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TPW Commission

Work Session, November 1, 2017

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

November 1, 2017

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
PITSER GARRISON CONVENTION CENTER
LUFKIN ROOM
601 NORTH SECOND STREET
LUFKIN, TEXAS 75901

COMMISSION WORK SESSION & EXECUTIVE SESSION

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm going to call this meeting to order November 1st, 2017, at 9:07.

Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

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

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you, Carter.

But before we get on with our official business, I just want to express my gratitude for the folks of Lufkin who so have so graciously welcomed here -- welcomed us here for this meeting. Personally, I love getting out of Austin and getting around the State to see what's on other people's minds and hear their comments and concerns.

We had a wonderful afternoon yesterday at Boggy Slough. It was my first visit, and it was fascinating. I know everybody is proud of it.

I will add one more comment. On the way up here, I had a former Commissioner call me about another matter and when he found out I was going to Lufkin, he said, "I'll give you an interesting statistic." When he was on the Commission, the highest per capita sale of hunting and fishing licenses was in Lufkin. But I did fact-check it with Carter and Carter said you're, like, number two now; but that shows you how important hunting and fishing is to this community and to East Texas in general. So we're glad to be here, and thanks for your hospitality.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Who's number one?

MR. SMITH: Corpus.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Oh.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Next order of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held August 23rd, 2017, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER JONES: So moved.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Second.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Commissioner Jones, seconded by Commissioner Lee. Thank you very much. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any opposed?

Next order of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous Annual Public Hearing held August 23rd, 2017, which have also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER LEE: So moved.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Second.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Thank you very much. Who seconded? Oh, thank you, Commissioner Latimer.

All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

Now, we'll move on to Work Session Item No. 1, Update on TPWD Progress in Implementing the TPWD Land and Water Resource Conservation Recreational Plan.

Mr. Carter Smith, please make your presentation.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and thanks for the opportunity to share a few words with you this morning. I've actually got two presentations.

First, Chairman, I'll talk a little bit about some updates inside the Department consistent with the Land and Water Plan. And really just as a point of departure, I want to call the Commission's attention to two reports that we've provided. The first is the annual Internal Affairs Report that's been completed and prepared by Major Jon Gray. It provides a very comprehensive encapsulation of the work of that team over the last year; the cases that came in that were investigated; the types; the Divisions that they related to; also, the dispensation of those cases.

Jon and his team continue to do a fabulous job in this regard and ask you to just take a quick look at that report and familiarize yourself with it. And if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me or Major Gray.

I also want to call your attention to another report, which is also a really great summary of some of the critically important work that our Fisheries and Wildlife biologists are doing all over Texas. Obviously, they're involved in a wide range of stewardship and habitat management and outreach and technical assistance and conservation-related work, science and monitoring and so forth.

One of our long bits of history inside the Agency has been the work of our Fisheries and Wildlife biologists to help stock fish and game, but also nongame, in parts of the state in which we have suitable habitat. And so we've got a report for y'all, an Annual Stocking Report, that summarizes those activities from our Wildlife and Inland Fisheries and Coastal Fisheries Divisions. It helps share some of the details of important work they're doing, like helping to bring back the Eastern turkey to the woods of East Texas that we're particularly excited about; helping to restore Pronghorn antelope to the desert grasslands of Marfa and Marathon; putting Bighorn sheep back on suitable mountain ranges in West Texas.

It also describes the really important work that our Inland and Coastal Fisheries hatcheries teams do to help on an annual basis produce over 40 million fingerlings, everything from Redfish and trout and now flounder -- a really exciting innovation on our Coastal Fisheries team that's going on there at Sea Center -- to bass and catfish and so forth on our inland lakes and reservoirs.

So take a look at that report. Again, it's a snapshot of some of the important work that our Fisheries and Wildlife biologists are doing around the state that really make a difference for the fish and game that our sportsmen and landowners and outdoor enthusiasts in the state care so passionately about and it's just a terrific summary of that.

I also just need to call your attention to Senate Bill 1289 that was sponsored by Senator Creighton in the Session, signed into law by Governor Abbott. And, essentially, it requires any and all State agencies that are involved in any kind of construction project, that if iron and steel is going to be used as part of that contract, it requires us to notify the bidders that they're going to have to source that iron and steel from an American manufacturer. And the bill requires that the Commission pass rules to that effect.

And so, you know, I simply wanted to notify you of that legislation. We'll be coming back in January for approval; and today, we're simply seeking permission to publish rules as required by SB 1289 to promote compliance with the requirement that bid documents for projects in which iron or steel products will be used, include a requirement that such iron or steel products be manufactured in the United States.

So the Department really has no choice in this matter, like all agencies. We simply need to comply with this legislation, but we'll bring a more formal package for your approval again in January.

Certainly, you know, Chairman Morian, you mentioned just the very, very rich hunting and fishing heritage and outdoor heritage that exists in this area. Here we are: Bow season; obviously, MLDP season is open; gun season opens up this Saturday across the state and we've got a lot of excited hunters, none more so than here in the Piney Woods of East Texas. We've actually got a deer hunt, I think, at one of our local wildlife management areas that's going on today out at Alazan Bayou, weather permitting.

Just in advance of that though, I did want to provide just a quick summary of kind of where we stand on our important surveillance work and our efforts to contain the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease across the state. Just as a reminder, we have found 63 CWD-positive animals in the state. Sixty-one of those are either White-tail or Mule deer. And then we found two elk, one in the Panhandle and then one on a game ranch there in Medina County.

Essentially, though, we've got three nodes of heightened concern around the state. First, the Hueco Mountains just east of El Paso, where we originally found it in the state. Likely, the source being free-range Mule deer that came from New Mexico and wandered across the state lines; and we've found a little over a dozen Mule deer that are CWD positive since that discovery in 2012, I believe, Mitch.

We've also found northwest of Amarillo in the Panhandle, one elk and three free-range Mule deer. Again, the source of that: Likely, infected animals coming across the state line northwest of Amarillo. And then, of course, one of the areas that's received a lot of attention over the last couple of years have been the four deer breeder facilities up in northern Medina County, in which we have found almost four dozen breeder deer that have tested positive; and, of course, as you will recall also last year, one free-range White-tail deer in that area.

What I think the message I also want to make sure that the Commission takes home from this, is our Wildlife team has been working diligently to make sure that we're doing a very comprehensive assessment of the geographic extent and distribution of the spread of that disease in the state. And, obviously, with the passage of certain rules and requirements by the Commission, everything we can to localize the spread of that either through Department biologists and technicians that have collected and tested animals, private landowners and hunters that have submitted samples voluntarily or as a requirement of being in the containment zone, deer breeders that have submitted samples as part of their testing requirements or landowners that Triple T deer and are also required to test a certain number of deer.

We've tested 63,000 samples across the state in the last two years and so that is really a very significant effort and I think is helping to paint, again, a pretty good picture of what we think is going on around the state.

There are some new rules this year that the Animal Health Commission has promulgated and I want to make sure that the Commission is aware of that and this has to do with required testing of CWD-susceptible exotic wildlife on ranches. There's certain requirements that the Animal Health Commission has if you are in a containment zone, but even outside that zone -- whether you're a low-fence ranch, or a high-fenced ranch -- the landowner in those areas in which a hunter or himself or herself harvest a CWD-susceptible exotic -- a Sika deer, a Red deer, an elk, or some kind of an elk hybrid -- is required to test the first three mortalities off the ranch. And so they're required to test those animals for CWD, and then to report those findings back to the Animal Health Commission.

So that's an important new requirement that we want to make sure that hunters all across the state are aware of to ensure that they're in full compliance. Obviously, the value of that testing is important to us as we continue to get a handle on any potential carriers or vectors that are out there on the landscape.

With all of the discussion that we have had about Chronic Wasting Disease in the state -- again, going back well in advance of 2012, but certainly amplified since the discovery -- I do think it's fair to note, Chairman, that Texas is not the only state that is engaged in these kind of very important wildlife disease, surveillance, and monitoring and containment-related efforts. Got 41 states and seven provinces across the country that have passed some kind of regulations that prohibit in full or part the movement of hunter-harvested carcasses across state lines. Thirty-six states have some kind of a testing requirement in breeder pen related facilities to ensure that those animals are tested for disease. Twenty-six states have testing requirements in what are called "shooting preserve related facilities," high-fence facilities in which animals are either released or bred in those facilities, ultimately, for hunting and harvest-related purposes.

And then in the news recently, there's been a fair amount of attention for new requirements that have been put in place up in Michigan and Minnesota and Wisconsin, where additional containment zones, testing requirements, or quarantines were put in place. And a lot of discussion out west in Wyoming, which has largely been considered to take a very passive kind of monitoring approach to the CWD-related issue out there and very strong push in that state to help revisit their CWD Management Plan for the state and the actions that they're taking.

So, again, this is a challenge that Texas does not shoulder by itself; and our biologists continue to work very actively with their peers across the country so that we're bringing you the most contemporaneous scientific information and management information on what's working, what's new out there on this front, and what we can all do together to try to help limit and localize the spread. And that's important for all of us, no matter where we sit on the continuum of deer management.

Over lunch today in Executive Session, the Commission will have a closed-door discussion with our General Counsel about some of the litigation that the Department has been involved in. There have been two fairly important outcomes in recent court cases.

You will undoubtedly recall and know that the Department has been sued on two occasions over efforts to challenge the validity and authority of the comprehensive CWD rules that were passed to help govern testing requirements in breeder deer. A case brought against the Department by Mr. Peterson and Bailey not only challenged the authority of that, but also asserted that all deer that were possessed by landowners as part of a deer breeder permit, were the property of the landowner and not the State.

In that case, they also requested that the State be responsible -- and specifically, the Department -- for paying attorney fees in that case. I'm pleased to report from the Department perspective, that the Court has ruled against the Plaintiffs on all claims and denied those claims and also ordered that the Plaintiffs pay the Department $425,000 in attorney fees. The Plaintiffs have -- not surprisingly -- appealed that decision, and so it will be taken to Appeals Court.

In addition, we were sued by a game ranch and breeder facility in northern Medina County, RecordBuck Ranch, who sued the Department and the Animal Health Commission. Again, challenging the authority of both Agencies to implement and assert certain controls to prohibit the release of deer from a CWD-positive deer breeding related facility. And that Plaintiff was denied in court a temporary injunction that he had pursued to stop the Department and the Animal Health Commission from enforcing those regulations.

The landowner has subsequently entered into a herd plan with the Animal Health Commission and the Parks and Wildlife Department; and subsequent to that, I believe we have found two more CWD positives on that property.

So if you've got any more questions about those particular cases, Commissioners, I would just request that you hold those for Executive Session and we talk to counsel about that at that time.

So with that, Mr. Chairman, I'll stop there and see if you or the Commissioners have any questions about anything.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I have one question. Are we -- is there any progress being made on live CWD testing?

MR. SMITH: Is any progress being made on live CWD testing? You know, certainly we continue to allow the tonsil and rectal biopsy tests as part of the testing regimes that are permitted under that program. There's been some announcements about work going on right now to look at potential blood tests to see if that's a way to be able to detect CWD.

To my knowledge -- and I'm going to look at our team here -- those tests have not yet been authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but that -- a private group that's working on that, continues to pursue that. So I think there's a lot of interest in the science of that and seeing if some additional tests can be developed; but right now, I'm not sure of any other major new development. But let me look at our team to see if that's correct. That's correct, okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

Okay, Carter. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, just I glanced briefly through the Internal Investigation Report; and I just wanted to make sure that I'm reading that correctly. In looking at the summary of the various case breakdowns and case types that we had or we reviewed, we had zero cases in discrimination arena and zero in the sexual harassment arena?

MR. SMITH: That is -- that's my understanding that came through Internal Affairs specifically. Again, this report is specific to Internal Affairs.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. But that's zero for both of those areas?

MR. SMITH: I'm not sure that that's true across the entire Agency, Commissioner; that we may have had some complaints that came in through HR, and I'll be happy to get you some more information on that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it. Okay, thanks.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay, Carter. Work Session Item No. 2, Hurricane Harvey Update.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Again, for the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I want to share a few words about the impact of Hurricane Harvey and I guess just as a point of departure, Chairman and Commissioners, let me just simply acknowledge at first the huge human toll and economic impact that super storm has had on a big portion of our state from Corpus Christi to Beaumont and Houston and inland 50 or 60 miles and including on communities like Lufkin and areas around this area that were subsumed with lots of rain and some wind damage from it.

Many people in this room suffered damages themselves personally or had their families or friends or colleagues or employees affected and please know just how sensitive we are to the human cost of this storm.

What I'd like to do, Mr. Chairman, before talking a little bit about the various impacts from the storm -- including the Department's role in the initial response to the storm, talking about impacts to essentially the outdoor-based economy, impacts to Department facilities, but also the natural resources that we're charged with protecting -- I just want to show a very quick video that our Communications team put together that I think paints a very vivid and poignant picture of this storm. And so with that, let's turn on the video.

(Video played)

MR. SMITH: Obviously, our state is going to be recovering from the impacts of this storm for a long time in certain places; and that response and that recovery is going to include the Department. Obviously, we had somewhat of the inauspicious distinction in the last Commission meeting coming immediately in advance upon the arrival of Hurricane Harvey, as we all watched that closely go from what was thought to be essentially a tropical storm to a CAT 1 to what ultimately was a Category 4 hurricane that made landing that Friday evening around 10:00 o'clock there at San Jose and ultimately Rockport with 130-mile-per-hour winds.

Interestingly, that storm did exactly what the climatologists and meteorologists at the State Operation's Center told us it was going to do, that it was going to come in through that area and then it was going to perch over the state for several days in a very localized, stationary manner and dump copious amounts of rainfall. They used the term "record amounts" of rainfall on numerous occasions.

And unfortunately in this occasion, the meteorologists were absolutely right and then the storm did, again, exactly what they predicted it would do, which was go back out to the Gulf and then make ultimately come back in and make a second landfall on the upper coast and then go through East Texas and through the southeast.

The impacts on our economies and properties and communities were substantial; and these pictures, I think, are important just to help remind us of the struggles that are going on in communities up and down the coast. This is a picture, obviously, of the Rockport community; and you can see the impacts there on the harbors and the marinas there on both recreational and commercial fishing vessels. That's a dry storage barn there in Rockport that had literally hundreds of boats that was sandwiched with the voluminous amounts of wind and so forth that came through there. Again, pictures of typical, very catastrophic damage to homes there on the coast.

That's a shot of Port Arthur, obviously, that caught upwards of 50 inches of rain in that area and those communities on the upper coast that were submerged with water for a very extended period of time.

Suffice to say, the storm was costly and deadly in many, many ways. And I know that all of us in this room will never forget those very pronounced impacts. I would be remiss however, Commissioners, if I did not share with you the Department response during the event. Very proud of our team of first responders who worked very closely with Local and State and Federal officials to provide a helping hand I think when our State needed it most.

Just by way of background and as is customary when a storm is approaching the state, the Governor will oftentimes activate the State Operation's Center that's run by the Department of Emergency Management with the Governor. Our Law Enforcement Division is the official liaison for the Department in that Center where our team works side-by-side with agencies from across the state and federal government, local entities, as well as nonprofits like the Red Cross.

And our team's job is to make sure that we are responding to requests for assets, whether that's boats or helicopters or people or trucks or equipment or mobilizing people in places. Also, to help relay other needs of the Department and communities in which our officers and staff are seeing around the state and, obviously, playing an important role in briefing the Governor and his team on the response and the activities to date and that's a 24/7 job.

And I want to acknowledge and thank Grahame Jones and his team and just the extraordinary service there. They're very, very, very highly regarded there because of their quick and efficient response.

One of the things that we also do as an Agency that I think is important for the Commission to be mindful of, is that when some kind of a catastrophic event hits the state and impacts Department facilities, we set up our own Incident Command Center there at headquarters. This one very capably led by Robert Crossman with our State Park's team. And it's a multidivisional team that interfaces with all of our site managers out in the field to assess, "What are the damages? What are your needs? Are people in danger? Whether that's visitors at any of our places or employees. Are there power-related problems? Have people lost their homes, and we need to find places for them to live? Power supply, water supply. Do you need chainsaw crews to help with clearing fallen trees? And so forth.

It also helps to provide a comprehensive accumulation of damages to Parks and Wildlife management areas and offices around the state and our Incident Command team -- again, staff in all the Divisions -- just did a phenomenal job in Harvey and really appreciate their service.

I want to talk a little bit about the search-and-rescue related efforts and certainly all of our officers and staff that were involved in these efforts will be quick to say that there were a lot, a lot, a lot of other people that were involved in these efforts and there were. And so this is by no mean to exclude them by omission, but I want to tell you how deeply proud I am. Our game wardens -- not surprisingly -- those that are stationed along the coast from Corpus up to Beaumont and inland, were very, very busy working with the local Emergency Operation's Center and interfacing with County emergency operation infrastructure on search-and-rescue related efforts in which they just did a phenomenal job.

We also ended up deploying another 300, 350 game wardens around the state to help with that; and I'll talk about that in just a minute.

Also, very capably joined by roughly a hundred of our State Park Police who were responsible not only for the safety of evacuees inside our state parks -- and I'll talk about that in a minute -- but also going to places like Beaumont and Houston and Village Creek to help with emergency-based response and water-based rescues you can see here with their battery boats and airboats and trucks, etcetera; and I really appreciate the work of our State Park Police, who also play a critically important role as first responders.

The efforts weren't limited just to Law Enforcement. This is a shot of our Wildlife Division staff and they played an essential role particularly -- and, Commissioner Scott, you're certainly aware of this -- in the Beaumont and Port Arthur area at places like Double Oak and our Wildlife technicians and their very capable expert use of airboats, were able to get into communities that were, you know, under eight, ten, twelve feet of water. Made hundreds of water-based rescues and very proud of our Wildlife team on the upper coast at places like Port Arthur and the Murphree area and at Mad Island on the mid-coast and their contributions to the search-and-rescue related efforts.

Our Inland Fisheries team, which also has those important capabilities and expert navigational ability and equipment with shallow-draft boats and airboats, also played an important role. Our staff from in Brookland and College Station were involved in everything from body recovery to power line related surveys to welfare checks to, again, emergency-related rescues; and I'm proud of our Inland Fisheries staff that were also involved.

Meanwhile, staff from all of our Divisions -- Coastal Fisheries, Wildlife, State Parks, Inland Fisheries, Law Enforcement, Communication, Infrastructure -- were also taking care of families, taking care of folks in their neighborhoods, taking care of other employees that had lost their homes and had them significantly impacted.

Our game wardens continue to play a very leading role in the state that's sometimes a bit unsung in terms of the emergency response. And once again, they're the first to be called and they're the first to come and they're the last to go. And with the equipment with the swift-water boats and airboats and shallow-draft boats, they were able to make a huge difference in communities all up and down the coast. I can't tell you how many compliments I and many others have received about their efforts, whether that's local game wardens in Corpus Christi or Rockport or the game wardens that came in from other parts of the state to help Beaumont and Katy or to help with addressing communities that were flooding as the Colorado River was having its various surges and moving down the river in places like Columbus or in Wharton County.

Ultimately, they're responsible for over 12,000 water-based rescues; and I just want you to think about that in terms of the lives of our citizens that depended upon our colleagues to get them to safety.

This also provided an opportunity for us to have our inaugural use of our helicopter and our hoist-related system to help rescue citizens that were stranded in floodwaters, and so we were able to deploy our team of rescue swimmers and our helicopter hoist to rescue folks. The very first two people that were brought to safety by the use of that helicopter hoist happened to be two young twins who were in floodwaters with their grandfather and very proud of the work of our Aviation team, Colonel, on that front. Just absolutely remarkable.

While all of this is going on and you know the very consequential impact and our employees did not leave that unscathed. And so we had colleagues from Law Enforcement and other Divisions that were out doing rescues while, you know, their homes had flooded -- in some cases, lost altogether. And so I hope we never forget the public service commitment that comes from the men and women that work for you at the Department and the very considerable personal sacrifices that they make in these times of great need. They just represent us incredibly well.

You saw in the video that we had assistance from 250 game wardens, ultimately, from nine states that were part and parcel of the overall State response; and they were phenomenal partners. Game wardens from Louisiana were some of the first to arrive, knowing that that storm was going to be coming back their way. And we had upwards of 60 or 70 game wardens from Louisiana that were deployed.

Florida sent over 120 game wardens to come help us in Texas; and, again, the very next couple of weeks, they're dealing with their own storm. Game wardens from South Carolina and Arkansas and Indiana and Kansas and Oklahoma and as far away as Pennsylvania and Colorado came to help and what help they gave and we're awfully appreciative to our colleagues from other states in their rapid, rapid response.

As you know, our Department has a history with helping other states in their time of need. Katrina being the most obvious example; but certainly during the hurricane in Florida, we sent a contingent of, Colonel, I think -- what -- 60 or 70 game wardens there to help, as well. So we're proud of those cross-state efforts.

One of the other things that we do when the Governor declares a state disaster, is that we open up the State Park System to people who have lost their homes or can no longer safely be in their home because of some kind of damage of danger. Very proud of our State Parks team, Brent, and the over 8,000 people that evacuated from Hurricane Harvey and came to stay for free in state parks. This was a big deal, as you can imagine; and so state parks like Lake Corpus Christi, very close to the communities of Rockport and Tivoli and Austwell that were hit so hard by this storm, that provided a proximate place for them to stay for free while they tried to figure out how to get back to their homesites very, very, very safely. And that was, obviously, a really important part of the State response. The Governor mentioned that a number of times, and I know he was appreciative of the Department doing that.

This is a shot of some of the evacuees. On the left there, at McKinney Falls; the other one there at Cleburne in the group dining hall. You know, these kind of events, Commissioners, as y'all know, there's a fraction of these events in which it brings out the worst of people; but for the most part, it brings out the very best of people. And our Friends Group and State Park staff, like at Cleburne, would put on dinners and provide food for the evacuees and just really put our state and our communities and our Department's best foot forward.

We've talked a lot about the human-related impact; and, obviously, it's very close and personal to a number of folks on the dais and in this room as a whole. Clearly, we're also charged with monitoring and managing the response and impacts to natural resources around the state. Obviously, storms are not uncommon to the Texas coast and most organisms have evolved to adapt to the periodic hurricane that hits our coast and so, oftentimes, people have an expectation of a big Category 4 storm like this, causing catastrophic impacts to fish and wildlife and we rarely see that.

You know, the impacts tend to be more localized in terms of mortality. You know, we saw that in Ike with the huge storm surge and impacts to the alligator population or the floods in the bottomland in which fawns weren't able to get out and so we lost animals like that. Always going to have some wind-related mortality to birds, and we certainly saw that down on the mid-coast area; but, otherwise, most species really -- and certainly at a population level -- we don't see some kind of an enduring or lasting-related impact.

We'll talk a little bit about oysters because certainly there were some impacts there, but most of what we see are things like habitat-related impacts. This is a salt marsh there at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area. In this case, it wasn't so much storm surge bringing saltwater into the marshes. It was the voluminous amounts of rain and in some cases, the backwash of freshwater into areas that subsumed areas. This salt marsh was under freshwater submergence for a matter of weeks, and so several thousand acres of marsh that were killed. That, obviously, has an impact on that particular marsh stand and marsh community and the organisms that depend upon it.

One of the more pronounced impacts that we saw, had to do with the rookery islands along the coast. There are hundreds of these rookery islands, most of which are manmade spoil islands which provide important habitat for nesting migratory birds, everything from herons and egrets and ibis and pelicans to a wide variety of shorebirds and wading birds. Basically, every rookery island along the coast from the upper coast all the way down to the Upper Laguna Madre was completely submerged with water. And so what does that mean?

On one hand, it wiped out, you know, feral hogs and coyotes that had made their way over there and that's a good thing to have those carried off those islands. On the other hand, it also damaged a lot of the vertical structure. And by that, I mean the shrubby species that wading birds, the heronries -- again, everything from Great Blue Herons to Reddish Egrets and Tricolored Herons and Great Egrets and so forth use to nest. And so that loss of vertical structure on rookery islands is very significant.

And so one of the things we're doing that Robin has been a big part of helping to work on with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Clayton's team, is helping to fund work with some of our nonprofit partners to help replant woody structure to help provide some substrate for nesting.

Perhaps the even bigger impact though was the erosional-related impacts on those barrier islands. So the loss of shoreline and nesting substrate, and we saw that at rookery islands. This is Tern Island in which, you know, we lost, you know, as much as 40 feet of shoreline. That's a shot -- I'm sorry -- of Sundown Island there in Matagorda Bay. Very important rookery island there that, you know, lost upwards of 75 to 100 feet of that island and that's a big issue when we're talking about relatively small islands and impacts.

Zig Zag Island there in the Coastal Bend, you know, lost upwards of 75 feet of shoreline; and it's very expensive to come back in and re-nourish or rebuild those sandy-related habitats and get marsh restored and so forth to bring those islands together.

We spent a lot of time talking with the Commission about oysters over the last couple of years. Probably the last thing that our oyster fishery needed was being subsumed with lots of freshwater. Oysters have a certain tolerance zone of salinity and any time water in the bay waters get down to salinities below two parts per thousand for a month at a time with high temperatures, that means problems for oysters. Which, as you know, are already under a lot of stress.

You can see these oysters right here. You may think they're healthy; but you can see how those shells are open and that tells you that those are dead oysters, not live oysters. Where we particularly took it on the chin was over in East Bay and Galveston Bay, where we had lost, Robin, you know, anywhere 50 to 100 percent of those oyster reefs in that area west of the Ship Channel; over a 60 percent mortality.

If there was a saving grace with all of that freshwater pouring into Galveston Bay, it was that the middle of the bay still retained a fair amount of salinity; and so we didn't see the oyster-related mortality that we thought we might see. Our leaseholders that lease submerged bottomland in Galveston Bay, as all of you are acutely aware of, reported losses of anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent of their stocks. And, you know, one of -- again, the important elements that our Coastal Fisheries team is doing literally within days after this storm, is back out in the bay sampling the fisheries, the oysters, and monitoring the response. Again, very, very impressive.

So what were the impacts to the kind of outdoor recreation-related participation and economy along the coast?

And, you know, just as a reminder, upwards of 45 percent of our recreational licenses that we sell on an annual basis, come from counties within the disaster zone, 45 percent. Harris County alone accounts for about 12 to 13 percent of those sales. 99 percent of the commercial landings of seafood occur within that disaster zone. 75 percent of the recreational saltwater landings occur within that disaster zone. So the impacts, obviously, on outdoor-related participation -- and certainly, our line of work -- was significant. And probably no surprise to any of you that immediately following the storm, nobody was buying a hunting and fishing a license around Labor Day weekend; and that had a big impact when you think about the volume of outdoorsmen from Corpus Christi to Beaumont and the inland to, you know, places like La Grange or Lufkin and Beaumont and so forth.

We had considerable amount of damage to all of the recreational-related infrastructure on the mid-coast. Again, you see this statistic, roughly 15 percent of the boat ramps damaged in some form or fashion; but that doesn't begin to tell the story in terms of the damages to marinas and gas stations and hotels and restaurants and residences where folks that work in the commercial and recreational fishing and hunting and outdoor industry-related communities reside.

Not surprisingly, we had to cancel a number of our public hunts around the state. Eleven hunts overall.

Clayton, I believe most of those were teal hunts and alligator hunts and these were areas that were submerged with water and we couldn't get folks in safely and really to be fair in those parts of the state and the coast, folks really weren't thinking about teal hunting or alligator hunting at the time.

I think you'll see some statistics probably at some point about alligator harvest numbers being appreciably lower. And, again, I think that's just an artifact of hunters really not going out because they were preoccupied with a whole lot more important things. It doesn't suggest that there was some big, large mortality-related event.

One of the things that our Coastal Fisheries team is doing right now with NOAA is assessing damages to commercial fishing related industries. Again, that part of the coast that was hit, particularly in the mid-coast area from let's say Corpus Christi Bay all the way up through Matagorda Bay, was hit pretty hard. You know, every single wholesale, commercial, fish dealer, bay and bait dealer in that Rockport area sustained some kind of damage; and, you know, almost 40 percent of those dealers still aren't yet back in business.

We'll have some better numbers on this, Robin, I assume in the ensuing months as we work with commercial fishing industry to pursue some kind of assistance through NOAA and Congressional appropriations; but suffice to say on that mid-coast, it was by no means inconsequential.

Parks and Wildlife has a big footprint along the coast. We own and steward a lot of properties. We have employees that live, obviously, in those coastal areas. As you saw from the video, we had ultimately upwards of a hundred colleagues who either lost their homes in the storm or had them damaged.

I want to thank Pamela Wheeler, our HR Director -- I saw Pamela here -- Ann Bright, the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, our regional leadership division directors worked hard to support those colleagues who lost a lot. We ended up having -- and I think the video that you saw, suggested that there were 44 facilities that were impacted in some form or fashion and there were; but really 30 that sustained kind of meaningful damage: Sixteen state parks, five of our wildlife management areas, eight coastal fisheries offices, and a big regional office in Rockport that was hit hard, our Coastal Fisheries office in Dickinson that also took on a fair amount of water.

And the damage is what you would expect on the mid-coast: Buildings that were blown down; roofs that were blown off; sides of buildings that were blown off; huge amounts of debris pile; roads that were absolutely ripped up and made, you know, impassable at places like Goose Island or Mustang Island. You move up the coast, we had lots of flooding at places like Stephen F. Austin or Brazos Bend or the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area or Mad Island or the Justin Hurst.

Right now, we are -- or I say, "right now." Shortly after the storm at the request of the Governor, we did some very -- what I would call "preliminary" assessments of infrastructure damage. We bracketed that at somewhere between 30 and 50 million dollars. I'll stress those are preliminary estimates, and I wouldn't get too hung up on those; but it was not inconsequential.

We also, not surprisingly given that we have, as you know, a big peak of hunting license sales the first couple of weeks before the opening weekend of deer season. We see another peak right before deer season, gun/deer season opening this weekend. And then we see a lesser peak over the holidays and really by the 1st of January -- I'm looking for Mike Jensen, wherever Mike is -- you know, we're able to account for really three-quarters of our license-related revenue and then we're depending upon fishermen to kind of take us through the rest of the year.

Not surprisingly after the storm, you know, we were, you know, right off the bat 20 percent behind where we were last year with the sale of recreational licenses. We've closed that gap some. We're between 9 and 10 percent behind where we were last year. I think Mike and all of us still harbor hopes that by January, we will have caught up more. That was certainly the trend that we saw in Ike; but at our January Commission Meeting, that will depict a much more accurate picture of where we're likely to stand with respect to our revenue streams not only on the hunting and fishing licenses, but also our state parks. Many of which were closed. Some of which are still closed. Some were kept open just for evacuees for as long as a month. And so we're behind in that area by upwards of $2 million.

Also important to point out that as part of our initial response to this event, you know, the Department expended around 13 to 16 million dollars. Those, obviously, were not budgeted funds; and that will be something that we hope will all be relatively reimbursable by FEMA. That doesn't happen overnight. And so, again, from a budgetary perspective, I just want to make sure that the Commission is attuned to these kind of economic issues.

Now, here's some shots of our facilities; and, you know, they look a lot like people's homes and businesses across the coast. Here are the kind structural-related damages at some of our state parks: Our Matagorda Wildlife Management Area, our Rockport Regional Office. You can see the fairly extensive damage there to those buildings. Again, a shot of a couple of our wildlife management areas at Guadalupe Delta and the Murphree and Mustang Island State Park there. Obviously, not a pretty sight. We're not going to be able to salvage those kind of facilities.

Erosion is a big and, oftentimes, overlooked impact -- not in this Department, but elsewhere. That rain had a huge impact on our roads at places like Mustang Island and Goose Island, that washed away critical repairs and, Jessica, out of that damage assessment, we're estimating that 7, 8, 9 million dollars or so of that is road-related damage and we'll have to work with TxDOT to try to address that.

But also you see damage to our levees. These are our Wildlife biologists and technicians on the wildlife management areas that are responsible for managing these various extensive wetland units. Levees and road systems damaged extensively. You can see that hillside there at the John D. Parker Fish Hatchery, which is just a disaster over there. Again, more examples of that kind of road erosion/levee erosion that we're going to have to come back in and fix to some degree.

We talked about the flooding, particularly in a lot of these river- and lake-based parks. Inauspicious distinction of record floods there at Brazos Bend where the river crested at almost 53 feet above sea level. Again, shots of other places like Village Creek State Park and the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area.

That's the Dickinson Marine Lab. Robin, we have -- what -- 40, 45 colleagues that are based there. It is elevated; but it took on water, and we're still struggling with some of that. A shot of our Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area there along the mid-coast. Again, completely underwater.

I would be also very remiss if we didn't talk a little bit about the immediate response from our staff out in the field, which was just absolutely remarkable. I want you to know that all of our sites have emergency response plans, and so those get activated upon an impending threat of a storm. And, you know, unlike so many other businesses that maybe do things to prepare for a storm, our staff are doing all of that; but they're also responsible -- particularly in these coastal communities -- of moving huge amounts of heavy equipment and vehicles. So tractors and dozers and skid-steers and shredders and trucks and vehicles and lawnmowers, etcetera, inland to safe ground. And the amount of effort when you have a state park or a wildlife management area or a fish hatchery with boats and trailers and so forth, is huge; and they did a masterful job.

And they also -- all the king's horses and all the queen's men couldn't keep our colleagues from coming back to their sites that they're responsible for managing for the State right after the storm and so amazing to be on the coast within days of the storm and seeing colleagues who had lost their own homes and had to take care of their families, but were back on site helping to deal with the debris and the flood and the clean-up. Just absolutely remarkable.

That Incident Command team that I mentioned at headquarters, responsible also for mobilizing work teams to come from other sites to help. You know, sending chainsaw crews to places like Goliad to help a team of three or four folks that are dealing with, you know, huge amounts of damage there.

You know, obviously, the question that is undoubtedly on your mind -- it has certainly been on mine and the Department's mind at the staff level -- is "How in the world are we going to pay for all this?"

And, you know, I have to tell you, it doesn't come at a good time. You know, we've got three-quarters of a billion dollars of deferred maintenance across our facilities and infrastructure, water/wastewater utility systems that are in very, very bad shape and in some cases, at a real tipping point. The interesting converse of that is state park visitation is still off the charts. We've been growing by double digits over the last four years and so notwithstanding the fact that we have all these damaged parks and closed parks, the parks that are still open are bearing huge amounts of visitors. So much so, that we've had to put capacity thresholds in at places like Enchanted Rock or Pedernales Falls; but the strain on that infrastructure -- and this is really important -- is at a very significant point here, and we have got to figure out a way to work successfully with the Legislature to help continue investing in that infrastructure.

Meanwhile, you know, we're still trying to recover from the floods of '15 and '16. You know, this Commission will recall authorizing us to go forward with two capital infrastructure related requests to the Legislature, a request for $49 million to address the flood-related damages at ten sites across our wildlife management areas and fish hatcheries and a number of parks, plus an $86 million request to keep up the deferred maintenance plans and work that's been going on across the system.

What we were appropriated in the current biennium was $66 million, which, you know, certainly is a large number. I want to acknowledge that. 49 million of that was presumed to go to address those ten sites that suffered damage from the floods. Places like Lake Ray Roberts or Somerville or Bastrop State Park. There was roughly 17 million split equally between our -- roughly equally -- between our Fund 9 and our State Parks Division. Much of those Fund 9 dollars going to address hatchery-related investments; but the roughly $8 million in money that some might perceive as fungible to address capital construction and repair needs across the state park system -- which, as you know, is a tiny amount -- really has to pay with all of the infrastructure costs, associated team costs associated with monitoring and managing those. Also, with well over $80 million in construction contracts right now, we're going to have scope changes. We're going to have emergency-related things that we're going to have to pay for. So those funds are spoken for.

In the Department, we don't have a pot of contingency money. There's no pot of gold off to the side that we can pull from to address these catastrophic-related events. So we had a hearing last week with the Facilities Joint Oversight Committee, chaired by Kelly Hancock out of Fort Worth; and we talked about having to step back and essentially re-prioritize how we were going to make investments to address these needs.

We've already re-purposed almost $3 million of the previous flood-related infrastructure dollars to address the immediate needs from Harvey. We're going to probably have to re-purpose some more of that for engineering and design work and additional stabilization-related efforts; but also, it's -- we need to take note of the fact that particularly in some of these parks that are in flood-control related settings in which we have infrastructure that has a tendency to go underwater every other year, building a lot of vertical infrastructure in those Corps of Engineers' leased properties and other facilities, doesn't make any sense at all; and we need to revisit how we're thinking about our infrastructure investments and management of those sites. And so I want to foreshadow our thought process in that regard and really prioritize what are the human health, the safety, the public safety related needs that we're going to have to address and we're working on a revised schedule and we'll report on that, Commission, as soon as that is finalized.

Obviously, a lot of discussion across the state and elsewhere about opportunities to capture reimbursements or funds from FEMA. You can see the areas that are in crosshatch there that are potentially eligible for FEMA-related reimbursement. FEMA is a reimbursement-related program. The parameters for how that works vary from storm to storm. Getting reimbursed for the emergency response/search and rescue is fairly straightforward; and I'm confident that the Department has a very, very high probability of getting reimbursed for most, if not all, of that roughly 13 to 16 million-dollar initial expenditure on search and rescue.

Pursuing FEMA dollars for replacement of damaged capital facilities is a whole different subject; and for better or for worse, we have a lot of experience with that with other storms, which also means that we've learned a lot of lessons. And so just because a property may be eligible for FEMA reimbursement, by no means suggests that we should pursue it because the amounts of reimbursement vary considerably. We can't match any federal dollars with federal dollars.

So funds like our Pittman-Robertson or our Dingell-Johnson funds are ineligible to match. The amount of reimbursement will vary if you're in a flood-prone area, particularly a V Zone; whether or not you've got flood insurance; whether or not you're willing to rebuild your facility exactly like it was built before, even if that was in the 30s or 40s; whether or not you're willing to carry flood insurance in the future, and then all of the attendant requirements that go with that.

So I guess here's the message that I want to share with the Commissioner: I don't think we ought to look at FEMA as golden goose here on this related response, and I would expect that really there's probably just a modicum of properties that will ultimately end up pursuing any reimbursement-related status; but we'll certainly keep you posted as we go.

Last but not least, it's just, you know, this was just kind of maybe the symbol of resilience for the Department. You know, the big tree there at Goose Island State Park, it's been around for a little over a thousand years or so, Brent; and, you know, it's still standing and has some leaves on it. And that tree has weathered a lot of storms and so too has this Department and not only will we, but so will the coastal communities and the rest of Texas that were impacted -- so -- in such large ways by this storm.

With that, Mr. Chairman and Commission, I know that was a long presentation; but, obviously, this is a big, heavy event. It has a significant impact on our budgets and our operations and our programs right now.

I want to thank all of the senior leadership that have been so involved, all of our staff out in the field who have just done herculean efforts to take care of these facilities and sites. They make you proud every single day to see what they're going through and enduring personally and professionally and the seriousness by which they take their stewardship of these facilities. It's an extraordinary act of public service, and forgive me for being very proud of them.

So with that, Mr. Chairman, I'll stop; and see if you or the Commissioners have any questions.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, just an extraordinary effort. Congratulations to everybody. It does make you proud.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any comments or questions?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I would just like to comment that after we got the helicopter and our pilots were trained on it and whatnot, a couple of us took a trip -- Margaret, I believe you took a trip in the helicopter, as well as I did. And I asked them what they had been doing and this was two years ago, if I'm not mistaken, and they has been training for the cable rescue.

MR. SMITH: The hoist, yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: The hoist rescue, they had been training for that and they were talking about how that training was going. And then now two years later, that training came in -- was not just handy, it was needed.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And so I don't mean to just single out those pilots because, as you've seen, a lot of people did a lot of work at a great sacrifice; but it is an indicator of what this Department has done to prepare the response that was given. That didn't just happen. They didn't just wake up the day after Harvey struck and say, "Hey, let's go get a helicopter and go rescue people," or "Let's go get a boat," or "Let's get the trucks together."

Our people are trained to do this, and so that's why the response was what it was. As a result 12,000 people's lives were saved they were able to get to them because our people put in the effort beforehand to do what they did when were needed. So these other issues of financial and whatnot, we'll figure that out; but kudos to our people who train and study and figure out best practices to help people when they need them.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Well said, Commissioner. Thank you. Yeah, it pays off. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Carter, we received a letter from Chairman Friedkin and Chairman Bass on -- or through the Foundation. We were pulling together some funds to help some of the Parks and Wildlife employees that were directly impacted.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER LEE: I know it's a little off topic, and it's through the Foundation; but could you give us a little update on that because I know it was important, myself and others, you know, wanted to be supportive of it, but can you give us an update?

MR. SMITH: You bet. And thank you, Commissioner. I -- really, I can't thank you enough for the show of support and just that generosity of spirit that we saw from the Commission and others that were, you know, deeply concerned about the welfare of Departmental employees that had suffered so much.

Dr. Wheeler has really been our point person on that. I think -- Pamela, just help me with some of the statistics here -- ultimately, we had over 100 colleagues that were --

DR. WHEELER: 120.

MR. SMITH: 120?

DR. WHEELER: And $297,000.

MR. SMITH: So almost $300,000 that was raised to help the men and women of the Department that were in such dire straits and 120 that that affected. It's fabulous.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Correct me if I'm wrong, but 100 percent of the dollars that went into the Foundation went out or are slated to go out, which was --

MR. SMITH: 100 percent.

COMMISSIONER LEE: -- remarkable. Fantastic.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that, Commissioner. You're right. You never have to worry about those dollars and where they're going. They're going right where they should. Thank you for -- thank you for bringing that and, again, thank you for the generosity of spirit and support there. I can't tell you what that means to our folks in the field and many of us saw that personally for colleagues that lost their homes and had families to take care of and were, you know, many weeks away, if not months, from any kind of relief and to be able to have some kind of assistance there was huge. Thank you. Wonderful spirit of this Department and the Commission and the Foundation.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Extraordinary.

Any other questions or comments?

Okay. Thank you, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Chairman, Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And next item is Work Session Item No. 3, Year End Revenues and Cash Balance Projections. Mr. Mike Jensen, please make your presentation.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Mike Jensen, Division Director for Financial Resources. I have a presentation -- just, it's more of a briefing -- to look backwards and look what the hurricane did to the first month of revenues and then to give you an update from a presentation we had in January of 2016, where we talked about our concerns about the dwindling cash balances for General Fund 9. So that's what we're going to do this morning. We're going to look back at the year end, how we faired. We're going to look at September revenues, and then we'll talk about the cash balance concerns.

We're going to start with state park revenues. This first slide kind of shows you that we have an upward trend. You can see the average year-to-year growth over the five years is approximately 7 percent. It's about 3.24 million. The average over the -- since about 2015, is closer to 9 percent, about 4.4 million. During the same time, visitation pretty much mirrors the revenue streams. Visitation over five years is about 4 percent; but over the last two years, it's closer to 9 to 10 percent.

You're familiar with this slide. This shows you the cycle of state park revenues. You can see the first six months is about 37 percent of the revenue. Last six months, 63 percent; the peak being in the spring break and the summer months. 2017 displaces 2016 as the best year of record for state park revenues. Best months are July, March, and June. Combined, they're about 34 percent of the revenue stream.

The next slide shows the variances for the different types of categories that we monitor. You can see we ended last fiscal year about 9 percent ahead revenue-wise. That's about 4.57 million. All the categories exceeded prior year's performance; and the visitation for the same period was close to 10 percent, about 9.7 percent.

The boat revenue has a cyclical trend similar with state parks, but it's much more flat with respect to year-to-year comparison. Over five years, it only has increased approximately half a percentage point per year, about $108,000. Since 2015, because we're including '16, which is the best year of record, that's about 1 and a half percent, about $300,000 per year. If you'll look at this cycle, the first six months account for 29 percent of the revenue; the last six months, about 71 percent.

2016 is best year of record. The best months are typically June, May, and July. This next slide shows the variance between the sales tax, titles, and registrations. You can see that we were behind 2016 because it is the best year of record. We were down by 1.2 percent, 281,000. The volumes -- when you look at those -- registrations were down 2 and a half percent, titles were actually up 2.1 percent. However, you have to factor in that registrations really -- registration fees account for about two-thirds of all the boat fee revenue. And boat revenue is considered a Fund 9 funding stream.

The larger funding stream that contributes to the Game, Fish, and Water Safety are license sales. You can look over these five years. The five-year trend from '12 to license year '17 is about growth of 2.8 percent per license year, about 2.8 million per year; but if you look at the last two or three years, it's closer to 3.3 to 3.5 percent, which is about 3.4 million per year.

As you can see, this very different than the state park revenue; and the boat revenue is front-loaded very heavily because of -- by design. We have the license year that starts August 15th of each year and, typically, we have about 75 percent of the revenue through the first six months; but just the first month itself accounts for 41 percent of the total annual revenues. The best months are September, November, and October. The peak periods for combination and hunting, of course, is September through December; fishing, September and then it's March through July.

This slide will show you the variances for what we track at a higher level. You can see we ended the year 3 percent ahead. That's about 3.1 million. If you combine resident and nonresident fishing, we're ahead 5.8 percent, about 2.2 million. Combined hunting of resident/nonresident, we're actually ahead half a percentage point. It's about 112,000. Culmination of licenses, we're ahead 1.2 percent, about $443,000.

Now, let's look at what happened with the impact of Hurricane Harvey. Carter hit upon that already. You can look at this chart for state park. This only shows the first month and you have to remember that in the prior fiscal year, the revenues for September of last year were probably the highest they'd ever been. So we're about 17 percent behind, 687,000 just the first month. Most of that is attributed to Harvey.

Boat revenue, again, we're behind about 8 percent. We're behind about 119,000. Again, boat revenue, that's a slow month. The peak periods for boat revenue are going to be the spring and the summer.

The biggest concern right now is the license revenue. It's approximately 10 percent behind. It's anywhere from 4.75 million to 5 million. As of today's date, it's roughly about 5 million. I'm not focusing so much on the percentage because as the years -- as the year goes by, if it hangs at 5 million, by year's end that will be about a 4 and a half percent reduction as opposed to the prior license year.

The real reason I'm here today it to give you an update from the January 2016 cash balances projections because we were concerned at how Fund 9 looked. Before I start this projection, I'll give you a spoiler. I mean, Fund 9 -- I'll think back to last night. My daughter was a candy corn witch. Think of Fund 9 as looking like a candy corn. It has three pieces to it. The general piece is the white tip of the candy corn and that's the most flexible piece and that's what always gets spent first because it has less restrictions on it. If we go to the end of 2019, we're projecting cash balances of about 12 and a half million. So things are much more improved when we look back two years and we were talking to you in January 2016. We were looking at going negative. So we had to take some measures to prevent the Department from going negative. The State Park Account 64 is projected to have a balance of 49 million at that time.

Let's dive into Fund 9. I think y'all are all aware of this. I mentioned the candy corn because it really has three components to it. We have the general unrestricted portions of Fund 9, which are the most flexible Game, Fish, and Water Safety moneys from license sales, from boat revenues. Actually, we track 72 different revenue codes from the Comptroller's Office. So we don't report to you on every 70 -- each one of those. But it includes oil and gas royalties, other types of leases; but it's primarily license fees and boat fees.

And these three components I mentioned, it's general, it's dedicated. This slide here shows you the four top stamps that we have. We also have some other subaccounts that are dedicated, related to sand and gravel and some other buy-back programs. And then "Other" is made up of donations, appropriated receipts, interagency contracts. From time to time, we have surplus property and equipment that gets sold and those revenues would come back and we'd put that into "Other."

The next slide is going to show you the balances as of the end of 2017, or how we started this current fiscal year. You can see that the unrestricted piece of general, it's about 15 percent of the current cash balances. The dedicated piece is the stamps, are about 75 percent. The other component's about 10 percent. Again, on this chart there are more than just these five categories here. There are others; but there's another 2.4 million in other sub-dedicated accounts from buy-back programs, oyster shell recovery, sand and gravel. This just gives you an idea of what the Legislature sees.

Typically, when the Legislative Budget Board -- we call them the LBB -- when they provide information to our House and Senate members, they tend to focus on the bottom line. They consider that amount an A Fund, which looks pretty healthy of 62.6 million. However, most of our operations -- the flexibility that we require for the General Fund 9 -- you can see 9.2 million is really not a great amount when you compare it to the total bottom line.

So when we're testifying and presenting information to the House and Senate members, we have to draw the distinction between general, the dedicated, and the other, so that they don't appropriate us -- give us appropriation authority and expecting us to use stamp funds for things that we are restricted, we cannot use them for.

This is a similar graph of what we showed you in January of 2016, and this is kind of a historical trend of what happened. If you go back to 2008 and '09, we were concerned about cash balances at that time. So the Department made some concerted efforts to shift to stamps funding whenever possible. When you get to about fiscal year '10, the Department had an exceptional item we took to the Legislature to increase fees and we increased fees by approximately 5 percent; but we also increased expenditures by 5 percent because those fees went back to an equity pay effort for a large number of positions all across the Department.

A big note here is what happened around fiscal year 2011. That was when we had some Legislative budget cuts. For example, '11, we had a 5 percent reduction. The biennium of fiscal year '12 and '13, we reductions in force. We had additional reductions. During periods of reduction, the Legislature is not permitting you to spend your cash. So what happens during those times is the cash balances are going to grow because your authority to spend is lower than what you're actually collecting over time.

What happened in about the calendar year 2013, when the Legislature convened to do appropriations for '14 and '15, we had requested restoration; and they really restored, and they went above the restoration. If you'll recall, they gave us the 5.2 million for a helicopter. They had some targeted increases for Law Enforcement, across-the-board salary for everybody else. There were some employee benefits and retiree benefits that were increased. So, basically, during that period of '14 and '15, the Legislature appropriated another approximately 13 million over the biennium to cover these types of salary expenses and benefits; but we did not increase any revenue streams at that point in time.

And that 13 million-dollar increase in expenses continued in '16 and '17. So you can see that the slope of this line, it concerned us greatly with respect to the white tip of that candy corn because the unrestricted -- the general piece of Fund 9 was going to be spent down to zero if we didn't take some action.

So we were on a path to exhausting the fund balances, and the next slide is going to show you some things that actually help the outlook. I'm going to go ahead and put all the bullet points on here.

The first bullet point on here, you see increased revenue. Our original estimates was conservative. We typically do our estimates for the Legislative Budget Board and the Legislature on a conservative basis. We had estimated a growth of approximately 1 and a half percent. Actual growth levels, as I mentioned in earlier slides, was closer to about 3.4 to 4 percent; and that is inclusive of all the boat revenues and the license revenues and all the oil and gas royalties and lease revenues. So that first bullet, we really had a positive impact of about 4 million, 3.9 million.

The next bullet, the decreased expenditures and transfers. We took some steps and some measures to relieve the burden by having a hiring chill on all positions that were funded with Fund 9 in the Department during that period, and that relieved the burden of approximately 1.9 million. The Governor's Office in January of last -- of this year through August, had a hiring freeze; and that had another benefit that relieved the burden on Fund 9 probably approximately 3 to 4 million. And the benefits, the four adjustments that we do, we trued that one up; and that was positive. It relieved the burden by about 1.6 million on benefits.

Even with that being said, being conservative and things working out better, the slope was still projected to approach zero pretty quickly. So we had to take some other measures when we prepared the Legislative Appropriations Request going into the last Legislative Session. And the next slide -- you can tell I didn't do these slides because I would have had them all showing.

We prepared the Legislative Appropriations Request. I want to give Julie Horsley credit because when she monitors those 72 revenue object of expense, it's a lot of detail work. She and her staff do a great job. I'm very confident in their work.

We had to do a method of finance swap, and we also had a 4 percent reduction schedule where the Agency -- the Legislature actually took 23 million from that schedule. The method of finance swap relieved the burden on General Fund 9 by 13.4 million. And from the 23 million of 4 percent reduction schedule, we had another 3.3 million that eased the burden on General Fund 9. So combined, that was 16.7 million relief to General Fund 9, which significantly improved things.

Conference Committee made some adjustments. They had some provisions in Article 9, which was contract cost containment. They had some data consolidation provisions and some other provisions. It was roughly 836,000, which relieved the burden on Fund 9.

We had some Legislative initiatives that were pursued that were adopted. I think you're familiar House Bill 448. That made the 4 percent transfer from boat fee revenues monthly permissive. And in August, we asked the Commission to grant authorization to retain all boat fees in Fund 9; and that was granted in August. So that is, basically, 3 million per year. Over the biennium, that's another 6 million-dollar relief that we're not burdening General Fund 9 this biennium.

We had Senate Bill 573. Staff and Inland Fisheries worked closely with the Legislators to make some adjustments to the freshwater stamp, which opened up the permissible uses for a variety of things and that will relieve the burden on General Fund 9 by approximately 1.2 million this biennium. And as we do our projections and forecasting, Julie and her team have estimated and projected -- they're assuming a one-time decline of about 10.6 million in overall Fund 9 during this fiscal year related to Harvey.

We can see up front that license sales accounts for probably about 5 million of that. We're assuming another 5 percent decline over all Fund 9 streams through the remainder of the year. I think that's very conservative. I don't think it's going to be that bad; but at the same time, we can sustain that level. We're assuming that when we approach the next fiscal year, the second fiscal year of this biennium, that we will return to the performance of fiscal year 2017 and license year 2017 because that's typically been what happens after natural disasters. We saw that happen after the fires. We saw that happen after the prior hurricane, where we restored to the prior year.

The next slide, this one shows the positive impact to General Fund 9. You can see starting in '14 and '15, the appropriation authority was reinstated. The Legislature authorized additional changes, expenses; outpaced revenues significantly. Then you can see the figures in '16 and '17, show that expenditures continue to exceed revenues by an average of 5 and a half million each year; but because of the adjustments to the LAR we just mentioned, the method finance swaps, the relief that we got from the 4 percent schedule and the other decisions that were made with the legislation, we're seeing a positive swing in fiscal year '19. The gap between revenues and expenses becomes smaller; and in '19, we actually see that appropriated levels -- barring any other unforeseen catastrophic events, we expect revenues to outpace expenditures.

The next slide's going to show the projection for General Fund 9 through the end of this biennium. So you can see how it dips. The reason it's dipping like that is we're accounting for the impact, the adverse impact, of Hurricane Harvey. I mentioned we built in -- we're assuming we're going to be short in the General Fund 9 stream. And this chart is only showing you the tip of that candy corn. It's not showing you the impact on stamp balances. It's not showing you the impact on "Other." It's just showing you the impact on General Fund 9.

So you can see for 2018, the projection reflects a 7.1 ending balance; but for 2019, we're projecting a balance of 12 and a half million, which is pretty favorable, all things considered. We are very fortunate that the Legislature accepted our method of finance swaps and that we got the legislation -- that we got sponsors and we worked with them and those bills were passed.

So these four bullet points kind of summarize the current outlook. The bottom line is barring any catastrophic events, we have enough cash to get through this biennium and we're projecting a 12 and a half million General Fund 9 balance at the end of this biennium. The growth -- the growth is going to continue, but it's going to slow each year mainly because of expected increases and ERS shared cash. They do take some of our cash to pay for benefits for retirees who retired from the Department.

At current projections, we expect a growth of about 4 million in 2020. This is going to slow down to about 2.7 million in 2021, and it's probably going to be about that level or lower moving forward. And this is all under one very important assumption. We're assuming the appropriational levels of '18 and '19. So if the Legislature elects to increase our appropriation levels, then we'll have to come back to the table and figure out what we can do because really 12 and a half million is not a huge reservoir to satisfy exceptional request items. Although, we do have dedicated stamp balances that are available; and we've tried in the past to access those. We'll try again as we approach this next Legislature.

We have opportunities with unclaimed refund and motor boat fuel tax, which is considered a Fund 1 source; and we also have the sporting goods sales tax opportunity.

And with that, I'm going to have one slide on the State Parks Account's cash balance projections. Unlike the license revenue, the Fund 9 revenue, boat revenue, there are only 54 revenue objects that we track for this one. The primary two components are state park fees and transfers in from sporting goods sales tax. We've had significant growth in state park entrance fees. We've mentioned that, and you saw that in the earlier slides. The last two years, visitation has been about 10 percent above prior years and revenues have been up about 10 percent, as well.

The estimate that we have in 64 is also factoring in a 4 percent decline in general state park revenue associated to Hurricane Harvey, and we're also factoring in a discontinuation of 3 million per year from boat fees. Prior to this fiscal year, we would transfer on a monthly basis 15 percent of all boat fees that were collected. We're not doing that this year. Those fees are going to be retained in Fund 9.

And we had pretty healthy balances going into the last Legislative Session -- this last bullet on there and sub-bullets -- no additional authorities approved by the Legislature. We did have exceptional items requesting funding from the State Parks Account. Unfortunately, it wasn't granted to us this time; but our projection is going to be 49 million. So hopefully, we'll be able to have a more compelling plea for some specific state park type funding initiatives, as we develop the Legislative Appropriations Request in this upcoming summer.

So, basically, things are much better from the standpoint of General Fund 9; and things have been pretty good in the last couple years on the State Parks Account 64. That's all I have for this update today. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try and answer them.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions? Yeah.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Remind me of the dedicated up to 94 percent of the sporting good sales tax, what amount was appropriated?

MR. JENSEN: I have that in my other -- I can get that to you.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: If you'll just --

MR. JENSEN: I can get that to you. It's --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Mike, wasn't it roughly 88 percent or so?

MR. JENSEN: We got about 87 and a half percent.

MR. SMITH: 87 and a half, 88 percent, yeah, I think that's more or less.

MR. JENSEN: The BRE was, like, 331 million and I'm probably wrong on the figure; but it was -- I think we got 87 and a half percent of that, of our 94 percent of that. So you've got to take 94 percent to 331, which I think is 313 or 311; and then we got 87 and a half percent of that. But I can get you the exact figure. I just don't have it here.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So we didn't get all that could have been dedicated to us in the appropriation.

MR. JENSEN: We did not, but we did pretty good. If you look to historic --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Got closer. We got closer.

MR. JENSEN: I mean, the last biennium, they did 100 percent; but that's the first biennium they ever did that. If you look at prior years, it was closer to anywhere from 39 percent to 52, 55 percent. So we're going to go for broke again. We're going to try to get 100 percent; but at the same time, 87 and a half percent was very good.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Better than previous bienniums before the last one.

MR. JENSEN: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay. Thank you very much, Mike, for your presentation.

We'll move on to Work Session Item No. 4 -- if -- Nonprofit Partner Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. And does any Commissioner have any questions on No. 4?

If not, I will place the Nonprofit Partner Rules on Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 5 -- Carter, do we want to go over that or...

MR. SMITH: I'm sorry. I missed the question.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No. 5, the Coastal Management Area Classification, it's been discussed.

MR. SMITH: You know, we talked about that before, Chairman. I really defer to the Commission. I don't remember a lot of questions about that. I think probably the discussion tomorrow should suffice.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That would be --

MR. SMITH: Does that work for you?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- okay.

If no Commissioner has any further questions, we'll place Coastal Management Area Classification and Conduct Rules on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 6, Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation Preview. Ken, please make your presentation.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name's -- my name is Ken Kurzawski with Inland Fisheries Division, and I'm here today to preview some of the changes we're considering to the freshwater fishing regulations.

This year, for this regulatory cycle, we're focusing on Largemouth bass regulations. Just to go over a little bit of our goals in Largemouth management, we manage for diverse opportunities in the state. There's really no such thing as an average angler. They have diverse desires; and we're blessed in Texas to have a diverse resource that we can manage from reservoirs that provide a lot of productivity to large sizes, small sizes. And we look at that and we feel we can accommodate the desires of anglers and manage those opportunities from high-catch rates all the way up to trophy bass fishing.

Looking at length and bag limits, those are one of our most important management tools that we've used over the years. We've primarily focused on length limits over the years because that seems to have the most impact on our populations and these -- this is an important management tool for achieving our management goals.

Our goals have always been to maximize angling opportunity and improve fishing quality; and the thing about harvest regulations, they manage both the fish and the anglers. We always want to consider what the anglers want out of the fisheries, and those social aspects of it are something we always consider; but there has to be an underlying biological basis that we have to address to produce the desired results.

Over time, we've -- bass are our most managed species. We first started managing with special regulations in 1979 when we implemented some 16-inch minimum length limits. At that time, statewide was ten inches and a ten-fish bag; and those first two reservoirs that we implemented those on were Lake Nacogdoches, not too far from here, and Fayette County Reservoir. In the following year, we saw the first use of a 14-inch/five-fish bag, which later became the statewide in 1986 and that was put on Lakeport when it was first opened. In 1991, was the first use of a 14- to 18-inch slot. We implemented that on a couple of power plant lakes -- Monticello in East Texas and Lake Calaveras.

Over the -- over this time, since the late -- early 80s, we certainly see the catch-and-release ethic among our anglers increase. These regulations are designed to have directed harvest. Harvest is an important component of that; and over time, we've seen the increasing catch-and-release having impact on how these regulations function. So we've considered that over time and recently in the effectiveness of the regulations.

To kind of put in perspective our use of special regulations on our state reservoirs, looking at the major reservoirs in the state, those reservoirs 500 acres and over, we -- looking at -- we kind of categorized these by the minimum length limits to have the similar management objectives. Primarily, that's the statewide 14-inch. We have that 12-inch minimum that we implemented in southeast Texas a few years ago and also a few lakes with 16-inch limit in it. Those comprise the bulk of the waters in the state that are -- that we're managing with those.

Then, we go to those special regulations. The various slots that we have. Higher minimum length limits, catch-and-release, and other regulations; and we have about 30 of those, which comprise about 18 percent of public waters. When you look at the public impoundments in the state on the whole, there's about 1,100 and you would add another 30 locations with special regulations. So we think we've been judicious in the use of those and try to target the areas where we could have some impacts.

As I said, our focus this year is on Largemouth bass regulations. We're always -- all our regulations, we always have an ongoing process of our staff evaluating those; but this year, we took a particular look Largemouth bass regulation, review those special regulations to ensure they're meeting our management goals and if we could move those to a more appropriate regulation, we would consider that.

We were looking to kind of standardize and simplify to reduce some of the complexity; but still at the same time, looking to always maintain the fishing quality in those locations where we were considering changing regulations. And at this round of evaluation of review process, we targeted some specific regulation categories. Those 14- to 18- and 14- to 24-inch slots.

As I mentioned, over time the harvest of fish among anglers has decreased, more catch-and-release; and these two particular regulations, those slots were designed to allow people to harvest some fish below that 14 inches. We haven't seen a lot of that. So we consider that and also the 16-inch minimum. So our first grouping of reservoirs that were -- we've got 12 reservoirs here that we're looking at to change and a few at the 16-inch minimum: Lake Granbury; Possum Kingdom; the somewhat elusive Lake Ratcliff, which isn't too far from here. Have a couple -- three reservoirs with 18-inch minimums: Lake Bryan, Cooper, Old Mount Plenty, Mount Pleasant City Lake. And then we have six in the 14- to 18-inch slot: Bridgeport, Burke Crenshaw, Georgetown, Madisonville, San Augustine City, and Sweetwater. And we're considering changing those back to the 14-inch minimum length limit and five-fish daily bag, which are the statewide -- which is the statewide limits.

And here's sort of the distribution and the sizes of those lakes around the state, with -- all the way from the Cooper down to Burke Crenshaw, in the -- which is ten acres down in the Houston area. We have a couple of reservoirs that have catch-and-release, with an exception that allows anglers to keep a bass over 24 inches that is over 13 pounds for the ShareLunker Program, Purtis Creek State Park Lake and also Lake Raven, which is in Huntsville State Park. And we were considering changing those to our 16-inch maximum length limit, with five-fish daily bag; and what the 16-inch maximum is, it allows anglers to harvest bass under 16 inches, but the only way an angler could take a fish over 16 inches, they would have to be over 24 inches, over 13 pounds, be accepted for the ShareLunker Program.

Next, we have those 14- to 24-inch slot limit lakes. All those are power plant reservoirs: Fayette County Reservoir, Gibbons Creek, and Lake Monticello. And we're changing those -- proposing to change those to 16- to 24-inch slot limit, which is what we have on Lake Fork; and that will give us one large -- one category for the large slot limits.

One additional 14- to 18-inch lake, Grapevine in the Metroplex. We're considering changing that to our no minimum length limit regulation, which allows you to harvest fish of any size; but you are limited to two less than 18 inches. We have that -- have this regulation on three reservoirs: A couple out in West Texas, and Lake Jacksonville. And so far, it's been well-received by the anglers and is producing some good fishing in those reservoirs.

Additionally, we have two locations that we're considering the regulation changes on. These are sort of outside of the review process. Bellwood in Tyler currently has an 18-inch minimum. We're considering changing that to the 16-inch maximum; and also Davy Crockett Lake, a lake in Caddo National Grassland. That has a 14-inch slot limit; and we're considering changing that back to the 16-inch maximum, also.

Some of the -- what we're looking to do there with this -- moving these lakes particularly to the 16-inch maximum, we're looking to maintain/increase the abundance of the larger bass or these -- couple lakes have produced some larger fish. It would allow our anglers to harvest the bass less than 16 inches and these are smaller reservoirs compared to some of our other reservoirs; have limited capacity to produce larger bass. So we think this is a good fit for these reservoirs.

Additionally, in your book, we listed that we are considering another change on Lake Lakewood, a lake near -- in Leander. The City is proposing to put a new park on that. We have some -- still have to work out some issues about property around that lake and how the City is going to manage that. So at this time, we're not going to move that one forward.

And just to circle back to look at our regular review process of bass regulations, if these ones we're considering, if we propose them in January and you later approve them in March, we would completely eliminate the 14- to 24-inch slot category. We'd reduce the lakes in the 14- to 18-inch slot category from ten to two. We'd have two existing lakes -- Lake Nasworthy and San Angelo -- we put that on a few years ago, and want to continue evaluating that. And also Caddo Lake, which we co-manage with Louisiana, we would have to have discussions with Louisiana. We meet with them frequently to consider regulatory changes. So this is something we would consider -- maybe consider discussing with them in the future.

On the 16-inch minimums, we would take that one down from four locations to one. We'd have one exiting one. It's be Lake Conroe. The anglers there where pretty fond of that regulation. We still don't think it's going to have a big impact one way of 16 or 14. So that's one we're going to continue looking at. And that category of special regulations on reservoirs 500 acres and larger would reduce from 30 down to 21.

So those are the changes we're considering for the upcoming regulatory cycle. If you have any questions or comments, I'd be happen to address those at this time.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I've got just a couple of general questions. I'm not -- I'm not personally much into fishing. I'm more hunting fowl and large animals and whatnot. What's the -- what's the targeted group that we are typically trying to address with our regulations? And let me be more clear. I just, in my head, I have this viewpoint that, you know, a bass fisherman has a truck, a boat, five or six rods, a Yeti, and, you know, a fairly decent income to be able to go and catch the bass, catch-and-release, whatnot.

And I guess my question is: I just want to make sure that, you know, the granddad that wants to take the grandson out, doesn't have a boat, and can go and fish and catch the bass and keep it and eat it if he wants and, you know, whatever. I'm just trying to make sure that, in my head, I'm clear that we're targeting a complete audience of people who may want to bass fish.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, yeah, certainly there's -- you know, as I mentioned, there really isn't an average angler. You're probably -- your characterization of a bass angler is probably what most people think of and certainly, there's -- those are some of our most avid bass fishermen, the people that have the large bass boats. Some of them fish tournaments and a lot of those catch-and-release.

But, you know, we've tried -- when we look at our lakes around state -- around the state, we do have a lot of lakes that are under that 14-inch/five-fish limit that you could, you know, harvest fish out of those lakes. You know, we look specifically like at some of those state park lakes -- Lake Raven and Hunt -- Lake Raven and Purtis Creek, we're putting a 16-inch maximum. Just -- there's a lot of bank angling on those lakes. Previously, they were catch-and-release. Now, we're moving them to where if you're out there with your son and he -- or daughter -- and he catches a 12-inch bass, he could keep it now if it's his first fish. So we certainly consider that, you know, in our regulations; and we try to, you know, manage that for those diverse opportunities on a statewide basis.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Does that answer your question?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

Thank you very much.

And, Mr. Lance Robinson, please make your presentation.

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Lance Robinson with Coastal Fisheries; and I'm here today to speak to you about a possible regulation change for King mackerel in the Gulf of Mexico.

In May of this year, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved and the NOAA Fisheries implemented Amendment 26 of the Fishery Management Plan for the Coastal Migratory Pelagic's Fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. Part of that management plan stipulated that the bag limit for King mackerel would be increased for recreational anglers from two fish to three fish per day.

What that does in the State of Texas, our current bag limit is two fish per person per day; and so it creates a situation where we have a daily bag limit in Federal waters that is more liberal than what is allowed in State waters, and this certainly can provide a situation where it could limit some opportunity to Texas recreational anglers.

Looking at some of the catch rates of this species over the last 20 years, it's been very stable in Texas. And so we think this is certainly an opportunity that, I think, will be beneficial to recreational fishermen of Texas.

And so we're here before you today to propose increasing this bag limit in Texas waters from two fish to the three fish per person per day, and that would be brought before you in January for final action. So with that, I will try to answer any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm assuming -- and we know what that does sometimes to us -- where you've got Louisiana/Mississippi regulation change in process, since we're working so well with the other states on our Red snapper issue, are they trying to go to the three limit as well on -- in Louisiana and Mississippi?

MR. ROBINSON: For Spanish -- or King mackerel?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, for the mackerel.

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir. Those two states are trying -- are implementing that change right now as we speak, the same thing that we're proposing, to go to three fish in their State waters. Alabama and Florida have already done so.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So we're going to stay pretty much together as a group, as the group that it is, to try to get all these federal issues resolved kind of like at one time. We don't have to go to the federal for this one though, right?

MR. ROBINSON: For this one, we do not. No, sir. What this one is doing, is actually the feds have already changed it to three fish and so it puts us in a situation where anglers in Texas, if you're fishing in Federal waters, you're allowed to keep three fish; but you can only land whatever is in place in State waters. So it -- there's a discrepancy there. We have a lower bag limit. So this would actually increase opportunity for our anglers.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And the fishery will withstand, obviously, the increase. I just was looking at your chart.

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir. There's -- in Federal waters, there's an allocation that is appropriated every year for recreational and commercial. Recreational fishery has not been hitting the total poundage that's been allocated to that fishery in Federal waters. This is an opportunity to try to allow recreational anglers to get closer to what is actually allowed by the federal government; and this just gives our Texas anglers some additional opportunity, as well.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay, thank you.

Any other questions?

All right, thank you for your presentation.

Work Item -- Work Session Item No. 7, Statewide Hunting Proclamation Preview, Mr. Shaun Oldenburger.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Good morning, Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger, the Small Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. Today here, I'm to present some potential 2018-19 migratory and resident game bird regulation briefings and potential changes that may occur.

Today's briefing and current process is we're going to outline some potential changes as said for the 2018-19 season; and then we're also going to, basically, state that those -- to establish the migratory and resident regulations at the same time. As you may recall a couple of years ago, Fish and Wildlife Service changed the process for setting migratory game bird regulations. So that does allow this to be a little bit easier in going through November for the briefing, January for the proposals, and then March for the final adoption.

The migratory information is available for the 2018-19 season. We do use prior year's information now, based on that new regulation cycle. Last month, we met with Fish and Wildlife Service in Minneapolis with the Service Regulations Committee; and so now federal frameworks are established for the 2018-19 migratory game bird hunting seasons.

All frameworks are basically unchanged for waterfowl, dove, and other migratory birds, except for the South Texas Dove Zone; and we'll go into that. Here are the federal frameworks for waterfowl, for ducks and geese. Ducks, you can open to the Saturday nearest September 24th and go to the Sunday nearest January 31st. Geese, Saturday nearest September 24th and the Sunday nearest February 15th. All packages for ducks are liberal this year, and there's no change for geese. Obviously, within are the number days we're allowed. We do go later in the season due to being a wintering state.

Federal frameworks for doves, the season length and daily bag limits remain unchanged. We're allowed three zones for doves, with no more than two segments. The North and Central can open September 1st and go until January 25th. The South dove season, which is a change, can open September 14th and go to January 25th. Previously, the opening framework for the South Zone for doves was the Friday nearest September 21st, but no earlier than September 17th; and so now that's allowed for a fixed date.

Basically, what we did there is we are going to allow dove hunting on every weekend in Texas and so that's why the 17th -- September 14th was pushed by the Central Flyaway to the Fish and Wildlife Service on that. We are also allowed -- there are Special White-wing Dove days. Four days in early September; and, typically, we do those the first two full weekends in September. No change for all migratory game birds.

Potential changes that are going to occur, we do know daily bag limits now for the 18-19 season. We are glad to see that pintails will be increased from one per day to two per day. So that will be good for our waterfowl hunters here in Texas, where we do have a substantial number of wintering pintails.

For doves, as I said, we were allowed to open as early as September 14th for the opening day of the South Zone now for the 2018-19 hunting season. All other migratory game birds will coincide with waterfowl seasons; and, basically, calendar adjustments where necessary.

Going to go into proposed wild turkey regulation changes. We do have a couple things here regarding one of our zones in East Texas here. So the location is fitting. Currently, we are -- have opened hunting seasons on turkeys during the spring season in Texas in 180 counties. I would like to note here with the one-gobbler Eastern Zone is where we're located and the one-gobbler Western Zone, those are where we're only allowed one bird per the spring season; and then there's 15 counties there in the one-gobbler Eastern Zone. So those were -- potential changes may occur. So those two counties that are outlined there in checkmarks in the gray area, that went from blue to gray, those would be potentially -- they would be deemed possible closure counties.

I would like to note that that southeastern county there was incorrectly put. So the two counties are Saint Augustine and Upshur Counties as ones that meet the closure criteria. A couple years ago, Texas Parks and Wildlife established some closure criterias in regards to these Eastern wild turkey populations. And so with the mandatory reporting now in these counties, basically, if they average one bird over three years, then staff will look at whether we need to close these counties for turkey season in the spring or not. And so staff will definitely look at those counties coming up and in January, we'll bring forth if those -- staff recommends closures in those counties for the 18-19 season.

This is to look at these counties a little bit closer, and so that's where that is in this area. Also, to note one thing that we may look at is there are some perceived declines or maybe some real declines occurring with Eastern wild turkeys throughout the southeastern states and in regards to that, the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies did a white paper last year, looking at the timing of opening seasons for spring turkey seasons.

When they produced that white paper, one thing they looked at and a recommendation that did come out of that is to basically open seasons no earlier than when 50 percent of the hens are, basically, starting nesting. And when we look at present data with regards to this population, the mean nest initiation time for this population occurs around April 22nd. So we've actually put a bunch of transmitters on birds with the restoration efforts we've had in East Texas, as Mr. Smith stated earlier; and so when we look at all that information, that tends to be about the timing of when those 50 percent of initiations occur.

And so staff are going to look at that and to see if that is a possible proposal that may come forth to you in January as far as decreasing the season length in this Eastern Zone. Currently, it does open April 15th and runs to May 14th. And so a possible proposal would be opening that April 22nd.

Proposals will be developed by staff. Obviously, one thing we have not done yet is we've not worked with our advisory committees, both the Resident and Migratory Game Bird Committees. That will happen this month. They will review and probably provide input on these potential changes. Final staff proposals will be presented to the Commission in January, and then approval in March.

With that, it concludes my presentation. I'll be happy to answer any question.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions from the Commissioners?

Thank you.

Mr. Shawn Gray.

MR. GRAY: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Shawn Gray. I'm the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader; and this morning, I would like to give you a preview on potential proposals to Mule deer regulation changes this January.

This map illustrates our current Mule deer seasons in the state. The yellow-colored counties have a 16-day general season that starts the Saturday before Thanksgiving with a special archery season. The red-colored counties have a 9-day general season that starts the Saturday before Thanksgiving, no special archery season. And in the Trans-Pecos, those green-colored counties, we have a 17-day general season starting the Friday after Thanksgiving, with a special archery season. All general seasons are buck only. And the gray-colored counties have a closed Mule deer season, and notice that we have one county left in that 9-day season block.

Therefore, this January, we'd like to propose to open Lynn county, which is that purple-colored county, as a 9-day buck-only general season county; and that would be consistent with the red-colored counties in that area of the Panhandle.

You may recall that staff proposed opening Lynn County in 2014; however, a petition letter was sent from the members of the Tayhoka community to the Commission opposing a Mule deer season in Lynn County. The letter stated that TPWD had limited data regarding the Mule deer population, and that TPWD could not adequately provide enough resources to patrol for poachers if a season opened up in Lynn County.

To address the limited population data issue for the Lynn County area, staff delineated a new Mule deer monitoring unit in 2014. In this area, survey transects are flown annually per our statewide Mule deer population monitoring protocol and the purple area in the map represents this new monitoring unit and it contains over 360,000 acres.

Since 2014, the population surveys indicate an average of about 2,000 Mule deer or a density of approximately 200 acres -- or 200 acres per Mule deer. The average sex ratio is two does to one buck, and an average fawn crop of over 70 percent. These data support that there is no biological concern opening a new buck-only Mule deer season in Lynn County.

Local staff recently contacted 18 landowners in Lynn County. Twelve supported a season and three were neutral. Only three landowners were against a season in Lynn County because they believed it would lead to more trespassing and poaching on their properties.

The next possible proposal deals with an experimental Mule deer antler restriction. Over the last 20 to 25 years in the southeast Panhandle, excessive buck harvest has been occurring primarily because of increased lease hunting and the popularity of Mule deer hunting. This excessive buck harvest has affected sex ratios, with our survey data indicating a post-season sex ration of five to six does per buck. In addition, intensive buck harvest as also impacted age structure of the herd; and these data support that mature Mule deer bucks in the southeast Panhandle are a very rare occurrence, as noted in this picture here.

Therefore, staff -- over the last several years -- have gotten many requests from landowners and hunters to improve the age structure of the Mule deer in this area of the Panhandle. Many locals remember the type of Mule deer buck that could be produced in this part of the state. The buck in the newspaper article was harvested 1988 in Hogg County, which had 21 points and a spread of over 30 inches.

In addition, the success of the White -- of the current White-tail deer antler restriction has proven that an antler restriction using antler width works for improving buck age structure. In 2016, staff began collecting specific antler and ear measurements to potentially develop a Mule deer antler restriction. Initial data indicate that an antler restriction might be able to be used to improve buck age structure.

Staff are considering an experimental Mule deer antler restriction in six counties in the southeast Panhandle, colored blue in the map. These counties would be Briscoe, Hall, Childress, Floyd, Motley, and Cottle. Most western states have tried an antler point restriction -- such as a minimum of four points on one side -- with no significant improvement in age structure. This is because many young deer meet these minimum standards. And using the White-tail deer antler restriction as a model, staff have collected data on captured Mule deer during ongoing research projects and hunter-harvested Mule deer in that Panhandle to estimate the ear-tip-to-ear-tip spread in the alert position for bucks. The average ear-tip-to-ear-tip spread for Mule deer bucks is about 21 inches, which is demonstrated in the picture.

Based upon preliminary data collected on the ear-tip-to-ear-tip spread and antler measurements, the success of the White-tail deer antler restriction, and requests from landowners and hunters in the southeast Panhandle, staff would like to test an antler restriction using an outside spread of 20 inches, since the average ear-tip-to-ear-tip spread is 21 inches. The outside spread is estimated in a similar manner as the inside spread, but we use the outside measurement of the antler material.

This illustration will be used to demonstrate what type of buck can be harvested or those that will be protected with the potential Mule deer antler restriction. So, again, using the average ear-tip-to-ear-tip measurement in the alert position as a guide, which is 21 inches -- and that's shown by the blue dash lines on both buck drawings -- the buck on the left would be a legal buck, with an outside spread of 20 inches or greater. It would not be legal to harvest the buck on the right because the outside spread is less than 20 inches and even young deer, their ear-tip-to-ear-tip spread is about 21 inches.

Unbranched antlered bucks with an outside spread of less than 20 inches would also be illegal for harvest, as shown -- as shown in these examples. And our main goal is to get more Mule deer bucks into older age classes. And most unbranched antler bucks are yearlings; and allowing more yearlings to be harvested, can significantly impact future age structure. Especially, during drought.

Mule deer populations are much lower than White-tail deer populations, and can be more sensitive to overharvest. Preliminary data analysis suggests that an antler restriction with an outside spread of 20 inches, should protect at least 80 percent of one-and-a-half to three-and-a-half-year-old bucks and about 80 percent of bucks five-and-a-half-years old or older would be available for harvest.

So, therefore, staff would like to propose in January an experimental antler restriction in six counties in the southeast Panhandle for at least four hunting seasons, to test the effectiveness of an outside spread antler restriction to improve the age structure of Mule deer bucks within this area. Again, any buck with an outside spread of 20 inches or greater would be legal for harvest. Thus, any buck with a spread of 20 inches or less would not be legal to harvest, regardless of unbranched antlers.

The experimental antler restriction will not apply to MLDP properties. As part of the MLDP Program, TPWD sets property specific bag limits and for Mule deer are generally conservative. Staff will monitor success of the experimental antler restriction using population surveys, such as sex ratios and voluntary check stations to collect more antler and ear measurements, as well as buck age structure.

We also plan to send out opinion surveys to gauge landowner and hunter support before and after the experiment. And just to wrap up, staff would like to propose this January a new Mule deer season in Lynn County and test an antler restriction in Briscoe, Hall, Childress, Floyd, Motley, and Cottle Counties. And this concludes my portion of the statewide preview. Before I turn it over to Alan Cain, I would like to address any questions y'all might have.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a -- just, I guess, a quick law enforcement question. When we set antler size restrictions, do we have a system by which we hold a taxidermist responsible or liable if they don't let us know if someone brings in --

MR. GRAY: I'd have to turn that over to Ellis Powell.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Or the processor.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Or the processor.

MR. ELLIS POWELL: Processor -- good morning, Commissioners. My name's Ellis Powell. I'm the Wildlife Law Administrator. I believe I heard your question to be: Is there a system to hold a processer or a taxidermist responsible for that?

Well, to answer that question, we don't hold them specifically responsible. We do do checks in those facilities, and if it was an illegal deer -- again, to gain compliance, we would use discretion -- especially, in experimental -- education, warnings such as that. But we can track those animals back to the hunter through their logs and through the tags that are at those facilities. So if Commissioner Jones brought one in and I was at Commissioner Morian's facility, I would contact you. I'd get your information from him.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So we basically use the taxidermist as a -- I guess as a gathering spot for places where we can check to see if people are hunting and harvesting illegal deer?

MR. ELLIS POWELL: That's primarily not how we do it. If we had a specific complaint or we'd had an issue with a specific facility for some other reason, we typically don't go there and check them. Just, we don't want to single out any one facility over another. Typically, at those places, the biologists do survey data, checks like that, voluntarily compliance checks. Generally, our patrols are in the field is where we would make contact with them.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do we ever get tips from taxidermists who would say, "I ain't -- you didn't hear this from me, but you might want to come by here and look at this"?

MR. ELLIS POWELL: We do, from time to time.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. ELLIS POWELL: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I guess, I'm -- the only reason I'm questioning the -- going through this series of questions, I'm just trying to figure out how do we catch hunters who do this, other than you just happen to pull somebody over or catch somebody with a deer on the hood of their car where the antlers don't look right?

MR. ELLIS POWELL: That's the tricks of our trades. We -- we're out there patrolling and, you know, checking deer camps. The game wardens in the local areas know the crossroads, the gathering points, the cafes, landowner communication. It's all a big process; but that is a component, checking these facilities, but it's not a major component. That's not primarily how we do it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'm glad you clarified that. I was thinking you were setting something up.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I just want to make sure I know where to take it.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I know how you feel. That's only a problem in South Texas, not up in -- I've got a quick question.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a minor point, I'm assuming from reading these -- you've got the four-year test season and everything. I'm assuming that everybody is kind of supporting this program out there. Is that an accurate statement?

MR. GRAY: That would be an accurate statement from the preliminary, I guess, intel that we've done so far; and a lot of the requests that we're getting, they're coming to us and asking us to do something about it.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So we're going to still go through the normal processes?

MR. GRAY: Yes. Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: If we put it on the deal for --

MR. GRAY: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- to January, you're still going to have to do your --

MR. GRAY: Yeah, we're going to go out --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- survey?

MR. GRAY: -- to public hearings. We're planning at least two public hearings, if not three, in this area.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Good, okay. I just wanted to check on that. Thanks.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I have one question. I may have missed it. How did you pick the six counties?

MR. GRAY: So those six counties -- typically, the Panhandle has a much higher harvest rate compared to the Trans-Pecos and out of the Panhandle, that area is kind of the worst part of the Panhandle. So the Panhandle, we have more hunter harvest; and then that specific area, it's even greater than what we generally see on average in the whole Panhandle. And, again, there's -- we've had multiple requests from hunters and landowners within that area that they would like to see this happen. So that's kind of how we picked them.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right, thank you very much.

MR. GRAY: You bet.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

All right. We move on to Alan Cain and your presentation.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Alan Cain. I'm the White-tail Deer Program Leader; and this morning, I'm going to review several potential proposals staff would like to bring forward in January.

The first proposal is a housekeeping matter to clarify that MLDP tags are not required to take antlerless deer on U.S. Forest Service, Corps of Engineers, or River Authority land. During our previous process, a statewide process last year of cleaning up regulations related to the new MLD changes, staff intended to remove references regarding antlerless deer permits in the county regulations and which included MLD permits at the time. During that process, the MLD tags were inadvertently left in the statewide regulations; and that language simply needs to be removed.

Although staff do not anticipate other changes to statewide regulations, staff do intend to review the language regarding deer harvest on Forest Service, Corps lands, and River Authority lands to ensure that there's no unintended consequences as a result of this housekeeping change and also to clarify the regulations, make sure they're clear for the harvest of antlerless deer on these particular properties.

The next item for consideration is a result from a petition for rulemaking request in which the petitioner requested that general deer season be standardized statewide and start on the first Saturday in November and end on the third Sunday in January. Currently, all counties with a White-tail deer general season, open on the first Saturday in November; however, the ending dates between the North Zone, which is those counties in that white or kind of yellow color, differ between the closing date of the South Zone, which is those counties in green. So the North Zone, general season closes the first Sunday in January. In the South Zone, it closes the third Sunday in January.

Prior to 2001, the South Zone season opened two weeks later and it also closed at that third Sunday in January; but it had the same season length as the North Zone. So about the same amount of days to hunt. About two months there during that general season. It's just one opened later. The South Zone did.

However, in 2001, the Department standardized the opening of general season statewide to be that first Saturday in November; but we didn't modify the closing of the general season to make those standardized. Therefore, the South Zone hunters have an extra two weeks of general season to hunt that's not afforded to the North Zone hunters.

Staff see no biological reason not to consider standardizing the close of general deer season statewide to be that third Sunday in January, provided the Commission would like for us to proceed with this proposal in January. Standardizing the close of general season would also necessitate moving the muzzleloader season, the late youth season, and the special late season back two weeks. As a result, this would help simplify the regulations for hunters and provide additional hunting opportunity. Staff do not believe there to be any significant biological impacts that result from this possible regulation change because the majority of the harvest occurs during that general season, but from the open day to the last day of December. And if you look at the days of harvest through our big game harvest surveys, most of the harvest peaks around opening weekend and into the holidays. So Thanksgiving and that week around Christmas there.

And then although we still have the special late season, the South Texas general season, MLD season, youth season, muzzleloader season are still going on from January 1 and on, it only accounts for about 13 percent of the harvest during that timeframe. So relatively little harvest during that time period. We don't believe that there would be any population level impacts on the deer population. In the North Zone counties, our population data indicates a stable, increasing trend under the current harvest regulations.

There may be some concerns from some individuals that claim deer season is already too long; that hunters my harvest shed-antler bucks; that extending the general season and the other seasons -- the muzzleloader and the youth season -- would interfere with quail season, squirrel hunting with dogs in East Texas, and predator calling contests that occur during these winter months that generally close after -- that generally start up after the closing of general season.

The last item staff would be considering bringing forward or proposing in January, is the -- also results from a petition for rulemaking request from the Crosman Corporation, in which they requested that airbows in big-boar air rifles of .357 caliber or larger, be made legal for harvest of big game in Texas. Additionally since that request, which we had back in the spring, I've had a number of informal requests from big-boar air rifle enthusiasts, air gun dealers in the state, and just folks that hunt with air rifles or airbows in Texas, asking that the Commission and the Department consider moving forward with some regulation changes to allow the harvest of big game with these big-boar air rifles and airbows.

Our current regulations specify that any legal firearm may be used to harvest alligators, game birds, and game animals. Those firearms would include center-fire rifles, handguns, muzzleloaders, or any shotguns and any of those type of firearms with a silencer. Our regulations, however, do provide an exception that prohibits the hunting of alligator, deer, Pronghorn, and Bighorn sheep with rimfire ammunition or fully automatic firearm.

TPWD regulations prohibit the take of native big game species with air rifles and airbows because airbows and air rifles are not defined as legal firearm or as a firearm or legal archery equipment either under our regulations, the Texas Penal Code, or under the Federal Firearms Regulations. However, our regulations do allow for the take of squirrels with air rifles and because TPWD does not regulate exotic species in the state, it is legal for a hunter to harvest exotic big game or other exotic species with air rifles and airbows in the state.

In reviewing what other State Wildlife Agencies allow with regards to airbows and air rifles, we found that seven states allow the harvest of big game with airbows and then eight states allow the harvest of big game with air rifles. The requirements for the use of airbows and big-boar air rifles vary by state. They all restrict the use of airbows or air rifles to the firearm season. So they don't allow it during a primitive firearm season or an archery season or some other season. It's all restricted to the general firearm season.

They do require -- at least most the states require -- that the external charging mechanism to pressurize the airbow or the air guns -- so it's an air tank, a pump, or a compressor. And the reason they do that is to differentiate that from a firearm, which when you propel the bullet, it's caused by an explosion when you strike the primer on the shell and it explodes the gunpowder versus a burst of air. And so that's why that "external charging mechanism" language is common throughout the other states.

Some states do provide minimum caliber sizes. One state does provide minimum velocity requirements and arrow lengths for airbows, and I believe that's Maryland; but they all have some basic regulations surrounding these air rifles and airbows.

So I want to take a few moments to illustrate what some of these air rifles and air bows look like and how they function. To start off, these devices are not cheap and generally start around $800 for some of the basic models; but that can be -- range in price up to several thousand dollars and that's just for the air rifle, airbow. That doesn't include costs for the other equipment that's required, such as external air tanks, scopes, arrows, and the lead-cast bullets that they use.

There are a number of different brands of big-boar air rifles that project bullets ranging in size from .30 caliber to .58 caliber. And essentially how they function, is you fill a reservoir -- high-pressure reservoir -- with air up to 3,000 PSI, I think, in these airbows or air rifles. The airbow is pictured on the top left. Basically, it uses an arrow with a hollow shaft that slides over a cylinder, as you can see in that airbow; and then when you depress the trigger on that or an air rifle, it causes a pin to basically push in a spring to push in on the reservoir holding the air, then it allows a burst of air to project the bullet or the arrow.

So as I mentioned previously, TPWD regulations do not specify minimum requirements for bullet weights, muzzle velocity/muzzle energy for the various legal means of take with firearms in the state. But there's some questions by individuals that may ask whether the big-boar air rifles have sufficient energy or velocity making capable of harvesting big game. And so even though we don't have some minimum standards for our legal firearms, I did want to provide some comparisons for your knowledge here.

And so take, for example, the AirForce Texan, which is a big-boar air rifle. It's a .45 caliber air rifle. It shoots about a 340 grain bullet, and it has a muzzle velocity of a thousand feet per second and 500-foot pounds of energy. You can compare that with a 45-millimeter automatic handgun -- which is legal to harvest a deer in Texas or Pronghorn or sheep or whatever else -- to shooting a 200 grain bullet, has about the same speed, velocity. They're 900 feet per second and a little bit less muzzle energy at 360-foot pounds. And then you can compare that to a .17 Hornet, which is also a legal firearm in Texas, which has a very small bullet, 20 grain bullet, shoots 3650 feet per second. So it's traveling very fast, and it has about 592-foot pounds of energy.

So these air rifles are comparable to some of our other legal means of take in Texas and are very capable of harvesting big game or deer. Ellis Powell and myself had the opportunity to demo a couple of big-boar air rifles -- a .45 caliber and a .308 caliber -- a couple weeks ago. And we were able to -- as we were doing that research, able to use those to harvest three White-tail deer spikes; and it was a very effective means of take for those White-tail deer.

So staff see no rational not to allow big-boar air rifles and airbows for the harvest of big game in Texas, provided the Commission would like us to proceed with this proposal in January. If staff were to bring this proposal forward, we would prohibit the use of air rifles and airbows during archery and muzzleloader seasons and limit take to alligator, White-tail deer, Mule deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn sheep, and Javelina. Additionally, staff would consider requiring minimum caliber requirements of .30 caliber and larger and specify that air rifles or airbows must be charged from an external high-pressure power source that's a tank or a compressor or a hand pump; and that the arrows used for airbows would follow similar standards that we have for archery equipment that require broad heads to have a seven-eighth inch width edge upon impact and a minimum of two cutting edges.

And so that concludes my presentation, and I'll be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got one question for you. The -- have we thought about having a minimum muzzle energy requirement? I realize currently it's only -- you can't use rimfire, but I'm surprised that you could hunt with an automatic that only generated 360-foot pounds of energy for big game.

MR. CAIN: There are some -- I mean, quite frankly, you can hunt with a .32 Smith and Wesson handgun, which has 87-foot pounds of energy, so. And we don't -- I'll have to ask Ellis to come up here in --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah.

MR. CAIN: -- in a minute. He would know more. But I will tell you this: You can get into regulating muzzle energy and velocity, but you can still -- we don't regulate how far somebody shoots or require they take a skills test to be able to accurately take an animal.

But, Ellis, I'll let you answer the...

MR. ELLIS POWELL: Regulating -- regulating the foot pounds, it's specifically foot pounds would be --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Right.

MR. ELLIS POWELL: -- would be difficult. It would all equate back to the formula on how you get there with the size of the caliber of the bullet that we would allow, the grain of the actual bullet itself. So it would be -- I hadn't even thought through how -- I don't know how we would do that just yet. I would have to put some thought into that if we were talking about regulating foot pounds.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It just troubles me that you could go deer hunting with an 87-foot pound muzzle energy weapon. I hadn't thought it until you made your presentation, but --

MR. ELLIS POWELL: It's not something -- Commissioner, it's not something that our wardens see. In my career, I've never seen that. I have seen some outlaw hunters poach with small pistols or something; but your recreational hunter, you just don't see that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: This may be something we want to look at. I realize that that's --

MR. ELLIS POWELL: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- a big task, but we might want to think about that.

MR. ELLIS POWELL: Be glad to address it.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I've got a question.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Two real quick. So one, you're satisfied that .30 caliber is big enough to handle it. I do know that -- like, your 17, I've got one that if you shoot the center fire, it is at 3650 and you can kill most anything with that; but if y'all are comfortable with a .30 caliber, you know, I would bow to y'all's stuff on that.

One question I was asked about this issue and I did not know the answer: Do you go through the same things to buy one of these kind of air guns or airbows that you go through to buy a .243? You don't have to -- you have to do all the registration and stuff on these, do you?

MR. ELLIS POWELL: No, sir. These, by definition, are not considered a firearm; but as Alan said, under Federal law or State law, there's no restriction as far as a prohibited person or background check or anything like that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I didn't think there was. I just wanted to make sure. What this -- what this accomplishes is not having to buy and go through the ridiculous amount of paperwork and time it takes to get a suppresser. Is basically what it accomplishes. Which is not necessarily bad, I'm just stating a fact.

MR. CAIN: I will tell you when Ellis and I were hunting with these -- this was part of the research -- they're not exactly quiet. I mean, they're fairly noisy. You don't have to wear ear protection, but there's definitely a crack. It's enough to scare a deer off out of the field and the -- I harvested one of the bucks -- or two bucks with a .308 caliber and Ellis used a .45 caliber. And so all deer, one shot. Very quick, humane take. So they're effective.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah. Well, that's -- I'm good with that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

COMMISSIONER JONES: So if there's someone that doesn't have the authority to purchase a firearm because of previous felonies and/or other problems --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: They can buy an air gun.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- they can buy one of these? Can they get a hunting license with a previous felony?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You might have to ask -- ask --

MR. ELLIS POWELL: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: If he's got a clear record, he can get a hunting license, right?

MR. ELLIS POWELL: Yes, sir, unless there's some court specific restriction for the certain offenses, they do that; but in general, a felony, they can still go hunting. They can use other means -- archery, crossbow, muzzleloaders; and now if this were passed, they could use these. It would not stop somebody from hunting. A felony necessarily doesn't stop them from hunting. They can purchase a hunting license.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Are we okay with that?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, it doesn't matter. They can get it anyway. They can buy that gun at any time.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I know. But are we okay with the consequences with them going out and harvesting animals with it? It's just something I'd like to think about. I'm not suggesting we do -- we don't have to make a decision now, but I think it's something we ought to at least think all the way through --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- to make sure we do maybe what we can to at least address that issue.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Carter, are you making a note of that?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I did. And just as a reminder, ultimately, we are going to be going out for public comment in January, if you authorize us to go forward with rules; and so we can get feedback on that issue and others. We can certainly talk to our colleagues from other states that probably have contemplated this issue, as well; and see what kind of feedback we get there.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, that's good.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay. Any other questions?

Thank you very much.

We'll move on to Work Session Item No. 8, Grant of Conservation Easement, Stephens County, Approximately 33 Acres at Palo Pinto Mountain State Park, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This first item I'm bringing to you is in response to a request from Palo Pinto County Municipal Water District No. 1, that we place a conservation easement on a small area of Palo Pinto Mountains State Park in Stephens County, in the Stephens County portion of the park, which is partly in Stephens and partly in Palo Pinto County in North Central Texas.

That is a park that's not open to the public yet; but we are wrapping up that public use plan, and it's a spectacular piece of property. A little over 4,000 acres. Only about 70 miles west of Fort Worth. Excellent, excellent habitat. We've acquired that property over the last few years as a result of having sold property at -- a 400-acre tract in Fort Worth that we didn't feel was nearly as suitable for a state park.

The property includes a 90-acre lake. It includes 4 miles of the north creek of Palo Pinto -- north fork of Palo Pinto Creek. And, again, just a really spectacular property and I know we're all very, very much looking forward to being able to open that to the public. You can see the shape of the property here. You can also tell from this map that it straddles a local geological formation known as Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, about 400 feet of relief in those hills in that park.

We've been working with the Water District for several years now. Their primary source of water -- they're only source of water is Palo Pinto Lake. They provide water to Mineral Wells and surrounding communities out of that lake. Droughts in recent years have caused them to be concerned about the capacity of that lake to continue providing that water as those communities grow, and they're response is that they propose to build a second dam immediately downstream. Essentially, double the capacity of Palo Pinto Lake by adding a body of water that would be called Turkey Creek -- Turkey Peak Lake. But in the process, of course, they are losing some of Palo Pinto Creek; and through Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, they're required to mitigate for those impacts.

In 2014, we had a 450-acre tract of land that we were going to add -- or we still propose to add to the state park, under option contract. Included about 1.1 miles of the north fork of Palo Pinto Creek. The District approached us through their consultants and requested that we assign that option to purchase to the District. The District, in turn, would extract the credits they needed from that segment of the creek, would place a conservation easement on that segment of the creek, and it would sell the entire 450-acre tract back to Texas Parks and Wildlife at about a third of what they paid for it.

The Commission agreed to that. The staff agreed to that, and we're operating under that agreement currently. In the meantime, we've also worked with the District on doing stream characterizations for other reaches of the creek inside the park. We've worked together on access issues and management issues. When it came right down to issuing that permit, the Corps of Engineers determined that they didn't quite have enough credit for the permit they need to build that dam and impound that body of water.

So the District returned to us and has been working with us on putting a conservation easement on another reach of the creek that is already inside the state park. It's about a 1.8-mile reach of the state park.

The advantage of this arrangement to us is that they would restore that reach of creek. They would remove exotic species. They would plant native species, and they would undertake any fire or any other management tools that would be required for them to reach their success criteria along that creek. And that plan is fully consistent with the resource management plan developed for the park. Would save the Parks Division the money that we would have otherwise spent to do that exotic species control, to do those plantings, and to restore that reach of creek.

Our estimate is probably that's a 50 to $100,000 savings to undertake that restoration work. Also, the -- we very carefully designed that conservation easement in such a way that it would not interfere with any of our park development plans. There are gaps in that conservation easement where we intend to put trails or bridges across the creek. There are provisions in that conservation easement that would allow the public to still have full access to that creek for fishing or picnicking and so forth. So we've worked to make sure that that conservation easement would not interfere with our public use plan.

You can see from this map where that reach of the creek is. It's a narrow corridor. I believe that's about 150 feet wide on average, just, again, to protect the creek itself and the banks of the creek immediately adjacent to the creek. We did encourage the District to look at options other than the state park; and although they located a couple of stream segments that probably would have qualified with the Corps of Engineers, they were on private property. Their concern -- and, quite frankly, our concern -- is that if you only protect 150-foot wide corridor and you have overgrazing occurring or you have crop agriculture occurring or you have subdivision development occurring that close to that creek, you're still going to have impacts that are going to compromise fish and wildlife values.

By undertaking this work and protecting this creek inside the state park, then, of course, we can control that adjacent development and ensure that the gain in fish and wildlife values that result from that permit and from that works that done, will last in perpetuity. We've --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions -- oh, sorry. Go ahead.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We've received no public comments on this proposal. And with that, the staff does recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: If there are no further -- I'm sorry. You had a question, Commissioner Latimer.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So to go back to the map where the easement is, the 450 acres that they are going to give us at a reduced price, is that that block on top?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, ma'am, it's not shown. It's immediately --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: It's not shown.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: -- east. It's immediately east of that block on top.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay. So --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It is north of the park.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So this is already in the park, that piece. So it's an additional piece that would adjoin that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, ma'am, exactly.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

If there's no further discussion, I will place the Grant of Conservation Easement, Stephens County, on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

We'll move on to Work Session Item No. 9, Grant of Conservation Easement, Blanco County, Approximately 164 Acres at Pedernales Falls State Park, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is a follow-up to an action that you took and authorized earlier this year to acquire land adjacent to Pedernales Falls State Park, overlooking the park's namesake falls. That is in Blanco County, not very far west of Austin. About 30 miles west Austin. Spectacular park. You heard it mentioned earlier today that that's one of those parks where we've had to impose some visitation limitations during peak -- during peak times of the year because of how popular that park is. About 215,000 visitors in recent years.

And as you will recall from earlier in the year, you did authorize us to acquire a critical tract of land overlooking those falls from a willing landowner. We are still -- just in the interest of full disclosure, we're still working on the details of that transaction; but one of those details is that the landowner wants to make sure that that land does stay in conservation for state park purposes in perpetuity. It is a bargain sale, and he and his attorney feel that placing a conservation easement on top of that acquisition would just help ensure that the property never leaves the state park system.

The conservation easement would be held by the Texas Land Conservancy, who holds an easement -- already holds an easement on about 450 acres of that man's ranch, the seller's ranch. It would be a simple conservation easement that would simply provide -- prevent any subdivision or overdevelopment of that property. It would allow -- fully allow public access, trails, modest recreational development, all those uses that we would have planned for the property anyway.

And staff does believe that having a conservation easement on the property is fully consistent with the mission of the Department and the State Parks Division. We did receive one comment this morning from someone who just simply made the statement that there's already enough develop in Pedernales Falls State Park, and that our focus should be on maintaining the facilities we already have in the state park. I think he's simply arguing that if we add land, we should not add land and overdevelop it.

With that, the staff recommends that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a quick comment. Having looked at this and everything, I was most supportive when we did it. We've found a person that truly believes in preserving the natural beauty of this whole area that we owe a debt of gratitude to and to do this conservation easement, to me, is a no-brainer.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other comments?

If there's no other further discussion, I will place the Grant of Conservation Easement, Blanco County, on the Thursday Commission Meeting for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 10, Grant of Water Line Easement, Walker County, Approximately a Tenth of an Acre at Huntsville State Park, Mr. Trey Vick.

MR. VICK: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Trey Vick; and today, I am asking for a request of easement of approximately a tenth of an acre at Huntsville State Park in Walker County.

Huntsville State Park sits about six miles south of Huntsville. It's about 2,000 acres. It's located deep in the Piney Woods. The park staff has been approached by the City of Huntsville for an easement to cross a 40-foot strip of land the Department purchased back in 2008, to bring City utilities down to the park. This easement is going to be approximately 40-by-40, and it's to improve their water system.

The requested location is about three-quarters of a mile from the main part of the park, and is not used by the public. This strip of land was used to bring water and sewer into the park. So it's been disturbed and cleared one time.

In exchange for this easement, the developer -- the land surrounding the park -- has agreed to an enforceable deed restriction of a 25-foot buffer to protect the perimeter of the park, and it's about 5.2 miles of perimeter. The deed restriction will run concurrently with the term of the water line easement. The City of Huntsville anticipates needing more of that 40-foot stretch in the near future.

So we're currently working with the City and the adjacent landowner of a possible fee simple swap of about a half acre for almost 16 acres of deed restricted buffer.

So in addition to the proposed resolution authorizing a term easement, we're requesting permission to begin the public notice and input process for the exchange outlined above and we anticipate coming back in January for action on that swap.

There's a map. You can see the approximate location; and that little finger that goes up, there's a 40 -- 40-foot strip that I mentioned and it's about three-quarters mile away from the park. There's a close-up of it.

The City's existing water line comes through the subdivision to the north of the park called Elkins Lake, and that's where they're looking to tie-in to their water line. And here's just an illustration showing the 25-foot buffer around perimeter of the park that we're working on for the exchange.

We've received no comments on this transaction. And if there's no questions, the staff recommends the Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions?

If no further discussion, we'll place the Grant of Water Line Easement, Walker County, on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Thank you.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Work Session Item No. 11, Update on Regulatory Litigation, Red Snapper; Oysters; and Chronic Wasting Disease, Regulatory Authority, Ownership of Deer, these items will be held in Executive Session.

At this time, I would like to announce that pursuant to requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act, including advice regarding pending or contemplated litigation. We will now recess for Executive Session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Good afternoon, everybody. I have a little housekeeping to do here before we start the meeting. We're reconvening the regular session of the Work Session on November 1st, 2017, at 2:12 p.m.

Work Session Item No. 11, we went through in Executive Session.

This Commission has now completed its Work Session business, and I declare us adjourned.

(Work Session Adjourns)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS       )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

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

___________________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2018

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