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TPW Commission

Work Session, November 6, 2013

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

NOVEMBER 6, 2013

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

WORK SESSION

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We're having a photograph taken. Just another minute or two, and we'll get started. All rise.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Welcome to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's okay, they made me do push-ups.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good morning everyone. This meeting is called to order November 6th, 2013, at 9:16 a.m. We're running a little late because we had some photographic obligations.

Before we proceed with any further business, Carter Smith has a statement to make, I believe.

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Now, while the script says the first order of business is the approval of minutes, I'm going to diverge and say the first order of business is to recognize our newest Commissioner, Roberto De Hoyos. Welcome, Roberto.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Next item would be the approval of the minutes from the previous work session that was held August 21st, 2013. The minutes, of course, have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval, or are there any issues?

COMMISSIONER JONES: So moved.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion by Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Second.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second by Commissioner De Hoyos. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

All right. First work session item is an update on the progress in implementing the Land and Water Resources Conservation Plan, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. It's nice to see everybody this morning. As a point in parture, I thought I'd share a few words on some updates on key things that we thought you would be interested in. I'm going to actually kind of reorder my slide presentation a little bit on the fly, which I know is always dangerous.

I had originally wanted to start off with a discussion about a new Agency dashboard tool that we've created, but I'm going to save that for the end if I could and come back to that. And so just let's start off with a quick update on where we stand on Internal Affairs. A few items that I want to share with all of you.

That team is doing very, very well under the very capable leadership of Major Joe Carter. At the last meeting, I had informed y'all that we had a new Captain Investigator position open. We wanted to help build and create some more capacity within our Internal Affairs team. We had a high number of very, very qualified applicants for that position. Internal Affairs team always attracts the best and the brightest of our Law Enforcement officers from State Parks and Law Enforcement.

We ended up selecting Brad Chappell, who some of you know. Brad has been with us for 25 years. Been an Investigator with us for the last 10 or 11 years. Very, very competent. His dad was a Game Warden, so second generation in that family and awfully proud to welcome Brad to the team. Very, very capable and we're pleased with that selection.

Also, just quickly want to let you know about a new risk management tool that we acquired for Internal Affairs and also to use for HR and State Parks Law Enforcement. IAPro, a new software tracking system that allows us to better monitor and track incidents, actions, behaviors, and also gives us some more predictive capabilities to be able to inform management when we start to see patterns or trends or actions that we think might escalate and cause issues for the Agency and so this is a software system that several hundred Law Enforcement agencies use across the country. Our Internal Affairs team are really excited to have that and, again, I just think as we continue to button up our risk management practices on the Internal Affairs side, this is an important tool for them. So I'm real pleased that we made that investment in that new software. Last but --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, does --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- it track internal behavior?

MR. SMITH: It's internal behavior, yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Internal.

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh, yep, yep. Absolutely. Yeah, sorry, I should have made that clear.

COMMISSIONER LEE: So what are the inputs for the system?

MR. SMITH: So the inputs, you know, come from cases, maybe HR related incidents that we're tracking, specific charges that have been filed or allegations that have been filed, patterns of behavior that we're seeing out there. And so, again, not only does it help our officers do a better job of just sort of tracking their case load and managing it; but there are also these predictive capabilities where you start to see trends that might start to repeat themselves or manifest themselves or are kind of indicators that might suggest something else may happen that we need to be on guard against. So we're excited about that and anybody who wants to take a closer look at that, let me know and we'll get Major Carter to show it to you, so.

Last but not least, just want to compliment our Internal Affairs and Law Enforcement staff on an issue in Limestone County. We had two Game Wardens that while pursuing two suspects were rammed with the vehicle by the suspects and then in the course of the pursuit, the suspects shined a spotlight at them and caused them to go off the road and wreck. And so obviously a very, very serious issue. Our Internal Affairs officers along with local Game Wardens and the Limestone County Sheriff's Department were able to apprehend those fugitives and they're being charged with aggravated assault against a peace officer. Obviously a serious charge. But again, one of the core duties and functions of our Internal Affairs team is helping to protect our own in those situations; so awfully proud of their actions and wanted to share that with y'all.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: A quick question to follow up on that. When that happens and we lose a -- presumably lose a vehicle, where -- we fund that -- we have some sort of contingency fund that -- where does that...

MR. SMITH: Yeah. No, we really do not have a contingency fund, per say. We do have a strategic reserve fund that we have. We have a certain amount of vehicles that we're allotted by the Legislature that we can purchase in any year. I don't know if those -- that vehicle was totaled?

Do you know, Craig, on that?

COLONEL HUNTER: I don't know.

MR. SMITH: I don't know. I'll find that -- I'll find that out.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I was just curious.

MR. SMITH: But obviously in those cases, we've got to find another vehicle for them and whether it's a replacement vehicle that we have somewhere that's used or if we have the capability and the ability to acquire a new one, we'll do that. But certainly vehicles is a serious issue for the Agency in terms of the shortage of that. Also, the high mileage on vehicles and the need to work on that next session.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, surely the DA who prosecutes the two guys would -- that could be part of the punishment is they --

MR. SMITH: Have we ever -- Craig, are you aware on any -- come forward if you would, Craig. Are you aware of any situations where we've had a DA that's actually come in and provided a vehicle? I can't remember that.

COLONEL HUNTER: Not specifically for a vehicle, but obviously a restitution.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's what I was --

COLONEL HUNTER: An investigation, absolutely. I think that's an absolute possibility, yes, sir, and it happens not frequently; but several times a year in doing our Law Enforcement duties, we run across that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we traditionally or typically seek restitution?

COLONEL HUNTER: We do. We do. We try to, yes, sir. We do do that. I can't specifically tell you one involving a vehicle; but, yes, sir, we do.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.

Dan Allen.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Carter, we don't -- does the State have any insurance for the vehicles?

MR. SMITH: No. No, we do not.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, we're self-insured.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, sorry to get off.

MR. SMITH: Nope, that's good. Good questions. It's a -- vehicles are a big issue for us across all of our field divisions, and so it's good that we're talking about that. The Legislature helped us out the past session with providing some additional funding. You know, that was one of our key exceptional item requests. But that will continue to be a big issue as we go forward; so as we work with the Commission on the preparation of our Legislative appropriation requests for the next session, just know that capital equipment, in particular vehicles, are going to be top of mind for us. So wanted to forecast that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, what's the condition of the Wardens? Are they fine? I mean I know they had a wreck.

MR. SMITH: No. Certain -- you mean those two Wardens?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Those two Wardens.

MR. SMITH: Yes, yes. Yeah, they're fine.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Physically?

MR. SMITH: Physically they're fine, yes, sir. Yeah, yeah, thank you for asking. Yep, yep, yep, everybody is okay. Yeah, thank you. Just --

COMMISSIONER JONES: If there's ever any doubt this can be a dangerous undertaking --

MR. SMITH: That's it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- you've got evidence to prove otherwise, don't you?

MR. SMITH: Absolutely, absolutely. Just wanted to share, you know, a new facility that we were able to complete recently down in Port O'Connor. As y'all know, our Coastal Fisheries teams have a series of fishery stations along the coast. Our Coastal Fisheries biologists are responsible for monitoring the health in the bays and estuaries and fisheries. We've had a long-standing office there in Port O'Connor.

Unfortunately in the past, it's -- the office itself was not one that was anywhere near up to the standards that it should have been. This was an old, converted 1960s era wooden warehouse that had survived multiple hurricanes. Maybe even Carla. But, you know, it was just a disaster. Lead paint, asbestos. We had a bathroom converted to a lab, a wet lab. It really -- just the conditions were just abominable.

And so we're proud and no one is more proud than Norman Boyd and his team down in Port O'Connor to have this new facility infrastructure completed this recently. It gives us a little more than 7,000 square feet for office and lab. Also, storing boats and trailers and research related gear, etcetera. And so if you're down in Port O'Connor, stop by. We're proud of this office and our team there and Lord knows they deserve it and so I just wanted to let you know about that and I know Robin and his team are awfully excited about it.

Big news, new license sales system. And I think -- yeah, thank you, Commissioner. It's a -- yes, it's one to clap about.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Plenty of downside potential in that.

MR. SMITH: Plenty of downside potential, absolutely. And I think Ann had done a good job of keeping the Commission up to speed on where we were on it and just couldn't be prouder of that seamless transition. Really when we went into that, you know, as all of the Commission noted, our goal was for hunters and anglers to not notice a thing. This was a back-end system and we wanted things to continue to be as seamless as possible for our hunters and anglers.

And so I think, by and large, a very, very, very successful IT system transition. One that was fraught with obviously a lot of risks, given how significant that is to our constituents, all of the revenue that we collect. But we have reflected a lot on why we think that project ended up being so successful. Not the least of which was an exemplary vendor, Gordon-Darby. You know, small company, highly motivated, very talented. Jay Gordon, one of the principals, was personally involved from start to finish. I mean they wanted to make this a flagship project.

They had never developed a license system like this before. They had developed plenty of other systems for emissions testing and had done work for State agencies in the past; but this was really their first foray into developing a hunting and fishing license system, so naturally there was a little trepidation about how that was going to work out. But just could not have had a higher performer. Great communicator, consummate team players, and really just poured their heart and soul into it and just really, really good.

I think also one thing that helped was, you know, a very clear and precise project plan. Very specific timelines, action items, deliverables, trigger points for decisions, clear times for go and no go. It was just very, very well explicated as to what was going to happen when and who was going to be responsible for it and I think that played a big part in it. Certainly another factor was the abundance of testing that happened with this system. I mean we had a crew of testers that literally for months sat in a windowless room and did everything they could to penetrate it and to look at it. Not only as modules would come in, but basically from end to end and find any bugs, send it back to Gordon-Darby to fix. And so we had some colleagues that worked under really a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, and candidly not the best environment in a windowless conference room for just months on end and just did a phenomenal job probing and testing that.

You know, last but not least, just an extraordinary team, interdisciplinary team in the Agency that worked on it. I called Jay Gordon that Sunday the 20th, just to congratulate him on a successful transition and one of the things he said that I wanted to share with you, he said, you know, Carter, I've been doing this a long time in terms of working for clients and helping develop systems and I, across all sectors, you know, I have never worked with a group of people that were more committed, more dedicated to the task at hand. He said it was an absolute pleasure working with the team here. They felt like family.

And that was just a really, really nice validation of that and so couldn't be more proud and I'll acknowledge a few that are here today. Please know there were many that worked on this. George Rios, you know, our IT Director was our executive sponsor and George spent a lot, a lot of time helping to guide this and manage it and make sure all of the moving parts were going forward and just did an extraordinary job on that. Bridget Wolf from IT, she was our quarterback. She was our project manager and Bridget took care of all of the details and if something was wrong, she was going to make sure it got fixed and so Bridget is here with us in the -- oh, Bridget, you can stand. Quit being so demure back there. It's a -- it's a -- yeah.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: Jamie McClanahan and Jamie just again led that testing team responsible for so many parts of this. The heart and soul. Gave it a lot of energy and spirit, kept them going. Just did a wonderful job. And then, you know, the clients. Our team from the license sales system, there's not any finer across the country, Tom Newton and Cathy Hamby. They did everything to make sure this worked. So proud of them, and I know they're proud of this system.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: Really just an extraordinary team effort and so forgive me for bragging a little bit on them, but they earned it and so they made all of us proud.

And so Dawn gave me some figures. Since that was launched on the 20th, I guess we've sold 289,732 licenses and not unanticipated, we had a little peak, you know, obviously right before deer season opener last weekend end and things went off without a hitch. So we've had some opportunities to test that now in which the volumes have gotten higher and to see how the system would respond. So anyway, good stuff. Nice to see that come to fruition. Awfully proud of our team.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Send them all to Washington right now.

COMMISSIONER JONES: No, no, no. Let's keep them right here in Texas. We had them first.

MR. SMITH: Exactly.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a question. How much sleep did the team get that weekend of the transition?

MR. SMITH: That's a big zero, yeah, yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's what I was thinking. Well, we were thinking about them.

MR. SMITH: Well, and I --

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Hey, Bill, as much sleep as Carter's had.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, that's right.

MR. SMITH: Well, I should have mentioned and I don't know if she was technically the first purchaser; but certainly she was the first Texas Parks and Wildlife purchaser. Again, this team thought through the most minute details and so Ann Bright was our designated guinea pig to go launch the system. So she done good. She's officially legal. So, Craig, leave her alone in the field. And so thank you, Ann, for playing such an instrumental role in all this as well.

We had shared with you the annual stocking report that Ross and his team had put together, and so we've handed that out. Should be on your desk there and just, I'm not going to go into all of the details of it; but ask that you take a look at it. This is just a really wonderful summation. Some of the really core activities of our Fisheries and Wildlife biologists and technicians around the state and in no small part thanks to all of their stocking work, you know, we have what, you know, we think is unarguably the country's best fish and game and hunting and angling opportunities.

And so these fish and game enhancement programs that we've had really since the inception of the Game and Fish Commission, just play a huge role in it. And so this report just gives an annual summation of stocking activities and it covers everything from, you know, Inland Fisheries, you know, providing recreational opportunity through the winter Rainbow trout stocking through all of the bass and catfish and Striped bass stocking that they do around the state. The work our Coastal Fisheries biologists do in terms of helping to augment populations with Redfish and trout and, of course, the relatively new Southern flounder propagation efforts that are going on and then, of course, work that our Wildlife biologists are doing to help stock areas whether it's with Pronghorn or Bighorn sheep. So it's a good read. Take a look at it. It also provides a nice historical perspective into a lot of the history of the early years of this Agency and just how significant those populations of fish and game are that have been stocked by our biologists. So enjoy that when you have a little bit of time.

Before I talk about this LCRA issue, you know, maybe say a few words about the weather and I know some of you have some things that you want to share. I think, you know, J. Frank Dobie probably said it best when he characterized Texas weather as being really defined by long periods of drought that were periodically punctuated with intermittent heavy floods. And certainly I think we have seen that in spades around the state and not the least of which in Central Texas and unfortunately even some around this table have had to experience that very, very personally and thankfully they're here to be with us today, most importantly.

Floods of October very significant here in Central Texas. The ones that occurred there in mid October and then most recently on the 30th and 31st. Our Game Wardens were very, very active in Central Texas -- Guadalupe, Hays, Caldwell, Travis, Bastrop Counties. I think they conducted approximately 35 rescues. They had two body recoveries, including a very tragic one with an 8-month-old infant. Just absolutely heartbreaking, but utilized every tool they could and they really, really, really made us proud and I know y'all are proud of them, too.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I guess I'm turned on. Mr. Chairman and everybody in here and particularly you, Colonel Hunter, as y'all know, I'm involved with a lot of Law Enforcement groups, different varieties for lots of reasons and most of the time it's all for good, you know. Knock on wood. But I had some -- I had some -- I had some conversations from the Game Warden, Sheriff Pickering down in Bastrop and of course my good friend Gary Cutler over in Hays County and you need to pass down the compliments that I received, that they just said, you know, the people that came out, they didn't ask for anything, they put in long hours, and they need to be commended and it needs to be in their files that they went way above and beyond and other people recognized it.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: May I?

MR. SMITH: Please, please, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I've got to second your motion. Obviously, I lived it firsthand myself. Onion Creek, my house got completed flooded with, you know, five foot of water on the outside and two inside my house. Game Wardens came out there in my area. They were the only ones out there, I may add. We're still look -- still waiting for the locals to show up. And, you know, anyway, that's a different story.

I do want to say that the Wardens did a great, great job. I saw it firsthand. I had never seen them in action before, you know. I was expecting to hopefully join them on a trip and kind of learn what they did. I didn't expect to learn that quick. I really didn't want to learn that quick in, you know, 20 minutes; but I really, really was proud of being part of this Commission and seeing them working and seeing them in action. They did a phenomenal job.

A lot of the neighbors had no idea why the Wardens were there. You know, they called them the hunting police and, you know, they had no clue why they were there; but I think they had a great exposure. I think Onion Creek is mostly a retirement community and I was very, very proud to see them in action helping, you know, old people getting out of houses and things like that. So, thank you.

MR. SMITH: Thanks, Commissioner. Thank you, thank you.

Yeah, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I would like to say something as well in kind of a follow up. This is -- you know, our Game Wardens and Law Enforcement/Internal Affairs are just, along with everyone else in this Agency, are just stellar. But just like Roberto said, a lot of the neighbors and a lot of the people around don't have a clue what really the new face of the Wardens and what they do. A new face, not so much; but, you know, it's already been for a few -- for some time and so it's all the more important that we do everything we can to support them, help them in getting the word out across the state and across the nation because they are -- they shoulder to shoulder with all the other Law Enforcement agencies and, in my opinion, you know, a few steps ahead of them and above them because they put their heart and soul in it and it's not just because it's a job. It's because they're passionate and they love and they care.

So I think just the more support we give them, getting the word out of what they do and getting other people in our communities aware of all that they do is so crucial and so I just wanted to, again, just commend them and just step forward in assisting in any way possible in getting this word out across our state.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, absolutely, Commissioners. Thank y'all for those kind words. They're well deserved for that team. They make us proud every day out there and so thank y'all for acknowledging that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Did you guys all get tickets recently?

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I don't want a ticket.

MR. SMITH: Trying to get ahead of the game, aren't they?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Laying the groundwork.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Exactly how many dove did you kill?

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Hey, you know what? It's just building the foundation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think you're safe, and Roberto is safe. Now, you're a different story. Okay.

MR. SMITH: I want to come back to LCRA and the drought situation. You know, this really multi-year drought that state has had to confront has posed some huge challenges for water managers around the state and they've had to confront some challenges really like they have never seen before and certainly here in Central Texas, LCRA has been at the forefront of that and I want to provide a bit of an update to y'all as to where we stand with respect to the request that the LCRA Board submitted in late September to ask for emergency relief from the requirement that they release water from the Highland Lakes to help support the inflow needs down in Matagorda Bay. That's an issue that a number of us have talked about fairly extensively.

A lot has changed obviously in five and six weeks and certainly the discussion about these floods have had a bearing on what's happening down in the bays and estuaries and I'll talk to that. I think as most folks know, the LCRA manages their lake system, the Highland Lake system, and is governed by a State approved water management plan and so that provides specific provisions in terms of how they allocate and manage water for all of their many users throughout the basin.

One of the parameters in the water management plan calls for the release of water to help sustain critical inflow needs down at the mouth of the river there in the delta and at the time, the times of serious drought conditions, that becomes an even more important issue as we work to sustain the health of our nursery grounds, our spawning grounds, our bays and estuaries and try to maintain essentially a refuge at the mouth of the river that can be protected from the high salinities and other issues that come about with diminished inflows as an artifact of drought conditions.

And so LCRA had a very, very difficult decision to make in late September and they went to the TCEQ with a specific request for an emergency order to basically suspend the required flow releases and so they asked for that to be in effect for 120 days or when the combined storage of Lakes Buchanan and Travis reached 900,000 acre feet. At the time, the combined storage was around 660,000 acre feet, to help put that in perspective.

That was a very significant action for a lot of reasons. You know, one, it was simply unparalleled. There was no time in history in which anyone could remember LCRA facing such a difficult decision and having to take such significant action. Secondly, because of the conditions at the time, it looked like we were very quickly approaching the drought record. Given what had happened in the past and the forecast that were ahead, it looked like that those lake levels were going to continue to drop precipitously and continue to put them in a very, very difficult position. And then last but not least, it involved the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department because as a function of the State Water Code and TCEQ rules, before LCRA could act on the emergency -- or TCEQ could act on the emergency request from LCRA, they had to receive and consider comments from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, primarily about what that would mean for inflows down into the basin, estuaries at the mouth of the Colorado River.

And so let me say at the outset that both LCRA and TCEQ very actively coordinated with the Parks and Wildlife Department in making sure that we were apprised of the actions that they were going to take and making sure that we had information in a very timely fashion and so they really worked hard to make sure that we were informed and certainly they understood the very important role that the Department was being asked to play in this endeavorer.

As a function of some very hard work of our Coastal Fisheries team, our Legal team, the Executive Office, General Counsel, Robin Riechers and others, we submitted our formal letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on October the 11th and at that time, our understanding was that the TCEQ Executive Director was going to act on the emergency order request on the 23rd of October and then the full TCEQ Commission was going to take that up on November 6th. Basically, in our letter -- and anybody who would like a copy of that, we'd be happy to share it -- we did a couple of things.

First, we acknowledged again kind of the almost unprecedented circumstances that we found ourselves in with the drought condition and what a difficult position everybody was in. Secondly, our team did I think an exemplary job of basically characterizing the ecological and recreational and fish and wildlife based economic circumstances from essentially the basins all the way down to the bay and so some very good biological descriptors of essentially what's going on in the system. And so, you know, whether that was the abundance of invasive aquatic plants that have proliferated in the Colorado River, say, you know, below the Montopolis bridge going downstream and what that meant to the health of the river, to the superabundance salinity levels there at the mouth of the river, the prevalence of Red Tide, the persistence of Dermo which is a parasite in oysters, the status of the oyster industry, commercial recreational fisheries, what would happen if we didn't get relief from the drought with substantial rains to our -- the health of our estuarine and marsh systems, what that would mean for spawning and nursing grounds for recreationally and commercially important finfish and shellfish. So I think it was a very thorough coverage of basically, again, here's the ecological state of the river and the bays and estuaries as an artifact of this very prolonged and protracted drought.

Then we simply really asked for two things in our letter. The LCRA had asked for a 120-day suspension of that requirement to release stored water if they had to and the extent that was provided for under the Water Management Plan. We suggested that that order, if granted, be limited to 90 days. And the reason for that was simply that, you know, the spring is such a critical time with respect to spawning season for our Coastal Fisheries and we felt after 90 days, we could kind of come back and see what's the state of inflows, has anything changed, and if there was an opportunity then to maybe adapt and adjust, that might give us a little bit more time to act on it for the health of the fisheries.

And then secondly, again, acknowledging the very difficult situation that all parties were in, that if LCRA elected to even release some bit of water downstream, if they felt that situations justified or warranted that, that we were happy to play a role in helping to advise them on what we think or thought could be helpful with respect to having some localized benefits. Again, whether it's pushing out those mats of invasive and aquatic species or just providing some temporary relief to high salinity levels there at the mouth of the delta.

One of the goals in a drought like we have been in and really still are in, at that kind of refuge or sanctuary area at the mouth of the river, the goal is to try to keep a small area with salinity levels at or below 30 parts per thousand, essentially to provide a refuge for fish. That when you can get a big pulse of rain like we've had recently, then you've got a refuge for fish that can't tolerate high salinity levels for too long, could spawn in those situations, and then go back out and repopulate the bay. So it's basically a biological reserve, if you will. And so that's something, you know, we've worked for a long time with LCRA and other partners in.

So we submitted that letter on the 11th. You know, the 13th of October the skies opened up and very significant rainfall, particularly in the Onion Creek watershed coming into Lake Austin. LCRA then opened up one of the floodgates there at Tom Miller dam and so it takes -- Cindy Loeffler could -- and Colette Barron-Bradsby could correct me if I'm wrong. But it takes about 10, 11, 12, 13 days for water once it's released from the dams then to get down to the bays and estuaries usually coming from this far upstream.

What we have seen as a function of the rains in mid October and then the ones, the Halloween and pre-Halloween rains, is that we've seen upwards of 87,000 acre feet go into the mouth of the river. In drought conditions, the absolute biological threshold that we try to have, whether it's through return flows or rain or some modicum of release of stored water is 14,000 acre feet a month.

So this huge flush that came about as an artifact of the October rain is very, very helpful for recalibrating the salinity levels. You know, again, in October before the rains, even at the mouth, salinity levels at the mouth itself were upwards of 30, 33 parts per thousand. When that freshwater got down to the mouth, we started to see them drop to 20 parts per thousand, to 8 parts per thousand, to 3 parts per thousand. So, doing it's job. Mother Nature is doing her job in terms of providing a good pulse of water back into the bays and estuaries to help maintain its health.

Some of the other benefits we've seen, you know, we don't have any incidents of Red Tide any more on the coast. And so, you know, Red Tide I think as most of you know, tends to be most prolific in high salinity environments. So, again, the pulse of freshwater really, really helped in that regard and obviously some saw benefits, significant benefits, to our marshes and estuarine habitat, which are so important during the spring season for spawning. So, water helped.

You know, obviously those big rains were primarily downstream of Lakes Travis and Buchanan; so they candidly did not catch a lot of water from these rains. I think they're up to now maybe 36 percent capacity. Whereas before, you know, they were about 31, 32, 33 percent. So unfortunately, we didn't catch the water in the upper basin that we really need to help bring back those lakes.

So what does that mean for the LCRA emergency request to TCEQ? And really was an emergency request. After that first rain in mid October, they sent a letter to TCEQ asking them to defer a decision by the Executive Director to no earlier than the 27th of November and then ask that the TCEQ Commission take up the matter on the 11th of December at their regularly scheduled meeting and so whether that course of action will be followed or not, I'm not exactly sure. Meanwhile, LCRA continues to work very diligently on other drought related measures that they're talking about and contemplating now relating to how they're going to continue manage water that would affect irrigation water for rice farmers, release for state threatened fish species, and also irrigation requirements for firm yield customers. So they've still got a very difficult road ahead of them on this issue, but I wanted to make sure that the Commission had an undate on where things were and would be happy to take any questions about it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So we will not know what action -- remind me again. Right now, the pending action is with TCEQ.

MR. SMITH: TCEQ, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But LCRA has asked TCEQ to hold off on their decision right now?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, to hold off until -- I believe the date is the 27th of November for the Executive Director and no earlier than that and then the Commissioners have a regularly scheduled meeting on the 11th of December and so I think that's what they had asked TCU[sic] to consider.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Which Commission? LCRA?

MR. SMITH: TCEQ Commission. Yeah, the LCRA Board asked the TCEQ Commission to defer the decision until then.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Until the December meeting?

MR. SMITH: Yes, yep, yep.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And so what we're looking for is at some point between now and the end of November and then perhaps further between now and December, I assume the LCRA will further provide information to TCEQ on whether or not they feel like action is needed or not.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir. Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Depending on how much rain we get between now and the end and whatnot.

MR. SMITH: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. SMITH: But I think we can certainly say and show, you know, unambiguously I mean we've seen significant improvements not surprisingly with the volume of water that have gone down the river as an artifact of the rains and really the heavy rains and these kind of flows into the river is the only way that this issue was going to be solved in terms of helping re-moderate those salinity regimes there at the mouth. But, yeah, we don't know exactly what's going to transpire from here with them.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So what you could have and I'm not here -- I don't want to speculate on what LCRA is going to ask or TCEQ is going to do. But it almost sounds like the water that we received is downstream. The water that they were looking to not release is upstream.

MR. SMITH: Correct.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And so they still may not release water upstream, but we just might not be as negatively affected downstream.

MR. SMITH: I think that's a very fair characterization of that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Because their issue was really whether or not they felt they were in a position to release stored water behind the lakes, and so you're right. You're exactly right, yep.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is the -- as LCRA moves forward -- sorry. As LCRA moves forward, is it -- does a part of its deliberative process include communicating with the City of Austin, for example, on how it might reduce its water needs? For example, car washes and things of that nature? I mean as a part of everybody feeling a little pain here while we're in this drought, it seems to me that ought to be at least discussed.

MR. SMITH: Certainly I think LCRA has, you, know pushed hard from an educational perspective on the need for all of us to conserve water. My understanding is right now at the staff level in preparation for Board meetings this month, you know, they're thinking about additional drought contingency measures that, again, would look at measures that would affect agriculture, the environment, and also their firm yield customers with respect to use of water for irrigation purposes.

So I think, you know, the situation is very, very serious and, again, can't speak for LCRA; but my understanding is that they're certainly looking at all options that they have to be able to conserve as much water behind the lakes as they feel they can.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And one of those options is to consider reducing the ability of, for example, the City of Austin to irrigate yards and use water for car washes. I just I'm not --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- pounding on Austin. I'm using it as an example since they're probably the biggest user.

MR. SMITH: So I think it's important to note, I mean no decision has been made by LCRA. I know at the staff level they're talking about maybe -- if I could ask Cindy or Colette to...

COMMISSIONER JONES: While Cindy is stepping forward, just let the record reflect that my truck is unwashed.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: And has been for the last five years.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I'm doing my part.

MS. LOEFFLER: Good morning. Cindy Loeffler for the record, Water Resources Branch Chief. Yeah, so part of the water management plan calls for when the lakes hit a certain storage level and Carter kind of touched on the drought, worst drought of record, set of criteria -- there's three criteria -- we were getting very close to that before these rains happened in October.

So what happens when those criteria are triggered is that all of the firm customers have to cut back by 20 percent. So believe me, LCRA has been in conversation with City of Austin, with all the other firm customers about how that's going to happen. City of Austin also has its own water conservation and drought contingency plans. We're currently in Stage 2 in Austin, so that means one time -- once-per-week watering, that kind of thing; but getting ready to go to Stage 3, you know, certainly before the rains came. So does that answer the question?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just hope that somebody is teeing that topic up for discussion as a part of the -- of where LCRA goes. I know it's LCRA's decision.

MS. LOEFFLER: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's all I'm urging.

MS. LOEFFLER: It's embedded in -- you know, in the Water Management Plan and I think the different entities -- LCRA, City of Austin, the other firm customers -- were really, you know, at the ready and I think not standing down just because it's rained. You know, still --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I mean but the releases were embedded in the Water Plan, too.

MS. LOEFFLER: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And they knew when they --

MS. LOEFFLER: Yes, yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- agreed to the releases they we were in a drought, so.

MS. LOEFFLER: Sure. Well, and at the LCRA Board level, you know, we monitored those discussions and there was a lot of concern among the Board members about just this thing. You know, LC -- is City of Austin, are the other firm customers, are they doing everything they can to conserve if we're going to cut back water to the bay, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And before -- Dick's got a -- wants to comment. But before you do that, I think it's also important to note that the LCRA decision to file this petition was a divided decision. I think it was -- what was it -- 15 to 8 or something like that?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No, there's only 15 total.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Or what -- was that -- anyway, there was --

MS. LOEFFLER: Yeah, it was close.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- a strong dissent by I think the Commissioners or whatever the appropriate term is, in the lower -- lower part --

MR. SMITH: Lower basin.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Lower basin. So this was not anything close to a unanimous decision to file this petition, for what that's worth.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just, you know, I wore that hat before I did this hat and just to give you a little information. You've got the 15 directors and, yes, you have five in the agricultural, you know, on the bottom end, where's you've got five up on top end and then you've got the five roughly in the middle or around it. So when you get down to that 600,000 acre feet, that is what they say would be the drought of record that we've not ever hit, but we were that close to it.

So there are a lot of -- I can tell you there are a lot of mandatory cutbacks from everybody. That is in place. That's part of their Water Plan. So you're -- you know, what you're saying, you know, if you're not familiar, they do have a lot of drastic cutbacks. If they had had to file that, it would have been -- it would have been catastrophic in our time because it's never happened. You know, that was in the 50s that the other deal happened and that was before we had how many millions of additional people. So I just want to give you that little piece of information that they have got a lot of mandatory, built-in automatic cuts.

But the big piece and I've been kind of trying to keep up with both sides of this since I know I'm on both sides, is how it affects us downstream. So now I wearing this hat, so I know how bad it is for that salinity to get up so high and -- but -- and to our staff side and everybody understands how bad it is and obviously people have got to come first before anything else.

So I thought our -- you know, I think we're trying to walk a pretty fine line. We bought a little time. Now, how much? That's going to depend on what happens between now and, you know, whenever we get any more good rain.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thanks, Cindy.

MR. SMITH: Any more questions on that anybody? Okay. Maybe if I could, Mr. Chairman, I'm going to go back to where we started on the slide show. One of the real priorities for Chairman Friedkin that he's been interested in is how we do a better job of tracking significant metrics that are important to Executive management and the Commission. You know, metrics that help us keep track of, you know, key performance indicators related to financial targets, recreational targets, conservation targets, workforce issues, safety issues, people issues, and including, you know, how we do as good a job as possible contemporaneously reviewing and keeping track of progress on action items in the Land and Water Plan, how we keep the Commission updated on that, and then how we visually represent that to the Commission in ways that are, you know, easy to look at and just get a real snapshot for the health of the Agency.

You know, as you know, we do a bunch of things in this Agency and we measure a lot of things across this Agency and there's some, you know, very significant sustaining ones that we keep a very close eye on. Not the least of which are performance measures that we track with the Legislative Budget Board and they have long-standing longitudinal data which they track on certain actions within our various approved Legislative strategies and Mike and his team help pay very close attention to monitoring those for the Agency.

We also have obviously, you know, action items that have been approved by the Commission that y'all have approved on an annual basis just to give us a snapshot of how we're doing with respect to implementing the four major goals within the plan. Again, by no means are these all-consuming, all-encompassing; but they do give us a quick synthesis of, in general, how are we doing, here are some indicators that we might measure and take a look at.

So to try to help move this forward, we asked Rich McMonagle to take the lead in helping to create a new tool for us, a new management tool, and Executive dashboard; and I've handed out a draft for you. And Rich really did just a masterful job. You know, Rich obviously leads our Infrastructure team. In a previous a life a Marine colonel. Very mission focused. Very goal focused. Extensive experience with planning. Just a voracious reader and lifelong learner and worked very hard with the divisions and Executive staff to go through a process to identify, again, what are those kind of key performance indicators and measures that at the Executive level we need to really have in one place and we can look at and get a very quick snapshot of how are we doing, are things going according to plan for this year, how do they compare against where we were last year, and if something is not going to plan, are we in a position to be able to quickly act to be able to address that situation.

And so I've got a draft here that we've put together and as you can see, the top half of the page covers a variety of different indicators. Again, from the most significant hunting and fishing licenses that we sell, revenue that we generate from that, park visitation revenue, safety issues, strategic reserve fund that we try to manage to help us with some of these emergency issues; but also, again, strategic issues that we need more latitude on, how we're doing with respect to workforce diversity. A key goal for us, how we're performing on our HUB goals as an Agency.

And so that data that you see at the top half of the page, which is pictured with charts and bullet graphs and, again, helps give an accurate snapshot of how we did on these issues up through the end of last fiscal year, save and accept the safety data there at the bottom on the top left, the key metrics, incidents and injuries; so that data is not yet completed. The bottom half in which we're looking at the specific action items for the Land and Water Plan, all of that data is notional, so don't pay attention to it. Just really the format. And it lays out, again, those action items that the Commission approved under each one of the goals and our plan is to measure, you know, the progress in terms of actual numbers; but also how we're doing against plans for fiscal year to date where we should be and then ultimately, you know, did we meet our fiscal year goal or not.

And so what I want to I guess ask of y'all really are two things. If you will take this take, take a look at it. Look at the legend to make sure you understand all the items here. But first, do you feel like this is a good encapsulation of, you know, again some of the most important performance indicators for the Agency that you feel like Executive staff need to be focused on managing and paying attention to? And so did we -- how did we do? Did we mostly get it right, or are there some glaring omissions there? Again, recognize that there are a million things that we could be measuring and certainly teams are doing that every day here and out in the field.

And then secondly, are you okay with the format? Because, you know, one of the things we want to do is share this with the Commission, y'all to be able to take a quick look at it, okay. You know, we know that our super combos, hunting and fishing licenses, that's going to account for 90 percent or more of our Fund 9 revenue. Are we on track for that or not? If not, why not? Who's paying attention to that? What adjustments, etcetera?

So is this format something that you feel will be useful to y'all in taking a look at and then we can talk about how we distribute that to the Commission and at what frequencies. But Rich has put a lot of time into helping us develop this and I think it provides a great launching point for this. We're certainly excited about it at the leadership level and the Chairman has been very anxious to get this in front of the Commission to get some feedback from y'all. So with that as an introduction, let me stop there and just see if there's any at least questions on it right now.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, Dan.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah, Carter, I'm going to study it a little more and think about it; but I think this from a snapshot, what's going on, I think it's a great tool. A lot of the information we get in different reports, but you've got to go dig at it. Here, we've got a more concise report. We can look at it and then if we need to dig into a particular, we can do it. I think -- and we may want to modify it some.

MR. SMITH: Yep.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Let us all think about it. There may be other things we'd like to see, but I think something like this from a high level sure lets us drill down on what's going on. And, again, we may want to come back and ask more questions.

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: As opposed to trying to take a bunch of different reports and getting the same information.

MR. SMITH: Yep, yep. Good, good, good. Well, that's certainly a primary goal of this tool is to get that all in one place and then to be able to look at it and if you want to go dig deeper, you can see the things. And, you know, with these bullet graphs, it's very east to see what's on track and what's not. And if it's not, then to able to raise appropriate questions about what's going on and why. So good.

Commissioner Lee?

COMMISSIONER LEE: On the same point, Rich had sent around I guess a draft, which is an internal -- it wasn't I don't think intended for broad publication. But it had a universe this large of possible items and it's been distilled down to what we're seeing here. That might be something that you'd share with the full Commission.

MR. SMITH: You bet, you bet.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Only because I asked for it is the reason I got it.

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER LEE: And I think you can look at this and it -- there are a lot of suggestions on there that you might find interesting when we give Carter feedback on what we want to see.

MR. SMITH: Good suggestion, great. We'll send that around to the full Commission and so, great, thanks.

Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I know how much work had to go into this. One comment I would make is that the snapshot deal like Dan's saying, I think it's real important not to get it so big that we get back to where we were where you're getting masses of information and it's not condensed, you know.

MR. SMITH: Yep.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So just keep -- I like the smaller deal. There may be a few items that we want to add.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Right, right.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But I like the idea of keeping it where we can keep our hands around it.

MR. SMITH: You bet, you get. Well, and I -- great point by everyone and we couldn't agree more because, you know, we don't suffer from the problem of a lack of opportunity to measure things.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No, no.

MR. SMITH: And so we've certainly got plenty of -- plenty of that. But, you know, recognizing that there are some, you know, projects, issues, topics that are of a strategic interest to the Commission and Rich and I talked about, you know, that may be something that we want to build in. There are just topical areas that the Commission is focused on that we add to this. So this really is designed to be iterative. We want this to be an effective management tool for all of us to take a look at and so look forward to getting your continued feedback on it.

Yeah, Chairman?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let me ask you -- Margaret, do you have something?

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I -- just in looking at the licenses. Where does the lifetime license come in on this?

MR. SMITH: Sure. So lifetime licenses are measured. You know, Mike and his team track that very, very regularly. Because that's a relatively small part of our overall budget, we're basically -- basically working off interest from lifetime license purchases. We just figured that was wasn't a big enough metric to go here, but recognizing Mike and his team are paying attention to that with the deeper finances.

Is that a fair characterization, Mike?

MR. JENSEN: That's correct. It goes into an endowment, so it's not part of Fund 9 either. Fund 9 is really -- Fund 9 and 64 is primarily what this Agency operates on.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I think that's where I was --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: -- coming at. I couldn't -- I didn't remember exactly what category it fell into.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So thank you.

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: A couple of questions I had. On the key metrics in the upper left corner --

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- what's the difference between the two middle columns?

MR. SMITH: The two middle columns, okay. So you're talking about the fiscal year-to-date goal and the fiscal year goal?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah.

MR. SMITH: So the fiscal year-to-date goal is basically a measurement of where we think we ought to be at a certain time in the fiscal year, so. And then the fiscal year goal is the overarching end-of-the-year fiscal goal where we want to end. And so one of the important considerations that we have here is, okay -- and, again, this is -- this may be a little more difficult to interpret because we're looking at the end of the fiscal year, so essentially those measurements are the same right now.

But let's say we're a quarter of the way through a year and there's something that we're measuring and we don't expect that we're going to just prorate it and we're going to be 25 percent towards that goal. At that time of the year, we ought to be 50 percent towards that goal. And so that measurement would tell us how we're doing with respect to meeting that goal at that time of the year and that, in turn, then is if we're not on track, then we have the ability then to why not, why aren't we at that time, is there something that's in our control or outside of our control.

Then the next column, again, addresses the percentage towards the overall end-of-the-fiscal-year goal; so that's the primary difference.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. And then under the strategic reserve fund --

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- how do we start off with a negative number?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, don't -- ignore those numbers there, recognizing that we're going to have -- and that was, again, for last fiscal year when we recognized that the books from the previous year would be closed out in November. We'd be looking at what lapsed salaries had accumulated in November. So don't pay too much attention to those numbers there.

The issue there is being able to manage some funds that we have a little bit more discretion with in the event of emergency and for strategic Agencywide initiatives that we need to fund and it's difficult to do so just out of our normal Division budgets, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Carter. I'm sorry.

COMMISSIONER JONES: No. Go ahead, Dan.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: You perceive we'll get this prior to every Commission meeting. It's a five-time-a-year or --

MR. SMITH: Yeah. How would you -- I think that's a great question, Commissioner. Is that -- you know, I guess a question I should have asked and that would be something -- the third question to ask for, what's the frequency by which you would like to receive this?

You know, certainly contemplated that we would send it in advance of each Commission meeting where we would be talking about the dashboard. But if you feel like you want it more frequently, we certainly can provide that, too. If you've got any thoughts on that now or if you want to reflect on that question, too.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It should be at least quarterly, shouldn't it?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: That pretty well covers our meetings. We have five meetings a year, so I think prior to the meetings is all I need.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Or as frequently as it's produced --

MR. SMITH: Yep.

COMMISSIONER LEE: -- or updated.

MR. SMITH: Yep.

COMMISSIONER LEE: And when you're getting it, just forward it on.

MR. SMITH: Send it on, sure.

COMMISSIONER LEE: I certainly wouldn't make work.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah.

COMMISSIONER LEE: But let's not stall it if you're getting it.

MR. SMITH: You bet. Sure, of course. Yeah. This is -- one of the great things about this once it's, you know, up and running, it's supported by our SAS business intelligence software and so, you know, it's able to pull all of the data from all of the data sets across the Agency into this to feed it. Some measures are going to be more meaningful on a monthly basis, some on a quarterly, and candidly some on an annual basis as you will see,so.

So, you know, for instance workforce diversity. You know, that's something that we'd probably be looking at more on an annual basis as opposed to a monthly or quarterly basis. License related revenue, with respect to, you know, hunting licenses with the season outing, we're paying a lot of attention through August 15th through December 31st because that covers a big part of the sales; so that first quarter of the year is critical.

But, yeah. No, Commissioner, just as soon as we have this updated, we can just shoot it out for the Commission to take a look at and then be particularly mindful of the Commission meetings and we're going to talk about it; so you've had a chance to digest it and we're not having to present it for the first time.

You feel like we've got a good start here though in general in terms of meeting the Chairman and Commission's goal here to...

COMMISSIONER JONES: I'm with Dan. I would like to look over it a bit and then maybe sit down with someone to explain some of the details of it in more detail other than here --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- because I don't want to get down in the weeds here.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: It seems like a good start to me.

MR. SMITH: Okay. Good, good. Well, I'll -- again, Rich has been our quarterback on this. He's done a great job and so, Commissioner, I'm just going to ask Rich to follow up with you and any of you that have more specific questions, me or Rich; but Rich is really our architect here and so -- but appreciate the feedback and look forward to more after you've had a chance to digest it.

Mr. Chairman, I think that wraps up my Land and Water update. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Work Session Item 2, Deepwater Horizon Spill, Carter and Robin Riechers.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission. For the record, I'm Carter Smith and with me is Robin Riechers, our Director of our Coastal Fisheries Division. We thought this would be an opportune time to provide an update as to where we stand with the different sources of potential funds that are available or will be available to assist with coastal related projects, again, coming out of the Deepwater Horizon incident.

In the past, we've talked a little generally with the Commission about those different sources of funding. You know, those coming through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, those coming through ultimately the Restore Council, and then those coming through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as a function of the criminal settlement.

What we thought we would do today is just have Robin give an overview of all of this kind of to help demystify how this all works. It's a complicated process, different pots of money, a lot of different agencies and actors that are involved, a lot of public interest in this. Parks and Wildlife is involved in all three of those sources of revenue in helping to make recommendations on where those funds are expended or are ultimately expended to help achieve important coastal goals and so I'm going to really turn it over to Robin in lead this presentation.

So, Robin.

MR. RIECHERS: For the record, Robin Riechers with the Director -- or Director of Coastal Fisheries. And again, as Carter just indicated, what we're really trying to do is provide you with an overview of the funding opportunities that resulted from the largest oil spill in American history. As we all know, about three and a half years ago the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20th, 2010, and oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months with millions of barrels being discharged and, of course, over 700,000 gallons of dispersant also applied in trying to rectify the spill.

Carter already discussed the three basic funding streams that have been the result of this Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident; but it probably is worth also mentioning a couple of the smaller streams or at least three of the smaller streams of money that we expect that are going to NRDA, National Academy of Science, and the United States Coast Guard Oil Spill Liability trust fund. Some of that money may also end up flowing to the states in various sources of funding, but certainly the ones that we're focused on from a restoration perspective are these three sources here.

In kind of diving right into the description of those three sources, I think in the last discussion that Carter gave you in the Land and Water Plan update of last time, he talked about NRDA a little bit and Don Pitts, who's a coordinator of the NRDA program here which is the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program in Parks and Wildlife, have visited -- has visited with you about this incident and this process. And basically, suffice it to say, that it's a very legal and technical process of which the goal is to basically return our natural resources to the baseline that they were before the incident, whatever that incident was.

And so that's -- that's what NRDA as governed through the Oil Spill Act and Superfund statutes, that's what it is -- intention is to do. Under a normal spill incident or release -- if you will, injury -- this is kind of the flowchart of what would normally take place and that's basically you would have the incident, there would be some exposure time and some injury, then you would set about trying to determine what that injury was and you would do that through various field studies, through data evaluation, modeling, and so forth, and then you would have the opportunity to determine what best restoration activity will basically restore that back to baseline function and then you would basically reach that agreement with the responsible party because they're part of this under the NRDA process and then you would seek your public involvement as well.

You would put projects on the ground, and if those projects -- you would then measure them because part of it is making sure that that metric actually achieves that baseline situation and if it's met, then you would say good, you know, responsible party, we've done what we've tried to do. If it's not, you would make adjustments midstream or you would have contingencies built in to help with that.

The Natural Resource trustees in Texas are the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Texas General Land Office and you'll notice a star by the Office of the Attorney General and I'll talk about that star in just a second. The Federal trustees are the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and for this event alone, Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency were added by an Executive order by the President to add them for this incident and then, again, we have the Department of Justice star. The star just represents that these people are not normal trustees, but they are there from a legal framework in representing the states and the federal entities in this case.

As you all know, this is certainly not a normal incident. Much grander in scale and scope than we've ever seen before in the United States. And so as you know, we entered an early restoration or the trustees entered an early restoration framework with BP with a pledge of $1 billion. Basically a down payment on the damages that they expected from this spill. That was, of course, an agreement was reached amongst the five states and the trustee, Federal trustees, 100 million goes to each of the five states, 100 million to NOAA and DOY and this was before those other two trustees were named, and 300 million were put into a pot of money that would be competed for based on projects from the other additional states.

Late last -- or late last spring, we announced the first funding of Texas projects or proposed Texas projects. There were three artificial reef projects -- one in Freeport, Matagorda, and Corpus Christi -- and two state park enhancements. One at Galveston Island and one at Sea Rim. Those were, as we thought at the time, they were going to go just as the early restoration Phases 1 and 2 had went where basically at that point after Phase 1 and 2, $76 million had been spent by the trustees.

Because of the size of this next phase, Phase 3, it was decided that we were going to also go back and create a draft early restoration program environmental impact statement. Basically describing in a more programmatic way what shape this early restoration was going to take across the Gulf, and so we're in the process of developing that now. It should be published before the end of the year, with some hearings scheduled across the Gulf and the ones that we'll be having in Texas are in Port Arthur, Galveston, and Corpus Christi on the dates that you see there.

Again, the goal as I said before under NRDA -- and obviously we're still very early in this process. This is still under that $1 billion early restoration framework. But at the end of the day when all of this -- when the case has been settled and whether it settles or whether it's litigated and a judgment is made about the overall damages, at the end of the day when that overall damage total has been spent on NRDA, the goal would be to have those natural resources restored to baseline and compensate for any interim losses that occurred as well. And this does have -- and that's an important point as well in the notion of that loss.

It also has a temporal basis. So, for instance, if beach use was impacted for multiple months, you would get to accumulate that beach use loss for those multiple months. Same sort of thing happens with natural resource damages as well.

The next funding restoration opportunity is through the Restore Act and, of course, the Restore Act was signed into law in 2012. An important feature of that Act was that it established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration trust fund and as it indicates there, the fund is for ecosystem restoration, economic recovery, and tourism promotion in the Gulf Coast. And what it basically did was dedicated 80 percent of the Deepwater Horizon civil and administrative penalties, which are going to be paid under the Clean Water Act, into this fund.

Now the Act is really quite significant in that if that Act had not been passed, those funds would have went into the Treasury and not necessarily come to the Gulf states for restoration purposes. So the Act did provide a singling out of this particular incident and those funds coming to the Gulf states. In addition, the Act created the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, of which the five Governors are on that council or their representative and Governor Perry has designated TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker to be the Texas representative. And they are accompanied by the Secretaries of U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Army, Homeland Security, Interior, and the Administrator of the EPA.

The Council comprehensive plan, which was adopted on August 28th, 2013, laid out five instrumental goals -- restore and conserve habitat, restore water quality, replenish and protect living coastal and marine resources, enhance community resilience, and restore and revitalize the Gulf economy. And it just has to be noted that both from the goals, as well as some of the descriptors we will talk about in regards to projects later, what the plan tried to do was establish a descriptive outline of these goals and possible projects; but it did not want to be limiting or too restrictive to the state. So it's a little bit generic in nature at this point in time.

This is a -- and I'm not expecting you to read the finer print here. But what it does do is outline the way the money is divided up and basically, it takes those Clean Water Act penalties and 20 percent of that goes to the Oil Spill Liability trust fund, which we discussed earlier. Reading from the screen left to right, the first box there or bucket, if you will, is the direct component and 35 percent of the 80 percent goes into that bucket and that bucket then is divided equally amongst the Gulf states and that bucket basically is at more state discretion.

Then you go into the Council selective restoration component, the second bucket, and 30 percent of that, of the 80 percent is put into that bucket and that's managed under the Restoration Council and it's managed under their comprehensive plan that they're developing or they've developed. And then lastly, the oil spill impact component, another 30 percent goes into that bucket three and that, of course, goes to the Coast Guard implementing -- I'm sorry. That's divided amongst the Gulf states with a minimum of 5 percent going to each of those Gulf states. And then lastly and certainly not least, but some of the science based activities would put 2.5 percent of this into the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science Program and then also Centers of Excellence from each state will be designated for research as well.

Now we'll get a little more into the funding and the buckets, per se. As far as the Transocean settlement, currently there was 800 million that was deposited to the fund within the first two years. 320 million of that has already been deposited. Future amounts are unknown. As I indicated before, this is still in litigation and in Court cases and we don't know what the final resolution or the amounts will be at this time; but 320 million we know is there.

Under the direct component or the Bucket 1, 35 percent of equal shares to each Gulf state; so that means 7 percent of that coming to Texas. The conditions are -- as far as audit and oversight -- are going to be handled by the Secretary of Treasury and the State must submit a multiyear implementation plan prior to receiving these moneys.

The eligible activities include -- and, again, the notion of this not being limiting, they lay out restoration and protection of natural resource, mitigation of damages that have occurred, implementation of marine coastal or conservation management plans, improvements to state parks, economic development, tourism, and promoting consumption of Gulf Coast seafood. So really quite a broad scope of what and how the money might be spent under these -- under this particular bucket.

They use this bucket terminology, so I'm just sticking with it. Throughout this process, we've heard pots, buckets, and so forth. But, again, Bucket 2 here in this case is 30 percent going to the Council for plan implementation. The funds to be used for that are for ecosystem and protection throughout the Gulf Coast region and the Council members basically have the opportunity to submit projects and programs to the full Council, which will make the decisions regarding that Bucket No. 2.

And then Bucket 3, as indicated before at 30 percent divided amongst the Gulf states with a minimum of 5 percent of the 30 to each state; so we will get at least 5 percent of that and this also requires Texas to develop a State expenditure plan for Council approval. Those are the same activities that were included under Bucket 1. Again, a very broad sweeping set of activities that could be included. And there again, the Science Program, Centers for Excellence and amounts of money that's going into those.

Next steps -- and obviously, this is really what many people are interested in at this point. The first step is to establish the oil spill impact regulations for Bucket 3 moneys, which will determine how those are used. The second -- and it's been very important that the Chairman of the Restore Council at this point has said they do want to select and fund projects under that Bucket 2 before the next hurricane season. So they're on a fairly fast track to both get projects turned in and then to also select those.

It must be noted now that at this point from a Texas perspective, Commissioner Baker has established a Texas Restore Act Advisory Board. The member agencies of that Board include the agencies you see there. For us, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Carter Smith is the representative there. And as you can see, obviously this is the Natural Resource trustees, plus given that broad opportunity for funding, it has brought in other people like the Public Utility Commission, Texas Workforce Commission, TxDOT, Office of Economic Development and Tourism, and so forth.

The third pot of money or restoration pot of money that we can talk about is the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or was provided to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation associated with the criminal plea. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in that respect, went ahead and created what they're calling the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund and so that's what you're going to -- when you see their publications and their discussion of that, that's what they'll be referring to. Again, what established this fund was basically the criminal penalty which BP agreed to pay 2.4 billion to National Fish and Wildlife Foundation over the next six year -- six years. Transocean has agreed to pay 150 million over those six years. In total, 8 percent of that money is coming to Texas.

What that means in year 2013 was 12.6 million. Over the cumulative total, about 203 million. Of note, the -- over 110 million of that 203 comes in the last two years, so we're kind of in a ramping up phase and then the amounts will get greater in outer years. In discussing this with NFWF, what they certainly indicated very strongly to us is they wanted to discuss this with kind of a Texas Steering Committee. So that Steering Committee has been formed with the Office of the Governor and the Executive Directors or their equivalent from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Commissioner of the General Land Office, and the TCEQ Commissioner as well.

The way NFWF describes the way they're going to approach this is they want the Gulf Environmental Benefit funds to be spent in accordance with the plea agreement. They're not going to go very far outside their plea agreement is what they've indicated to us. And I've put up a couple quotes from that plea agreement there, which they speak to often when we're talking to them about any projects and the first one is remedy harm and eliminate or reduce the risk of future harm to Gulf Coast natural resources.

Obviously, that one is fairly broad. But then as they kind of narrow it down, it's basically the funds can be used to support projects that remedy harm to natural resource habitats or species where there had been injury or destruction or loss. So they are looking at it. It's not necessarily with the same sort of nexus that you have to have under NRDA, but it is a nexus to those resources that were damaged under the spill.

Year one, Texas projects are totaling about 8.8 million. Those haven't been approved yet. They've been proposed. They include habitat restoration, enhancement, and land acquisition. How they were developed because NFWF came to us in the spring of last year under a fairly short timeframe, they asked the Steering Committee to come forth with projects very quickly. The way that Steering Committee chose those projects that we have is basically for looking for some tried-and-true projects, ones that we've had on the books under restoration plans or as agencies or in other conservation planning documents that we could go to that we knew would fit the bill of they're being ready to go, as well as we knew we were going to have success with those projects and so those have been selected. They have been submitted. They have not been approved by NFWF at this point in time. NFWF, of course, all of these projects from all the Gulf states and anywhere they may come from, ultimately go to the NFWF Board for final approval.

Lastly, just of note is that in trying to demystify some of this and not having NGOs, communities, and people who are interested in this having to go to multiple sites to find this, the Governor's Office working with the three trustee agencies have been working to develop a website where -- it's going to be called RestoreTheTexasCoast.org. You've probably seen it listed in a couple of our -- in news releases where we refer to it coming on. Right now, we believe the basically live date on this may be around December 1. We're certainly hopeful about that.

But what it would set out to do is create a one-stop shop where they can go and find information about those three sources of funding, it will provide links to more detail on those three sources of funding, and more importantly it will also provide a place where they can put projects and project proposals. And with that then what that group and the group either be it the Restore Council Texas group, or the NRDA trustee group or whoever is looking at those different pots of funds, will look to that and then determine whether those projects fit under that. We're trying not to make the individuals determine where this may fit exactly and we're going to use some of our knowledge in that respect in determining that as well.

With that, that concludes the presentation. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Robin, on this restore -- TheTexasCoast.org -- are we -- do we have anything on the website that could refer a use -- or an interested party to this link?

MR. RIECHERS: I don't know. Tom Harvey may be able to answer or even Don.

Do we have anything up now on the website? I mean I know our intention is to put something up there.

MR. HARVEY: In the news releases we put out, we reference it in there. There's a description that this is coming soon basically. It's not active yet. The RestoreTheTexasCoast.org site is not active yet. The Governor's office is developing it and we do have the references and the news releases on our website.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When it comes active though, I think we should have something on our website about it.

And then you mentioned these three meetings in January --

MR. RIECHERS: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- that are going on on the coast. How are we -- how are we getting the word out about that? Is there something on the website about it?

MR. RIECHERS: Tom, you might as well come to the mic here. Tom's -- for the NRDA side of this, Tom is our public affairs person working with a suite of public affairs people across the Gulf, so he can speak to more of how they're getting the word out about this.

MR. HARVEY: Thank you, Robin. My name is Tom Harvey. I'm the acting Communications Director. The current plan is to put out a news release nationally and among all the Gulf states on December 6th, that would announce the public meetings that are happening in January on the Texas Coast. Those meetings are relatively late in January, like the week of January 21st. The plan is to have three meetings -- Tuesday in Port Arthur, Wednesday in Galveston, and Thursday in Corpus Christi.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I suggest we, again, put that on the site and also I think you ought to send it to the user groups. I mean our -- the, CCCA --

MR. SMITH: All our partners, yep, sure.

MR. HARVEY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then the last question I have is do you have -- Robin, do you have a guess -- I know it's a guess -- of the total amount of money that ultimately may be available for Texas to use in one form or another?

MR. RIECHERS: The answer to that is I really don't know at this point. I mean obviously there's been different discussions about the different pots of money and how much they may equate to. NRDA is still ongoing in assessments, so that has not been determined as far as what people believe the damages are yet.

Under the civil penalties, Clean Water Act penalties, there's been discussions about that ranging from 4 billion to 17 billion, depending on whether gross negligence is determined and so forth. So the answer is I really don't know, Commissioner, at this point in time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Too early to tell.

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah, it's too early to tell.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. HARVEY: Suffice it to say, a lot. And to your point, which is an excellent one, we are planning to inform stakeholders. We've got more than a hundred different NGO groups in a database that we can send e-mail to and inform them and, you know, similarly, we're trying to make sure that we inform our elected officials and other parties.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's why I would be sure we get the -- some of the Legislators from those areas and County Commissioners, so they're all aware that -- have the ability to participate. We just don't want somebody to say "I never heard about it," if we avoid it.

MR. HARVEY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: On a similar question on a similar note. I would assume that these funds are funds that are outside of the Legislative appropriation process, right?

MR. RIECHERS: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So when the funds come in, is there a special -- is there some separate account that they go into that's not really -- while we might have to inform them clearly, but it doesn't count against us I guess is what I'm trying to get at on the appropriation's process for the upcoming years.

MR. RIECHERS: Yes, sir. Certainly under National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, they basically are grantor in that case and those funds come in with their own spending authority because they are coming in as grants. Under NRDA, it's kept under a special trustee account and the money is then pulled into agencies as projects are determined as to how they're going to be spent; so it doesn't count as well.

Carter, you may answer the restore one. You may know a little bit more about --

MR. SMITH: You know, I don't have any insights on the restore. That's the one I'm not exactly sure yet, too. Again, it's still too early as to how much money may potentially be coming in.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. Well, here's my point. I would be careful in taking projects that we would otherwise do with State funds, pursuant to whatever things, restoration projects or other such things, that we would otherwise do with State funds if we got them.

MR. RIECHERS: Correct.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Transferring those projects over to these funds because then you've sort of cut yourself short. Do you understand what I'm saying? In other words, if there is a project that we would otherwise seek funding from the State and I understand that you're not guaranteed to get funding for those things, I get that and I'm not fussing about that and there may be some things that we want to move over there purposefully.

But all I saying is if we have projects that we would otherwise do with State funds, consider doing those things; but then there may be other things that we need to do because of the spill or because of the effects of the spill or whatnot, that we want to use those projects to garner those funds and you do both. That's all I'm saying, but you may have to strike a fine balance. And I know, you don't even have to say it, I know there may be overlap. There probably will be overlap and to the extent there's overlap, I get it. If you've got a ready source of funds to do that project, by George, you go get those funds and do the project.

But I'm just being sensitive to it because I'm not exactly sure how the money is going to flow or when and neither are you right now, so just a thought to put in your...

MR. RIECHERS: Well, and it's an excellent point that you make because that is part of the difficulty in looking at these projects under these different sources of funding because some projects might fit under a three, some might fit under only one, and there's been excellent communication. There's going to have to continue to be excellent communication because as we get down to selecting those projects, those different various groups that are making those selections, we certainly don't want at the end of the day have a very worthwhile project that we -- is at the end of the -- the tail end of the funding and we just didn't think about it up front as to the best way to get it funded and then it's, you know, sitting out in the cold in some respects. So your point is excellent on whether its State money or whether it's these three sources of money, we have to pay a lot of attention to that as we move forward.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yes, okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else? Okay, thank you.

Item 3, Disabled Veteran License, adoption of rule amendments, Ann Bright and Craig Hunter.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel; and I am here with Colonel Craig Hunter, Director of the Law Enforcement Division who needs no introduction.

COLONEL HUNTER: Thank you.

MS. BRIGHT: The Parks and Wildlife Department staff has received some requests from organizations that provide hunting and fishing opportunities for disabled veterans, to alter our rules so that disabled veterans from other states can participate more easily in these events and there are a number of organizations -- on screen are some of those -- that provide these.

This request was actually received informally. These were not -- it was not an official petition for rule making. The disabled -- currently, the Commission is authorized to waive fees for hunting and fishing licenses for disabled or qualified disabled veterans and there's a specific definition in the Parks and Wildlife Code of a qualified disabled veteran and it's there. It's a disability rating of 60 percent or more or loss of the use of a lower extremity.

Craig Hunter is here. He has been very active in a lot of these activities, as have other game wardens and biologists. Currently -- and these are some actual photos from some hunts that I think Craig participated in. The resident disabled veteran right now can get a super combo at no charge. The nonresident disabled veteran, they have to purchase either a hunting license or a fishing license at the out-of-state rate, which is 315 for hunting and 53 for fishing.

Under the Parks and Wildlife Code, only residents can get a super combo. That's not normally available to nonresidents. However, the Commission is authorized to designate a class of persons as residents for purposes of the super combo. As a result, we're recommending that the rule, the rule that's being proposed, would expand the definition of resident for purposes of the super combo to include a nonresident qualified disabled veteran and then it would enable both a resident and a nonresident qualified disabled veteran to obtain a super combo license at no cost.

I think, you know, Craig can probably elaborate a little bit on some of these hunting opportunities.

COLONEL HUNTER: Well, I've volunteered on a couple of hunts this year and, in fact, that was my Aggie son in one of those pictures who also volunteered. The hunts, I was actually approached by Patriots and Heros Outdoors, a nonprofit. There are several of them in Texas, but we work very closely with them as an agency. They're out of Wharton, but they provide hunting opportunities.

Commissioner Scott takes no credit, but I can tell you this. He has a lot of time and money and resources invested in supporting the veterans and actually some of the pictures you saw were Commissioner Scott's ranch. But these disabled veterans, they're all more than 70 -- at least 70 percent disabled involved in the program. Most of them IED victims from either Afghanistan or Iraq.

What really brought it to attention was just a couple of months ago, Patriots Outdoors called. They had five Marines from California coming to hunt in Texas. They had a place to hunt, their food and lodging was provided, the airlines donated free trips from California to get them to Austin, one of our Game Wardens picked them up at the Austin airport, helped with the volunteers for Patriots and Heros; but again, there was no way for the Department to waive their license, which is $315 which is pretty significant when you're talking about disabled servicemen, you know, with families and those kinds of things.

A great event and, like I say, our Agency does a great job to support them. I'll be happy to answer any questions about the -- they're very appreciate, I'll say that. Commissioner Scott can back me up on that. Very appreciative. It's not just the hunting. It's the whole social thing that we all know that goes -- that goes with hunting. Eating, which I'm pretty big on. But it's really a great event and these guys and girls are very, very appreciative and what a great way to support our men and women in uniform.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: A couple of questions. Have we made any assessment of the fiscal impact of this?

MS. BRIGHT: Yes, we did. And I should point out on the fiscal impact, that we had to make some estimates because there's one big piece of information that we frankly just don't know and that is how many nonresident disabled veterans would actually take advantage of this.

You know, our proposal, we actually used a -- we used a couple of approaches to estimate the -- basically the biggest possible cost to the Agency. It costs the Agency about 76 cents per license to issue a license. If -- if -- there are about a million nonresident disabled veterans. If every single one of them took advantage of this, the cost would be about $821,000. You know, but people don't normally -- not everybody hunts. If you apply -- if they purchase them at the same rate as Texas disabled veterans or acquired them I guess since there's no fee, it would be between 250,000 to 300,000. Again, assuming that they bought it at the -- or acquired it at the same rate as Texas veterans.

If you looked at it from another perspective, which is, you know, right now 15 percent of the population hunt and fish and if you apply to this number, then it's about 123,000. Again, I think on all of these numbers, we think they're high. One of the other things I should note is that just given how statistics are kept, the rule would allow someone with a 60 percent disability rating; but the information we have is based on a 50 percent or above. So even the million number is high. That's more veterans, more disabled veterans than would actually apply for this. This is one of those things that, you know, we would just continue to monitor.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So the proposed rule would only be a benefit that a veteran with a service connected disability as defined by the VA and that would include -- that would mandate a loss of the use of a lower extremity or a disability rating of 60 percent of more and who is receiving compensation from the Federal Government for that disability?

MS. BRIGHT: That's correct.

COLONEL HUNTER: That's right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Then my last question is are other states doing this for our residents and should we couple this with a requirement that this will apply only to states that have reciprocity so that our veterans can go to -- pick a state. You mentioned California. They can go to California and they don't have to pay a nonresident fee. I throw that out for some discussion by our team here.

COLONEL HUNTER: Some of them do that.

MS. BRIGHT: I don't know what other states are doing.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, that's a good point. A very good point, and I have a couple of questions to follow up. What is the thing that a veteran would have or a veteran is given to give us an indicator of their level of disability?

I mean obviously there are some you can tell by observations, but there are others you can't. And so is there a document or something given by the VA so that we can verify that the person meets the qualification?

MS. BRIGHT: Yes, there is. And Tom Newton, one of the people we bragged on earlier, I think has probably left, but -- yes, and I did -- he and I have discussed this and there is some paperwork and, frankly, I'm not exactly sure what it looks like; but there is paperwork that an individual has to present in order to take advantage of this license requirement or license availability.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And it's issued by the VA or the Federal Government?

COLONEL HUNTER: The VA, yes, sir.

MS. BRIGHT: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I would like to know what that is. I would like to know what it looks like. I'm a detail guy. I think the devil is always in the details and you might have good intentions; but if there's some issue with what that is or what it looks like, we may have good intentions but not be able to do it because of what that thing is.

MS. BRIGHT: Right, and --

COMMISSIONER JONES: So --

MS. BRIGHT: Oh, I'm sorry.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So, I'm sorry. I would like to know what that is and what it looks like. The second question, I am somewhat familiar -- although, not completely familiar -- with some organizations that sponsor hunts for veterans, both disabled and not. And my question is do we know if any of these organizations in sponsoring these hunts also sponsor the cost of a license?

MR. HUNTER: I know -- I can't answer for all organizations. I know on some. But some of them aren't even organized. They're just -- they're private landowners that somehow come in contact with veterans, both disabled and not, and have them come out and I do know on some out-of-state hunters this year, an organization asked us for help and I know Commissioner Scott helped with this and Carter Smith to get some private donations to help cover the cost of some hunters from -- I believe three hunters that were disabled from the Oklahoma.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, okay. But you -- and I don't know -- I've got to go back and -- I don't remember the name of the organization, but there's one I thought sponsored by or in conjunction with Texas Trophy Hunters, had a organization that sponsors hunts and I have no idea --

MR. HUNTER: There's several out there, I know that. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. Whether they also in sponsoring the hunts, particularly if the hunter is from out of state, if they fund the -- if they fund the cost of the license. It would just be good information to know.

MS. BRIGHT: Okay.

COLONEL HUNTER: Yes, sir.

MS. BRIGHT: We can ask about on that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And check with the Texas Trophy Hunters Association. That's one that I know or at least a group affiliated with them, I know they sponsor veterans' hunts.

MS. BRIGHT: One comment on your initial question about the documentation. I mean currently, this license is available at no cost for Texas residents and this would just expand it; so it would be the same documentation that Texas residents have to provide.

COMMISSIONER JONES: My -- to my --

MS. BRIGHT: But we could get that, yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. I would just like to know what that is. What does a veteran have to give us in order to get the free license.

MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely.

MR. JENSEN: I think it's a letter from the VA, but I'll get with Tom and find out for you.

COLONEL HUNTER: That's what I believe it is, too.

MR. JENSEN: Because it specifically states the percentage of disability as well.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. JENSEN: It makes it easy for the clerk at the Walmarts and Academies.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just as a point of information for you, I've been involved with this deal for seven or eight years and been doing it, you know, bringing them in mainly from San Antonio -- well, you know, the two big -- we had some Walter Reed, but mainly they're Texas. There isn't the hospitals in Texas for treatment, so we just go get them out.

But this Patriots and Heros Outdoors, to me is the one in the forefront. I've been -- that's who I've been involved with. For a long time, it was known by another name and some people that were abusing the system and they were charging exorbitant amounts from their donations and they fought for a different name. So anyway, a long story short, it has kind of sorted itself out and people know who is real and I can tell you that these people, everybody that is involved just donates their time, they raise money for vehicles to go get them.

I follow your concern. I think that's already pretty much falls out with the paperwork. I think that's not as big an issue. We don't get that many. I think the bigger picture here is that people that haven't really been talking to them and with them and I stay with them those weekends. You know, we don't donate our place and leave. You know, we spend the weekends with the warriors and it's not that huge of a number from out of state really in preportion to how many's in Texas that would legally have it anyway, you know.

So I don't want to get lost in the revenue idea that it's a big number or something. I really don't perceive it to be. The big number is our own Texas vets. I mean that's the big number that can legally do it right now.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But to me the bigger issue -- I don't think it's the fiscal impact. That doesn't concern me. But the bigger issue is the reciprocity, and I -- so -- which brings me to a question for Ann, is could we do this if the Commission were to so choose, as a pilot where we implement it for the next year so that these people can take advantage of it now; but at the same time, work to get other states to do the same thing for our people? I mean I want to look at it for our people, too.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just, Ann -- and I follow you and I agree with you, but I can -- from the having been with them for so long and the people running a bunch of this stuff, we're doing it in Texas. The other states aren't even -- they don't have the support groups that we have that are doing it and donating all the free time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But what I'm -- what I'm asking Ann, what I'd like to know is could we -- you know, this is up for -- if we put it on the agenda for comment and action, we'll vote on it tomorrow. I'm just suggest -- asking can we do it as a pilot maybe for one year, so it's in place and people can use it and that give us an opportunity to explore the reciprocity options with other states so our veterans, our residents, can -- if they want -- go to another state and not have to pay that out-of-state --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Oh, I agree with you 100 percent, Ralph.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would like to -- I don't know how you-all feel about it, but I'd like to do that because we'll get the best of both worlds.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But, you know, we've got the main hospitals. That's what ends up being the driver in this thing. We have the two big hospitals between San Antonio and Fort Hood and that area, you know. So that actually is the driver of why so many come from other places. We've ended up -- you know, they've basically shut down the one in D.C. What, Walter Reed, you know, that doesn't even -- so the people in San Antonio who did a -- and I know the people involved. They went to Washington, went to the military and said we want y'all here and that's why the military built as one of their main hospitals in the United States is in San Antonio and so just as a -- I'm just trying to give information here because I -- we all agree that, yeah, if we're doing something, everybody ought to; but that's why they end up coming to Texas is because we're taking care of everybody, bottom line.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Ralph, I think your point is well placed. The concern would be that we not in any way disadvantage the individuals, allow them to become a pawn in a way to try to move California or another state to enforce reciprocity by limiting, you know, either a pilot or end it after a year or two years or whatever. At the end of the day, it should be between these two departments and not necessarily have an impact on the disabled vets.

You have a great point. But how could we do it -- how could we accomplish what you're trying to do without disadvantaging the vets?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think we've got to let -- I want to hear Ann as our GC tell us if we can do it. But if we could, what I'd suggest is let's put it in place now and then next year, we revisit it. We can renew it, make it permanent, or make it two years. But over that next year period of time, let's try to come up with ways to incent or encourage other Departments or Legislators, if they're the ones who are setting it, to do the same thing. It's a very worthy goal, but I just would like for Texas residents to be able to take advantage of the same thing in other states and so --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Well, if the pilot is expiring at a year, how does --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We just renew it next fall. It comes back up for -- put it on the August -- or put it on the A meeting --

COMMISSIONER LEE: I understand the mechanics of it, but there's a lack of certainty around it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: There's no lack of -- there wouldn't be any lack of certainty because it would just have an expiration date and then you'd have to renew it and we'd plan ahead so that we put it on as an action item on the Commission meeting in advance of it so that we could either make it permanent or extend it for two years and maybe we make it two years instead of one. I don't have to limit it to one year. I'm just trying to come up with -- this kind of catches me by surprise, caught me by surprise when I saw it in here and I -- that was one of the issues I was wrestling with.

COMMISSIONER LEE: I had one other question. Maybe the way to look at the revenue impact -- and first of all, I commend both of you and the Department for doing this. This is something I feel we should be supporting, most irrespective of the revenue impact. But we're taking a point in time and then going forward and saying licensing costs 70 some odd cents or 80 cents or whatever it was to issue going forward. We probably should look at what the past number of licensees were and the $315 or $53, I mean that's the revenue impact, right, if you had carried that out. I don't know if you have those numbers.

MS. BRIGHT: The only trick with...

COMMISSIONER LEE: They're price sensitive and maybe they're not coming because --

MS. BRIGHT: Well, and we don't know of the people that purchase nonresident hunting and nonresident fishing, how many of those individuals would actually qualify for a license and so that was -- that was sort of the trick and what we did is we really just kind of extrapolated from -- if you look at the population of -- and admittedly, it's a larger number than we really think realistically is going to take advantage. But we took the number of Texas disabled veterans and then looked at what percentage of those actually acquired this license and --

COMMISSIONER LEE: So it's --

MS. BRIGHT: -- it's about 30 percent. Which, I mean, it's a well-used license for Texas residents. About 30 percent of eligible disabled veterans acquire this license and if you apply that number to nonresident, that's kind of how we came up with some of those numbers.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Less those in Texas already?

MS. BRIGHT: Less those in Texas.

COMMISSIONER LEE: $9 million or so potentially; is that right? 30 percent of a million, $300 a license?

MS. BRIGHT: If you apply it to nonresidents, we estimate that there is -- oh, yeah, it would be about 250,000. Yeah, I'm sorry.

COMMISSIONER LEE: I didn't mean to put you on the spot, but we should look at lost revenues if we're concerned about what the revenue impact is. Me personally, I don't think it's a determining factor. This is what we should be doing. We should be out front.

I would hate to see the very people that we are trying to accommodate here for all the right reasons, somehow -- and, Ralph, I'm 100 percent with you on where you're going and trying to catch the attention of these -- you know, our counterparts in these other states to have some reciprocity. But I would hate for this to be constructed in a way such that the very people we're trying to assist are the ones that we're having it dangled in front of them and that's not a right -- you know, dangled may not be the right term and maybe two years is the right -- I'm just not sure a pilot accomplishes what it is that you're trying -- you know, a very worthy goal.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That may be a poor choice of words. I just meant make it a less than a permanent rule. Not that any rule here can't be changed.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm just suggesting put some sunset on it or we consider to put some sunset on it to try to encourage other states to implement the same thing.

MR. SMITH: So maybe if I could, Commissioners, maybe one approach on this in terms of easing into it. You know, if this is acted upon by the Commission and approved, where obviously it's not going to go into effect until the middle of hunting season; so we're not going to have a complete data from this year. So we won't have a good baseline on it.

Something you could look at is maybe a provision that would extend it through the next two hunting seasons and so that creates -- if you want. I just -- I hear you on the certainty issue. If you're looking for another way to look at it that would give us some time to go out and work and incentivize other states to take action, some way to track how many people are taking advantage of this, work with our sister agencies at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies that we're very, very involved in, that's our professional industry and take that guidance from y'all to really encourage states to follow our lead here, that might be another approach to consider that, again, gives you a little more time and certainty if that's an approach you want to consider. So I throw that out for you.

MS. BRIGHT: One other option is -- I mean we can, you know, put a specific sunset date on it or we could informally just come back to the Commission at some point.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: To Carter's point, what if we just made it -- it would be a sunset of the -- of August 31, 2015. I mean how -- what do you-all think about that? That's a year and -- it's this year, plus an entire season --

COMMISSIONER LEE: A season.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- to have some empirical data on it and more importantly, I'm not so worried about the fiscal impact because I don't think it's that significant based on what we're hearing; but it's just this point of trying to leverage it for the benefit of the Texas -- so many, the thousands of Texas disabled vets who may want to fish or hunt in another state. That's all I'm -- I may be a voice of one here. Y'all don't...

COMMISSIONER JONES: No, that makes sense. I mean if we can be -- maybe we can be the launchpad for other states to -- by the way, are we -- is there a national organization that we're a member of?

MR. SMITH: Yes, that's -- I'm sorry. That's the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies that really represent all of the state fish and wildlife agencies across the country, as well as the Canadian provinces.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Is that something you can present --

MR. SMITH: Yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- at the next meeting that you have?

MR. SMITH: Yep. Next week, I serve on the Executive Committee of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and we can bring that up and push on that next week, if that's the direction from the Commission to really help encourage that. So I think it's very timely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is a year and a half enough or should we go two and a half?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No, I think we need to do three -- well, you're not going to get a full season this year. I mean we're already into -- we're really going to wipe it out. I think we need to do at least the next two hunting seasons. I truly don't think that this is -- I just don't think it's going to be anywhere near the volume of people that we're talking about. I really don't.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm not focused on that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No, I know. But I'm just saying that would give us time to get accurate data anyway.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So let's do -- how about August 31, '16, then?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That would get two full hunting seasons.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: To full -- two full seasons and whatever is left of this stub season. Is everybody okay with that?

COMMISSIONER LEE: Is there a staff recommendation on this or was there?

MS. BRIGHT: You mean -- it's to adopt it.

COMMISSIONER LEE: To adopt it without sunset?

MS. BRIGHT: We are completely open to any -- I mean obviously this is -- it's the Commission's ruling; so if y'all want us to put a sunset on it, we're happy to do that.

COMMISSIONER LEE: I'm just so sensitive to the vets and how important this is and I would hate to have a limiting -- some limiting factor somehow cause a miscommunication of what it is that we're trying to accomplish. And, Ralph, I'm with you 100 percent on the goal. I just wonder if sunsetting this after two years or three years accomplishes the very worthy purpose of trying to put in place reciprocity.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, my reaction is if we don't have a sunset, we really don't have much of a bargaining tool or anything to work with. Whereas if he can say, look, we're going to try it for two and a half -- or the next couple of seasons and one of the concerns we have is we think it ought to be in place in every state -- in Alaska and wherever -- I think he's got more to work with if that's our position, rather than just say, well, it's a done deal and we're never going to change it. That's just my...

COMMISSIONER LEE: Right.

MS. BRIGHT: One of the things -- oh.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Can you get -- can you find out if other states, any other states, have this program?

MS. BRIGHT: We can -- we can definitely --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: If you can get that to us, I'd be curious.

MS. BRIGHT: Do you want -- I don't know if I can get that --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Maybe three years you make it -- I mean it's reciprocal.

MS. BRIGHT: Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And I like the idea of sunsetting and seeing where we are and what kind of leverage we -- you know, I love being the launching pad. Whoever used that term, I think that's a good idea.

MS. BRIGHT: So I don't know if we can get all of that information by tomorrow, but just -- I mean -- or do you --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No, I don't need --

MS. BRIGHT: You don't need it tomorrow, okay. I mean we can definitely try.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Just before --

MS. BRIGHT: Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Just before the next meeting, but whenever you get it.

MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely. One other option that we can do to make -- to take care of the certainty issues is we could come back, you know, as part of the previous year's statewide, when we're looking at the statewide preview and report on that so that even though it's got the sunset date of August 31st, 2016, the Commission gets plenty of opportunity in advance of that to kind of see how it's utilized and what's happening with reciprocity and that might take care of some of the certainty concerns.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Carter, there is obviously with the concealed handgun licenses in the state of Texas, Texas has reciprocity with over 40 states, I believe. There is a precedent already on reciprocity with other states. Perhaps it's smart to look into the Attorney General's Office, who are in charge of that reciprocity agreements, and see if we can use their same format to try to, you know, accomplish reciprocity with the same states we already have a reciprocity agreement somehow.

I'm totally with the Chairman. It is something we should support, but I definitely think that we should try to protect our own guys in Texas and I think that may be part of what we need to launch it, you know. I know some of the states will probably require Legislative approval, which can be much more complicated; but some other states may be able to, you know, get an approval just through their Commissions or their Boards or their Executive Offices, so -- and we would approach those first and try to gain as much as we for all our guys.

MR. SMITH: I think at the very least, wherever y'all go on this, we will get a complete baseline of where the other states are on this, if they have it or not, and then where the approval resides. Does it reside in the governing body for those agencies or does it reside in the Legislature and we'll have that data point -- those data points for y'all as well as we look at this going forward on trying to incentivize other states.

And we certainly have other reciprocity agreements. Hunter Ed/Hunter Safety being a key one. Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact that are germane to our work, too, Commissioner. So absolutely.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And just as a side note. Sunset doesn't have to be a negative. I mean I think all state agencies with the exception of four have to go through sunset. We can use our sunset, particularly of this particular rule, as a sounding board and to keep people aware of what we're doing and even use it again with other states to help them come on over to our side. So that's the way we're using the sunset, rather than as a possible push-away. We want to use it an as opportunity to --

COMMISSIONER LEE: If you were like Commissioner Scott and you were making your ranch available and you were planning out a year and two years and three years and you were thinking about building out Austin infrastructure to make this more permanent and then you had this issue outstanding that -- and maybe the communication from this body wasn't clear enough where they understood that.

I mean there's a terminal date on something, people assume that it's there for a reason. And we are trying to get more people like Commissioner Scott to embrace, you know, the support here of vets from outside the state of Texas. I worry about putting a date out there and making the very people that we're trying to accommodate and help, the ones that somehow get disadvantaged in this. And we're all for getting the other states to reciprocate, but I just worry about -- think about the planning that goes in and now we have this date and what does that communicate to people that are trying to set up a program and a plan to support these vets as they come in because it's all done voluntary.

I just worry about the very people we're trying to hurt being the ones -- or that we're trying to help being the ones that could in any way be disadvantaged by a sunset provision.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, that's a good point. I'm just in favor of us taking a good look at this after we've had a chance to let's see how it works for a few years. I don't see any harm in it and I don't think there's anybody in the state of Texas concerned with this Board being considerate of veterans and what they've done for this country and what we're going to do for them and any time we get an opportunity to say that, I think we will and should. But to your -- but your point is well taken.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Make it permanent.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Anybody else have any comments on it?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, I think it will be made permanent. I can't see us -- well, I won't even probably be on the Commission at that time; but you still will and I can't see --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Mark it on the calendar. But I've said it, and I think we'll get there.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I've also done numerous Wounded Warrior events, fishing and hunting, just like Dick Scott. It's never really been an issue on who's paying for licenses. I don't know who paid for them. I didn't. But we divided our ranches and we've done -- I've been just like Dick, and it's a great event. I totally think we should pass this tomorrow and I also think the idea of sunsetting it with the -- which again, was my hope that it will be continued, is a good idea to let Carter to do a little bit of his work and let us do a little more research; but I totally understand where you're coming from, Jim.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Let me ask one more -- one -- one question concerning that. I'm just in here thinking of stuff, too, how we can get everybody comfortable. If we're going to set it up for three hunting seasons, let's just say Carter gets information at this meeting this year and then y'all get good information within the next -- after this hunting season, we actually find that a large percentage of states that we would have any reciprocity with -- you know, which hunting states, we're going to know who that is.

Could we agree that we will pass something permanent, say, in a year and then not wait for the whole sunset period to run out? I mean if we're looking for data and we get it much sooner, can we all agree that we'll pass it much sooner and make it permanent?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think the question is can you bring it up and make it permanent at any time in the future and the answer is sure. So I think it can be revisited at any time and it sounds like it's unanimous among the Commission that this is a wise idea. It's just strategically we want to not make it permanent at this time until we get more data back on it and we also give Carter the opportunity to explore ways to incent other states to do the exact same thing on a permanent basis.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Right. That's why I'm just saying we don't have to wait until Dan's not on the Commission anymore. Let's set him a shorter goal than that would be my point.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Let's just ask Carter to give us a review after this hunting season and --

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- after next hunting season and see where we are.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Perfect.

MS. BRIGHT: Yeah, by the time we get to I guess a year from January 2015, we'll have a really good feel, I think, for how much this is utilized.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Well, with the sunset of 8/31/16, then let's put -- let's put this proposed rule on the Commission Meeting agenda tomorrow for public comment and action by the Commission.

MS. BRIGHT: Will do. One thing I neglected to admit -- to mention, was we did get a few comments on it. Only one opposed and they didn't give a reason for it, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got one question.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, sure.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I thought it was interesting that the Commission is authorized to designate a class of persons as residents. Can you give me any other examples where we've --

MS. BRIGHT: Have done that?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- designated other --

MS. BRIGHT: Yes.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- nonresidents as residents?

MS. BRIGHT: A few years ago, there was a provision that allowed -- included the -- and I can't remember if it was a -- I can't remember the license type. It may have been a lifetime license -- to -- for a person designated as an honorary Texan by the Governor.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: A what?

MS. BRIGHT: Designated as an honorary Texan by the Governor was designated as a resident. There may be one other, and I can get that information.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's a very good question, Counselor. Okay. Thank you, Craig and Ann.

MR. HUNTER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Let's see, moving along to Item 4, use of noxious or toxic substances to capture nongame wildlife, and Mr. John Davis is going to present a number of options for our consideration. John, welcome.

MR. DAVIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is John Davis. I'm the Wildlife Diversity Program Director. If you will recall back in March of this year, we received a petition for rule making to essentially prohibit this particular means of take. It was signed by 57 individuals. That kind of set into motion a briefing back in August, where we discussed the biological concern of this particular means of take and at that time, you directed us to come back with options today; so I will be presenting those options for potentially prohibiting the use of noxious or toxic substances to capture nongame wildlife.

But before I do that, for a little bit of a refresher, I'll kind of go back and hit some of the salient points we covered in the previous presentation back in August, as well as for the new Commissioner to give a little bit of background on this particular issue.

Introducing a noxious substance into an animal retreat, such as a burrow or a karst feature like caves or crevices, is commonly referred to as gassing and it is the means of take in question. And incidentally, karst features, again, these are found throughout Central Texas out into West Texas. These are simply caves, crevices, sinkholes, things of the like.

This particular practice is associated commercial collection of Western Diamondback rattlesnakes. You can see on this slide the distribution in green of the Western Diamondback rattlesnake. You can see the counties in red are counties where we have known commercial Western Diamondback rattlesnake collection. And let me also be kind of clear here. Sometimes I say this is commonly -- commonly associated, etcetera. We do not know of -- I do not know of any other species pursued with this particular means of take and so typically when you're talk about this means of take, it is associated with the collection of Western Diamondback rattlesnakes. It is not common, but it is associated with the collection of this species.

When you look at the distribution of this particular practice or the commercial collection of Western Diamondback rattlesnakes and you overlay the distribution of karst topography in Texas, it looks like this. As you see on the slide, the dark black border outlines all of the counties that contain karst topography in the state. And as we mentioned back in August, this is a conservation, a very high conservation value area because of the endemics and the rare species found in those particular systems. If you'll notice there on the left-hand side of the slide, there are 26 federally listed invertebrates found in these systems and an additional 130 that are not listed, not petitioned for listing, etcetera; but they are endemic invertebrates found no where else but here in Texas. So this is a very high conservation value in these karst systems.

When you begin to look at species that have been petitioned, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been petitioned by organizations or individuals to review species to determine whether they should be listed as endangered or threatened at the Federal level. We can choose three species that are already on of the lists that are coming forward that have been petitioned and when you overlay those distributions in the state of Texas, you can see that those distributions overlap quite significantly with this particular area that we're talking about and the practice that we're discussing.

And these are species that use karst features or burrows. However, if we moved beyond that and move into our species of greatest conservation need, as we get that list from our Texas Conservation Action Plan, you can see there's 1,310 species on that list and if we just simply graph four of their distributions on this map, you can see that this is actually an issue of statewide concern. And these are, again, species that use karst features or burrows.

We also discussed last time the precedent, Texas is the only state within the range of the Western Diamondback rattlesnake that does not regulate this particular means of take. Then we discussed -- I'm sorry. Yes.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You said regulate. Do you mean prohibit?

MR. DAVIS: Yes, sir, in some form, yes.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay.

MR. DAVIS: We also discussed the biological concerns with this means of take. We talked about the impact of the exposure to gasoline or gas vapors on the target species, which are reptiles in this particular case; but we also saw that other species or other taxonomic groups are actually much more susceptible to this particular practice. We saw that mammals were more susceptible than reptiles, birds are even more susceptible than mammals, and the most susceptible being invertebrates.

And so as a result, this is an indiscriminate means of take in which nontarget species are actually impacted more and this practice fouls habitat for other species. And as we began to look at the, again, the reviews that are coming and other potential listing discussions in the future, we took a look at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's five-factor threat analysis and we saw that gassing could apply to three of those five and we discussed that last time and those are circled on the slide.

And so that brings us to the potential options. I'll present three potential options for you. I'll just name them first and then we'll go into some of the detail. First is a status quo, second is a geographic prohibition with an exemption, and then third is a statewide prohibition with an exemption; but specifically going through them now, status quo obviously is no regulatory change. There is an advantage to this. It is consistent with some stakeholder feedback. And you'll see this term "some versus most" as I go through some of these options and so I'd like to camp out here and kind of explain that.

We've done some stakeholder groups and meetings with folks and they've given us feedback. We also surveyed 800 -- all of the folks that are permitted to deal in nongame wildlife. 868 surveys were sent out. We got 97 responses. That would seem to be a very low response rate; however, that tells us not many people are involved in the trade of Western Diamondback rattlesnakes. Many of them are involved in other things. But of those 97 that responded back to us, only five of them indicated that they use this particular means of take. So out of 868 permitted individuals, only five have indicated they use this means of take.

So we've also had a lot of stakeholder feedback that has come in through social media that has come in through written response, etcetera, and a lot of that has been in favor of prohibiting this means of take; but we have gotten some -- a handful of individuals, as well as a couple of organizations that have said they prefer the status quo. So that -- so when I say "some versus most," that kind of gives you some indication as to the level of what that means.

There are disadvantages to the status quo. The biological concerns that we outlined last time would remain. The potential listing vulnerabilities we outlined last time would also remain. And then this would be inconsistent with the majority of stakeholder feedback we've received.

The second option would be a geographic prohibition. This would simply prohibit the use of noxious substances as a means of take for nongame wildlife in a defined part of the state. As we gathered up and tried to come up with some options as to what this would look like, the one that came up was simply prohibiting this in counties with karst topography, as an example.

There are advantages to this approach. This is consistent, at least partially, with some stakeholder feedback. It is partially addressing the biological concerns that we mentioned and as well partially addresses the potential listing vulnerabilities. The disadvantages are that it only partially addresses the biological concerns and it only partially addressed the listing vulnerabilities. Additionally, it creates some problematic enforcement and it is inconsistent with the majority of the stakeholder feedback that we've received.

Finally, a statewide prohibition which would prohibit the use of noxious substances as a means of take for nongame wildlife statewide. The advantages, this would address the biological concerns we've outlined, as well as the listing -- potential listing vulnerabilities being reduced. It would create enforcement uniformity and it would be consistent with the majority of the feedback that we've received.

The disadvantages, it would be inconsistent with some of the feedback we've received. There would be -- some of our stakeholders would not support this.

The exemption that I have referred to is simply an exemption for licensed pest control applicators to use pesticides according to their label, the way that they are designed to be used and so they would be exempt from any prohibition as we've proposed. There could also be some enforcement options. It could be set up such that it would be an offense to knowingly use gasoline or other stupefying noxious or toxic chemical to take, harry, flush, or dislodge nongame wildlife or it could go a little further and be an offense to knowingly possess nongame wildlife collected in such a manner. Those are two enforcement options that we see.

And so finally, I go back to the three options and at this point, we seek your direction. If -- which and if any of these you would like for us to pursue and if so, what would you like for us to do? Would we want to go forward with any permission to publish? Do you want us to develop any of those further? At this point, I seek your guidance.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Reed.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've just got -- my first question is has Law Enforcement expressed any opinion about the two options, which would be the most effective if we do prohibit this?

MR. DAVIS: Yes, sir. We've been meeting with law Enforcement throughout this entire process; however, I will ask them to come up and present this.

MR. YOUNG: Mr. Chairman, I'm Larry Young with the Law Enforcement staff here at headquarters. With the two options, the one we would go with or be in favor of would be possess. It would be easier to enforce. If you went with the first option where they use it, we'd basically have to catch them in the act of using gas to get the snakes.

The caveat with the possess option is you would have to rely on training from the biologist to determine the behavior that indicates they've been gassed.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You could do both though, couldn't you?

MR. YOUNG: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Go ahead, Reed.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No, you beat me to it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Dang lawyer.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sorry, sorry, sorry.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Leading the witness.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Do you think we -- is this is a good time for me to propose --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think that we're --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: There may be some other discussion, but...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would just say it's up for discussion about -- I think we can -- as I understand what John has presented, is we can do nothing, just leave it the way we are now, be the one state out of five our six who has no regulation or prohibition on it or do we bring forward these two rules or one of these two rules or some variation of that for public comment and action at the next meeting. So I think that's where we are.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That's -- my -- I've thought -- this wasn't on my radar screen, although I've seen it over the years. But now that it is on my radar screen, I've agonized over what to do about it and I just don't see how we can condone pumping anything noxious into a burrow.

I think those days, as somebody else put it, those days are over. So I'm in favor of having them come up with something for tomorrow that would -- and I think you have to use both of these or have both these tools in your bag.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It wouldn't be for tomorrow. What we --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I don't mean tomorrow.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What we would do, it would be published in the Texas Register for public comment and action at the January meeting or it could be a later one; but we could probably do it for January or maybe March.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That's what I meant.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, I think that's -- I knew that's what you meant; but I just, for the record, want to make clear that we wouldn't be acting on this tomorrow.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No action tomorrow, but...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I've got a concern in this deal. I've done it and I guess we all have at one time or another. It's been a lot of years. I'm kind of not doing it any more. I got tired of running from them. But out of curiosity, you exempt pest control people. I assume by that, which we know what that does, but is there a chemical that pesticide people can -- and I have a friend that teaches and been through the -- I understand the process of having to get the license to be able to use any chemicals.

So you're saying that there are non-gasoline things, fumes, that are available to be used?

MR. DAVIS: That's a great question and we've actually -- we called Wildlife Services and asked them this question and we also contacted some pest control operators. The pest control operators have told me that there is not a fumigant that is licensed for this. There are repellants. Essentially, they said that they would come get them.

The other option is to simply wait for the snakes to leave the den and then plug the hole, those kinds of things. But the pest control industry has said there's not a fumigant that's licensed for this.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Because I basically agree. I don't -- I'm not a big fan of pumping gasoline in the -- you know, I don't think that accomplishes -- it hurts more I think than it really helps just to have a spring roundup for rattlesnakes. I mean that's -- Sweetwater may not agree with us; but, you know, I don't think that's really a relevant point here, you know, what's right.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: They can still go -- they can still go turn over rocks and pieces of tin and --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You can still catch plenty.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- you can still catch plenty.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Like I said, I quit walking around in them rocks even in my boots. So that's okay. All right, thanks.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Tell me again on the numbers. I mean how many people in a given day decide to wake up and go catch rattlesnakes? What numbers are we talking here?

MR. DAVIS: Commissioner, I'm not sure I have those numbers as to the number of people that wake up and decide to go catch rattlesnakes. They don't actually have to tell us if they're -- are they necessarily doing that.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Unless they're gassing, of course.

MR. DAVIS: Right. So the -- but what I can tell you is over the last three years, there have only been 90 individuals that have been dealing in Western Diamondbacks and so those are people that have the permits that tell us this kind of thing and something like a couple thousand snakes, something like that.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Okay.

MR. DAVIS: But I don't have those exact numbers.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: No, no that's fine.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Roberto, we have 868 commercial permittees who do this. That's the only measurement stick I think we have.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Well, I think I -- I'm with both of you. I don't think those times are anymore.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: This does not stop people from catching rattlesnakes.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: No.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It just bans one method. You know, I've seen people with nothing more than a hook and a long stick catch a bag of snakes in one day. So I mean it's not like they can't go do that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: There are options, yeah.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I agree with you. I think those times are over.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dan Allen.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I would like to see a -- do the statewide prohibition and both of these options for enforcement would be my recommendation that we take out to the -- for public hearing.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Bill, did you want to say anything?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah. Seeing as how in my neighborhood we've had a rash of rattlesnakes show up in people's driveway, interestingly dead and I need to talk to some of our Wildlife biologists about that, what's going on with them --

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Might be the lead, you believe?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, no, they were just dead from a -- we don't know why. No holes in them or anything. But there has been a rash in my neighborhood and I also can tell you from personal experience, a single mom neighbor in the neighborhood called my wife one night and asked me to come remove a snake from her house that had crawled into a crevice in the limestone in her -- that the limestone brick on her home as she was leaving to go deliver babies because she's an OB/GYN and her baby was still in the house and she didn't want the baby[sic] to crawl up in the house, get in the vent, and drop down on the baby.

So I didn't think when I got on this Commission that I had signed up to go and catch snakes in crevices in people's limestone. I will also tell you she had also called the Sheriff and the Sheriff -- I will tell you, pepper spray does not work to get a snake out of a crevice. It apparently isn't noxious enough. And it was not my suggestion because I knew we were considering this, he decided to do that on his own and it didn't work. I told everybody to leave and I turned out all the lights and waited for the snake to crawl out, just like somebody just suggested and then I plugged the hole up. But -- and, no, I didn't kill the snake. It was not a rattler, by the way.

But I'm in agreement. I think we have to give them both options and the only -- I will say to, I think it was your point, I'm not exactly sure what stupefying noxious or toxic chemicals or substances would be. I don't know. We may have to -- I don't think we need to do that between now and -- well, maybe we do need to do it between now and ultimately when the rule is made. But we need to go ahead and throw something out there for the public consumption, but one of the things we probably ought to look at is what does that mean.

Because when the Sheriff suggested, I would have thought pepper spray would have -- I knew we weren't going to use gasoline because it was this woman's house. So that was the first thing. But I would have thought pepper spray was noxious, stupefying, or a toxic chemical; but apparently it was not, at least not for a snake. So I don't know. I don't know what to do with that. I'm just saying it's a personal experience I had, and I don't know if everybody knows what that means.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, your point is a good one, Bill. We'll need to work on the language of the -- staff and Ann --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- and all, work on carefully drafting these two different -- two different --

COMMISSIONER JONES: And a suggestion I might make, Ralph, a suggestion I might make is we might specify those substances that are readily available to the average consumer. Gasoline, diesel...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Kerosene.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Kerosene.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Pepper spray.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Pepper spray, which apparently is not an issue.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Tannerite.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Exactly. Hey, wait a minute? What's wrong with Tannerite? I know, that's fun stuff by the way. And then add on this other language at the backside to throw in some other things, but that's just something to be concerned about as we draft the rule.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Anybody else have any comments? All right, I will authorize staff to refine the two enforcement options along the lines of the comments that various Commissioners have made, including Commissioner Jones, and then publish proposed rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period and then go from there.

MR. SMITH: And I -- just for clarification, I will come back to the Commission in January? Is that the -- I think that's the timeframe we're looking at?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's the plan.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: As long as we can comply with the Texas Register --

MR. SMITH: Yep, yep, okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- notice requirements. All right. Thank you, John.

Item No. 5, 2014-15 Statewide Hunting Proclamation Preview Briefing, Clayton Wolf and Larry Young. That's why I didn't thank you, Larry. I knew you were going to stay seated.

MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, I'm Clayton Wolf, Wildlife Division Director, and obviously I have Major Larry Young up here with me. This morning I'm going to -- we're going to tag team a presentation here, and preview several proposals. These are proposals of the Statewide Hunting Proclamation that we are contemplating bringing back to you in January requesting permission to publish in the Texas Register and obviously we're here to answer your questions and seek feedback on these proposals.

The first couple of proposals that I'm going to talk about, deal with Mule deer, Mule deer hunting regulations, and also Mule deer antlerless permits. You have a slide there in front of you that shows the current Mule deer seasons in Texas. The Panhandle has two season structures. Both those seasons, the counties highlighted in yellow and in red begin on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The yellow counties run for 16 days and those in red run for 9. And then our Trans-Pecos Mule deer hunting season starts about a week later, the Friday after Thanksgiving, and runs for 17 days.

And just like we did several years ago, we identified some counties out there that have pockets of Mule deer that we believe can sustain some buck-only harvest and we want folks to avail themselves of that opportunity and so we're contemplating bringing back five counties to open Mule deer seasons. If you look over there on the eastern side of the Panhandle south of the Red River, one county -- the county there, Knox County -- we would propose to have a season similar to all those in yellow, which would be the 16-day Panhandle season. And then if you move further west over there to Castro, Hale, Lubbock, and Lynn Counties, we are contemplating -- is proposing a -- the 9-day Panhandle Mule deer season.

Additionally, the Department may issue general season antlerless Mule deer permits, and I want to make sure folks understand these are not Managed Lands Deer Permits for Mule deer. These apply only to the general season. In fact, the regulations specifically state that they're not valid during the archery only season. And individual hunters are restricted to the County bag limits with these permits and so what we would propose to provide a little bit more flexibility with these general season permits, is that we sever the antlerless permit bag limit from the County bag limit; so that if a hunter did have in possession two valid permits, they could take more than one antlerless Mule deer with these permits and also we would propose to make them valid during the archery only season for Mule deer.

A couple of changes related to Desert Bighorn sheep hunting regulations. First thing I probably need to do is just describe to you here briefly how we count Desert sheep. Most of our aerial surveys that we do for Mule deer and Pronghorn, we fly straight line transects and count animals along those transects. But with our Desert Bighorn sheep, we do a little more intensive survey where we actually take a topographic line and we follow that altitude going in the canyons and out of canyons and crevices trying to count every sheep we can and then we move up and we parallel that at a higher level.

Obviously, we keep up with sheep that are going up the mountain; but we're attempting to count every sheep on that mountain or along that canyon face. Obviously, we miss a few; but we get most of them. When we identify a ram that is a -- that we classify as a harvestable ram, then basically we get a GPS location for where we spotted that ram and that landowner gets a permit for that sheep, for that ram. And it will be important to note as I move forward in this -- on this topic, that in many of these populations, because those are older aged rams -- 9, 10, 11 12 years old -- they -- they -- they're not very common. So it's not uncommon to have one harvestable ram in that population, so our Desert Bighorn sheep hunting season right now is basically a year-long season, September 1 to August 31st.

And as our programs become more successful and we're issuing more permits, we're running into a conflict occasionally and that is when a hunter is still out there in August trying to get their sheep and we're flying surveys. Now, I will tell you the vast majority of sheep are taken September, October, November and in the milder months; but on rare occasion, we have someone out there pursuing sheep in August. And on a couple of occasions, we have inadvertently disrupted hunts because we were doing surveys in those mountain ranges while folks were trying to count sheep.

It wasn't as much of an issue in the early days when we issued a handful of permits, and we could coordinate; but as we have more permits out there, these inadvertent disruptions come up. So what we would propose is that the season run from September 1 to July 31st, and basically have the month of August closed. That would allow us to be out there counting sheep, not disrupting hunting. And the other thing to remember is when we identified that sheep say last August and we issue a permit for that harvestable ram, if we come back around this year and we're flying surveys in early August and someone hasn't hunted yet, it's possible we could see that sheep and issue a second permit for a sheep that hasn't been hunted yet. So by closing the month of August, we would also alleviate that potential to double issue for one of these harvestable rams on the landscape.

The next proposal here, I'm going to turn over to Major Larry Young to cover.

MR. YOUNG: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, again for the record, I'm Larry Young with the Law Enforcement Division. Under current regulations, if a person is out on a ranch and they find a Desert Bighorn skull and they wish to possess it, to legally possess it, they have to notify either a biologist or a Game Warden within 48 hours and then we go out and verify that they -- what they've found and we plug it with the plug you see on the slide there.

In addition, they're required to have an affidavit from the landowner stating where it was found and when and what person found that. We've received recommendation from Wildlife and Law Enforcement staff to remove the requirement of them getting an affidavit from the landowner.

MR. WOLF: Our next proposal deals with a utilizing mobile technology for mandatory reporting of Eastern turkeys. Our modern day Eastern Turkey season began in 1995 and when we opened those seasons, we actually required mandatory reporting of the harvest and basically that -- and still occurs today. That basically means that the hunter within 24 hours must take their turkey to a check station and we have about one to two per county and it's kind -- the agent there at the store or the location will provide the paperwork. But basically the hunter measure -- takes a few measurements off the bird, fills out this form here, which is a carbon copy form. They keep one copy of that form to basically validate that they checked their bird and leave the other one behind and we collect those and use that to track Eastern turkey harvest.

Mandatory check stations are fairly rare in Texas. This is one of the few for general season, but other states have used those. But what we're all recognizing is that there are modern technologies out there that we believe would be able to substitute these manpower intensive types of operations and so we've been working with our IT Division to develop basically a mobile application and mobile websites that would fulfill the mandatory harvest reporting requirements if this Commission chose to adopt such a regulation.

Also, I just as a side note as a part of this application development, we're not just focusing on Eastern turkeys. We're developing harvest reporting mechanisms within these websites and applications, albeit voluntary, for all other species like White-tailed deer, Rio Grande turkey, etcetera, in hopes that as we get this launched, we may be able to use this as a tool even under voluntary reporting requirements to really enhance the data that we collect for our harvest out there on the landscape. But basically all we are asking for here is that when we come back in January is that these mobile application devices and websites would meet the requirements for checking, for our check stations basically.

And the last proposal that I'll talk to you about deals with squirrel season. There's a slide that you should have in front of you that depicts the squirrel seasons in Texas. Far West Texas doesn't have a squirrel season; but the majority of the state there that's in green has no closed season, no bag limit. So you can go any month of the year, shooting as many as you wish. As you move eastward there, the -- about a dozen counties that are shaded in brown there have no closed season; but a ten-squirrel bag limit. And then on the eastern part of the state and this is a part of the state that historically has been the stronghold for squirrel hunting in Texas and it still has a long -- a strong tradition. We have a May season and then the Fall/Winter season begins October 1st and runs to the first Sunday in February with a ten-squirrel bag limit.

What we are proposing or would propose in January is to consolidate those no-close season ten-squirrel counties and consolidate with them with a no-close season, no bag limit for simplification purposes. And then to expand opportunity, what we would propose for the East Texas season is to add another -- basically another three weeks to the season and run that season to the last Sunday in February.

The history of squirrel hunting in East Texas, you know, prior to the 70s, that's what folks hunted in the fall of the year and as the landscape and vegetation changed and the timber changed and as deer population became more numerous, deer hunting became more popular. And we have received requests from folks that like to hunt squirrels with dogs, but they don't want to get out there in front of the deer hunters; so they typically wait until the regular deer season is over with, then they get their dogs and go to the woods when the leaves are off the trees. So right now, they have about a one-month season and this proposal would extend that to a seven-week season.

And then I'll turn it back over to Major Young to finish up.

MR. YOUNG: And we did receive a petition for rule making to allow air guns to hunt squirrels with. Wildlife staff and Law Enforcement staff researched this and looked to see what other states are doing this and we found several. Usually -- looking at their guidance, we developed these standards for -- to propose to you. It would be allow air guns that meet the following definition of minimum standards for squirrel hunting and it would be an air gun means any shoulder-mounted gun which by the force of a spring, air, or other -- not a -- not a compressed gas, expels a missile or projectile that has a rifled or smooth barrel. We developed that it would be a minimum caliber of .177 and a minimum velocity of 600 feet per second and, again, that was based on the findings we found from other states.

Final item that I have is just some clarification of housekeeping. Currently, we allow archery hunters if they're legally licensed to have a concealed handgun, they can have a concealed handgun in the blind with them. It's not spelled out in the Proclamation, so we're proposing to add the language under archery to state: It is unlawful to hunt deer or turkey with a broadhead hunting point while in possession of a firearm during archery only season, except -- and this the change -- except a person licensed to carry a concealed handgun in Texas may carry a concealed handgun.

And that concludes the presentation. I'd be happy to answer your questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Back on -- let me go back and find it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I know it's squirrel hunting.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: As long as they don't mess with the no season or no limit because them little black squirrels, I promise you I'll shoot every one of them I can find. They tear up everything.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: You've got to retrieve it. You can't leave it in the field.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I don't have a problem with that. Where was that one? I'm sorry, it was on the Mule deer deal. And, Dan, you're the -- I consider the resident expert on Mule deer anyway. Well, I can't find it. I made a note of -- it was on -- oh, I know.

Do we have any responses on the -- have y'all sent the censuses out to the people that hunt out there? Did we have any responses on that change you were wanting to make?

MR. WOLF: On the particular change that we're presenting right here?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah.

MR. WOLF: No, sir. This is a preview. This is kind of a staff discussion and a first preview, so if -- assuming that there weren't any significant changes, we would come back in January with any refinements if there's any suggested refinements. Then we would go to the Texas Register in that period between the January meeting and the March meeting to get public input on these proposals.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay, that's fine.

MR. SMITH: But I assume, Clayton, between now and January, our biologists up in the Panhandle could get some informal feedback from --

MR. WOLF: Oh, no doubt.

MR. SMITH: -- landowners there and hunters.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: This is -- never mind. Anybody else have any comments? All right. Thank you, gentlemen.

MR. WOLF: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No further action is required on that since this is a briefing.

All right, let's have a similar briefing, please, from Ken Kurzawski, Robin, and Brandi Reeder on our 2014-15 Statewide Fishing, both commercial and recreational.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And I won't ask any more dumb questions since it's a briefing.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's okay. You get one -- one get out of jail free card, but I know you need more.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Don't worry, I'm done.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, on my watch, it looks like it's after noon. So good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski, Inland Fisheries Division, and today I'll go over the potential regulation changes we're considering for freshwater. These are changes that have come out either our biologists discussing them within -- within -- looking at their data, getting input from anglers. They're discussed at a regional basis, then at a statewide basis. We've also previewed these, our Freshwater Fishing Advisory Committee and other interested groups that could give us some input on where we wanted to proceed with these.

The first one, there's some harvest regulations for Blue and Channel catfish on our border waters with Louisiana. If you recall, we standardized a number of regulations for a variety of species with Louisiana in 2011 and these -- this included Caddo Lake, Toledo Bend, and the Lower Sabine River. The particular one we're looking at is the no minimum length limit, 50-fish bag for Blues and Channels and the portion of that there, of that 50-fish bag, you can only keep five that are 20 inches or longer.

Reaction to that regulation, we began hearing a number of complaints on that shortly after it was implemented in October. This was primarily from Toledo Bend, the upper end. What we were hearing, that it was too restrictive and persons were catching a high proportion of Blues that were over 20 inches and most of these were being caught on trotlines and some jug lines in the upper area of the reservoir.

I would note that we did have a public hearing out in that area. We didn't -- and through public comments, we didn't -- we did hear a few people, one or two comments against this; but most people were in favor of it at that time. Our staff did some creel surveys out there to see what people were catching on their trotlines. We interviewed 37 parties and they caught over 1,200 Blues and as you can see, there was a good proportion of them that were over that 20-inch limit.

And one other thing they noticed, angler compliance appeared to be low. Almost 60 percent of the parties had over five fish. So in any case, the regulation wasn't being effective there. They were releasing very few Blues, only 8 percent of the catch, and there seemed to be self-imposed limits, either the fish were too small or too big for them to want to keep.

After looking at that information, Louisiana also had some additional information that is similar to what we've collected. We're proposing to -- upon potential change, to change that limit from five over 20 inches to five fish over 30 inches. That would allow those anglers to keep more fish under 30 inches. Staffs from both states have looked at the populations and we believe the Blue catfish populations are abundant enough to support that additional harvest. 30 inches is sort of a good -- another good inflection point between the slow and fast-growing fish and male and female fish and the anglers that we've talked to sort of prefer that 30-inch five fish rather than the 20 inches and ten fish.

We think that will still help provide some desirable harvest opportunities there. It won't have any detril[sic] impact to the Blue or Channel catfish populations. Very few Channels get over that 20 inches. Very few impacts to Caddo and Sabine. They don't have the Blue or Channel catfish populations that would be impacted there. One possible concern, as always we -- with Louisiana, they have a little different process as us. We did meet recently with their staff. They do support these changes and will push them through their system; but as we have found in the past, their process is generally a little less predictable than ours. So usually it's -- as we did last time, we would have this contingent on their passing of regulation and that did work last -- did work out last time. They did make me sweat a little bit there down at the final end; but it did go through, so.

Our next -- have a minor change on Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir. It's a reservoir near Waco, in the past that had been stocked with Red Drum. There's a handful of power plant reservoirs in Texas that we stopped -- stocked with Red Drum that had the conditions that would be conducive for survival of Red Drum in those systems and that usually one of the components of that was the warm water from the power plants. The power plant unfortunately there has ceased operation, so we've ceased stocking there.

When we do have these populations in freshwater, we a 20-inch minimum length limit, and -- which is different than the statewide limits, which is also the one they follow on the coast and we would -- since we're no longer stocking there, we would propose to put those back to the statewide limits, which on the coast is at 20 to 28-inch reverse slot and a three-fish bag and I guess referring to reverse slot there, meaning you can keep fish within that 20 to 28 inches.

Most of our slot limits on the freshwater sites are sort of upper and lower limits. Like a 14 to 21 inches, you could keep fish under 14 inches or fish over 21 inches, so. And since freshwater biologist just came up with the slot limits first, we call the coastal ones reverse slots. We get to name it.

We have a small lake near Austin, Lake Kyle. It's a 12-acre lake in the City of Kyle. Currently, we have regulations of 14- to 21-inch slot on Largemouth bass and it's under our Community Fishing Lake Regulations. Catfish, it's a five-fish bag, no minimum length limit, and fishing is by pole and line only.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you -- oh, go on.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Go ahead.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are you about to leave Lake Kyle?

MR. KURZAWSKI: No, I'm -- I was just --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Go ahead and finish then.

MR. KURZAWSKI: And our goal initially when we put that regulation out two years ago was to protect an excellent bass population that was in that water body. When that opened in 2012, as I mentioned, we did have an excellent bass and sunfish populations. It experienced a lot of high use at that time. The bass population did fairly well under their limit; but the Bluegill and Redear sunfish populations were overharvested at that time. We had some good sized sunfish in there, but those were overharvested.

We do have a situation there the access is somewhat controlled by the City Park, so we're kind of looking at this that this could provide an opportunity to manage for a unique fishing opportunity and focus more on catch than harvest. Managing more like, say, a private lake where we could limit access a little bit more limited and keep a little better handle on what's being caught out there. The potential change that we're considering there is to go to just catch-and-release fishing for bass, sunfish, and the catfish.

And what we're hoping to do there is to provide an opportunity for a unique fishery in the Austin area, catch some large sunfish and catfish. We'd go in there with some feeders, feed up the fish, get -- try and get some good growth on them and this would sort of pilot or create -- creating a sustainable fishery for small urban lakes, which is a real challenge which where you'd have open harvest, fish get harvested pretty frequently and this is a little different than our existing neighborhood fishing lakes, where we're going in there and stocking them frequently with either catfish or trout and really wanting people to go out there and catch them as we -- sort of that put-and-take. This would be more of a put-and-grow situation.

But we are working with the local partners down there. The Kyle Parks and Rec, they support the proposal. We did have a neat, little, quick scoping meeting down there and so far, we haven't -- people seem to think it's a good idea at this point. It would simplify at least the regulation of that water. You know, it would be catch-and-release for most of the fish that anglers are catching out there. But one concern is some people do like to harvest fish, so those are the people who might not support this proposal.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we have a pole limit here?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, and also on our Community Fishing lakes there's a two-pole limit. That's part of --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Have you-all given any thought to whether you should revisit that and limit it to one pole per person?

MR. KURZAWSKI: It seems to be, you know, working now. Most of -- most of -- most of the problem there with the pole limit was where people had multiple poles and this seems to eliminate that. This is a lot more manageable where it was mostly a user conflict thing where people were fishing more than, you know, a dozen poles or whatever and monopolizing space, limited space on banks. So we haven't had any really concerns with that since then. You know, they're still under the five-fish limit, whether they're using one pole or two poles, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. KURZAWSKI: And the last one that we're looking at is on a Guadalupe River Trout Fishery below Canyon Dam. The cold water discharge from the lake there maintains that trout fishery. Trout need water temperatures below 70 degrees so that they can tolerate temperatures 70/75. And in that fishery, the distance downstream where the temperature remains below 73 is determined by how much flow we're getting out of the dam and that's a very popular fishery for anglers who want to both harvest trout and also in some -- and also those who prefer catch-and-release fishing for trout, so it's serving both purposes.

Currently, we have two regulations on this section of the river. We have some of the water body is under the statewide limit, which is five trout of any size and we also do have a section there that's an 18-inch minimum length limit with a one-fish daily bag and a harvest of trout within that -- if you want to harvest trout, they have to be caught on artificial lures.

So that middle section there is the 18-inch limit. It's approximately 9-and-a-half mile stretch and we do have -- currently, the way it is, the section above that, which includes the popular area right below the dam, is under statewide limits and then down below is also under the statewide limit. Most years, water from the lake will stay 70 below -- the deep water will stay below 70 degrees, allowing for some oversummer survival of trout. But we -- when looking at the temperature over the time in the summer, temperatures remain optimal for trout downstream approximately 4 miles and that's -- that really is just about where the current special regulation zone now starts and we're looking at this as we could possibly reduce some of that harvest in that upstream stretch. It could potentially enhance the development of a year-round fishery there, which is one of our goals to allow some of those fish to oversummer, get some bigger fish in there and build up the abundance of that population.

And what we're -- what our staff is thinking about discussing, we've been discussing with people down there is enacting a 20- to 18-inch slot length limit. Why 12 inches to 18? 18 inches, we have that -- we currently have that 18-inch or one fish over. Most of the fish that we stock are below 12 inches. Guadalupe River -- Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited stocks a number of fish in there and those fish are typically 14 inches and above, so those fish would be -- remain in the slot. Anglers would still be able to have access to all the fish we stock.

We would also extend those daily bag and harvest restrictions for the trout, one of the trout over 18 inches and those would only have to harvested by artificial lures. And we would start this 1,800 yards below the Canyon Dam release. We have an area right there at the base of the dam where people fish, where most of the harvest of trout takes place. We would still leave that outside this zone and it would extend to that upper limit of our current zone and that would -- that new section in blue there would be how that would -- section of the river that it would apply for and that small section of yellow would still be under the statewide limits of five trout of any size.

And as I said, the goal there would be to increase the survival and size of trout within that zone, where they would be able to oversummer. We're going to try and maintain those opportunities to harvest fish under 12 inches in that zone. People can catch up to five in that area. Some of the concerns are that we've, you know, heard about a little bit and we'll probably continue to hear about, we would restrict harvest means and methods there. Anglers would only be able to harvest trout in that section using artificial lures, and it does increase the complexity of those regulations. We would have a separate regulation right there at the dam, and then a couple regulations downstream.

We did -- we've been discussing this with the trout anglers and the landowners down in that area and other persons. We did have a meeting down in New Braunfels on the 22nd. We had eight people show up. A few people expressed -- you know, we did -- had some general support and a few people, they expressed some concerns about those restrictions on the method of harvest. With -- those are the ones we were considering at that time and if you have any other questions or comments, I'd be happy to try and...

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: One comment. On the Kyle lake, you're sure going to create a lot of work for Craig; but if they support it, I'm on board.

MR. KURZAWSKI: The access there is controlled, and then there's a -- the park staff does a pretty good job of informing people what they can do on that area, so it's conducive -- that situation is conducive.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You will ask for -- when you send this out and everything, that will go to a deal where they'll have a chance for some public comment?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, just like --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just like a regular --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'll just be curious to see --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Like Clayton mentioned, we'll go -- in January if we decide to pursue these, we'll come back to you and will go out for public hearings.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dan Allen.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Can I have one question? Tradinghouse Creek Redfish has got a slot limit from 20 to 28 and I understand we're not restocking it. I also think that or I've been told that Redfish don't reproduce in freshwater.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So why have an upper limit at all? I thought on the coast we had a 28-inch maximum limit because we didn't want to take the breeder of fish. Here, why don't we just say 20-inch and above you can take?

MR. KURZAWSKI: That's the limit we do have on it now. We do have a 20-inch minimum length limit. There is no upper limit, but once -- that's a special regulation just on those freshwater lakes where we're stocking Redfish. Since we're no longer restocking Red drum there, we don't need -- we don't need that special regulation on that water body.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: But didn't you say we were going to go from 20 -- now we're going to go statewide, which is 20 to 28. So if an angler catches one above 28, he has to let it go.

MR. KURZAWSKI: That's true. But the population essentially will be -- it will be eliminated because we won't stock there. There's no more warm water discharges.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So if a guy catches a 30-incher, why not let him -- if there is a 30-incher left, why not let him keep it? Because if he lets it go, it's going to die anyway. Is that -- am I missing something or...

MR. KURZAWSKI: I don't -- I guess the -- all I know is that we have any fish left in there -- any big fish in there to --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: There's no fish left? Okay, well, that's -- you didn't say that.

MR. KURZAWSKI: It's just --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I thought we were just trying to take all the fish that were left and --

MR. KURZAWSKI: No. We're kind of past that stage and, you know, since it's a special regulation and we don't need it, we're just getting rid of it. It's really -- functionally, it doesn't have much impact at this point.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have comments or suggestions? Okay. Thank you, Ken.

Let's see. Robin, yes.

MR. RIECHERS: Again for the record, my name is Robin Riechers. I'm Director of Coastal Fisheries, and I'm here to present to you the 2014-15 Coastal Fisheries Scoping Items. Our scoping items consist of a temporary closure of public oyster reefs in two bay systems -- East Galveston Bay and Halfmoon Reef in Matagorda Bay.

What I want to do though is back up to when we had closed East Galveston Bay in a previous time after Hurricane Ike, when over 80 percent of those reefs had been lost or silted over due to the storm and I want to basically show you the impact of that closure and some of the work that we did there in determining whether we should close these other bay systems here.

The closure area that we used last time, we went ahead and used a Department of State Health and Human Services Shellfish Boundary, which is contingent upon -- it's a boundary set so that they can close conditional open and closed areas due to pollution. The little red or pink dot that you see there was the 20-acre protection area that we were trying to establish and we were going to put cultch down in that area and basically protect it for that two-year period, as well as those yellow triangles, etcetera, that you see there, trapezoids, are leaseholders, lease areas, and they were also at that time after that storm trying to protect those areas and basically use both cultch as well as a means where we drag basically dredges to try to bring up that cultch material back up above that silt line. So that was the kind of work that was going on in that area.

Here is the before and after of the 20-acre restoration site that I showed you there. In the before side-scan sonar image there, you can see two triangles and what that actually is is two rectangular structures or pads that were constructed by the training Corps of Engineers in the mid 1990s. You can see that they're silted over there, but you can still pick out there image. And so in the after picture, you can see that as well as the dark clumped black area down there. That is the actual reef site. That black is showing the cultch material that we put down and then some of that black material that's kind of north of the real rectangle there, we believe that was just due to siltation being washed off some of those previous oyster reefs that were in that area and basically we're picking that up in our after photo of that area.

Now when you want to look at what the impact of it actually was, you can look here. The blue bars show a controlled area that we had in that location. The yellow bars show the work of the 20-acre site there, and you can see that we -- for market oysters, those greater than 3 inches, we increased that and it's kind of small in this scale; but 161 percent increase difference between the area that we worked on two years after as opposed to the area that was the controlled area and you can see also by the small oyster column, which is actually -- and I notice now that at least on this slide it's cut off.

On the farthest right -- left-hand side to you is market oysters. Small is in the middle and Spat, which is basically the most juvenile oyster that settles on the cultch and then begins to grow, is on the farthest right-hand side. So you can see there that the restoration work is evidently working. A lot for Spat, a lot more small oysters, and certainly a 161 percent increase is hard to tell in this scale of market oysters as well.

So in East Galveston Bay, the kind of pink triangles and rectangles you see there are where we propose the work to start in 2014. We're going to approximately be able to work on 130 acres there. We have a $3.6 million grant and CCA is also contributing $500,000 to a project in that area and we want to use the same boundary line that you saw in the previous pictures and you see it there again in order to close the reef area for two years.

Next in moving to Halfmoon Reef, the restoration in that area basically is an area that hasn't had any documented production in a while. We believe that was both due to loss of cultch and from storm impacts, as well as there might have been some impact of the rerouting of the ICWW in that area. This restoration effort is being conducted by the Nature Conservancy.

They have most recently been on the ground out there doing some of that work, and so we want to include it here in that protection notion as well. That's -- you can see there by the diagram, that's where the Halfmoon Reef area is there off the coast. You can tell by the inset where it is along the coast and then you can see there, it's also about 54 acres that we're going to protect in that area.

So the scoping proposal that we would want to go out with is to close both of those areas. We would propose that we close those for two years. Obviously the one is easily marked by that Department of State Health Services Boundary. The others will -- the other closure will be marked with buoys that are maintained by the Texas Nature Conservancy.

I'm going to pause there. Carter has asked that I also give a briefing and an update on both flounder and Spotted seatrout. Flounder we passed rules here from the Commission in 2009. We had some scoping issues regarding Spotted seatrout in 2010 and 2011, and so I'm going to deal with those next in sequence; but pause here at oysters just for a moment if there's any questions in regards to those.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: A quick one. It's funny that you're showing this here because I was fishing and caught a heck of a -- a buddy of mine, a heck of a good limit of specks in this area and we were dragging up some of that black rock stuff that y'all use; but that's where the trout were amazingly enough. I mean I'm talking about some nice ones, in the limit, in the limit; but --

MR. RIECHERS: No, those oyster reefs provide lot of structure and a lot of habitat in addition to the oyster that they provide. They provide a lot of good habitat and essential uses as well. Water quality also in their filtering system, so they're very important parts of the ecosystem.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Where I was headed was is the guide I was with is an old, old salt from down there. You know some of them. You know, the purist, you can't use live bait. And we would have won the tournament if I'd have used one croaker, you know, just caught one Redfish. Long story short, they -- they comment I heard from him, they didn't understand -- and by "them," I'm referring to all the boat -- you know, the guides basically. They didn't follow some of the logic on the closure area, the amount of it and everything.

I guess where I would say is is that if we're going to do it again, first we're not going to really hurt oystering season, are we, overall? That won't have any effect on any of that because that was one -- and you know what you hear from them and, you know, these old guys have been there forever; but anyway, they know where the fish are.

But then secondly, we need to probably do a good -- or maybe -- and I didn't see the first one, so maybe we did a good one and they just didn't pay attention -- of letting them know what we're going to be doing and making it, you know, where they have a little comment into it. Whether or not it's an accurate comment will remain to be seen, but that was just the comments I just happened to be there to hear a month and a half ago.

MR. RIECHERS: We'll certainly make sure we hold some hearings down in that local area, both scoping meetings and hearings to make sure that we get the word out and also get their input on those boundaries. That particular boundary up there, it's real easy to use those State shellfish lines because the oyster fishermen certainly know those very, very well.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Right.

MR. RIECHERS: And so that's one of the reasons and they're already marked, but we'll certainly look into that and make sure we get their input. Any --

All right, we'll move on then to Southern flounder and like I said, I'm going to take these in the order of Southern flounder first and then I'll -- and then Spotted seatrout. As indicated, we basically last visited Southern flounder in 2009. Passed what we would consider a fairly significant rule, but I kind of want to take a step back here and remind everyone a little bit of the life history here.

Adults age two plus or so, basically spawn in the offshore areas. Those -- the females have -- they produce bouyant eggs, they get fertilized out there, they tide and the action of the waves basically bring them and take them back to the back of the bays. The fish are obviously larva, settle in, juveniles become little fishes back there, and then they start to basically move their way into the deeper bay system. Beginning in October/December, the adults start that pattern all over again. They migrate outwards again into the Gulf, and it starts all over again.

So one of the things that we did in that regulation and we'll get to that a little bit is helping to close at a time when those fish were in that migration pattern. Just to quickly go over the history of flounder regulations, obviously some of the big increases in flounder populations and protections occurred in the late 1980s when we basically banned gillnets along the Texas Coast. And then what you see here is a compilation of some bag and size limits through time up until about the late 1990s, when we were able to then establish limited entry in 1999 regarding Finfish license holders and at that time, that basically comprised those folks who were either flounder fishermen or Black drum fishermen, just depending on which they did or they may have done both.

And then in 2006, we reduced the overall bag limit to ten fish and then in 2009, we took that bag limit or ten fish, reduced that to five fish. We took the commercial possession limit from 60 to 30 fish, reducing both of those by 50 percent. And probably the -- one of the most important steps is no gigging was allowed in the month of November and you could still retain fish, two fish in the month of November; but you gig them basically. So both commercial and recs can retain up to two, but no gigging allowed during that month of November.

Immediately you can see here the yellow bars or orange are before the gigging ban, and then the blues are after the gigging ban. Looking there to November, you can see we have a dramatic impact on the harvest in November. We decreased that from around 28 percent to about 4 percent. You can see some shifting of that effort into December and October and September and so forth, but we do -- we certainly did have the impact of protecting those fish in that time period when they leave the bays in droves.

Next, I'm going to touch on our coastwide gillnets and for those of you who are a little newer to our system here, our gillnets basically are what we call our fishery dependent -- independent data. It's the data that our biologists collect on a routine basis the same way year in and year out and the goal is for us to be able to look at that information and determine whether we have an abundance trend that's going up or an abundance trend down or staying the same basically. It's just a relative abundance.

And you can see there that after '09, we have increased our overall abundance from our gillnets. Roughly from that time period in '08 to the most recent two years, we've increased that overall abundance somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 to 100 percent from that lower period and you can certainly see by the long-term average that the abundance is back on the rise as opposed to that long downward trend that we saw before passage of those rules.

So the benefits from the regulations that we've seen, commercial landings were reduced by about 30 percent in that first year. From a pricing perspective, that November market glut was eliminated and we certainly have seen prices hold throughout the year better. Now that also is dependent on other things going on and other commercial harvest, but that is an artifact of this as well. We anecdotally have seen that reduction in opportunity for those people who might have been sport gigging, for those fish to enter the commercial channels and just because of taking it out when they were most susceptible to that gigging pressure.

Another interesting artifact of what we've seen at this point is that our krill anglers, we asked a question of them about their targeting and what they're targeting on those days and we've seen that jump after the rule from about 1 to 3 percent in that targeting behavior to about 8 percent in 2012 and 2013. That actually is also mirrored in a mail survey that we do where we saw a similar increase in the overall percentage targeting flounder.

Some of the good news obviously after we did that, that was on different newspapers/periodicals around the state, you know, what we have seen is that obviously that good news brought that increased fishing pressure to some degree and people are going to take advantage; but I must add that what we believe and we predicted that we would see an 80 percent increase in the spawning stock biomass associated with that November closure and that two-fish bag limit and the other actions that we took. And, you know, just looking at the gillnets, not having ran it through the entire modeling process that we sometimes do, that 80 to 100 percent increase in overall abundance would lead you to believe that we certainly are if not meeting our target, we're certainly very close to that.

I'll pause there for just a moment and see if there's any questions specifically regarding flounder and then I'll go on to Spotted seatrout and certainly come back to this if someone thinks of something along the way.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dan Allen.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, I've got two questions. Are we going to be asked to extend the November gigging closure or what -- where are we going with this today? Is this just an update, or is there going to be a --

MR. RIECHERS: This is an update. This is one of those species that you-all have asked about and at basically every statewide hunting proclamation since then, we've kind of cursorily given you an update verbally. We felt like it was time to come back with some of those actual numbers and show you that if we could.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Do we -- at what point do we update this or extend it? It was implemented on a temporary basis, wasn't it?

MR. RIECHERS: No, sir. We put that rule in. I mean obviously with a goal to come back and look at it, as much as we try to do all of our key species. You know, from our perspective, the biologist's perspective, we look at those each and every year. We bring some of those to you depending on which ones we think might need to be scoped for regulation, but those rules are in place. They will not change if we don't do anything.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, just from a personal standpoint talking to flounderers and there quite a few of them in the Lower and Central Texas Coast that I know, they all across the board say it's been a phenomenal success. I mean flounder fishing is much better. That's why more people are fishing.

The only thing I've heard from some of the giggers is, okay, you're allowing anglers to catch two fish during November. Why can't giggers go out and get two fish, also, and look at the fish? You know there's something kind of fun about going out and seeing a bunch of flounder and why if we're letting guys catch two and keep them on a rod and reel, would we not let a gigger gig two in that period and would that hurt our stock?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, certainly the two-fish rule -- if we're just displacing them from rod-and-reel angling and we're putting them back in gigging, assuming they are going and doing some sort of fishing, then it's a wash. If we would get a lot of fishing pressure from giggers taking two fish, it could have some impact. I wouldn't imagine it would have a lot of impact.

I think the bigger question during that time period was really one of a Law Enforcement concern if we allowed any gigging and might look to Law Enforcement, if you would like a comment from them, Commissioner Hughes...

MR. YOUNG: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Larry Young with Law Enforcement Division. It was just a concern over if they're out there gigging, that it would be pretty easy for them to go over their limit of two. There's -- they're -- it's very difficult to check flounder fishermen at night. You can't hardly sneak up on them with the big light on and everything and it's -- we felt like that when you go gigging, you're pretty much guaranteed you're going to get your two fish. If you're rod and reeling, there's not that much of a guarantee you're going to catch two fish. It was just -- enforcement issue, it would be difficult to enforce.

MR. SMITH: Commissioner, the enforcement issue Larry touched on also, we wanted to keep some kind of a recreational opportunity for rod-and-reel anglers and so it just felt like that would at least give somebody an opportunity if they wanted to go out in November and, hence, the nominal two-fish bag limit for rod and reel.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And by way of background since it's been a long time ago, there actually were a few Commissioners that wanted this rule to even be more conservative and I'm -- that was actually going to be a comment I made because stock -- the long-term trends you can see are troubling for this fish. And while it made a bit of a rebound, they haven't made as much of a rebound, frankly, that I anticipated we might see.

And so my question is should -- do we consider or should we consider reducing the take in December, maybe not to the levels of November; but there's quite -- you know, if you look at your -- go to -- if everybody will go to that chart that shows the take in December. Coastwide gill -- no, I'm sorry. The -- not --

MR. RIECHERS: The gillnet?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, not the gillnet.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Percent?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Coastwide landings. Let's see, where did I -- maybe that's -- well, anyway, I don't know which one it was; but -- where's it by month? There's one of them by month, I thought.

MR. SMITH: I don't think we had a -- had one that you -- we didn't have one for flounder.

MR. RIECHERS: By month is the commercial harvest, Commissioner Duggins.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It was the what?

MR. SMITH: It was the commercial --

MR. RIECHERS: That's commercial harvest, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But it looked like that some of the catch that was previously being caught in November and I think your comment was is being taken in December. And so my question to you is should we consider some sort of reduction to the December taker until the stock gets -- makes a further comeback?

I know, Dan Allen, you said it's -- people seemed pleased that it's improved, but it's still not where -- where you said you thought it ought to be.

MR. RIECHERS: Well, and we'll look at the gillnets because that's that relative abundance and certainly as you can see there, it's not back to the levels that it was and I think when we had this discussion, a prior one, the other things that we talked about some is that because of the temperature dependence of the spawning on this particular stock in those offshore waters and the warming trends that we had seen, we didn't know if or could we build it back to some of those earlier levels, given that temperature dependence.

But certainly we've seen -- we've had some impact. But in answer to your question, obviously any greater protection and reduction in harvest during that winter time period when they are escaping to spawn, would provide some biological benefits. There's no doubt about that. I think it's just the question those benefits versus some of those opportunity costs as well.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So if you look at this -- the one I was looking at is percent of commercial flounder harvest by month. And before the gigging ban, the number is -- and the after -- excuse me. The before and after shows that the harvest has gone up after the gigging ban and so December is probably the second key -- November is the most -- traditionally been the most important month or the most vulnerable month?

MR. RIECHERS: Yes. It starts with the cold fronts, yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Pardon me?

MR. RIECHERS: It starts when the cold fronts start coming through, yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just I think we ought to at least talk about it. I'm not urging it, but I think...

MR. RIECHERS: Well, we certainly could take that out as a scoping item and have some discussion about that if you would like us to, yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean does anybody see an issue with just talking about it? I'd say let's at least throw it out on the table for some discussion since we appear to be -- we may be headed there on trout as well.

MR. RIECHERS: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, trout.

MR. RIECHERS: Okay, moving on to Spotted seatrout then. Again, giving you just a tad bit of the regulation history and obviously I've already discussed gillnet bans and so forth; but most recently -- and 1990 was probably one of the last recent actions. That's when we moved the minimum size limit to 15 inches. Then in 2002, we had a fairly lengthy discussion with a lot of folks regarding Spotted seatrout and we basically took away the captain and crew limit aboard guide vessels or charter vessels and we increased the -- we set a bag limit of greater than 25 inches on fish to only one fish per day, trying to distribute those bigger fish and keep some of those bigger fish in the population longer. So right now, that puts us at a ten-fish daily bag limit, that 15-inch minimum sizes limit just discussed, and the 25 per person per day.

In addition to that, you-all may recall that in 2007, we came to you and suggested that the Lower Laguna Madre needed a different set of regulations and that's a place where we reduced the bag limit to five fish based on their long-term trends and the possession limit we made equal to the bag limit and also a fish saving opportunity there. And so that's where we stand with Spotted seatrout regulation as a whole along the coast at this point in time.

When you look at the overall coastwide landings -- and again, this is our fishery dependent data. I'm sorry. This is -- this is our fishery dependent data. I earlier described fishery independent data. This is the data that we collect at boat ramps from anglers as they're coming off those public boat ramps. We do over a thousand survey days a year, collect over 10,000 interviews at those various boat ramps. So when you look at this data, basically you can see that landings have remained fairly stable dating all the way back to the early 1990s. What I will refer here and that's private boat landings. Party boat landings here refer to guide vessels basically. That's how we characterize them.

And you can see that those back into the 1990s, obviously increased. That increase is a reflection of an increase in the overall number of guides that we had and then that too has leveled off in most recent years. Again, going back to the fishery independent data, the coastwide gillnets. You can see here the one we look at most often when we're looking at Spotted seatrout is the spring and then there's fishing pressure on those spring fish and then we also collect it in the fall; but spring is the one that we look to guide us a whole lot in this respect.

And you can see, again, that the gillnets, you know, we scoped in 2010-2011 some issues regarding Spotted seatrout. We had concern over what was going on in Aransas, San Antonio Bay, and the Matagorda Bay System and we had quite a discussion about whether or not we should pass some rules and you can see that I think we came back to you at that time and said we have some really strong year recruit classes coming on and you can see that they've kind of bounced up from that low period there in about 2009 from those couple downward years in '08 there and they did bounce back up according to those recruit classes coming on into the fishery.

The next set of slides I'm going to kind of share with you are trying to put a little more granularity on this instead of just showing you the coastwide average, but trying to show you a little bit about what's happening in various regions of the state. We can do this bay system by bay system; but for purpose of presentation today, we kind of tried to break this down and group some of those bay systems and when we talk about the Upper Coast, we're going to talk about Sabine, Galveston Lake, and East Matagorda Bay. When we talk about the Middle Coast, we're going to talk about West Matagorda Bay, San Antonio, and Aransas where we had that concern previously. When we talk about the Lower Coast, we're going to talk Corpus Christi and Upper Laguna Madre and then we single out the Lower Laguna Madre because it has a different management regime associated with it right now.

So here is the spring gillnets by region. You've just seen those coastwide. And really what you see here and what -- the reason it's here is just to show you that coming off after the gillnet bans and so forth, we increased to a level in that period in the mid 19 -- or early 1990s, mid to early 1990s. Been fairly stable and level since then. You can see that the Lower Laguna Madre, as you hear from many people who get to fish that area, has always had a pretty high catch rate and it -- you know, you can see that that line typically bounces above some of the other lines. But for the most part then, other than the Lower Laguna Madre, they mirror one another fairly well.

Another fishery independent set of data that we collect is our bag seines and basically this gives us an indication of those young of the year, those recruits that are coming into the system, not yet being caught by our gillnets; but a stage below that. And what you can see here just as we discussed with you in those prior times, we basically after that low period, we've had -- well, three to four of the highest years on record that we've seen and, of course, in the most recent year it has come down considerably. Actually, two years in a row it came down coastwide; but one of those periods, that second year back, is still one of the highest on record. But the most recent one is a little bit lower than that.

You can tell by this graph that what is driving this to some degree or that previous picture is that Middle Coast area. That's the one that exhibits that two years down in a row period with that blue line. The Upper Coast shows just -- and the others all show a one-year decline in that overall recruitment there.

Next, looking at private boat trips landing Spotted seatrout by region. Again, I'd -- we'd previously shown you the overall landings coastwide. You can see here, as indicated before, Lower Laguna Madre has some higher catch rates and it's depicted here and those people catching those fish at higher rates and you can see that when you look at those others. Again, they all fairly well mimic one another in regards to kind of the bigger trends you see or the blip-ups and the blip-downs, if you will.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Robin, the percentage here, is percentage of a limit or is that -- what is the percentage of what?

MR. RIECHERS: That's coast -- that's what it contributes coastwide by region.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay.

MR. RIECHERS: Right here, just wanted to kind of show everyone what the impact of these size limits are. You know, typically when we put a size limit like a 15-inch minimum size limit or 12 or whatever it may be, this is the kind of picture that you see. Your highest frequency is caught right at the inch class where you set that size limit and then it basically goes down after that, declining kind of in that decay rate.

What you can see here also is that the party boat folks or guides are better at catching big fish. That's what we would expect that they're capable of and because they do it every day, they, in fact -- you know, our data certainly shows and proves that as well. When you look at the coastwide bag distribution, not only are they better at catching big fish, they're also better at catching more fish and so this, again, depicts that picture. If you're a private angler, you're more than likely going to catch one or two Spotted seatrout on any given trip. Some lucky ones get that third and so on. But if you're going with a guide, you're much more likely to get four or five fish as opposed to the private rec angler and certainly you're way more likely to get your bag limit of ten fish.

At our creel surveys, we also ask them some other questions and one of those questions is a satisfaction rating and just want to show this to you. Since those early 1990s, you can see that that satisfaction rating just on a scale perspective has continued to increase and that's reflective of the better fishing opportunities that we've had and those increase in populations from that time period, we believe anyhow certainly.

I'm going to give you a little more granularity for Lower Laguna Madre because it is the differential regulation and when it's kind of lumped in with those other graphs, it's a little bit harder to see what impact that regulation might have had. And so here you're looking at the Lower Laguna Madre gillnet catch rate. Again, our rule went into effect in 2007; so you can see that if you look at the most recent year, we're about a -- have a 50 percent increase in our overall catch rate numbers per hour in our gillnets as opposed to that lower period of time. So we have had the impact of getting more fish to older sizes, which is what we thought we would do.

When you look at the landings in that respect, both private and party boats somewhat have mirrored that in some respects. What we do know in addition to that is that more people now are catching that third, fourth, and fifth fish in the Lower Laguna Madre. We also have some evidence that there might be some high-grading going on. Meaning they're trying to capture a larger fish and they may be doing that by releasing fish or they may just be targeting larger fish; but there's some evidence of as well.

And so in some respects, you know, the Lower Laguna Madre hasn't increased the overall young of the year or hasn't increased recruitment necessarily; but it has done what we set out to do, which is push some more of those fish further along to get to those larger size classes and we do believe we can see some of those results.

So as a whole, kind of the status of Spotted seatrout where we are today, our 2011 landings were the second highest on record. Our Spring 2013 catch per unit effort in our gillnets are fifth highest on record. All bays are reporting an average to above average gillnet CPUE. We're still kind of living off the recent gains of that four years of strong juvenile recruitment. Though obviously as you saw by the coastwide picture, as well as those individual region pictures, that the most recent recruitment has been going down or this year's recruitment was down, last year's recruitment was down, and overall it was down for two years in a row when you did it coast wide.

And then lastly, our bag seines are still reflecting a strong recruitment; but some of that -- you know, for this year is not totally complete; so that's where we kind of stand today in regards to Spotted seatrout along the Texas Coast.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dan Allen.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I've got a couple questions. Well, look back at the coastwide bag distribution for 2012 number per angler. It looks like to me that a pretty small percentage of the anglers are catching more -- less than 10 percent are catching more than five fish per day, but I guess there are some guys that are -- you know, that are still -- they still are catching it. What's the feedback from the Lower Laguna Madre as far as acceptance of the five-fish limit? Has that -- has there been any push-back, or has it been pretty widely accepted?

MR. RIECHERS: I would say that while there was some push-back when it started, there seems to be less of that push-back now that it's been there a while. We haven't necessarily, other than the scoping meetings that we held in '09, 2010 -- you know, we get feedback at boat ramps and with some of the guides and so forth and there seems to be some acceptance of it and they -- you know, certainly some folks talk it up greatly, that it's been a success.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, what I hear from anglers down there that I talk to is that it has been a success. They're catching bigger fish, more fish; so it's kind of -- at least this is just anecdotal conversation, but it seems like it's working. And I've talked to you about this, Robin, and several of the Commission -- Commissioners have talked about it. We'd really like -- and we're hearing from anglers that they would like to see this five fish or a smaller limit up and down the Texas Coast. Particularly the Middle Texas Coast.

I don't talk to that many people up in Galveston, but -- and I know it's been scoped before, but I would like to see it scoped again. Just take it out, talk to the CCA people and talk to our constituents and let's see what type of feedback we're getting because even though our surveys are showing that the fish have gone up and gone down a little bit, anglers are saying they're not catching as many fish as they historically have, you know.

MR. RIECHERS: Well, certainly any decrease in a bag limit will increase the numbers that are left, it will distribute the catch amongst more anglers and, you know, it will have some biological benefits; so we can certainly take this out for scoping. I assume if -- unless y'all want to talk about a scoping point, bag limit, or something like that, we will take it out with some of the discussions that we had last time in respect, is what I would assume. I think we had some discussions last time about seven fish, as well as five fish in the Lower Laguna or like the Lower Laguna.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I think we should -- I think we should go with a number. You know, this is -- and we've talked about five or seven. The more I've thought about it and I don't know what the other Commissioners think, I it's hard to have five at one place and seven in another. I think you've got to make it consistent up and down the Coast for Law Enforcement because, you know, how do they know where they caught those seven fish or those five fish and that's just -- again, that's -- I think we ought to go out with a number and hear what the constituents say and -- but I would like to hear the feedback from the rest of the Commission. This is a pretty big item. This is one of our -- maybe the biggest saltwater -- well, it's the biggest saltwater fishing fish that we have as far as number of anglers go out to target, Speckled trout.

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah, no. Red drum and Spotted seatrout obviously are two icon species and certainly that protection and that fishery is what really drives the economic engine on the Coast in regards to sport fishing.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I was down there fishing some guys, a couple of the old salts down there by Matagorda and stuff and they made that comment because they said we don't catch the big fish like we used to because the limit is ten, you know. And I've listened and, of course, you listen to a bunch of the guides, there are so many guides, that they kind of -- you know, they want to catch more fish because it makes them get more people to go fishing, right? But there's some merit somewhere in there and I hadn't cut through it, it would have to be -- have to be shown scientifically that it works. But it is well-known that the people down south, you know, they fall a little bit -- that five-bag, that five limit. But then it got good. You know, I mean they got so much better fish and everything there, they really like it, so. Anyway, it would be interesting to see what kind of response and what kind of feedback we'd get. I kind of agree with you though, Dan.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have comments? Well, I think that I share in Dan Allen and Dick's comments, too. I think we ought to look into that five -- across the board five number, and maybe the slot limit should change. I'm not sure what your thoughts are --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, y'all have got to do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- on that as well so that you have appropriate slots; fish classes, you know, sizes.

MR. RIECHERS: And the last time we looked at this, we did look at changing the minimum -- or we modeled some of the changes that would occur if we changed the minimum size limit. As I'm recalling and that's obviously been about three years ago, so I may not be recalling exactly; but the bigger benefit came from the bag limit as opposed to that increase in minimum size limit.

Now part of that is due to release mortalities and even though this fish does not have a high release mortality by any means; but what we can do is certainly look at both of those items and in our presentation before scoping audiences, have both of those modeled and considered as part of the discussion.

MR. SMITH: And just to be clear, are you asking us to do this for the entirety of the Coast outside of the Lower Laguna Madre, or do you want us to focus on the Upper Laguna and the Mid Coast? Is there a preference from the Commission right now just in this preliminary scoping phase?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm looking at the map here for at second.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: For sure Mid Coast, and you'd almost have to tie the Mid Coast into the Lower --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mid -- sorry, Dick. Go ahead.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I would think. I don't know. I hear different things up around Lake Sabine and everything. I've got a lot of friends that fish Lake Sabine and Galveston, and they're still catching a lot better limits around Galveston; so I don't know what -- I don't know where all this comes from. Y'all have got to tell us that. But I'd say Mid Coast to -- and Lower, you know, would be my suggestion just from the people I was fishing with.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I mean I don't know.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think that's where I -- based on this map where you've regionalized it, you've got Middle Coast, Lower Coast, Lower Laguna Madre. I'd defer to Dan Allen.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, I agree. I think Middle and Lower Coast. We already have the Lower Laguna Madre with the five-fish limit and --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: -- it depends on the scoping there, then next year we may want to come back and consider Upper Texas Coast. But right now with the resource capability and manhours it takes to go out and do this, maybe focus on that part of the Coast where we seem to be hearing more feedback.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. RIECHERS: We will certainly confine it to that area. Look at minimum size limit of 16 or whatever those changes are and a bag limit of five fish and go scope that and get feedback on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Correct.

MR. RIECHERS: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: If we don't do nothing else is we stop the naysayers that say the reason we don't get any bigger is because we're catching too many. So if we throw this data out and we get opinions from everybody, at least we're going to be able to get a read on what people really want as opposed to what that science is.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you, fellows.

At this point, I'm going to recess our work session to take up Executive Session Items 12 and 13 and we'll return after we complete Executive Session on Items 12 and 13.

Sorry, I made a mistake. We still -- I left Brandi off. She was sitting in the back of the room, so I flubbed. Brandi, will you come finish the -- then we'll do as I just said we would do. Sorry.

MS. REEDER: Oh, it will be short. Okay, good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Brandi Reeder. I'm the Fisheries Law Administrator for the Law Enforcement Division. I'm here to bring before you a potential proposal regarding recreational jug line buoy color requirements.

Previously, Law Enforcement had requested that certain devices with gear tag requirements be easily identifiable through color-coded buoys. This requirement is now superfluous in regards to recreational fishing devices, as all devices are required to have gear tags in order to be lawful. In order to facilitate recreational users, Law Enforcement will pursue the removal of the white buoy color requirement and allow any color other than orange, which is reserved for commercial use.

Thank you. May I answer any questions?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: If you say we need to do it, why not.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody have any questions or comments on -- all right. Thank you, Brandi.

MS. REEDER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. At this time we'll recess to take up in Executive Session Items 12 and 13. Thank you. I'm announcing 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 seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act and deliberating real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act. So we will now recess for Executive Session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, we concluded the Executive Session and we're now reconvening the regular session of our Work Session at two -- is that clock, right?

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: 2:38 p.m. Regarding Work Session Item 13, right-of-way easement along Park Road 4 at Longhorn Cavern State Park, there's no further action on that item at this time.

So that takes us to Item 7, Exotic Species Rule Amendments regarding draining water from vessels and portable containers, implementing of Legislation passed during the 83rd Legislative Session relating to House Bill 1241, Ken Kurzawski.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski with Inland Fisheries Division and I'm going to be going over the rules that you've allowed us to publish in the Texas Register for public comment for possible approval tomorrow.

HB 1241 gave the Commission additional rule making authority to require persons leaving or approaching public water to drain all the water from their vessels resulting when they come in contact with water in public waters and it also -- if the Commission pass rules on this, it allowed our Wardens -- gave them additional inspection authority to -- for these actions. And it further specifies that these rules wouldn't apply to any saltwaters.

These rules that were proposed, primarily target Zebra mussels. You know, they have a free-swimming, microscopic larval stage which is called a veliger and these veligers can exist in any water taken from infected waters. Small size and microscopic, they can be easily transported in any live wells, any hauling containers, or within any other systems that would uptake water onto the boats.

Currently, we do have some regulations on harmful and potentially harmful exotic species like Zebra mussels. Those work pretty well for adults that can be seen; but when we have the microscopic stage, they're a little bit more difficult to enforce. They are based on the fact that if you have them in possession and you drain the water, then you would be deemed to be in compliance with the -- getting the exotic species out of your systems and we wouldn't be able -- to enforce that, we would probably have to be able to prove that there are veligers in the water and currently, it can only be implied on reservoirs where we confirm that we have Zebra mussel populations.

We currently have that in place on Texoma, a portion of the Red River below that, and these following reservoirs. So the last few there from Belton on are -- were being done under Executive Orders. Proposed changes that we're proposing in Chapter 57, we are going to create two new sections there. The first one, 57.1000, we're moving a section that restricts to transport of nongame fish in selected areas. We're moving that as-is to this section. And then we're moving some of the authority in 57.792 and modifying it to reflect the new authority that we're getting through HB 1241.

The proposed changes would require water to be drained from any vessel leading or approaching public water. And this would apply to areas where boats can be launched, whether they're public or private. This would include all the live wells, bilges, or any other receptacles that would come in contact with public water. But we do have some exceptions to that. If you were -- you would be able to travel between access sites on the same water body during the same day. We do have that currently -- an exception -- in our rules that would allow, for instance, a person on say Lake Texoma where they're guiding, if they're on one portion of the reservoir, wind comes up, and they want to take out and go to another area to fish, they could do that or if there's a bass tournament and they were have a weigh-in in one particular portion of the reservoir, they could take out on multiple ramps and go back to that one specified access area. We also have some exceptions for government activities and emergencies, if there were any situations where people had to get off the water in a hurry or if there was a health issue there, that would negate the need to drain.

Marine sanitary systems wouldn't have to be drained. Those typically have chemicals that would alter the -- the composition of the water wouldn't make it feasible for Zebra mussel to live there and we also would allow if you have commercially purchased live bait and have a receipt for that, you would be able to bring those -- that water onto the reservoirs.

This -- one of the advantages of this, this allows us to apply this on water bodies not currently infested and our strategy is, as we told you last time, was to encompass the current infested marine stations and the reservoirs in a buffer zone and it would apply to all the public waters in the listed counties and we're targeting on this action for DFW area north to Texoma and these are how the -- in the proposal, these are the counties that we propose for restrictions, those 17 counties up in the DFW area that at the time we proposed it had encompassed all our known populations of Zebra mussels. As you may have heard since then, we have discovered Zebra mussels at that lowest red dot there in Lake Belton in Bell County.

These would -- these act -- these new rules will have some impacts to anglers and boaters. All draining must occur before travel to or from access areas. Live fish now couldn't be transported, any of those water bodies in the water where they're caught. So that means if there were going to be an off-site tournament weigh-in, they wouldn't be able to transport live fish in the water from that reservoir. And live bait, if you catch your own live bait, the only place you could use that in the water that -- where caught. You couldn't catch live bait in one -- from one reservoir or river and move it to another one.

We did have three public meetings in the DFW area and the Texoma area. We had 14 attendees. Didn't receive too many comments. All were in favor. We've received some comments off of our website. As of yesterday, 74 total; 55 agreed with it, 48 disagree. The agreement, most people said -- comment do everything you can to stop them, should be statewide, and strictly enforced. The disagree is a lit misleading there. About half of the comments that we received disagreeing with it were comments like we should make this statewide or they had comments about allowing tournaments to move within a reservoir, which would be allowed under this. So probably about 30 percent of the people disagreed with comments like it's too little too late or that it can't be stopped at this time or are concerned about being able to take some live fish home in their live wells rather than putting them in a cooler. And also impacts the tournaments, off-site weigh-ins for tournaments, we have had seen some comments about that.

So that's our proposal as we presented and if you have any other comments, we don't -- based on this, we don't have any recommendation to make any changes to that at this time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I like the go statewide, but I do have a question. You have an exemption for governmental -- how did you put it -- governmental activities and emergency. I get the emergencies, but why exempt everyday governmental activities? Isn't it --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, like TCEQ or a City Water Systems are going out sampling the water for test -- you know, collecting water to take it back to the lab to test for, you know, various components in the water and they wouldn't necessarily fix the water when they would sample it; so that would -- technically if they were collecting some water in a -- you know, like a sample bottle, they wouldn't be allowed to take that off; but this would allow them to do that in that case.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It doesn't -- I don't -- but I don't know why we wouldn't think it would be prudent for them to drain the boat. If a private land --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, they would have to drain the boat; but they wouldn't -- they would be -- say if they collected -- say had a liter sample bottle of water --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I get that.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. So they would have to drain the boat. They just wouldn't -- they would be allowed to take that liter of water off. That would be the part where they would be allowed to do. Not the draining of the boat.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The rule will be crafted to --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- require the boat to be treated and the live well, etcetera; but not sampling and that sort of thing.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, we could respecify that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Anybody else have any comments? All right. Thank you, Ken. I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes to add the counties in Central North Texas to the current proposal in the Texas Register for the required public comment period and also place the item regarding the 17 counties in the DFW area on the Commission Meeting agenda tomorrow for public comment and action.

Item eight --

MR. KURZAWSKI: I -- sorry, I kind of have a two-parter.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, sorry. You're right. I skipped your...

MR. KURZAWSKI: You jumped ahead a little bit there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What happened? Sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off on House Bill -- right, House Bill 1241? Yeah.

MR. KURZAWSKI: I'm waiting for the...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, you need some time. All right.

MS. CLARK: I'm trying to get back to it.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay.

MS. CLARK: There you go.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay, this is the part about adding additional counties to these -- to the rules. As I mentioned, that we did discover Zebra mussel adults in Lake Belton in September. Those were originally discovered by a mussel watch volunteer on September 18th. Our staff went out there and checked around the reservoir and did confirm lakewide presence of them on September 24th and at that time, we issued an emergency rule to add portions of Bell and Coryell Counties, which covered Bell -- Belton and Stillhouse Hollow and their tributaries, to add them to the prohibitions against draining -- removing water from those reservoirs.

What we will have to do to -- we have to make a decision if we want to make those rules permanent that were enacted by the emergency order that covered Belton and Stillhouse Hollow and these rules would now be added under our new authority that we will take action on -- that you will take action on tomorrow under 57.1001 and we would propose to at least add Bell and Coryell Counties to encompass Lake Belton and Stillhouse Hollow and their tributaries and all the same restrictions and exemptions that I went over earlier would apply.

But that would look like if we added just those two counties, would be those existing 17 counties plus those two counties, Bell and Coryell, that would take place under this action. Since the discovery of that, we certainly have sort of reconsidered, you know, our actions on this. We took a look at some of the larger reservoirs. What we're -- seem to be seeing is the places are Zebra mussels are moving to are some of our larger reservoirs -- Texoma, Ray Roberts, and now Belton which is a fair-sized reservoir. It's even on some of the larger reservoirs that are in and around the current areas. All the way down to Lake Canyon, which received some boat traffic from -- probably from places like Belton. We have the Highland Lakes, Buchanan and Travis.

We're a little bit lucky currently there because the water levels are so low, we can't get many boats on those reservoirs. But then we also considered some of the travel corridors. I-35 a lot of boats coming up and down from the DFW area down through Central Texas all the way down to Lake Canyon. We also have the Trinity River, a couple of reservoirs there up close to our initial zone and that sort of leads to the question, well, how many -- how many more reservoirs should we consider or how many counties should we consider to include in this action to help slow down the Zebra mussels in this case?

And if we -- using the logic of those travel areas, we would propose something like this. Adding these counties to encompass all our current known populations and also some of those larger reservoirs in and around our current infestation. So that would -- this action would add another additional 28 counties. One of the counties there is Henderson County. We were just proposing to do the western half of that. So we would, you know, propose that for your consideration at this time and staff -- we would seek your permission here to publish those changes in the Register for public comment.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions? Comments? Okay. Now I'm going to say I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes to add the counties in Central North Texas to the current proposal in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: We get something out of that many counties.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah. Anything further?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Nope, that's --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thanks, Ken.

Item 8, Changes to rules concerning implementation of Legislation passed during the 83rd Legislature, Texas Senate Bill 820, deer permits, recommended adoption of proposed changes, Mitch Lockwood.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood and I'm the Big Game Program Director and tomorrow I'm going to seek adoption of our proposal that establishes criteria for a three-year or five-year deer breeders permit.

Y'all might recall that the 83rd Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 820, which requires that the Department to issue deer breeder permits for a period of one year, three year, or five years. And the previous statute already authorized the Department to issue a deer breeders permit for multiple years, but it had been our practice to limit the duration of a deer breeder permit to one year or less. In other words, the expiration date of every deer breeder permit we issued was June the 30th of that permit year.

And the reason that we preferred the annual permit was because we had encountered poor compliance with respect to reporting requirements and so we were hesitant to remove that incentive to submit accurate reports in a timely fashion. Additionally, the annual permit renewal process provides our staff an opportunity to review each applicant's history of wildlife violations and there have been a few occasions in which some egregious violations were discovered that resulted in permit denials or denial of the permit renewal.

In the event that a permittee is convicted of an egregious violation during the course of a long-term permit, say during the first year of a five-year permit, then the Department would either choose to allow that person to continue operating under the authority of that permit for the next four years or we may choose to revoke that permit and the permit revocation process is a very lengthy and inefficient process. It spans several months to potentially years, and so that certainly is one reason why we did prefer that annual permitting process.

But there are some deer breeders that have expressed that they would like to have some operational certainty in the event that they do receive a citation for a violation that they don't believes really warrants being denied that privilege. As such, Senate Bill 820 amended the Parks and Wildlife Code to ensure that a three-year or five-year permit is made available to a person who has held a deer breeders permit for the previous three consecutive permit years, to someone who agrees to submit the annual reports electronically, which is already required by Commission rule, and to someone who meets any other criteria established by rule of this Commission.

Our proposal establishes those other criteria for a three- or five-year permit. We propose that one of those criteria simply be that the applicant meet the criteria in Parks and Wildlife Code 43.352, which was displayed on the previous slide. We also propose that the applicant meet the existing criteria for a permit renewal, which includes submitting the timely renewal application, the annual report, and the permit renewal fee.

In essence, we're proposing only one additional criteria, which is intended to avoid invoking this lengthy and inefficient revocation process. Which again may happen in the event that someone commits an egregious violation of wildlife related -- that's relevant to this permitted activity. And so we believe that the way to avoid, you know, such a process is to issue a multiyear permit to deer breeders who have demonstrated compliance with the deer breeder regulations and statutes for a reasonable period of time.

Therefore, staff recommend that a three- or five-year permit be available only to a deer breeder who has been in substantial compliance with the deer breeder regulations and statutes for the previous three years. Now I met with our breeder user group to discuss this proposal and it was their desire to qualify compliance by stating "substantial compliance." They really would like for this opportunity to be made available to those who are doing everything right, they're doing everything within their control; but could be a situation where they're technically in violation because perhaps unbeknownst to them, there might be a deer in the facility that lost an ear tag on the previous day and they believe this -- you know, a three- or five-year permit should be made available to someone in that situation and staff concur.

But the breeder user group does believe that this privilege should not be extended to those who are tardy with their reports or those who have committed other violations such as transferring deer without a transfer permit, for example. We propose no change to the fee of a one-year deer breeder permit, which is $200. And we propose that the fee for a three- or five-year permit simply be that $200 multiplied by the number of years that the permit would span. So a three-year permit fee would be $600, and a five-year permit fee would be $1,000.

Now there are other amendments that we intend to seek in the future in response to Senate Bill 820, after we're able to visit more with our breeder user group; but this -- we're seeking this amendment at this time because this aspect of Senate Bill 820 is going to require quite a bit of reprogramming time into our online deer breeder application in TWIMS and so in order to have this available for permittees this next renewal season in the spring, our IT Department needs to get started reprogramming the system as soon as possible.

It might be important for me to emphasize that the reporting requirements of a three-year or five-year permit would be no different than those for a one-year permit. Really the only differences that we would see between a one-year, a three-year, or a five-year permit are the permit fee and expiration date that's listed on the permit.

Now we've received only two public comments on this other than, again, a visit with our breeder user group who is supportive of this; but other than that, we've received two comments. One was in support of this proposal. One voiced opposition, but the comment provided with opposition really wasn't germane to this proposal. He was simply opposed to the activity of deer breeding altogether.

So that concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to answer any questions y'all might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I've got one question for you. Mitch or Carter, I'm not sure. Who determines what "substantial compliance" means?

MR. SMITH: That's a consideration made by staff. You know, if you look, we tried to define that in some form or fashion. It's certainly not our perspective that that means total or prefect compliance.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm just trying to understand what does -- I guess I've been around Ralph too long. I'm starting to do lawyer stuff, you know.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Or more importantly I guess, who makes that determination and you understand where I'm headed.

MR. SMITH: Sure, sure, sure. You know, I think, you know, we look at good intent. You know, we look at efforts to make sure that one is complying. As Mitch said, we're not looking at issues where a tag has fell off a deer and the breeder was not aware of that when the inspection was done. I mean substantial, good faith effort. Preponderance of things are done in accordance with what we ask them to do. Get their reports submitted in a timely fashion. Submit accurate data. You know, a minor inadvertent transgression would not be a reason to not provide the multiyear permit.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Is that a fair characterization, Mitch?

MR. LOCKWOOD: It is fair. One thing I always like to make very clear -- and again, our breeder user group fully supports what I'm about to state. It's a very fair question, Commissioner, because I think a lot of people have very different opinions on what's a minor infraction and what's not and there's a lot of people who I think believe that submitting a report late is a minor infraction. When from in my standpoint in dealing with how we've gotten to the situation we had and backlog and whatnot, it's actually pretty serious from an industry standpoint, with a lot people not receiving current permits because we're dealing with trying to get reports in on time.

And so there are some things that might be seen as minor that we believe are not and would not qualify a person for a multiyear permit, like if they're late with an annual report. But I also want to be very clear, this doesn't mean they won't get a permit. They'll get a permit. These there not what we consider egregious violations. It just means that they're going to renew in one year as opposed to in three years or five years.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. I think the other thing, Mitch, maybe we elaborate on. I mean we have worked very collaboratively with the industry to push on the compliance issue and that's been made a priority with the breeder community, certainly by the Department. The automation has helped a lot in that regard. There's been a lot of education and outreach by our team, Texas Deer Association, other interested parties that have really helped push on this and I think we've seen a lot of improvements as an artifact of that.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Agreed.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Can I -- can I -- an enforcement question. If we issue someone a three- or a five-year license and, Mitch, I think I heard you say this, you still I assume have the ability to go out annually, if you so choose, to check on a deer breeder to see that they're in compliance?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir, we do.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And again, they would be required to submit their reports annually. So ideally -- well, not ideally. We will require reconciled herd inventory on an annual basis. If we would like to perform a routine inspection or if there's reason to perform an inspection, we certainly could on -- at any time.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right. So what happens now under our current regulation, I suppose, if someone had a three- or a five-year; but it sounds to me like we've never really issued a three- or a five-year, but -- and so under current regulation, if someone is not in compliance and in -- I don't mean an ear tag fell off and they didn't know about it. I'm talking if somebody is just --

MR. LOCKWOOD: Sure.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- absolutely blatantly disregarding the rules, you can just shut them off and say, okay, you no longer get a license --

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- or your license is not renewed. What do you do in the event of a license that you've issued for three or five years if they're not in compliance?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Right. So that's what I was referring to that lengthy, inefficient revocation process, that's why I touched on that. In the event we have somebody in the first year of a five-year permit that, you know, imported deer from out of state or repeatedly is transporting deer without transfer permit, something like that, and we believe that that is a person who really has shown that -- maybe warrants not continuing with this privileged activity, then we would attempt to revoke the permit.

So we would -- that involves, you know, going through the State Office of Administrative Hearings and it's a very long process; but we would have to revoke the permit or we wait it out for the next four years and then we consider denying a permit renewal that far down the road.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And that's why, just to be clear, we think that we can really cut down on the likelihood of that happening if we can -- if we're only focusing on those who have demonstrated compliance for the previous three years.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it. And so -- and then is there going to be a distinction between three and five? That is you've shown compliance for the last three, how will we distinguish between those that we issue a three-year license as for those that we issue a five-year?

MR. LOCKWOOD: The requirement as proposed would be the same. Initially, I had proposed that we'd require five years of compliance for a five-year permit. Our breeder user group felt fairly strongly that three years of compliance should suffice in both cases.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. But how do we -- if me and Dan are both deer breeders and Dan says I want five and I say I want five and you tell Dan, well, Dan, we'll give you three, but we're going to give Bill five.

How -- under what circumstances will we make those kinds of distinctions?

MR. LOCKWOOD: If you -- if you qualify for a multiyear permit, then you'll get the one you request.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Oh, okay. So why would anybody request a three, if they can get five?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Maybe they don't have an extra $400 at the time.

COMMISSIONER JONES: You've got another problem.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right, just curious. Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have comments? All right. Thank you, Mitch. I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and Commission action.

Item 9, update on rangewide plan for the Lesser Prairie chicken, Ross Melinchuk.

MR. MELINCHUK: Good afternoon. Thank you, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Ross Melinchuk, Deputy Executive Director for Natural Resources and it's my pleasure this afternoon to provide you an update on development on the rangewide plan for the Lesser Prairie chicken.

Just as a bit of a refresher, this species was petitioned back in 1995 for listing under the Endangered Species Act. In 1998, it was placed on the candidate list and then in December of 2012, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule to list the species as threatened. Earlier this year, the Service granted a six-month extension to that proposed listing and meaning that a final decision will be made by the Service in March of 2014.

During that process, the five State Fish and Wildlife Agencies submitted a rangewide plan in late September to the Fish and Wildlife Service for review and approval and hopefully that will provide information to the Service to help them in that final decision, which if is acted upon, would take effect 30 days after the listing decision.

Rangewide plan, this plan was, in fact, endorsed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on October 23rd. It was a very heavy lift by all of the State Fish and Wildlife Agencies and all of the people that were engaged in writing in this 350-plus page plan. It represents a viable conservation solution for a regional issue that spans the five states in which the Lesser Prairie chicken occurs and if implemented in a timely and effective manner, can potentially lead to avert the need for a Federal listing through what is largely voluntary conservation. It will also provide incidental take coverage for all industries and landowners that enroll and should the species be listed by the Service, it provides a clear pathway to delisting, should that occur.

Texas clearly supports any effective conservation effort that benefits conservation of this species. The rangewide plan is really an all inclusive conservation blueprint for the Lesser Prairie chicken across the five states and part and parcel of that plan, it allows technical service providers to deliver this plan using their own cost structure; but clearly within the parameters established under the rangewide plan.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in this case is serving as both plan administrator and as a technical service provider. Implementation of the plan involves enrollment by industry, oil and gas, electrical transmission, wind, transportation across the range. Enrollment will begin this month and it is imperative that representation from all of those industries will be needed to help avert a Federal listing come March. It involves pretty modest enrollment fees and conservation measures that will provide protection for existing developments; but it also incorporates a voluntary mitigation framework for any new development.

Farming and ranching is also part and parcel of implementation of the plan. Sign up will begin later this month and working with landowners across the range. The goal is to enroll acres to offset those expected industry impacts. Will involve development of a management plan, much like we do with our ranching of CCAs right now and landowners will receive an incentive payment upon enrollment and then at annually thereafter based on performance and habitat improvements. It will also provide evidence of Prairie chicken conservation that, again, hopefully will lead to a decision not to list this species.

Also within the plan, there are some population objectives that are spelled out for the bird. Across the range, these objectives were developed really with very little regard for state lines as the birds also do not pay attention to administrative boundaries. So our team of biologists went and developed these ecoregions, these four ecoregions, and assigned population objectives within each of those which roll up to about 67,000 birds. That is a ten-year average. That's not saying we're going to be there next year or the year after; but on a ten-year average, our goal is to hit 67,000.

In 2012, the first ever rangewide survey for this species identified about 34,500 birds existing across the range. And then in this past year, this spring another survey was done with the same parameters and the population took about a 50 percent decline. That decline is largely the result of drought across much of the range. Some very severe droughts in some of these ecoregions, and that was not totally unexpected. Our biological staff really thought that we should expect a significant decline in the face of that drought and that's, in fact, what happened.

We have developed a or Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool or a CHAT. That really is available to the public, to industry, landowners, State Fish and Wildlife Agencies. It defines in a graphic representation where the good habitats lie, where the moderated habitats lie. It defines focal areas. It outlines corridors that connect those large tracts of habitat, and is really the basis for conservation effort that's been outlined in the plan.

So with endorsement of the plan by the Fish and Wildlife Service in late October, that was really the green light for all of us to implement the plan. And we began that by training our staff across the five-state area. About 70 staff attended, State Fish and Wildlife Agency people, Natural Resources Conservation Service, folks from the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, Pheasants Forever. We also have established a Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative Council, which the five State Fish and Wildlife Agency Directors or their designee sit on that council. Plus, one member of the WAFWA Executive Committee. They held their inaugural meeting last Thursday and Friday and have kicked into motion a number of actions.

The version two of the CHAT is also up and running and the beauty of this tool is that it now includes an impact assessment tool where industry, depending -- no matter who that is, can go to that site and identify habitats, can predict what the impacts of development in those areas are, and in fact there's a cost calculator which can give them a pretty good idea of what it would cost to do developments within the CHAT one, two, three, or four categories.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is also moving to staff some of the key operational and financial positions associated with implementation. We know that's going to take a little bit of time and so the State Fish and Wildlife Agencies have -- who are very committed to this, have dedicated staff and resources to sort of act in the interim and get out there, work with industry, work with landowners to get these acres enrolled. And in our case, that's going to involve about eight Texas Parks and Wildlife staff, largely from the Panhandle; but we certainly are committed to this and as are the other state agencies.

We are also in the process of populating a Lesser Prairie chicken Advisory Committee, which is compromised of stakeholders across the range. There are also two working groups, a fee structure, and a science working group that we're also going to populate these groups -- both of -- all three of these actually will help advise and help direct the conservation activities to make sure that we're responding in a timely manner or that we're dealing with the most current science and that we are, in fact, working closely with those stakeholder groups. So it will be a nomination and selection process. I'm sure there's a lot of individuals and organizations who desire some representation on that, so we'll figure out a way to do that.

We also have a five-state communication team comprised of the State Fish and Wildlife Agencies. There will be a series of news releases and website communications that coincide with key activities and key events along the way, keeping people well informed of what's going on on this front. We are also in the process and have been over the last many months to development of an oil and gas CCAA. That's a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances.

That draft is nearly ready for submission to the Fish and Wildlife Service. They'll have to approve that, and part of that approval will be publication in the Federal Register. That's probably -- hopefully going to occur in early December and then there will be a period of time there at which we'll take comments, incorporate any changes, and it's hopeful that in early January, we'll have a completed CCAA that people -- that oil and gas industry can sign up to.

In the mean time, the plan itself is actually a sign-up instrument. We don't have to wait for development of the CCAA. Industry, landowners can sign up to this document and they will -- and once the CCAA is approved, they'll be able to roll over to the CCAA at no additional cost, provided it's done prior to the listing decision. And then landowners, there will be a very concerted rangewide effort to get landowners signed up between November 15th and January 15th.

All in all, it's really open for business. We are hitting the ground running. There's a lot at stake. This is really the beginning of a monumental effort. I do want to compliment the staff at Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Wildlife Division and the Administrative Resources Division. Staff were intimately involved in development of this plan. Carter himself and many of the Commissioners also were involved, so I want to publically acknowledge that support and the hard work that you've done to get us to this point.

Our charge now is to get this implemented in a timely and effective manner, do all we can to influence the final decision. It's going to take all of us working together -- industry, landowners, State Fish and Wildlife Agencies, NGOs, agriculture -- to really contribute to the conservation of this species. So with that, I'll take any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dan Allen.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Hey, Ross, what do we think that -- is this rangewide plan going to have a -- give us a much better chance of not getting the Prairie chicken listed, or what's your feeling? What -- let me rephrase that. What are the chances the Prairie chicken will get listed on the Endangered Species List, in your opinion?

MR. MELINCHUK: Well, that really is a question that, you know, there are so many factors that are going to contribute to that and the one that we think is going to be the largest determinate is what sorts of conservation can we demonstrate between now and that decision time that shows there is active conservation going on, industry is committed, landowners are enrolling, and there is a reasonable opportunity for conservation to occur outside of a listing.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So the more -- the more we have people buy in, the better chance is that we could --

MR. MELINCHUK: Exactly.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: -- not get listed or postpone the listing.

MR. MELINCHUK: Yeah. And we've speculated somewhat as to what that's going to take in the terms of enrollment acreage and landowners across the range. We're optimistic that because a lot of these stakeholders have been involved in the process, that they will -- they're certainly committed, at least what they tell us, and we hopefully have got a plan here that's very easy for them to buy into.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: The --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else? Bill.

COMMISSIONER JONES: As the Board knows, the Endangered Species Act has been an issue that I've tried to follow since I've been on the Board and the Act, it befuddles me at times and I don't -- I'm not sure I'm completely comfortable with the premise behind it. It does take an awful lot of resources, as Ross has just explained. It does take an awful lot of time and an awful lot of money. Sometimes you run into a situation like we have and I've sent the Board a little blurb on this, where the Spotted owl over on the West Coast of America, as we all know, is an Endangered Species, listed.

It was blamed on the loggers that log on the Western Coast of our country. And here recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife discovered that the real perpetrator was the Barred owl because they're bigger and they either run off or kill the Spotted owl or at least eat all the food resources and that they're really the culprit behind the disappearance of the Spotted owl. So they set out to kill 3,600 of them, of the Barred owls; so they could save the Spotted owl.

And the same group that sued to have the Spotted owl listed because of the loggers, have now sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to keep them from killing 3,600 Barred owls, which are actually the reason the Spotted owl is going extinct. So I'm befuddled and concerned about what we're doing here and that does not deserve comment, Ross. In fact, you probably should not comment. That is a simple editorial from a Board member who's just trying to keep track of the Endangered Species Act.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's a good way to put it. Befuddle, I'm with you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. I think the State and this bird owe a great deal of thanks to Carter and Ross and Clayton and Shawn Kyle for the enormous and thoughtful effort that you-all have put into this, in spite of a number of obstacles that later unfortunately arose -- well, in spite of those obstacles. I'll leave it at that. So this is great news and hopefully it will work as you and all of us hope it will. Thank you.

MR. MELINCHUK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Moving right along down to Item 10, land acquisition, Cochran County, approximately 1,640 acres at Yoakum Dunes, Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good afternoon. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann and I guess we're going to talk about chickens for a while longer.

COMMISSIONER JONES: No, that's all okay. We've got all that we need.

MR. KUHLMANN: This is an acquisition in Cochran County and to be included in the Yoakum Dunes Preserve. Yoakum Dunes Preserve is a preserve dedicated to the preservation of Prairie chicken habitat. A joint effort right now between Parks and Wildlife and the Nature Conservancy.

You can see it's about 13,000 acres. This acquisition will be between 16 and 1700 more. You saw the CHAT map a few seconds ago from Ross' presentation. Here it is by county and then this map shows if you look in the lower left-hand corner, the little -- a yellow rectangle, exactly the acquisition; so it's right in the middle of the crucial habitat area. This tract is separated from the actual preserve, Yoakum Dunes, that 3.6 miles.

It's not hard to get to. You can see right to the south of that and parallel to the arrow that shows the 3.6 miles is a county road that runs over to 214 and to this subject tract. And if you look at the property to the -- if you can see that outline of that county road, the property to the north between the county road and the arrow with the 3.6 miles, there is some hope that that can be acquired if we get the funds and there is about, I'm thinking, about 600 acres of GLO land included in that area between Yoakum Dunes and this tract.

With this tract, the landowner -- it's in the Ogallala aquifer. The landowner does farm. If you see right above the 240 acres right to the north of that, there is one of the pivot irrigation systems. He would like to reserve the water rights on that 240-acre tract. And having said that, he will not drill on it. He will not have any surface use. He can't drill any more wells on that 240 acres. He can just use the water that's associated, the water rights that's associated with that tract for irrigation purposes on the land that he keeps to the north of it.

The other 1400 acres we will get with all the water rights. In an instance like this, we will have to have both tracts appraised separately. The 200 and -- the 1400 acres will appraise for substantially more than the tract without the water rights. The landowner has -- there's four -- I think five different pastures in this tract. He's got water from his own well from a well that's off site, off this tract, pipelined to troughs on all the pastures. He's agreed if we buy the land, to provide water to all those tracts for as long as we need it at his cost -- I mean not at his cost. He will provide it to us free of charge. And even on the 240-acre tract, if sometime in the future we decide to drill a well on it, we can do so, a domestic well. We couldn't use it for irrigation; but we could use it for wildlife and/or livestock if we ever had any on the site.

With that all said, this is the motion that you will see before you tomorrow. I'll be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Minerals?

MR. KUHLMANN: No, sir, they've been severed. I apologize for that. They've been severed before -- he doesn't own any mineral. And I think that's most of the case with all the preserve. Most of the mineral rights have been severed. We own some percentage on some tracts on preserve; but fully and all, we don't own any of the minerals.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Are we purchasing this for the Prairie chicken or --

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. It is for Prairie chicken habitat.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: What's our recourse if he decides to not to provide water or the next -- he sells it to somebody else and they say they're not going to provide water? I mean that's --

MR. KUHLMANN: Well, see --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm just making a comment. It's not a good situation to be -- not have water on yours, but yet your neighbor or whoever you bought from is going to supply it to you forever.

MR. KUHLMANN: Well, I mean acquiring this site, we always have the option to drill wells ourselves.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: And the pipelines, that water system is in place. All we have to do is --

MR. KUHLMANN: Is tap into it, yes, sir. Yes, sir. And as a matter of fact, his offer to provide us water from his existing well was just a bonus. I mean that's just something that he offered. It's nothing we even asked for, so. And normally in a case like this, we wouldn't have even have asked for it. We would have just -- if we had bought the tract, we would probably had to plan on drilling a well ourselves at some point.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, to Dan Allen's point, I think maybe we should include in the agreement some covenant that runs with the land that we have the right to tap into that well to lift or pull water for use on our property.

MR. KUHLMANN: Tap into his well?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah. Once he's gone, how do we enforce that covenant?

MR. KUHLMANN: Well, I mean when you say "covenant," it's just we're going to do a surface use agreement with him on some other points on the property. But as far as him telling us -- he probably would not go there and say we'd have permanent use or sign any kind of agreement that he'd have it in perpetuity that we would use his well.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, but isn't -- that's what he -- you're saying that's what he promised is that he would allow us to pull water --

MR. KUHLMANN: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- for our use from his well.

MR. KUHLMANN: Right. And he would probably sign the agreement saying that he would do it for his lifetime; but to sign an agreement saying that he would do it in perpetuity, I don't think he'd go there.

MR. SMITH: Corky, is the well that we're talking about, is it on the property that we're buying from him?

MR. KUHLMANN: No, sir.

MR. SMITH: No, it's off of --

MR. KUHLMANN: If you look at the 240-acre tract, the northeast corner, it's on his property right to the north of that, of that -- where that northeast corner, the 240-acre tract is and then there's a system of waterlines that run to the pastures within this, within this.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, it doesn't hurt to ask.

MR. KUHLMANN: No, sir. No, sir. I --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- for the right to simplify it.

MR. KUHLMANN: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It would just give us the right to tap into that at any time we decide that we want to pull water and limit it to some number of gallons or --

MR. KUHLMANN: Right. He -- we talked about providing water and he has agreed to like 2 to 3 gallons of water a minute and I know that doesn't sound like a lot of water, but it is a lot of water.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just you can have that kind of limitation. I'm just thinking it's important to have some right to access the well in case something happens to him.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And if he says no, then you --

MR. KUHLMANN: We'll go from there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- would have to use your discretion.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Item -- why don't you go on to Item 11, acceptance of land donation, Hidalgo County, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park and then I'll make my statement.

MR. KUHLMANN: For the record, Corky Kuhlmann from the Land Conservation Program. This is a donation to Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park in Hildalgo County, South Texas, right, about as south as you can get. It's Bentsen Rio Grande and Bentsen Rio Grande is probably the premier site of the World Birding Center. 340 species of birds recorded within the park's boundary.

This tract, as you can see, it's right at the entrance to the park. The owner, the donor, he is providing the land for Bentsen Rio Grande. He said -- when he talked to me about donating this tract, he said he had thought he had already donated it years ago and then when he realized he hadn't, he thought that he might keep it and maybe he could put something there and realized it wouldn't be very beneficial for the park for him to do any kind of commercial development there and just wanted to give it to us.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What's that across the road? Are those trailers?

MR. KUHLMANN: Across the road and to the right of it, the green tract across the road is an RV park that is privately owned and then we own across the road, it's a parking facility for the park. We own that, the other green polygon just north of the road. But over to the right is a large trailer park that is privately owned.

So this is, you know, I guess the most important feature here is that it protects the park entrance from development; but it also adds habitat to the park, which is getting hard to find in the Valley and this is the motion that you'll see tomorrow and I'll answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do we own everything outlined in lime green?

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. KUHLMANN: If you can see on this tract, the partials that we own and it's probably -- those weird parcels were probably -- or donations; but it shows you how important it is that we take any kind of habitat that we can get down there for the birds. And normally, we wouldn't like to see that kind of sporadic deviation from the main boundary of the park; but that habitat is hard to come by.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Anybody else have comments? All right. I will place Items 10 and 11 on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action. And thank you, Corky.

The Commission has completed its Work Session business, so I declare us adjourned.

(Work Session 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 19th day of December, 2013.

__________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2014
Firm Registration Number: 87
1016 La Posada Drive
Suite 294
Austin, Texas 78752
Job No. 113532

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