adoption of the changes and adoption of the rule review of 51, 52, 55, 60, and 61. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Ann? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ann, how often -- since you're talking about fees, how often do we look at fees top to bottom? Do we ever do it just looking at are we charging the appropriate fee, as opposed to doing it section by section?

MS. BRIGHT: I don't -- how do I say this? I think historically -- and I may need some help on this -- we've looked at fees like we'll look at usually the hunting and fishing licensing fees in a group. Then we'll look at State park fees in a group. The rules regarding State park fees are normally really adopted once we get up to the -- we start hitting the max on whatever the various fee categories are.

One of the things that we will be coming back to you with over the next year concern State park fees because there are some of those that are at the max. I'm not aware of a process where we've looked at all fees in a single project. Usually, those are -- you know, those are -- some of the permitting fees I think we do them as they come up.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. That's right, Commissioner. We tend to do it by unit or program. You know, State parks has a process in which they look at all of their fees on an annual basis. Different work groups or units that have fees for different licenses or permits, we'll look at it on different time scales. But to answer your question, at least I'm not aware of any recent top-to-bottom look at every fee for any license, permit, privilege, which we've done it all contemporaneously.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, it seems to me that any business -- and after all, we are a business -- ought to look at its fee structure on an annual basis. Now whether we do it top to bottom or in a meeting or do it by division, I think whatever is most practical; but I sure think we ought to look at these fees on an annual basis and maybe you make no change, maybe you reduce some. But I at least think we ought to look at it on an annual basis by a business unit or segment.

MR. SMITH: Okay, let us -- I that's a great suggestion and let us kind of work with the leadership team on that review and maybe talk about a process by which we accomplish that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, good. The other question I have is on 53.90 where you say simplify and clarify the specific types of vessels exempted from the requirement for boat registration. Is that -- is that speaking of kayaks?

MS. BRIGHT: No. It has to do with large vessels, usually on the coast. There's --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's fine.

MS. BRIGHT: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just wanted to make sure if we were looking at that at the same time we were talking about the other earlier this morning, we might consider them together. If it's different, then don't worry about it.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions? Additional questions? Thanks, Ann. I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes to Chapter 53, 59, and 69 in the Texas Register for the required public comment period and place Chapters 51, 52, 55, 60, and 61 on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

With regard to Item 13, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments? Okay. If not, I'll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input the process.

Same applies to Item 14. Any questions, comments from any anyone on the Commission? Okay. I'll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

And we're going to do the same with Item 15. Any questions or comments? Okay. I'll place Item 15 on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Item 16, Acceptance of Land Donation, Brazoria County, Approximately 480 Acres at the Christmas Bay Coastal Preserve, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process, Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is the first reading. This will come back to you at a later time for action, but it's a proposal to add 480 acres to the Department's land inventory.

This one is a pretty interesting acquisition. First of all, it's right on the coast. It straddles Follets Island, which was a peninsula at one time, but is now an island because of the construction of the intercoastal waterway. But it straddles -- in fact, let me just get to a map of it. It straddles the -- it straddles the island from the Christmas Bay system all the way to the Gulf. Protects about a mile of frontage on both. It's being made possible, the acquisition, by a CIAP grant, a coastal -- coastal protection grant.

We've been partnering with Brazoria County on this process. They were actually the applicant because our authority varies from year to year to take grant money and use it for acquisitions. So Brazoria County will receive the money and at closing, that property will be transferred to Texas Parks & Wildlife. I think it's a terrific acquisition and first, because it's got such a high fish and wildlife values, protects seagrass beds and oyster beds, birding areas including areas for the Piping Plover; but it's also our first acquisition that we're classifying as a Coastal Bay Upland acquisition.

The adjacent Christmas Bay is currently a coastal preserve, but coastal preserve properties are owned by the General Land Office and we are -- we have some management authority for those under a coastal lease process. In this case, we're actually going to acquire the adjacent uplands to help protect that coastal preserve and as you can see from this map, the feds -- there's a National Wildlife Refuge that protects the north bay -- the north shore of Christmas Bay and Drum Bay. And this tract will just really, really enhance the protection of that entire, very important wetland system.

It's a popular bay for paddling. Very shallow water. Lots of seagrasses. And we just think it has a tremendous -- excuse me -- has tremendous fish and wildlife value. And I believe that's it. At one time, just so you'll know, at one time that property was owned by Texas Parks & Wildlife. It was known as Christmas Bay State Park and Legislation in 1997 transferred that along with Matagorda Peninsula and the Ocotillo Unit of the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area to the GLO in exchange for some inholdings and minerals at Franklin Mountains State Park. It was a significant tract in 1997, and we still think it has extremely high fish and wildlife value.

Management would be minimal, probably consisting of some post-and-bollard cabling along certain sections of that highway to control access. We want to keep access open for paddling. It is a popular destination for paddlers. And other than that, it's a coastal prairie, coastal marsh and dune system that doesn't require a lot of hands on management. And with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Ted?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ted, who owns the property on either side of the tract to be acquired?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. We've actually -- we're actually working on -- looking for funding to acquire the tract to the northeast, which is another 400 or so acre tract that's open. There is a small -- there's a road with cabins along it. There's a small subdivision between those two tracts. The property to the south, I'm not sure about. It's broken into smaller, privately owned tracts; but we are actually pursuing potential funding for doubling the size of that coastal preserve acquisition.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That -- those fractured ownerships on either end don't present any issues for us?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: If we were intending to develop this as a state park, it might present operational issues. Because the principal purpose is to preserve those prairies and protect them from further fragmentation and those emergent marshes and dune lagoon systems, it really doesn't present a significant hurdle in terms of our goals, which again Piping Plover habitat, seagrass habitat, trying to prevent further fragmentation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks. Any other questions for Ted? Okay. Thanks, Ted. I'll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Item 17 is Land Aquisition, Bexar County, 461 Acres at Government Canyon State Natural Area, Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. As you probably well know, Government Canyon is almost 9,000 acres now. It is inside the city limits of San Antonio. It really is one of the gems in the State Park system as a state natural area that preserves some really, really significant habitat for endangered species, aquifer recharge, and being so close to the second largest urban center in Texas.

You can well imagine being inside the city limits of San Antonio, that opportunities to add undeveloped properties are few and far between. We are in contact with all of the owners of all the significant tracts, remaining undeveloped tracts, and always watching for opportunities to add to Government Canyon while we can. This particular tract because it contains significant aquifer recharge features and endangered species, we've been able to work with the City of San Antonio to bring aquifer recharge funds to the table and with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to bring endangered species funds to the table.

I would add that the Nature Conservancy has done all the heavy lifting here. They've actually brought the partners together and brought the seller to the table and been instrumental in negotiating a bargain sale price that gets us within about $300,000 of being able to make that acquisition. We'll cover that cost with a Land and Water Conservation grant, which we're going to match with donated dollars. The property is very dramatic. Lots of topography. The highest point in Bexar County is just south of here on the state natural area. This property straddles the second highest point in Bexar County. Just rugged, spectacular property. Great access. It's going to be quite a recreational amenity as well as a fish and wildlife amenity for the park.

Here is the view looking north. Twenty years ago, you would have thought it's not possible to build homes on some of these hillsides and hilltops and, of course, those are all getting covered up with homes daily. If nothing else, this property does a lot to protect the viewshed for the park. The view to the south is pretty spectacular looking down Government Canyon into the state natural area. Obviously, this point, this ridge of points is something that we want to protect for the viewshed value and for the recreational value for the state natural area.

We're bringing this to you in a single reading because the owner really does intend to try and close this transaction prior to your meeting in January. Again, this has been a real partnership to get this done and bring the various pieces to the table. The seller is selling at about 75 percent of the most recent appraised value. Survey/appraisal of phase one have been completed now. The minerals have been severed. We have -- we've just received a preliminary title commitment, so we are researching where those titles currently reside; but there has been no oil and gas activity in that region and the folks we've been able to talk to so far are confident there's a very low probability of any oil and gas activity. And if so, again, the topography and access are such that we should not have a difficult time managing that should it occur in the future.

The City of San Antonio has a recommendation from the Prop 1 Committee to dedicate the $7 million that's been recommended for that acquisition. The City has not met and confirmed that. We anticipate that happening in December. This is the motion that you'll see tomorrow: The Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 461 acres in Bexar County for addition to Government Canyon State Natural Area.

I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've just got one.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Morian.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: On your the map, that City of San Antonio donation. Are they acquiring that on their map?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Which one is that, Reed?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: The one just south.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Oh, they already own those tracts and the Commission has already authorized our acceptance of those tracts.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Those two there?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. That's part of a 3,000-acre donation that this Commission authorized more than a year ago. We are just now hammering out the very last of the details for the conservation easement that has allowed the extraction of Golden-cheeked Warbler credit from those tracts.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Ted? Are we good? Okay. Thanks, Ted. I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Item No. 18 is Land Acquisition, Nacogdoches County, Approximately 60 Acres as an Addition to the Alazan Bayou Wildlife Management Area, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process, Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KHULMANN: Good afternoon. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is an acquisition of approximately 60 acres at Alazan Bayou in Nacogdoches County, East Texas. This acquisition is a small acquisition. It's a -- it says donation tract on there. We are going to acquire it, but we're going to acquire it with a Wetlands grant that we received; so the tract will cost us nothing in the end.

It's about 50 percent swamp, 50 percent hardwood bottom, excellent duck habitat, with about 3,400-foot of common boundary with the park or with the WMA, which makes it an attractive tract. And after saying that, we would like your permission to begin the process of public notice and public input regarding the acquisition of this tract. I'll answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Corky? Thanks, Corky. Okay. No further discussion, I'll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Committee Item 19, Land Acquisition, Hemphill County, Approximately 473 Acres as an Addition to the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process, Corky.

MR. KHULMANN: Again, for the record, Corky Kuhlmann, Land Conservation Program. This is up in the Panhandle of Hemphill County, 473 acres in Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area. The two tracts that you see shown belong to the GLO. We've been after them for a while. The Canadian River actually runs through the middle of the tract to the east, the larger tract. The tract further to the west, the smaller tract, is -- there's a little bit more land there to sell. The adjacent landowner to the south of the river, we're going to split that GLO property with him. He's going to buy up to some of the river one side, us the other.

This tract will create more recreational opportunities, fishing and hunting at the Gene Howe Unit; and also, it would be nice to get just to keep somebody else from getting it. There's a closer up picture of it. You can see how the river runs. It runs through the middle of the 351-acre tract. We should acquire all of that and then everything to the north of the river adding a 122-acre tract. And with that, I'll answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Corky on this item?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are we getting the sand, gravel, and marl?

MR. KHULMANN: Well, I don't know. Is it a navigable stream?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just kidding, just kidding.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Are those wood ducks in that picture? Go to the picture -- go to the picture -- that. Can you see those ducks in that picture?

MR. KHULMANN: Can I see the ducks?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah. You may be a little further away to really --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: If you get really close to it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, yeah. They're in there. You can look at it later.

MR. KHULMANN: If there's ducks there, I don't see any of those ducks.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Oh, there's definitely ducks in there. There's definitely ducks.

MR. KHULMANN: Them are ducks?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Huh?

MR. KHULMANN: Them are ducks?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Oh, yeah.

MR. KHULMANN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Corky. Okay, I'll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

With regard to Item 21, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments? Okay. If not, I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process on 21.

With regard to Item 22, does anyone have any questions or comments? If not, I'll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Item -- where are we -- 23, yeah. Yep, that's still correct. Yep, so -- yeah, okay. Item No. 23, there's no further action required at this time and I think I can declare us adjourned. Thank you.

(Work Session Meeting Adjourns)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS       )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, 2012.

__________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2012
Firm Registration Number: 87
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Suite 294
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