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TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, January 25, 2018

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

January 25, 2018

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

COMMISSION MEETING

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. Good -- whoops, that's the Work Session. That wouldn't work very well. I would like to call our meeting to order January 25, 2018, at 9:05 a.m.

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

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. 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 Open Meetings Act. Mr. Chairman, I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Chairman, just want to join you and the Commissioners in welcoming everybody. I see it's standing room only today, which is great. Thanks, everybody, for coming in. We've got a big morning in which we have a chance to recognize colleagues from all over the state for their exemplary service to the agency and to our home ground and a special thanks to all the friends and families that made a special effort to be here for this part of the morning.

A little bit about protocol. After we wrap up the service awards, the Chairman is going to call a break and for those of you who don't want to stay for the remainder of the Commission Meeting, please take that as an opportunity to go ahead and leave and then we'll come back and reassemble and kickoff the rest of the meeting.

As a reminder for any of the action items that we have on the Commission agenda, if you're here to speak on those items, please sign up outside. At the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you up to speak on your item of interest. We're going to ask that you take two minutes to address the Commission. Please share with them your name and who you represent and what your position is as succinctly as you can.

Last, but not least, just help us a little bit with sound. If you've got a cell phone, if you don't mind putting that on vibrate or silent, we'd appreciate that. Welcome. Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

All right. Our first item of business, Action Item No. 1, is to elect a Vice-Chairman. I don't think I should hold both positions. So we need to elect a Vice-Chairman, and I would like to ask for a nomination.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chair --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- if I might, I've been on the Commission now going on seven years; and during my entire service, I've gotten to know one of the Commissioners very well. Reed has shown his commitment to this organization, his passion for wildlife and preserving all things Texas; and I have -- I've drank whiskey with Reed. I've smoked cigars with Reed, and so it is with a slight bit of hesitation that I recommend Reed Morian as Vice-chair and nominate.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Second.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Warren second. I guess we need to have discussion, though.

COMMISSIONER JONES: It could get interesting.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All in favor of Reed Morian as serving as Vice-Chair say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would note for the record it passed unanimously.

Congratulations, Vice-Chairman.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you very much.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It's amazing what that Pappy Van Winkle will do, isn't it?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: He may be on Pacific time this morning.

All right. Now, we go to approval of the minutes from the Commission Meeting held on November 2, 2017. The minutes have been previously distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Lee. Second Commissioner Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

Acknowledgment of the list of donations. Is there a motion to approve the list of donations?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So moved.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner -- Vice-Chairman Morian and second by Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

Consideration of contracts, those have also been distributed for review. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER JONES: So move.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Jones. Second Commissioner Galo. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

Now, for the special part of the morning: Special recognitions, retirement, and service awards.

Carter, would you please proceed.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Thanks for the opportunity to share a few words about all the good stuff that is going on in your Department around our state.

We're going to kick it off this morning with an award from the Game Warden Association. This is the second year in which they have selected a game warden of the year. The fact that a couple of old salts like Jason McFall and Will Plumas nominated Brad Meloni will tell you everything you need to know about Brad. Brad started off as a Capitol police officer, came to the Department as a game warden a little over 20 years ago. Worked the ranch country down in Hebbronville and Jim Hogg County, chasing poachers and gillnetters and other smugglers on Falcon Lake. Worked down there for about 12 years, then moved over to the coast in Kleberg County.

Brad has just been an exemplary role model for game wardens young and experienced throughout the state. He's a member of our elite Scout Team, which is a team of about 20 game wardens or so that are involved in the highest risk related operations around the state. He's also a member of our Honor Guard, which is an extraordinary group of officers who represent this Agency so well at really some of our most challenging occasions, the death of the colleagues and so forth.

Consummate team player. Whenever you need him, Brad is there. When that horrific accident -- or accident -- it wasn't an accident, it as ambush -- in Dallas happened in which those police officers were murdered, officers from around the state came to help ride with the Dallas police officers so that other officers could tend to the families and go to the funerals of the fallen officers and Brad was one of the first ones to volunteer, not at all inconsistent with just the values he exemplifies every day. And for this reason, the Game Warden Association has proudly nominated and recognized Brad Meloni as their Officer of the Year. Brad, please come forward; and Robbie Robinson, President of the Association. Grahame.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: For 48 years, the Southeastern Association of the Fish and Wildlife Agencies has selected an Officer of the Year; and it's no surprise that this year's honoree from Texas is Dimmit County game warden Gene Fernandez. Gene has been with us for about ten years, nine years down in Carrizo Springs, and down at Dimmit County. Again, an extraordinary role model, if you get to know Gene, for those kids in Carrizo Springs and those little communities down in deep South Texas.

He's forged great relationships there in the ranch country with landowners. They can count on him any time or day and night when people are poaching or hunting the county roads. This year alone, he's made four felony cases for hunting without landowner consent down there in the brush country. He puts on dozens and dozens of youth outreach related programs, getting kids into the out of doors to introduce them to fishing and hunting and all of the wonderful things that we care about inside the Department.

He's the consummate team player. You never hear the word "I" coming out of his mouth. He works well across team lines with his colleagues in Wildlife and other places. People highlight his kind of work motto and I just think it's great and I want to share it with you and this is what Gene says, "Good is not good enough when better is expected." And I think that's a great motto for all of us. Ladies and gentlemen, Gene Fernandez, the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Officer of the Year. Gene, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next award is from our friends and partners at the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the local Kerr County state -- Kerr County Soil and Water District Board. And this was given at their annual meeting. It was a Friend of Conservation Award and it went to our Wildlife colleagues at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area and could not have picked a more fitting place.

For those of you who hadn't had a chance to get out to the Kerr Wildlife Management Area, I want to encourage you to do that posthaste. It is really one of our flagship research and demonstration sites throughout our Wildlife Management Area System. It's located just upstream of Hunt at the headwaters of the Guadalupe River. We've owned it since 1950 and it has been kind of the go-to place in the Texas Hill Country in which our biologists and technicians have done pioneering and innovative research on different habitat management, range management, land use management, research on everything from deer to feral hogs to prescribed fire to brush management to compatible grazing. Again, some of the pioneering deer work has come out of there, among others.

It's just an extraordinary place. A place of innovation and entrepreneurship and really would encourage all of you to visit that very, very unique and special site.

Our partners at the State Soil and Water Conservation Board have really been working with our biologists and team at the Kerr since the unit's establish -- or the area's establishment in the 50s. They've partnered together on field days for private landowners and ranchers in that area, youth workshops and camps for kids to learn about rangeland ecology and management and habitat management, share an interest in research and so forth; and we're deeply honored that our colleagues at the Kerr are -- or have received this award from our partners at the State Soil and Water Board.

And we've got a bunch of folks that have come over. I want to particularly thank Rusty and Kendria Ray from the Texas State Soil and Water Board; Board member Carl Ray Polk has joined us as well, very pleased to see him; Deana Pfeffer from the Kerr County Soil and Water Conservation District; Bob Stobaugh from who's a Public Affairs Specialist for the NRCS, another partner there; and then we've got a bunch of our team and I want to call them out by name just because they're deserving of all the recognition we can give them: Ryan Reitz, who's our Kerr wildlife biologist and project leader for the Edwards Plateau Ecosystem Unit; Fernando Pablo Gutierrez worked at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area for a long time; Lisa Wolle; Donnie Frels, who's a retired project leader, we're going to honor him with a retirement certificate shortly; I saw John Kinsey is with us, as well; Bjorn Palm; Evan McCoy. And I want to ask that whole group to come over as we celebrate this special recognition from the State Soil and Water Board. Bravo, Kerr team. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We've got a couple of retirements of colleagues who have, in the aggregate, given us, you know, well over 60 years of their career to this Department; and I want to celebrate that very proud service.

I want to start out with one of our colleagues in State Parks, Roxane Eley. Roxane started 31 years ago with our local Parks team doing what she loves, working to help disperse grants to communities all over the state to help get kids and families of all ages and all backgrounds into the outdoors around their communities. She moved over to our Comprehensive Planning Branch in State Parks, worked on the Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan, which is a statewide plan that we do every five years and submit to the National Park Service that captures the demographics of the state and outdoor users and trends and outdoor recreation and strategies that we have to help meet and address that in a very growing and diverse state.

Roxane left the Agency for a brief period of time and then her good sense got the better of her and she came back and back to the State Parks team. She worked in our Business Management related group, working on concessions and marketing and then got back to her real love, which is the Local Parks Grant Program; where, again, over the years, Roxane has administered and managed relationships and grants with hundreds of communities big and small around the state to help facilitate local park acquisition and development.

We're awfully proud of her service to this Agency. Thirty-one years of service, Roxane Eley. Roxane, please come forward. Bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague you just had a chance to see. I'm not sure if you had a chance to meet him, but Donnie Frels. Donnie has been with the Agency almost 30 years. He comes from great gene stock. His dad, Big Donnie Frels, was our longstanding Regional Director in Wildlife along the coast in South Texas; and so Donnie didn't fall very far from the tree. Proud graduate of Texas A&M.

(Round of whoops)

MR. SMITH: Thank you. Went to work for the San Jose -- that is so predictable, Commissioner. It's this Pavlovian response that I just love from you Aggies.

Donnie graduated from A&M with a degree in wildlife biology. He was hired by the San Jose Cattle Company, in which he got to work on an amazing barrier island there off of Rockport for the Bass family working on their wildlife- related programs, everything from turkey stocking and quail management and deer and prescribed fire and waterfowl. Came to work for the Department and started off as a technician up in the Panhandle, where he did everything from trapping and transplanting turkeys into Gray County in the Panhandle, mapping Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat, doing aerial surveys of waterfowl and Mule deer.

I first had a chance to meet Donnie when he was our project leader at the Gus Engling Wildlife Management Area in Anderson County over near Palestine. Another one of these flagship wildlife management areas that are just a hub of innovation and research and outreach to landowners, provide great public hunting. Donnie really led the development and emergence of that area with vegetation mapping and a lot of habitat work in the bottomlands and uplands. Oversaw a 300-person inmate crew that was put to good use there on the WMA. Pioneered some great deer management-related work.

And then Donnie moved over to the Kerr, where he oversaw the operations at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area, Mason Mountain, and the Old Tunnel Bat Cave, which is now with our State Parks Division. And Donnie, now followed by Ryan, is a long line of really some of our most innovative, farsighted biologists that have really helped move the needle on land management, habitat, research, outreach to private landowners.

Donnie was there when the Hill Country was going through the transition of us working primarily with sheep and goat and cattle producers to landowners that were more interested in wildlife. He oversaw, again, some of the pioneering genetics-related research in White-tail deer related management, which has informed a lot of our thinking. And, of course, most recently, the emergence of this cutting-edge work on feral hogs and sodium nitrite; and so created a whole new research facility there with our team there.

And then last, but not least, he was the brainchild by what is now called the Ramona and Lee Bass Conservation Center. And it's a really extraordinary complex in which people from all over can come to the wildlife management area for free, have conferences, meetings. They get to learn about all of the tools of wildlife management area and it was Donnie's vision that brought that forward and we're very proud of his work and service and leadership for this agency. Twenty-nine years of service to the State of Texas, Donnie Frels. Donnie, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Well, we've got another one. I -- two more, two more. Clemente Guzman. Clemente, his fan club has already started back there. You're going to see Clemente and see that, you know, Clemente started -- he didn't even have a driver's license. And you may not know Clemente, but you have seen his artwork everywhere.

He is extraordinary illustrator. Started when, you know, it was all pencil, black-and-white ink. We didn't do anything by color -- with color. We didn't have any computers to help with graphics, layout, and design. And Clemente really brought us first into the 20th century and then into the 21st century in that regard; but produced some of the most iconic images for this Agency: Posters for the Freshwater Fisheries Center when we opened that up, the Game Warden Training Center, the World Birding Center. He was the illustrator on the cover of the book of the Humming Birds of Texas, some of the most visible and remembered images on the magazine.

Clemente was the illustrator for that snow-covered picture at Caprock Canyons with the bison. You remember that? The one about Texas rivers and song, the most recent one on the 75th anniversary of the magazine. He's just left quite a legacy through art and connecting people to the outdoors and wildlife and fisheries and parks and nature, just making it very assessable.

As retired, he and his wife and son are now operating an RV park and also helping to proselytize a bit on the virtues of wildlife and wildlife habitat and nature and we've been very blessed with his presence here in the Agency. Twenty-nine years of service, Clemente Guzman. Clemente, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our last colleague that we're going to honor with a retirement is Cody Macha out of our State Parks team. Cody started off as a seasonal there at Garner State Park, worked for four or five years; and then transferred to Choke Canyon down in South Texas, where he finished out the balance of his career. Started out there as a Park Ranger, ultimately promoted to a Maintenance Specialist and a backup Utility Plant Operator.

Cody was the guy that they might not have seen him; but he was the one, first thing in the morning, that would open the gates. Responsible for all the heavy equipment related work and maintenance and also making sure that visitors had the best impression coming into that park. The Superintendent and folks that work with Cody, always talked about the compliments they got on Cody in terms of how well he kept things mowed and groomed and, again, just giving a really good impression for folks that were coming there and we appreciate that very much. Twenty-three years of proud service to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Cody Macha. Cody, bravo. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We've now got some service awards. We're going to honor folks that have been with this Agency for a long time and, as you know, people come to Parks and Wildlife and they tend to stay and that gives us a lot of institutional wisdom and experience.

We're going to kick it off with one that this Commission knows well, Ken Kurzawski. Ken's been with us for three decades, Ken. Started off as a District Fisheries biologist there at Sheldon Lake and responsible for managing fisheries at Lake Houston and Conroe and Sheldon. Later on, Gibbons Lake Reservoir when that was built.

He moved north to Bryan when we moved the District office there, and then we sent him to Minnesota for two years to go manage pike and walleye for the Minnesota D and R and he, too, came to his good senses and came back and I think brought a few pike and walleye with him. Came to Austin, whereas y'all know, Ken has really been responsible for all of our statewide fishing-related regulations and the proclamation, very involved with research and monitoring, stakeholder outreach, coordinating interdivisional-related work. He's been a leader in relevant professional societies. At the American Fisheries Society, President of their administrative section; President of the Texas Chapter. Was invited to come to England, of all places, to give a presentation on that body of work that the Fisheries team's been involved in in Alligator gar; had the pleasure of showing off a picture of a certain Commissioner's son with a big Alligator gar.

Ken is just a great team member, brings a lot of passion for science, a lot of passion for making fishing the best it can be in our proud state. Thirty years of service. Ken, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is Communications, Karen Loke. She's one of our videographers/video producers/creative geniuses. Karen has been with us for 25 years, all with the Communications Division; and I love this description of her first job.

She was part of a group in Communications that was called the Internal Communications Branch and this is the description that was given to me of what she did way back when is -- before the internet, obviously, or before the internet here, I should say -- she traveled around the state to -- yeah -- to interview and shoot video and write about what our employees were doing in the field. Right? That sounds good. Here's the second part. I love this. And not only to hear about what they were doing in the field, but to hear how they felt about headquarters.

And so I've got to think that we were just showered with love and affection and adulation and appreciation and Karen somehow managed to capture that and sanitize it for the rest of us. She was responsible for all of our internal communication's pieces. In '96, she became the video news producer and so all of those news stories that you see all across the state. You know, Karen is the genius behind that. She's conceiving it. She's filming it. She's producing it. She's editing it. She's distributing it.

She's just done an extraordinary job telling our stories. She's won a gaggle of awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She's won three regional Emmys, one of which was a really cool show on the capturing and translocation of the last of the Southern Plains bison herd that are found at Caprock Canyon State Park. She did a great piece, very personal, on taking her son hunting for the first time that I thought was really poignant and hard hitting. She's been with us 25 years and as folks will say that when she meets them and they say, "Wow, you've been with Parks and Wildlife for 25 years," she says, "Yep, and I'm halfway there. Karen Loke, 25 years of service. Bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Now, if you were wondering what all those game wardens are doing here in the back, most of you are safe, I think; but a gaggle of them graduated from the Academy 25 years ago and a bunch of them have come in and just like all of our colleagues across the Agency, fun to be able to recognize them for their service. We're going to do this in alphabetical order.

Darla Barr, Darla, when she got out of the Academy, stationed up in Dallas County working the Metroplex area where you can be as absolutely busy as you want to be. Very involved in water safety. In fact, she was awarded a Water Safety Medal of Congress for her work. In 1998, she moved over to Lamar County, not only with her very active game warden related duties; but very involved in kid's related youth hunting programs. She also started this really great fishing program for kids with disabilities with the town of Paris and their Parks and Recreation Department and that youth fishing program for kids that are physically challenged is still going on today.

2010, she transferred over to Cooke County in Gainesville, where she continues to stay busy with a wide variety of fishing and hunting and poaching and water safety and so forth related things. She was part of our Peer Support Team or Critical Incident Team that we honored with a Leadership Award this past year. And today, we're thanking her for her 25 years of service, Darla Barr. Darla, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is Mike Boone. Part of, again, that class of 25 years ago. Spent his entire career down in Southeast Texas down in Hardin County, working Hardin and Jefferson and Orange and Liberty Counties.

Job security for a game warden, as you know, Commissioner Scott.

Plenty to do down there and Mike has just been such a great -- not only a Law Enforcement veteran who's looked up to by the community, which whose trust and appreciation and confidence he has earned over the years; but he's just been a great ambassador for this Department. Involved in lots of different high-profile cases, the recent one on the Whooping cranes in which the kid shot a couple of cranes off a road. Mike was the one that made that case. We're very, very proud of him.

Done a terrific job representing the Agency during various hurricane events over there from Rita and most recently Harvey. Just really, really represents this Agency well. We're proud of his service and leadership and work. Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Boone, 25 years of service. Mike, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Randall Brown, also out of that class. Great career. Got out of the Academy, sent to God's country to work in Jeff Davis County in the Davis Mountains working in the ranch country and high desert area out there. Spent ten year -- or seven years out there. Moved over to Coleman County, was there for ten years; and he's now stationed over in Mason County. He lives in that little community of art, working the Hill Country and the James River and a bunch of that just extraordinary country over there on hunting and poaching and all kinds of related things.

We had a chance to honor him back in 2015, I believe, for a life-saving event in which he had gotten a call and a neighbor had gone into cardiac arrest and Randall had performed CPR with a Sheriff's deputy, saved that man's life, and it turned out to be a friend of his and so just an extraordinary moment and we had a chance to publically thank him for that service. Very appreciative, too, of Randall's work to make sure that he, too, is being a great role model and ambassador.

He found out after moving to Mason County, that there wasn't a shooting sport's program for kids, believe it or not, in that rural part of the state and so he created a shooting sport's program today and they're in their fourth or fifth year and, again, we're very grateful for his 25 years of service, Randall Brown. Randall, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague that we're going to honor is Major Jeff Gillenwaters. Jeff, too, like all of his colleagues, has had a very storied career. Got out of the Academy, was over in San Saba County in the Hill Country for about a dozen years. He was promoted to captain there in Llano and then did a stint for about three years up here as a captain with our Internal Affairs team.

And then in 2010, Jeff was promoted to major in Temple over our Central Texas Region, where he's just been a terrific leader. He and his team of officers and administrative colleagues represent this Agency so well. Jeff is their consummate champion, always cheering their successes from behind and celebrating their work on a poaching case or helping to save somebody in a lake or somebody's in distress. Jeff is always the first one in line to celebrate somebody else and I just love that about his style of leadership.

I think it was also emblematic in a couple of very high-profile events in which Jeff took the lead for this Agency: The horrific explosion over in West in which our Law Enforcement team was asked to provide fairly significant security and public safety for that community, Jeff was our quarterback for that; and then when we had the very tragic loss and the murder of game warden colleague Justin Hurst, Jeff was our point person with the family, the wardens, and the community from literally the morning after that shooting all the way to the conviction and later, the execution of the murderer who took Justin's life. And Jeff's been a terrific leader for this Agency. We're proud of his 25 years of service. Thank you, Major Jeff.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Captain -- Captain Mike Hanson, fun to celebrate his 25 years. Mike did almost 20 years in Shelby County on the Louisiana line, which has got to be a record for a game warden up there. That's pretty tough country on the Sabine and Toledo Bend. Mike involved in a number of very high-profile and a few rather delicate cases, I might add. One that I'll highlight was Operation Cimarron, which was an interstate poaching ring in which some outlaws out of Shelby County were guiding and leading hunts illegally up in Kansas and then illegally smuggling deer back into the state.

Mike was really one of the first uniformed officers to get involved and help to break that case free. A lot of Lacey Act violations came out of it; very high-profile poaching case. Mike went on to become a captain in Rusk, where he is leading our team and serving our team in East Texas. He was honored, by the way, I think in front of the Commission for the Shikar-Safari award for his work on that poaching case. He's just done a terrific job leading our efforts over there. We're proud to recognize him today. Twenty-five years of service, Mike Hanson. Mike, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is Captain Tommy Jenkins, also part of this celebrated class. Tommy graduated from the Academy, served over in Newton and later, Nacogdoches County. Became a lieutenant over in Rusk; and then in 2005, he was promoted to captain over in San Augustine County, where he likes to say he and his team are responsible for guarding the eastern front; and boy are they. They are busy over there.

Tom's had the privilege of being a part of a lot of just very unique experiences throughout his career, not the least of which Operation Dalmatian, which was one of the last operations to go. Now, been stopped, the dog runners and hunters over in East Texas. He was over there on the frontline for the horrific space shuttle disaster and the recovery efforts that went underway there to help reconstruct that terrible accident; on the front lines for us when Hurricane Rita came roaring through East Texas and, of course, most recently, Hurricane Harvey.

Tom and his team do a great job in East Texas. We're proud of him. Captain Tom Jenkins, 25 years of service. Bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Bobby Kana, got out of the Academy and went straight to Galveston and Galveston Bay and has spent 25 years there on the coast and y'all know what a busy duty station that is. Bobby has spent thousands of hours patrolling the Gulf and the bays and the rivers and the bayous and the marshes and the backside of that barrier island. Really possibly given hundreds of tickets to folks that have violated our fish and game laws, seized thousands of pounds of illegally gotten fish and so forth.

He's our senior game warden in Galveston County. Everybody looks up to him for his knowledge of that area, his experience, his relationships. We're very proud today to celebrate 25 years of service as a Texas game warden in Galveston County, Bobby Kana. Bobby, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Will Plumas. Will has spent his entire career down in deep South Texas. Got out of the Academy, was -- his duty station was Cameron County and so he worked the Gulf, the Lower Laguna Madre, South Bay, Boca Chica, the Rio Grande, the Intercoastal Waterway, you name it, the ranch country, Will was on it.

Moved over to Hidalgo County as a game warden and kind of broadened his sphere into the ranch country. Still has great relationships with ranchers and landowners to this day.

One of the things I'll say about Will is, you know, he knows that border area backwards and forwards; but when the state really elevated its efforts to work on border security and enforcement back in 2012, Will recognized that so many of the agencies and officers coming into that area, didn't know where to go, didn't know the river or the lay of the land and he put together this extraordinarily detailed map of every reach of the river with roads and landmarks and property boundaries and it became a great tool for all of the agencies that were coming down and officers to get a quick lay of the land, which was so important from a public safety perspective. The Texas Rangers honored Will for that contribution, as did the Department.

Will moved over recently to our Marine Tactical Operations Group, or what we call MTOG. They're involved in very specialized marine operations. You can see those men and women just hammering those illegal gillnetters and long liners that are coming out of Mexico into the Gulf and taking our sharks and Red Snapper and Redfish and so forth. And Will is on the front lines and as somebody who has been checked by Will in the field, I can attest he's always out there doing his job. Ladies and gentlemen, 25 years of service, Will Plumas. Bravo, Will.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Major Alan Teague, has also had just an extraordinary career like his colleagues. Alan got out of the Game Warden Academy, was sent down to Nueces County, worked in that coastal region. Very interested in marine-related law enforcement. The Coast Guard hand picked him to go through a marine patrol unit, become -- became one of, at the time, only three officers that were certified in marine accident reconstruction. And, again, a critically important part of our water safety and boating safety related work is for our officers to do the forensic work to learn, you know, what caused accidents and what was at fault and Alan has really been on the cutting-edge of that.

In fact, there was a border patrol agent who died tragically in a line-of-duty death as part of their rivering patrol and Alan was specifically asked by the border patrol and a local Congressman to be on the investigative team to look into that and provide recommendations to the border patrol about how they more safely conduct their operations and just a wonderful part of his career.

Alan was promoted to lieutenant there in Corpus, later to captain in Kerrville working the Hill Country. And then in 2013, Alan was promoted to major and responsible for overseeing operations in South Texas, Southwest Texas and along the border, parts of the Hill Country. He's got a big operation to oversee.

I'll say this about Alan, you'll meet him. He's a big bear of a guy, and he's a little blunt. You don't have to chase a rabbit through the brush wondering he's going to tell you, which I like about Alan; but he's also got a really big heart. And when we lost a colleague of his, Lorilee Brabson, in the horrific balloon accident over there in Lockhart, Alan was there from minute one after that accident, providing comfort to her husband and family, the staff who were so deeply affected. It just shows that extraordinary compassion that the men and women of this Agency exemplify and Alan Teague is at the top of that line. Ladies and gentlemen, 25 years of service, Alan Teague. Bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our last colleague from that class who's with us today, Sergeant Robert Waggett; and Robert spent much of his career on the coast, Harris and Galveston and Liberty Counties, working Galveston Bay. 2003, he was named the Texas Boating Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Kind of one, candidly, in a long series of awards that Robert has earned so well throughout his career.

He was promoted to sergeant in 2009, assigned to our Environmental Crimes Unit, a very specialized team of game wardens working on environmental-related concerns, multiagency task force around the state. 2013, Robert was honored as the investigator of the year. A real honor for this Agency to see him recognized by all the many other federal and state agencies in this realm.

And then in 2014, Robert got an award for his work to address all of these abandoned boat vessels on the coast and create a new vessel turn-in program and help us deal with that real environmental and public safety problem. He's just done a great job protecting our lands and waters in so many ways. We're proud of his work. Sergeant Robert Waggett, 25 years of service. Robert, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Justin Esslinger out of our Coastal Fisheries team, has been with us for 20 years. Started off his career down at Rockport at our Marine Lab there, right there in the marina -- which, thankfully, that facility unlike other facilities at Rockport, came through Hurricane Harvey really pretty well. We're very blessed by that.

Justin working with our team originally on assessing data collected by our Coastal Fisheries biologists and technicians out in Corpus Christi Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, helping us analyze that and make sense of that resource, monitoring related data. In '99, he got involved in a coastal fish tagging project that our Coastal Fisheries team and CCA and others were involved in to look at movements of fish and growth rates and so forth and Justin was responsible for overseeing and helping to assess and analyze all of that data.

Also, very involved in the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area related project and that team of scientists that helped create that special scientific area and helped to address the longstanding damage from prop scars into seagrass and he helped set up some of the vegetation transects and monitoring lines on that. 2009, he was hired as our program specialist to work at what we call our Trip Ticket Program and that's collecting all the data from commercial fisheries out in the Gulf and getting that data and helping to make sense of it.

He's really helped us, again, synthesize the data that we need to appropriately manage our fisheries. Made a great contribution to us from a scientific and a management perspective. Justin Esslinger, 20 years of service. Bravo, Justin. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is Sonia Ybarra out of our State Parks Division. She started with our Agency 20 years ago. She was a receptionist in -- on our human resources related team and her talents were quickly noticed and she was asked to get involved with recruitment, creating an internship related program, working on our training and development related efforts across the Agency.

Our colleagues in State Parks saw a rising star and grabbed Sonia and got her over to come help and serve and work the team in State Parks, where she's just done a terrific job as an administrative assistant there.

We had a chance to honor her for her support and work of our Galveston Island Reconstruction Project after the aftermath of Ike and the huge hit to the state park there. She was just part and parcel supporting all of our teams and our colleagues there. Awfully proud of her service to this Agency. Let's thank her for 20 years of service. Sonia, bravo. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Last but not least, Jose Ornelas has been with us 20 years with our IT team. Started out as an intern and, again, our IT team recognized his talents. He was quickly promoted to a systems analyst in our Desktop Support team and given a big job, helped to implement our wide area network implementation on 90 sites across the state. He was responsible for replacing and reconfiguring literally thousands of computers across the state. If you know anything about our computers inside this Agency and way back then, that was a big, informidable task, to say the least; and he did a great job with it.

Also, saved the State and the Agency a lot of money with figuring out a way to remotely deploy a lot of upgrades to our systems, where our IT team didn't have to travel out in the field to all the sites to do it. They could do it from Austin. Most recently, he's been part of our Technical Services team and responsible for overseeing and managing our data servers. Intimately involved in the statewide DIR data center consolidation project in which we had to take all of our servers, inventory those, move those over to DIR; and then we also have a number of servers that we continue to manage here and he's just done a terrific job.

We're really proud of his work behind the scenes. Probably don't have a chance to thank him enough publically, and so let's honor him for 20 years of service. Jose, bravo. Thank you for what you do.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, that concludes my presentation. Thank you.

Chairman, I see we've put in place a little mood lighting for y'all up there. Is that going to be okay?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, we like that.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Why don't we take a five-minute recess for people that would like to leave or shuffle around for the rest of the agenda, and anybody that needs to take a quick bathroom break. Five minutes.

(Recess taken)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let's try to get started here, folks. Oh, sorry. All right. Is Carter back?

COMMISSIONER LEE: He just stepped back here.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Before we start with formal business, Carter, can you tell me when you're going to honor Chase Fountain?

MR. SMITH: You know, we need to honor Chase Fountain. He has taken more pictures than just about any photographer in the state, hadn't he?

Josh, maybe let's find out when we've got one coming up.

MR. HAVENS: We're trying to keep his ego down a little bit.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We like it back there in telling to move the plaque and move back.

Okay. So let's take up Action Item 2, King Mackerel Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Dakus.

MR. GEESLIN: Dakus.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dakus. I am so sorry. I screwed that up yesterday, too.

MR. GEESLIN: Oh, I've heard it all over the years. That's okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Forgive me, sorry.

MR. GEESLIN: Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Chairman. For the record, again, my name is Dakus Geeslin with the Coastal Fisheries. I'm here today -- today, we propose the adoption of the regulation changes for King mackerel and that will entail the temporary exception to the bag limits for King mackerel, increasing the bag limit from two to three fish. That is to be consistent with the federal regulation changes that took place earlier in May, 2017.

And just as a friendly reminder, that -- we'll be bringing that back proposed as a statewide action item in the Commission meeting in March. Our public comments were overwhelming in favor of this adoption, with over 91 percent in favor. And today, I wanted to recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the Section, new section, 57.979 as indicated there on the slide and as was published in the December 15th, 2017, Texas Register.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any discussion or questions from the Commission?

Do I hear a motion?

Commissioner Galo and second Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

MR. GEESLIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Dakus.

MR. GEESLIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let's see. Action Item 3, Ross Melinchuk, Consideration of a New Award, Texas Parks and Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year.

MR. MELINCHUK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, Director Smith. For the record, my name is Ross Melinchuk, Director of Conservation Programs; and it's my pleasure to be before you this morning to propose for your consideration the creation of a new award, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year Award.

This would formally recognize a courtroom champion for Texas' fish, wildlife, and cultural resource conservation. The purpose of the award is really to honor and recognize prosecutorial contributions in wildlife, fisheries, natural and cultural resources, water safety, and environmental crimes.

Any current prosecutor at the County, District, State, or Federal level is eligible. Contributions must have occurred within the previous two calendar years, and nominations are submitted through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement Regional Director. One nominee per region and all nominations are then collected and forwarded to the Law Enforcement Division Director for further review and consideration, but nominations can come from anywhere: Game wardens, natural resource, state park staff, prosecutors, or even other law enforcement agency personnel.

These are the eight law enforcement regions, which coupled with a ninth special operations statewide region, translates into a maximum of nine nominations per year. Selection criteria, again, we're trying to recognize upstanding prosecutorial work, so exceptional skill and outstanding commitment to protecting Texas' resources, superior performance in prosecuting, natural and cultural resource, water safety, and environmental crimes, the relentless pursuit of justice for the most egregious violators, and the ability to prosecute controversial or landmark cases and last but not least, exemplary work promoting and maintaining a good working relationship with the Department are all factors -- criteria to be considered.

Award winners will be chosen by a majority vote of the selection committee members; and in the case of a tie, the Commission Chairman, or his or her designee, will make the final selection. This is the makeup of the committee. I'll just pause momentarily for you to run down those.

The award will be a high-quality bronze commensurate with the value the Commission places on this one-of-a-kind recognition. Of course, it will be duly engraved with the name, affiliation, and year of the award. The winner will be announced annually at the August Commission Meeting and then presented at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association annual conference, usually held in the third week of September.

In 2018, this is the proposed schedule. We'll open nominations February 1st, close them May 15th. That gives the selection committee two full months to review and select a winner; and then the winner will be announced at the August 23rd, 2018, Commission Meeting and formally presented at the TDCAA conference, which is being held September 19th to the 21st of this year, I think in Galveston.

The staff recommends that the Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director and staff to establish the Texas Parks and Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year Award. And with that, I'll take any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, questions or comments?

I have one question, Ross. If you would go to the selection criteria PowerPoint --

MR. MELINCHUK: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- please.

MR. MELINCHUK: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If you look at the third bullet point, relentless pursuit of justice for the most egregious violators.

MR. MELINCHUK: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Question: Does that limit -- does that unduly limit the ability to honor somebody who was very aggressive in taking on a tough case, as opposed to an egregious violator or a controversial or a landmark case? I mean, I believe --

MR. MELINCHUK: No, sir. It's not intended to. Again, these -- one or more of the following criteria and sort of with the situation you're describing, would probably fit in that first one, that first bullet. So it's meant to be all encompassing, but there may be instances there where one of these is more standout than the other; but it's intended to be all inclusive.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we need -- do we need that bullet point, though? It's -- I'm -- if you think it's important to have that in there, I guess we go ahead and vote on it. I'm just asking you if you might give yourself a little more flexibility by not having that; but it's a question, not a --

MR. MELINCHUK: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- strong...

MR. MELINCHUK: At the -- I think --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have any thoughts on that?

COMMISSIONER LEE: It says four, right? So it's any of the four?

MR. MELINCHUK: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Leave it as is? Okay, all right. Take a vote on it as is. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, the motion carries unanimously.

Thank you, Ross.

MR. MELINCHUK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I don't think we had a motion yet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, beg your pardon. Is there a motion?

COMMISSIONER LEE: I'll move.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Lee motion.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Second.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Jones second. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

MR. MELINCHUK: Thank you again.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Ross.

COMMISSIONER JONES: We can always change it later if it becomes a problem.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sure.

Okay. Action Item 4, Implementation of Legislation from the 85th Legislative Session, Senate Bill 1289, Relating to the Purchase of Iron and Steel Products Made in the United States, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Jennifer Voss. Welcome, Jennifer.

MS. VOSS: Welcome, good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Jennifer Voss. I'm the Management Analyst for the Infrastructure Division. I'm here to present a proposed rule for adoption concerning the purchase of American-made iron and steel for certain governmental construction projects. Staff were authorized to publish this proposed rule in the Texas Register during the Commissioners' November 1st, 2017, Work Session.

During the 85th Legislative Session, Senate Bill 1289, authored by Senator Creighton, was passed and signed into law by Governor Abbott. Senate Bill 1289 amends current statute and requires all State agencies to contractually obligate bidders to use American-made iron and steel products in construction projects. The bill also requires the Commission to pass a new rule promoting compliance to that effect.

Additionally, the laws allow for an exemption request process for the following reasons: Insufficient quantities, not reasonably available, unsatisfactory quality, if the costs would increase by more than 20 percent, or if it is not in the best interest of the public. In the remote chance an exemption is applicable, we would notify and request approval from the TPW Commission.

We will apply this requirement to structural iron and steel, such as angle iron and I-beams and TPWD already abides by this on a federal level when we carry out our construction projects which utilize federal funds.

During the public comment period, a total of five comments were received; two in agreement, two in disagreement, and one neutral general comment. The two opposing comments simply questioned the necessity of this rulemaking. With that, the staff recommends that the Commission adopt this new rule to be in compliance with the amended statute; and that concludes my presentation. I'm happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Questions or comments from the members?

Okay. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Latimer motion. Second Commissioner Lee. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

Thank you.

MS. VOSS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Action 5, Item 5, Disposition of Real Estate, Williamson County, House and Lot in Florence, Texas. Mr. Trey Vick, welcome.

MR. VICK: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name's Trey Vick; and today, I'm presenting disposition of real estate in Williamson County.

Florence is a small town in Williamson County just north of here. It's located about 15 miles north of Georgetown. This is an item that the Commission saw back in May of 2016. We realized we needed to come back for some action. One lot on Business 195 in Florence, including a single-wide mobile home in very poor condition was donated to Parks and Wildlife by Mr. Kenneth Stiles. Mr. Stiles stated that the purpose of the donation is management and conservation of natural resources of Texas, including youth programs to enjoy such natural resources.

Well, the tract and house do not meet any of the criteria for inclusion into TPWD park inventory. So a sale of the property would generate land sale proceeds, which we could use for acquisitions to parkland, fulfilling the intent of Mr. Stiles' request.

This is a map of the location, you see there in Florence. We've received no public comments on this item; and if there aren't any questions, the staff recommends Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions? Comments?

Do we have any precedent in the past where we have -- where the Department has been left a piece of property that it turned out didn't fit criteria and we sold it, notwithstanding the directives in the will or trust?

MR. VICK: I am not aware, but maybe Ted Hollingsworth or Bob Sweeney could answer that or Ann.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MS. BRIGHT: I'm the resident historian here, I guess. For the record, I'm Ann Bright. I'm the Chief Operating Officer.

If I recall on this particular item, it wasn't -- there was no restriction on our selling it. I don't think that that was -- I think, you know, obviously we've looked at that very carefully. There have been properties in the past where we were further restricted to the extent that we had to go get permission from a Court to dispose of property; but the other thing that we've done probably more often is just decline to accept it.

I mean, there's a provision in the Probate Code that allows us to basically decline a request; and we've -- that's really been what we've done more in the past. The way that this came to us was kind of through this -- sort of an odd situation. We found out about it as a result of some litigation, and so I don't know if that answers your question.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, it -- I'm -- I just want to make sure we don't ignore a testator or testatrix directives or if we're -- think it doesn't -- the bequest doesn't fit, that we discuss it with perhaps the executor or a family member. I mean, we don't want people to think they can leave something to us and we take it with a directive that it be used for a specific purpose and we have no intent of ever honoring that. I think that's potentially problematic with respect to future bequests.

MS. BRIGHT: If I recall -- and it's been several years since this was actually left to us -- we did have some discussions with -- and I'm trying to remember -- somebody involved in this who -- I think it was pretty clear that it was not going to prohibit us from -- we are still going to use the proceeds for the intent of the bequest. It's just that we won't be using the actual property and, again, we weren't restricted in that way.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Anybody have any other questions or comments?

Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Move for approval.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Jones. Second Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

Thank you, Trey.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Item 6, Transfer of Land, Walker County, Approximately one-half Acre at Huntsville State Park. Again, Trey, please make your presentation.

MR. VICK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. Today, I'm presenting a transfer of land in Walker County, approximately half of an acre at Huntsville State Park. This item was presented to the Commission in November at the last meeting.

Huntsville State Park is in Walker County. Sits six miles south of Huntsville. It's a 2,000-acre state park. It's located in Walker County in the Texas Piney Woods. Staff has been approached by the City of Huntsville for a transfer of approximately half an acre of parkland that was acquired back in 2008 as a utility right-of-way for the park. An area of approximately 500-by-40 is requested for a new water line and then improvements for the lift station that serves the park.

The requested location is about three-quarters of a mile away from the main body of the park. It's not used by the public, and it has been disturbed previously when utilities were brought down to the park. In exchange for this transfer, the developer of the land surrounding Huntsville State Park has worked with the City and has agreed to an enforceable deed restriction of a 25-foot no-clear buffer along the park perimeter, which is about 5 miles of park perimeter; and it comes out to about a 16-acre add -- well, not add; but a protection of Huntsville State Park.

Here's a site map showing the location. You can see it's quite a ways away from the main body of the park. Here's a close-up of the half acre, pointing out where the existing City utilities are located. And here is a -- just an exhibit showing you the five miles of boundary where this 25-foot no-touch zone will be.

Staff's received no comments regarding the transaction; and if there aren't any questions, staff recommends the Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any comments or questions from members?

Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Jones. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

Thank you, Trey.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Action Item 7, Disposition of Land, Smith County, Approximately 3.5 Acres Formally Part of the Tyler Fish Hatchery. Stan David, welcome.

MR. DAVID: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, I'm Stan David with Land Conservation. This item concerns a disposition of land, Smith County. It used to be part of the old Tyler Fish Hatchery that no longer exists.

We first brought this to the Commission May, 2016. The fish hatchery sat about four miles west of Tyler. Its original acquisition took place in 1926. The hatchery consists of several tracts of land. The hatchery produced freshwater fingerlings for a number of decades; and due to limitations of the facility, the fingerling production was moved to other facilities.

The hatchery was sold 2004. Unfortunately, the sale did not include this last three-and-a-half-acre tract of land. The subject tract has no operational or management value to TPWD. So the sale would generate proceeds for Inland Fisheries to use in better suited areas.

This is a site map. The actual willing buyer is the subdivision around Greenbriar Lake, as you see the big lake south of the subject tract. They're just going to leave it as is as a buffer, more or less a greenbelt, to protect them from the railroad tracks or any other development possibly.

There's been no public comments on this to date, and staff recommends the Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A. Any questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Questions or comments from members?

Would you remind us how the property was marketed, and how we're assuring ourselves that we're getting fair market value for the property?

MR. DAVID: We -- the first thing we do is offer it to adjacent neighbors. The subdivision approached us. They had it appraised on their cost. So we compared that appraisal to other property value in the area. We marketed it to the other neighbor. We didn't put a Realtor or for sale sign or anything like that nature on the property. The tract is mainly a flood-type area. It's not -- I wouldn't say you could really develop it for anything but as it sits as a natural habitat.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Lee.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Second.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Jones second. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

MR. DAVID: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

Action Item 7[sic], Acceptance of Approximately 190 Acres to Follets Island Coastal Management Area in Brazoria County. Ted Hollingsworth, welcome.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This morning, I'm very pleased to be able to propose to you the expansion of a new Coastal Management Area. We begun this project back in 2014.

This is the Follets Island Coastal Management Area. It's in Brazoria County. It is -- it consists of properties that straddle Follets Island from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico to Christmas Bay and Drum Bay. Very high, very high conservation value and property that we've been looking for a way to acquire for quite some time when the opportunity presented itself back in 2014 to acquire the core tract of 441 acres.

Since that time, y'all have authorized us to expand that area. Trust for Public Land has been working very actively with us and with grant sources to find funds as they've identified willing sellers and today, we've added to that property and it is now -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department now has 825 acres in that conservation area. We have additional tracts that are under contract at TPL and funding available to acquire those. So this area continues to grow.

This is the original project area that was authorized by the Commission in March of 2017. Trust for Public Land has been approached by a landowner southwest of this area with a fairly significant tract that would also add much to the conservation values of the project. It's a 190-acre tract. It includes emergent marshes. It includes significant beach frontage, and it is contiguous with the adjacent Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, which I think is important for future management of this entire area.

In order to acquire that, we would request that the Commission authorize the expansion of that area that you approved last March. Would increase the total area of the project area where we might add properties in the future from about 1,900 acres to about 3,000 acres.

This map is a little misleading. There is some property just southwest of the subject 190 acres that's also completely undeveloped with very high conservation values that we would propose to add to that area should the property become available and should the funds become available for acquisition. You can see in this closeup map, there's a bayou that runs through that 190-acre tract. There's an embayment. There's significant frontage on the beach. There are some strand prairie. There's some significant emergent marsh. A very, very high quality habitat for everything from migratory waterfowl to shore wading birds to Diamondback terrapins and other classic, you know, coastal species that use those habitats.

With that, the staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Executive Director is authorized to take all necessary measures to accept the donation of approximately 190 acres for addition to the Follets Island Coastal Management Area and to expand the overall project area to roughly 3,000 acres. With that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Questions or comments from members?

Motion for approval?

Commissioner Galo. Second Commissioner Morian. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion carries unanimously.

Thank you, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Item 9 is a briefing item on Hurricane Harvey, Facility Impacts and Capital Repairs Reprioritization -- that's a mouthful -- Brent Leisure and I believe Jessica may join you at some point. Welcome, Brent and Jessica.

MR. LEISURE: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. It's a pleasure to be here and speak on behalf of our colleagues that are working so hard continuing to recover from the hurricane and all of our impacted areas along the Texas coast. We had 16 state parks, you might recall from a very comprehensive briefing that Carter provided back in our meeting in Lufkin, 16 parks were impacted by the storm and those parks are listed there. A couple of the photographs, just as a reminder, the types of impacts that were sustained.

Some of them very heavy impacts and requiring capital construction projects that follow up and some of them we were able to accomplish and make tremendous progress with the staff and resources that we have on hand. There were five impacted wildlife management areas, in addition to the 16 state parks, three of which sustained some degree of structural damage, some of which has been accomplished and repaired and there remains some projects managed through our Infrastructure Division that will continue to take place over the next several months and another couple of wildlife management areas really -- or sustained primarily damages to levees and things and temporary repairs on those levees have been made by our Wildlife Division.

Eight coastal facilities up and down the coast in our Coastal Fisheries Division were impacted by this storm and there really was a wide range from minor to severe impacts at these various facilities and they all are at some level of operation, some of which continue to require additional follow-up capital construction projects. These are a few photographs as a reminder to some of the impacts on those coastal facilities.

Carter described very well back in Lufkin, as you'll recall, that our staff immediately responded to the storm. We had strike teams that came literally from all over the state and one of the things that we did differently -- a different approach in this storm, than perhaps we've done in the past -- is the speed at which we were able to re-engage with our facilities and our employees back in those coastal impacted areas. But we started to dig our way out of this storm very quickly, and I think it's made quite a difference in as far as the extent of repairs that are required.

As we were able to move into our facilities and begin the -- to tear down interior walls, remove wet materials, wallboard and insulation and things like that, it has made quite a difference in arresting the development of damaging mold that really takes hold in those kinds of situations.

The progress made is really categorized in a few different areas. We attempted to stabilize damaged infrastructure. And by that, I mean if we had damaged roofs, we replaced roofs very quickly. We got wet materials out of buildings to arrest some of that onset of mold that I just described. We mitigated hazards, many downed trees. Some of this, we were able to accomplish since our last meeting in Lufkin. A lot of progress been made, contracts let and contractors moved in to remove literally thousands of trees and tons of debris and our staff is working alongside in many of those cases.

We've attempted to restore boating access to our public waters to the extent that we could and as quickly as we could. A couple of examples are at Goose Island. A very popular ramp there at Goose Island State Park and people tried -- you know, they have fishing guides and then fishermen use as a very popular location there and fishing community to gain access to the bays and we tried to do that as quickly as possible in a safe manner. Restoring boat access and ramp operations at Lake Somerville, Birch Creek, and Nails Creek State Park. Those were priorities for us, trying to get people opportunity to access the outdoors once again.

Restore overnight camping and access to those activities as quickly as possible. We're not there yet, but we've made significant progress. And, of course, along with that access, we've re-established the revenue streams that are so important to our Department and our operations. We've -- Jessica will describe here in just a little bit, some of the manner in which we've re-prioritized our capital projects and reallocated funding to help address those high priorities.

Just a couple of examples, Goose Island State Park, a very popular park down near Rockport, was heavily impacted. It was the initial impact area for the hurricane and it's known for its coastal Live Oak trees, woodlands, and just a tremendous park with a lot of history, generational use. The impacts on those trees were just devastating, as you can see. We've been able to restore many of those campgrounds. We expect that March 1st will be the opening day for campgrounds at Goose Island. We have been able to already re-establish access to the boat ramps at that site.

Another example -- and really, I would like to point out that really the heartbeat of an operation in a state park, so important is that our maintenance facilities be functional. If we don't work well there, we're not going to have success in the operation of that park; and certainly as you're trying to repair and restore operations, that maintenance facility has got to be up and running. You can see the extent of impacts at Stephen F. Austin.

By the way, many times this park has been flooded almost entirely. We've taken the opportunity to use different materials and redesign facilities and re-organize ourselves to be more resilient in these cases where we're flood prone. Stephen F. Austin is one of those cases.

Another example, Brazos Bend State Park. One of the most popular parks that we have in Texas, and really has been recognized nationwide as one of the top state parks across the United States. Brazos Bend is in Fort Bend County, subject to flooding many times. You can see our staff immediately went in. We stripped buildings down, removed walls, took it down to the studs, and then rebuilt it. This park was -- and all the progress that we've made to date, has largely been done at the hands of our staff personally and this incredible network of volunteers that we have working with them.

We also had some support from a local Toyota dealer that provided $5,000 and a $50,000 grant for the Parks and Wildlife Foundation that helped to make some of the repairs here at Brazos Bend possible. You can see the extent of some of the problems and a lot of it, frankly, is just a lot elbow grease.

And Village Creek, heavily impacted, near Lumberton, Texas. This -- there happened -- when we acquired the property, we acquired it with this small cabin that was built; and it has been heavily impacted. Much of that park remains closed. We've opened as much as we can, but there's going to be road construction and re-establish some areas. This is another example of where we're taking the opportunity to redesign the park, and we're not necessarily going back with what facilities and activities and operations that we had previously.

Another facility that we have in Rockport is a Regional Office. It is really shared by the Law Enforcement Division, State Parks Division, and our Wildlife partners. We've replaced some of the facilities; and in this case, you can see pre -- post-storm conditions and then the replacement of some of those things to restore operations to help support all of our South Texas Law Enforcement, Wildlife, and State Park operations. We're well underway. The main building itself still has repairs to be done.

And the final analysis or at least where we are right now -- to give you some idea on the progress that we've made -- of the 16 state parks that were impacted by the storm, ten are open; four are partially closed or partially open, it depends on how you look at that; and then two parks remain closed. The two parks that remain closed entirely is Mustang Island and our goal in working with TxDOT to repair some of the roads and beach access, is to have that open by spring break, March 1st; and the other is Stephen F. Austin State Park and our teams are working very hard, along with contracted partners, to get some of our facilities necessary to be restored so that they can accommodate public use in April of this year.

How has that impacted our revenue streams? Mike talked about this a little bit yesterday when we talked about the finances for the Department. If you look at September, the storm's impact, we definitely see a gap that is created from when comparing FY '18 revenues to '17; but you see that gap close as recently as November, and that's really a reflection of the work that's taking place and our teams in the field and our partners in Infrastructure to help restore operations. So our goal to get all 16 of those parks operational this spring and with a great deal of work, that continues to be necessary in the years to come.

And with that, I'll turn it over to my colleague Jessica Davisson, who's going to talk about the redistribution of funds the reprioritization of our capital projects; and we'll take any questions at the end that you might have.

MS. DAVISSON: Thank you, Brent.

For the record, Jessica Davisson, Infrastructure Division Director. So in the aftermath of natural disasters -- what we are no stranger to -- once sites where we can return to back to safely, your Infrastructure Division helps to evaluate damages and to really validate impact information.

No two disasters are the same and the damage assessments that we must conduct, there's not a one size fits all on how we approach them. We really rely on a lot of information to come back to us from the field on what type of damages are out there. Especially on Harvey, we're relying very heavily on the information coming through the Incident Management team that was set up here at headquarters.

For instance, if we're getting intel that tells us basically we think the entire site has been obliterated, then we may deploy -- we're probably going to deploy a convoy of a lot of architects, different types of engineers, project managers; and something like that may take a couple of days to comb through everything to do the damage assessment. On -- another example would be maybe we've just lost some bank erosion, some soil that may be compromising a structure and the site just wants to know if it's safe to occupy and how to fix it. In that case, we're going to send a structural engineering out there -- structural engineer to assess the situation.

So we're -- so these convoys that are deploying from Austin to do the damage assessments, are really what is the long-term recovery number, what is that going to look like for us. It's not really emergency response, but your Infrastructure team does have field-based staff. We have field-based construction managers and inspectors. These are the -- these are the staff members we're really relying upon to drive by sites sooner than later, ahead of the convoy from Austin, to really give us intel on what type of projects need to be done immediately.

We have to go to emergency procurement; and that's if building envelopes have been compromised, roofs are gone, you can't let buildings like that sit or your damage costs are going to just -- they're going to grow. They're going to get out of hand, beyond what they already are. And so this is exactly what we did in Harvey and so we were getting intel on how many roofs needed to be replaced. There were situations where the flooding was so extensive, that maybe we needed to hire contractors to help site staff get ahead of it because you have a matter of days before mold starts to take over the building.

Very, very proud of my teams on Harvey. We had seven different roofs replaced, contracted, before the middle of September in the Rockport area; and if you know what it takes to do that in government, that is lightning fast on the government side. Very, very proud of the team for that. If we look towards what we were dealing with -- and we still are dealing with in the Houston areas -- it wasn't wind damage. It was flooding.

And so we were -- we -- and we are still continuing with this right now. We had buildings that just had taken on so much moisture and so much had to be gutted and ripped out of there to try to stay ahead of the mold situation. So that's not as easy to recover from as putting a new roof on a building. There is testing that is involved to make sure you've got a clean bill of health before you make the repairs again. So that's a little bit -- it's a more complicated issue around the Houston area for us. But all said and told, we're how many months now outside of Harvey hitting? We've already spent $2 million on the capital construction side to deploy the emergency projects, and that was really -- make sure there's no more loss to the buildings that are out there now, get the envelopes tight, deal with any health and safety issues. We've got buildings that may need temporary shorings so they don't collapse.

We really wanted to prop back up staff residences. Our guys live on site. They need their house back most immediately. Regional offices that need to stand back up. Really, the nerve centers out in the region that really have to be propped up sooner than later. So great victories there on trying to restore operations; but make no mistake about it, there's still a lot ahead of us to do, millions of dollars and years before we're going to fully recover from Harvey.

So let me give you a snapshot of Infrastructure's most current accounting of the facility damage that we're seeing out there right now. So you've got the ten park sites/state park sites on the left-hand side and the Fund 9 sites on the right. Inland Fisheries escaped this one. So this is really Coastal Fisheries and Wildlife management sites on the Fund 9 side. So all totaled right now, we're at a 20 -- almost a $22 million infrastructure damage assessment. And let me caveat here, this is preliminary damage assessments.

A lot of times, my team was on the ground before electrical systems are even back up and running. So we're going to continue to discover more. There's -- what we also found in this event is buildings that you were looking at one week that seemed to be okay, you were getting calls the very next week that there was mold showing up. So these things -- these numbers do move. They will probably go north of this actually.

So let me talk about the financial recovery plan. So we've got a $22 million issue it appears to us right now. So if you remember in the FY '18, '19 biennium, this biennium right now, we were appropriated $49 million, $49.1 million in weather-related recovery capital construction money; and really, that was for the 2015-16 flooding. So now, we are adding Harvey into the mix of our weather-related damages. And we have re-prioritized some of those projects and we're going to redirect almost $11 million -- it's 10.9 -- $11 million from that original weather-related program to go address now Harvey projects.

For those of you that may or may not know, on the TxDOT side of the operation, TxDOT allocates $20 million to TPWD roads, maintenance, and construction. 20 million a biennium we get for TxDOT projects. Now, the money stays on their side. It's not in our coffers in TPWD, and they release the contracts for us; but they -- we have a list of projects every biennium. This is what we think we're going to do with that $20 million; and, obviously, an event like this will completely change that list, as well.

Of the $22 million in damage assessment from Harvey that we have right now, about seven of that is to the roads. That was largely at Mustang, Goose Island, and Village Creek. And then as far as what we have in hopes for FEMA, public assistance reimbursement, myself and the respective Division Directors went through all of the projects, all of the damages, and we were assessing what we thought would even be eligible off the top and then we're also looking at what would be feasible and viable for pursuing FEMA reimbursement.

We have submitted actually 8.8 million dollars' worth of projects to FEMA, hoping that maybe we get reimbursed for some of these damages. The 6.8 is the 75 percent of the 8.8 because they don't reimburse you for 100 percent. We had a meeting with TxDOT right before the holidays and we were kind of wondering would they be able to pursue FEMA on our behalf for the road damages, as well; and they said that they would do that on our behalf. So they feel the same we do about FEMA: Don't cash the FEMA checks yet. We have to first do the projects to be reimbursed on the backside. So even if we are lucky enough to get FEMA assistance on any of this, we will not see it in '18, '19. We may not see it '20, '21.

That's a very, very long process. Many audits between now and then to make sure we've followed all the FEMA process correctly; but we are working with FEMA to hope get some of this recovery money back. I also want to reassure the Commission that all the reprioritizing we're doing with the weather-related money, we are working very closely with Senator Hancock, who was the Chairman of the Joint Oversight Committee, on government facilities, which we also talk about the Deferred Maintenance Committee. So their office is very well aware of what we're doing -- very, very well aware of what we're doing. So everything is very transparent there. There will be no surprises to that committee about what we're doing.

And with that, that's the financial plan. So really, if you look at $11 million out of the capital side getting redirected, 7.1 out of TxDOT, that's really $18 million right there of the $22 million of damages from Harvey of how we're covering that. And with that, me and Brent will be happy to take any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, questions or comments?

I have a couple -- I'm sorry, Bill. Go ahead.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Let me -- I have a quick question on the -- if we are transferring some of the weather-related damage funds from previous weather-related damages to the current weather-related damages, are we not pushing back an inevitable cost that we'll need to cover at some point in the future?

MS. DAVISSON: That's a fair statement. Yes, there are projects getting postponed. What we were looking at is we have several of the sites from 2015-16 flooding that are -- we see are getting flooded multiple times over and over again. So we thought it was prudent to sort of stop and reassess what type of infrastructure investment we were making there in the long run. So we are postponing, but I think this is giving us time to reassess on several of those sites. I think it's a good thing.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. And so -- so you -- what you've essentially done is you have assessed that you still have needs over there, but -- or in some of these areas; but they don't have as high a priority, at least in terms of current fixes, that you have in some of the other parks that have been damaged and buildings and mold and --

MS. DAVISSON: Correct.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- things that have to be fixed speedily that you don't have time to wait for?

MS. DAVISSON: Yes, that is correct.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, okay.

MS. DAVISSON: Yeah.

MR. LEISURE: Commissioner, if I could just add one thing to that -- and Jessica was correct in saying that we're going to take the opportunity to plan what we're going to rebuild, if anything, at some of these parks that are flood prone. Particularly those parks that we may not own. You know, we had several of these reservoir sites that are leased from the Corps of Engineers. And so we want to be -- look very carefully on flood-control lakes where we're likely to see water again. What are we building, and is there a need to build that? What is the public's demand for that? We're trying to weigh that in as we look forward. We may not need as heavily an infrastructure footprint on the ground to provide some of those services that we think are in demand as we move forward.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And just one question on the 7.1 from TxDOT. Is that money -- and I just missed it. Is that money that has been committed by TxDOT to give us to help with the parks on road repair and things of that sort or --

MS. DAVISSON: No.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- is that money that they're going to promise to ask for FEMA to reimburse?

MS. DAVISSON: That is both. So we -- the Agency is given $20 million a biennium to execute TxDOT projects. And so what we're going to do is we are now going to do some Harvey projects, up to 7 million dollars' worth of them this biennium. They are also going to try to seek reimbursement from FEMA for those things.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MS. DAVISSON: And they will add it back to our program if we do get that money, but that could be in 2021.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MS. DAVISSON: Most likely it would be.

MR. SMITH: Can I just add something on the road front, Mr. Chairman -- sorry, that came off. I just want to make sure the Commission is aware. You know, we talk a lot about the deferred maintenance inside the parks and a lot of the vertical structure-related concerns and then the things underground with water and wastewater and so forth; but, you know, we have upwards of 300, $350 million of deferred maintenance on roads inside the parks, too. And so the 20 million a biennium that comes to TxDOT to handle all of the Department's road-related works on hatcheries, wildlife management areas, and state parks, is very insufficient for us to address, you know, the suite of needs that are out there, much less the development of new roads that we need to help provide additional opportunities. So I plant that seed and just want to make sure you're aware of that as we go forward and we're thinking about funding-related needs for the Agency.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Latimer.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: To go back to the slide on the park revenue impacts, that's just the loss of revenue because of the damages; but also there's some impact from having closed the state parks where people were sheltered. Is that correct?

MR. LEISURE: That's true, yes.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay.

MR. LEISURE: We did have some revenue loss with that. And, you know, so Jessica and I were talking yesterday. I think it's worth noting that over the next couple of years, we can expect to see some leveling off, I think, in the revenue streams for parks because in addition to the damages that we've sustained, we've got 91 million dollars' worth of capital construction projects that are taking place in parks right now and will over the next two or three years. And so we're going to have facilities shut down as utility systems are repaired and roads and things like that.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any other questions or comments?

I have a couple. You mentioned that we're rebuilding boat ramps that were, I guess, washed away or destroyed in the storm. This is a little bit off topic; but do we charge people for use of the boat ramp, for a loading-and-unloading fee like they do -- I know in the Keys, you either have to buy a monthly license or you pay basically a loading-and-unloading fee just to help maintain the ramp.

MR. LEISURE: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What's our policy there?

MR. LEISURE: Generally not, Mr. Chairman. We -- your entrance fee gives you access to the park and you use those facilities and, typically, that's an activity that we don't charge an activity fee for. It just kind of comes with your entrance permit or your annual pass, which you may have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I'd encourage us to look at that. A mod -- a very modest fee, but something to help us maintain these for the people that are -- the user pays. That's the concept I see --

MR. LEISURE: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- across the board. So I would encourage you to look at that.

MR. LEISURE: We certainly can. We can do some analysis on that and, you know, the people that -- and the activities that are utilizing that facility. Now, when I say that we're getting boat ramps open, the ramps themselves, generally, are pretty secure. They're in pretty good shape. It's generally the parking and those support facilities -- piers, docks, and things like that -- have sustained damage that caused some delay in getting it going again.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. My next questions is: Are we legally permitted to purchase casualty insurance for our improvements, including employee housing?

MS. DAVISSON: We are allowed to purchase insurance, and I don't know if it's casualty insurance; but, yes, we actually --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Or for storm damage --

MS. DAVISSON: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- is what I'm talking about. Fire, storm.

MS. DAVISSON: That is correct. We actually do have facilities out there that are insured through SORM.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And are -- as we continue -- we've had multiple years where we have suffered substantial damage to infrastructure and we've had no coverage, I don't think, for any of it, have we?

MS. DAVISSON: Actually, the J.D. Murphree, one of the slides you saw the wildlife management areas that was flooded, we actually have insurance on that facility and we did not meet the deductible to get any insurance back. We had to meet $500,000 deductible and we don't have that much in damage there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I -- I would -- obviously, if we can insure the J.D. Murphree, we ought to be able to insure other properties and I think as a part of looking ahead to how we manage risks, we ought to balance the cost of insurance that has a reasonable deductible versus what we're coming out of pocket with it seems like every other year with a storm or fire. And I'm not saying we do buy it. I'm just saying I think we ought to look at it hard because --

COMMISSIONER LEE: How would any proceeds be treated through the appropriation process?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's another question and a good one, Jim. I don't know, but I would think that if we insure an employee's house, if it belongs to us and he or she lives there at our -- with our consent and it's destroyed, that we would be able to use those proceeds to replace the house. I don't know. It's a good question; but I'm just saying, in general, I think we ought to begin to explore whether we budget some money for additional insurance beyond what we've had to date because we're just getting hammered with storm and fire damage.

MS. DAVISSON: Uh-huh. At the very least, the Tier 1 sites, I think you're absolutely right. Uh-huh.

MR. SMITH: Some of that analysis has already started. The Infrastructure team was asked to look at that very seriously, and so we've done some of that work. There is a patchwork of facilities out there, Commissioners, that are already insured at some level; but you're absolutely right. More work needs to be done in that to have a comprehensive assessment and a look at what the financial-related investment would have to be and the pros and cons of that coverage and maybe that's something we could come back to the Commission on with a report there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, I'd urge you to do that as soon as you -- I know you're busy, a lot of stuff going on; but I just think given what I've watched and most of us have watched over the last five or six years, maybe it's time to include purchases of casualty insurance.

Okay. My last question is on the -- you said that the expectation on FEMA reimbursement could be as much as four to six years down the road?

MS. DAVISSON: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is it feasible or practical for us as we go into the next session and do an LAR, to seek bonding authority equal to the amount of the expected FEMA reimbursement, where we get that money sooner and pay it back out of FEMA, proceeds secured by the FEMA -- expectation of FEMA money?

MS. DAVISSON: I think that's the issue. The expectation of FEMA reimbursement is a moving target. What we find is you will get audited relentlessly for up to 10, 15 years after the event.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's Cindy Hancock's problem and Bill Jones' problem.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Bring it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I understand --

MS. DAVISSON: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- that there's -- that the FEMA reimbursement takes time and a lot of effort, subject to a lot of auditing; but it is an -- a reasonable expectation or you wouldn't list it. So I'm just suggesting let's consider our LAR asking for some bonding authority that is tied to do that. Just -- it doesn't have to be secured, but it could be the expectation is these bonds will be repaid.

I mean, Mike, is that something we can do?

MR. JENSEN: We can do that. In the past what they've done, we would ask for supplemental appropriations and, typically, they'll write up the bill and they'll give us what we need; but they'll say any future FEMA reimbursement is going to go to GR. It won't come to us. So they'll give us what we need, but it's going to be offset until we -- if we get that amount back from FEMA, they're going to expect us to give it back. This happened at Sea Rim, if you'll recall. Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, you're a smart guy. Figure out a way to try to get this money sooner than --

MR. JENSEN: I don't know if I'm that smart, but we'll figure it out.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All I'm trying to do is get the money in the door sooner than we'll actually get it from FEMA.

MR. SMITH: You bet. Yeah, absolutely, Chairman. Guidance understood. And so we will explore those options. That's certainly a creative idea. One of the things they didn't say is there was a very extensive calculus that was done by our staff about which projects we ought to pursue FEMA reimbursement on and there's a certain threshold that makes it worthwhile to pursue it, given the complexity, the seemingly interminable process that we go through with FEMA on approvals, kind of moving targets for reports, audits, etcetera.

And so you didn't hear that in the presentation; but a lot of work went into deciding what's the threshold for a project that we ought to pursue reimbursement. Those that we want to pursue it, your guidance is -- as we understand it -- is the sooner we can get money to help cover that cost, the better; and so we hear you there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, that's -- and I would hope that in the current environment, you might have less red tape than in prior years; but we get it. But you put $6.8 million down here in expected reimbursement, and all I'm asking we do --

MR. SMITH: Yeah, sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- is consider a bond to get that or more sooner.

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Anybody else have questions or comments?

Good deal. Thank you both.

MS. DAVISSON: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Appreciate it.

Briefing Item 10, AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America Program Update. Kris Shipman, welcome.

MS. SHIPMAN: Good morning, Mr. Commissioner and Commissioners. The AmeriCorps VISTA Program mission is to build capacity in nonprofit organizations and communities to help bring individuals and communities out of poverty. VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America, and is actually considered the domestic version of the Peace Corps. It was started by President L.B. Johnson and was a part of his war on poverty.

Today, it is under the umbrella of the AmeriCorps Program; and it is managed through the Corporation for National and Community Service. The VISTA Program has four core principles: Ending poverty, empowering communities, building capacity, and creating sustainable solutions once the project is over. There are five focused areas. They're focused on disaster services, economic opportunity, education, healthy futures, veterans and family -- veterans and military families.

Our project is focused on education and the veterans and military families. So VISTA -- who can be a VISTA? VISTAs must be 18 years of age, able and willing to serve full time, and they are required to make a one-year commitment to be a VISTA. In exchange for this, they receive a living allowance, which is approximately $33 a day. At the end of their year of service, they are eligible for an education award, which is equivalent -- I think it's currently rated at $6,000. And during their year of service, they receive healthcare and childcare benefits.

We were awarded the VISTA grant, and this is our budget. The grant is a three-year project. Unlike most grants, we actually get people. So we're getting 13 VISTAs, a VISTA leader and and 12 members that come and work with us. And the value of that over the three years is a little over $800,000. We are providing a 25 percent monetary match for the grant.

The community need that we're addressing with this project, we're looking at the fact that 5 percent of our lands are available to the public in the state of Texas. 85 percent of the population in Texas live in major urban areas. We have a poverty rate of one in four children living in poverty in the state of Texas.

And, typically, the low-income earners are the ones that are living in communities that have limited green space or poorly maintained green spaces; and so this project is to try to get those people out into our green spaces. We -- Texas also has the second highest percentage of veterans in the country.

So we have two main goals: To improve K through 12 academic performance in literacy and/or math by providing these opportunities for students to go out into green spaces, do service learning projects, and learn about jobs and careers and conservation. The second goal is to provide those veterans and military families with workforce development, resources, and services.

This project is across multiple divisions and there are a lot of people that are involved with this, so I'd like to just recognize for each VISTA we have, we have a site supervisor. We have VISTAs in our HR Department, IT, Inland Fisheries, Communications, and in six state parks across the state.

Next, I'm going to tell you a little bit about each of our VISTAs and what they're doing and where they're located at. Our VISTAs started in March of last year. So they're coming up at the end of their year.

Erin is our VISTA leader; and as the leader, she works as an ambassador. She's our educator, our facilitator for the project. She mentors and recruits the other VISTAs. She helps them figure out resources that are available, and what they might be able to do. She's also taken on our SharePoint and used that. I call her our "SharePoint guru." We have a SharePoint site for the VISTAs to collect all their reports and be able to share their information, have all the links and resources that they need available to them for the project. She's also using SharePoint to assist the volunteer program, which is also a part of her project; and we're creating a new SharePoint site for all the volunteer coordinators in the Agency to use. And she is currently creating a strategic plan to conduct our volunteer Facebook page. We had started a volunteer Facebook page and were not having much success with it. So she's working on that.

Cristina is our veterans and green jobs VISTA, and she is working with our IT Department and HR to create training opportunities in IT. She is currently trying to collaborate with the Department of Defense and local universities and colleges to create a certification program that could be used for our IT program so that veterans could get jobs in IT.

At the beginning of her project, she conducted an agencywide survey here at the Agency and a needs assessment. It was the first of its kind, and she had -- it was very successful. She had a 50 percent success rate with 300 veterans in the Agency responding.

Carli moved here from Connecticut to be with us, and she is our Texas Children and Nature VISTA in our Communications Division. Carli's been working on the Ole Texas Project, which is to increase nature play in childcare centers. They have four exhibit sites in Lubbock, Harris County, San Antonio, and Houston. She also is doing the campus campouts, which is to increase family involvement in nature, allowing people to camp at school campuses. She is creating an outdoor-activity-of-the-month blog, featuring nature activities; and she is very involved with the regional collaborative for the Texas Children and Nature Program.

Next up is Colin. Colin is working in Communications, as well, with our Community Water Education Program. He -- his project, there's two prongs to it. There's the public aspect of his project, which is called the Texas Water Specialist; and that's getting volunteers to go out and educate the public about Texas water issues.

During his year, he has increased the number of Texas Master Naturalist Chapters that are involved in this project by 62 percent. He's increased the number of hours the volunteers have committed by 148 percent, and he has increased the number of advanced training hours they take to become certified in this project by 425 percent.

The second part is the Texas Aquatic Science Program, which is focused more on working with educators and is a train-the-trainer model. So there is a curriculum that they're training the educators on; and once they're trained on this curriculum, they are then trained to be facilitators so they can also provide this curriculum to others.

During this year, he's increased the number of educators that have been trained by 50 percent. He trained the first 25 facilitators. They also have trunks that they use out in the parks for educators to come out and do projects with students. He's put an additional 25 trunks out, which is a 92 percent increase; and they've certified these -- a lot of a state parks and other nature centers to be field sites for the schools to come out and do these projects and he's increased that by 10 percent. So they have 74 sites across the state.

Kay Jenkins is at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. She is one of two VISTAs we have there, and we're very fortunate. Kay is actually a retired Parks and Wildlife employee, recently retired; and as soon as she found out about this, she called me and asked if she could be a VISTA and I said, "Absolutely, we would love to have you."

I think Kay has 25 years of experience here at Parks and Wildlife, and Kay is working on two really big projects. She is creating a water conservation landscape exhibit at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in front of the Angler Pavilion and this will talk about how to conserve the water. It will show demonstrations of rain gardens and native plants to use. There will be a wayside exhibit talking about what's going on in the rain garden. She also is looking at creating a wetlands trail curriculum for their existing wetlands trail and making some improvements to that, and she has already created a couple of education plans for that. And just this last month, Kay did a distance learning project where she reached 937 students in Region 11.

Our second VISTA at TFFC is Amanda. Amanda and Kay, we have days of service that we do; and for September 11th, they did a habitat day at TFFC where they invited volunteers out to help remove invasive plants and they worked on all the ponds at the hatchery there, removing Chinese tallow and some other things.

Amanda's project that she's primarily been focused on is trying to create kind of a miniature hatchery to have in the classroom or in the lab there so that while we give people the tours of the big hatchery there, it's maybe a little harder for the kids to really see what's going on and know what's happening. And so she's been working very hard to set up these separate tanks and create the whole process where kids can have up close and personal interaction with it. She also has created some educational materials talking about biotic and abiotic factors for 8th grade students.

So we have six VISTAs that are located in our state parks, and all of the VISTAs at the state parks are focused on four main goals: Engaging the low income and underrepresented communities, expanding service learning and recreation opportunities on public lands, building capacity of volunteer programs, and engaging a more diverse volunteer pool. And it's great to see each of these VISTAs have done different things and gone in different directions at their parks. So it's kind of exciting to see what they've been doing.

Nicole is at Franklin Mountains State Park. Nicole was a volunteer there before becoming a VISTA member, and she's very passionate about getting the local community involved at the park and getting people to realize that the park's there. And one of the great programs that she has started, she collaborated with an organization called Latinitas, which is a nonprofit organization empowering young, Latino women. And they have created a program called "Eco Chica" and this program each month -- children -- girls the ages of 11 to 14, come out and participate at the park. They go out and learn about -- do service projects, they learn about careers in the field. It has been so successful. She's had 75 girls participate in this project. It's been so successful, that the Latinitas' Program has decided that this is something that they would like to invest in and continue.

They are currently working towards applying for one of our TPWD co-op grants so that they can provide the transportation and afford for the kids to continue this project; and there's also talks of them expanding it here to their Austin sites, as will. In addition to that, Nicole has been working with the Carrasco Job Corps there and she has created what she's calling the "Hiking Club" and it was a three-month project that every week, the local job corps came out and did -- they would take hikes; but then they would also spend time picking up litter and that kind of thing and learning different careers and jobs, again, that they could potentially find at Parks and Wildlife.

Her third project has been looking at service learning programs. She's been partnering with the El Paso Community College and with the University of Texas in El Paso to create service learning projects for college students. This last semester, she had two students from the community college come out 40 hours and do a service learning program. And her volunteer program, she's been focused on getting -- they were without an interpreter. So she spent a lot of time recruiting volunteers to come out and assist, and she has 20 volunteers that are now filling that gap.

Brandi is here at McKinney Falls State Park, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Brandi was one of our first state park ambassadors. She also has been working on service learning and after-school programs, and she has been working with the Ann Richards School. She's brought out students with disabilities and been working with them.

Her volunteer program that she's created, she very much focused on having volunteers that were dedicated to help with the interpretive programs and the service learning projects that she's doing; and she's created a volunteer program with trail crews, just working on trail maintenance at the park. And she has 20 volunteers in the trail crew that come out every third Saturday to work on the trails, which I think is great.

We just found out and I'm very excited to mention that Brandi was instrumental in helping to get an AmeriCorps -- it's called the NCCC, the National Community and Civilian Conservation Corps. And they are going to -- they were awarded the grant. They will start coming out in February, and this program sends -- what will happen is in February, eight do ten youth or young adults will spend six weeks at McKinney Falls State Park working on the trails and there's a potential for them to be there for 12 weeks. So a huge impact.

She also is working hard to develop a friends group. The friends group had disbanded. After the flooding of 2013 and flooding in 2015, the friends group kind of fell apart at McKinney Falls; and so she's been working to develop that. She kicked it off. She has several people that became very interested. It made the local news, and she's got a dedicated group that are working now to kind of plan what that friends group would look like and what they want to accomplish this next year.

Denise is at Sheldon Lake State Park, and Denise really focused on getting volunteers at Sheldon. Sheldon had a fairly small volunteer program. This year alone, Denise recruited 495 volunteers. She also has been working on creating the service learning projects and has done 16 programs, reaching actually 220 students. She has been working to create new partnerships with the local communities, businesses, and the local colleges. She also wanted to look at trying to re-engage the existing partners that they had in the past, people that had been involved in projects out there and hadn't been back in a while; and she's been inviting them back with a lot of success.

Even though Denise is getting ready to leave in March, she has started planning an idea for the second VISTA that's coming to do an earth extravaganza science fair; and this would, again, be focused on low-income students. She's trying to get moneys for the prizes, for scholarships, or to help them with the materials for their fair. So I'm sure that will be very successful.

Valerie is at Government Canyon State Natural Area and Valerie really wanted to focus on the fact that there are a lot of low-income students in San Antonio and she really wanted to get those students at the park. And so she partnered with Project ACORN to identify those schools and to find transportation -- funding for transportation costs. So far, she has designed and conducted ten different field trips and recruited 22 volunteers to help with that project.

Alexis is our VISTA at Mustang Island. Alexis unfortunately started right before -- in August right before Harvey. And as you can imagine, it's been quite impacted. One of the first things she did though, she created a beach cleanup project and had volunteers come out. They removed over 1,800 pounds of trash at the park; and she is working to create a friends group there, as well.

She has some really great innovative ideas for the future. She would like to look at -- she's planning a 5K family fun run, fundraiser, for the friends group; and she's also wanting to find a way to get a public transit stop in front of the park so that at-risk youth from Corpus Christi or Port Aransas would be able to ride the public -- say, the city bus to the park for free or at a reduced rate so that they have access to the park, which I think is pretty exciting.

Kenneth is our last VISTA. He is at Ray Roberts Lake State Park at the Johnson Branch. And Kenneth actually has a background in art and is an artist and is very interested in incorporating art into the park. He attended a STEAM carnival in the Region 11 -- which STEAM stands for Science, Technology Engineering, Arts, and Math -- to identify some potential schools and partners that he could be working with. He's working on the volunteer program, as well; and he kind of is hoping that he might be able to bring Shakespeare in the park out there.

For Martin Luther King Day, he conducted a service project, as well. They had four volunteers that came out, three of which who had never been to the park; and they painted some of the amphitheaters out there.

So as I mentioned, this is the end of the first year. Altogether, we -- the VISTAs have recruited over a thousand new volunteers. They've managed 668 existing community volunteers. These volunteers performed over 3,000 hours of service; 242 organizations have received capacity building services in the areas they're at, and really over a thousand students have completed an education outreach program. And that's it for me. Any questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any members have any questions or comments?

Kris, great work. This is a wonderful way to expose youth to parks and wildlife and the outdoors and make lifelong connections with them. It's a challenge to get -- such a challenge for us to get urban youth, particularly, outdoors and to get a tie with the outdoors and parks.

So wonderful efforts by you and everybody associated with this. Thank you very much for your presentation.

MS. SHIPMAN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ladies and gentlemen, the Commission has completed its Commission Meeting business. So I declare us adjourned at 11:33 a.m. Central Standard Time.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this _____ day of ______________, __________.

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Ralph H. Duggins, Chairman

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S. Reed Morian, Vice-Chairman

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T. Dan Friedkin, Member

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Anna B. Galo, Member

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Bill Jones, Member

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Jeanne W. Latimer, Member

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James H. Lee, Member

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Dick Scott, Member

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Kelcy L. Warren, Member


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS       )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

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

___________________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2018

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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