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TPW Commission

Work Session, March 19, 2019

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

March 19, 2019

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

COMMISSION WORK SESSION & EXECUTIVE SESSION

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Awfully quiet in here. I'm not sure I need to do this. Good morning. I'd like to call this Work Session Meeting to order March 19th, 2019, at 9:08 a.m.

Before we proceed with our business, Carter has a statement he needs to make.

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

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

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay to proceed?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Help yourself, Ralph.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. The first order of business is approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held January 23, 2019. Those minutes have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER BELL: So moved.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioner Bell.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Second.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Second Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you.

All right. Update -- item -- Work Session Item No. 1, our update on the progress in implementing the Land and Water Resources Conservation Program.

MR. SMITH: Let me get right here.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Just do it from your seat.

MR. SMITH: No, that's great, Chairman. Thank you. Yeah, thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. I am going to have to get this little switcher over here so I can change slides.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As is customary and by law, just a quick update on our Internal Affairs team. Jon and his team continue to do a very good job. Jon has increasingly placed an emphasis on real proactive outreach to our employees just to make sure that everybody is acutely aware of the policies and procedures governing the Agency and really has made that a priority in terms of new forms of outreach, which I appreciate. Also, Jon continues to invest in the training for our team and making sure that they're afforded the best opportunities for the skill sets that they need and so just want to compliment him in that regard. Any questions that y'all have for Jon on anything related to Internal Affairs, just please talk directly with him.

Second item -- let's see here. There we go. Couple of not new faces because they've been for a while. Is John Silovsky here today? John, you out there in the crowd? There he is in the back, hiding. John recently got promoted our Deputy Director of Wildlife perched in the back row, which is a habitual seating place for Parks and Wildlife employees whenever I'm speaking. So John has taken to that nicely.

John before getting promoted to the Deputy Director in Wildlife, was our District Director in the Post Oak in East Texas. Did a terrific job over there for three or four years. Prior to that, he was a wildlife biologist in Kansas with their Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism. Oversaw all of their public lands in a bunch of the state and so he's going to give a great perspective here for the field and working with Clayton and his team and we're excited about his leadership.

So, John, congratulations on your promotion. We're excited about that and look forward to working with you in this capacity.

Similarly on the State Parks side, Justin Rhodes. I thought I saw Justin earlier. Justin, you're there not in the back row. So Justin has been promoted to our Deputy Director inside State Parks. I think y'all have met Justin before, as well. He literally grew up in the state park system. His dad was a State Parks employee for us there at -- where? Purtis -- Purtis Creek?

MR. RHODES: Mission Tejas.

MR. SMITH: Mission Tejas, yeah. And Justin has also worked his way up through the system. He was a superintendent at Martin Dies and Purtis Creek and more recently he's been our Regional Director on the coast out of Houston. And just like John, he's done a terrific job and we're awfully excited to have him in Austin bringing that field perspective in terms of supporting Rodney and the State Parks team.

So, Justin, congratulations. Real excited about your position here.

So y'all will be seeing a lot more of John and Justin and just wanted to make sure y'all had a chance to meet them.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before you go --

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah, sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- on --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- just want to caution that two people from Kansas is enough.

MR. SMITH: Well, I can't speak for John; but Justin did grow up in Texas in Rusk, just to be sure about that.

John, if you need to defend your honor, do it now or forever hold your peace.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: No more Jayhawks.

MR. SMITH: No more Jayhawks. Duly noted, Chairman. So we got it. All right.

We've talked a lot with the Commission about Red snapper related issues over the years and just want to give a quick update on where we stand in the second year of the exempted fishing permit that we have. Remember, that's the agreement that the Gulf states or the snapper states have with the National Marine Fishery Service which give the state fisheries governing bodies the ability to set the seasons for recreational angling. So, again, this doesn't cover the charter-for-hire related industry or the commercial sector. It just covers the private rec side of things.

Last year, Robin, we had what? Eighty-two days? Is that -- seventy -- eighty-two, Lance, is that right?

Last year we had 82 days, which is the most days of recreational Red snapper fishing we have had since probably 2010; is that right, Lance?

Yeah. Obviously, that was very well received by our recreational sector. This year under that exempted fishing permit -- and this is the final year of that, by the way -- our total allowable catch was bumped up a little bit and so our Coastal Fisheries team has estimated that we could have potentially even more days. Again, assuming we don't exceed that cap. We've got to stay within it.

And so our Coastal Fisheries team modeled five different options for recreational anglers, looking at a combination of different start and stop dates. Anything from starting sometime in the spring and having some opportunities there, coupled with the traditional summer season. Looking at a start around Memorial Day and then going for 95 days and then what ultimately was the preference for our Red snapper fishermen was starting on that traditional June 1st day and then going forward 97 consecutive days.

And, again, this is for fishing in federal waters. The Texas seas are open 365 days a year. So I want to make sure that's clear. We're just talking about federal waters here.

So in consultation with the Chairman, we decided to go with this traditional June opening and are letting folks know that they may have as many as 97 days of fishing; but, again, that's going to be governed by the total allowable catch. Our fisheries biologists will be monitoring that very carefully to make sure that we don't exceed that. And so we'll be obviously getting that word our posthaste and wanted to make sure that the Commission was aware of that. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: As you noted, this is the final year of the experimental --

MR. SMITH: Fishing permit.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- fishing permit. So should we have a briefing from Lance and Robin at the May meeting on what to potentially expect for next year, just so this Commission --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- can be thinking about it as we -- it will be here before you know it and those -- I just would -- I'd suggest that, that we have a short briefing on this at the May meeting so that everybody here can understand where you think the limit currently is and where we could go.

MR. SMITH: Sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And just to be clear, as Carter said, the number days is an estimate that's based on the total allowable catch that they permit us to take, so.

MR. SMITH: It could be less than that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Could be less than that, but we -- this is -- of course, we're a lot better off than we were two or three years ago. No question about it. But we still need to continue press for State control of the fishing. We do a good job with it. We're protective of it, and it's continued to grow; but it's important to resist any efforts to privatize -- further privatize this fishing component, so, in my judgment anyway.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Is 97 the max, regardless of the catch?

MR. SMITH: Ninety-seven is the max, yeah. Is that -- I guess it could be extended, Robin, depending on the catch, that is a possibility. You're right. It could extend, but that's what we're estimating is 97 days to give folks some kind of a ceiling to shoot for. But that would take them from June 1st, obviously, all the way through Labor Day. And so we'd cover the lion's share of the --

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: It can go either way up or down --

MR. SMITH: That's right.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: -- based on the quota?

MR. SMITH: Just can't exceed the catch.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Exactly.

MR. SMITH: So like the idea of the May briefing and Robin and Lance will plan on coming back to y'all in May with a subsequent briefing on where we think things are headed next, if that works.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Great.

MR. SMITH: Okay, good. Next thing I want to cover -- and I see Josh and Darcy Bontempo behind him -- is just this is the 20th anniversary of our Big Game Marketing effort. Our Communications and Marketing team has done a terrific job with helping to promote the Big Time Texas Hunts. You know, that's the chance that hunters can purchase to try to get an opportunity to, you know, hunt -- have some extraordinary hunts for, you know, White-tail and Mule deer and Pronghorn antelope and other big game.

This 20th anniversary is set with a lot of milestones. As you can see here, the most entries, the highest amount of gross and net revenue. The return on investment has been terrific and Darcy and her team have just done a phenomenal job of really doing some very targeted niche marketing and reaching out to the demographics most likely to buy those chances.

And ultimately, what's most important about it is generating funds to help support our big game management in the state. So investing in conservation, habitat, research and development, working on restocking when we need that. And as you can see in the 20-year history, they've helped generate over $9 million to help support our Big Game Program, which has -- which again has just been great and I want to applaud them.

Also with this 20th-year milestone, Josh and Darcy and the team are rolling out a new license plate and you can see that, the Bighorn sheep. And they went out and asked hunters in an online survey to let us know their preferences in choosing between a license plate that would have a Pronghorn antelope or a Bighorn sheep and the -- those that participated voted on the Bighorn sheep and there's the mock-up and that will be rolled out and so for $30 if somebody wants to support the Big Game Program, they can purchase that license plate with that majestic Bighorn sheep on it and $22 of that ultimately will be rolled back in to help habitat conservation and restoration for big game and the great work that Mitch and his team do. So we're excited about that and want to compliment our Marketing team, Josh, for all that great work. So well done.

Also, our Communications team, we've got a new podcast that we want to tell you about and this is a terrific compliment to the award-winning radio program that Cecilia Nasti from our Communications team produces and narrates and if you haven't heard that, it's on about 80 stations around the state and it's a wonderful way, again, to help tell the rich and bountiful stories of our state and our lands and waters and fish and wildlife and parks. She does a great job, but she decided to produce this new podcast called "Under the Texas Sky" and, obviously, the podcast will be available to anybody any time.

It's targeted at a younger demographic and clearly we've talked to the Commission a lot about making sure that we're doing everything on the Communications and Marketing side to help bring in new users, introduce nontraditional users; and we think this podcast is going to be a great way to help reach those folks. And so, Josh, want to compliment you and Cecilia for this innovation and excited about seeing where this goes and look forward to hearing about that over the next year.

I want to give a bit of an update on where we stand with Fairfield Lake State Park and our lease agreement with Vistra Energy and I think Bob has notified the Commission about this development. Since 1971, we have had a lease agreement on what essentially has been a power plant lake, a coal mine lake, the Big Brown Mine. Some of you may be familiar with that over near the community of Fairfield.

We had a lease agreement with TXU and then Luminant and then Vistra Energy is now the owner of that facility. Back in 2018, the company made what was obviously a very difficult decision to close that mine there at Fairfield. That was a big economic decision, as you can imagine. It had pretty significant consequences, obviously, for the community. It also had consequences for us in that we had a ten-year lease that expires in October 1st of 2020. And consistent with that lease, the company was required to tell us if there was some chance that they might not be renewing the lease and there was a two-year obligation to do so.

And so consistent with the terms of the lease agreement there, the company informed us that they may not be renewing that lease. They have put that property up for sale, including the acreage that's covered by Fairfield Lake State Park, which is -- and I'm looking at Justin for confirmation -- roughly 1,800 acres there around the lake. Very popular from a fishing and camping perspective. We get roughly 70,000 visitors a year that come there. So it's a big deal for the community.

I will say the Vistra employees that have been tasked to communicate this difficult message with Parks and Wildlife have tried to tell us everything they can. They've been as forthright as they can be. Obviously, these decisions are being made higher up in the Vistra headquarters. We know that they have gotten bids from interested buyers to purchase the property. We know that they have conveyed to those perspective purchasers our desire to see the state park lease continue. Again, provided that the lake is still going to be there and we're going to be able to operate it. And so we know that's been conveyed. We just don't know the status of sale and -- but I did want to let you know that that issue is out there and want to be prepared to come back and relay to the Commission whatever decision we get from them and their successor interest there. So I wanted to bring that to your attention.

Bob, did I miss anything in that transmittal?

MR. SWEENEY: No. That's a good summary. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Okay. Any questions on that, Chairman?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, it says on this third bullet point "Luminant has notified." Should that have been Vistra?

MR. SMITH: I think that should have been Vistra. Yeah, Luminant is a subsidiary --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Luminant is no longer --

MR. SMITH: -- of Vistra.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Oh, it is?

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh. Yeah, that's my understanding is that Luminant is a subsidiary of Vistra.

Is that your understanding, Bob?

MR. SWEENEY: I'm not sure.

MR. SMITH: Okay. It's --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Irrespective --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- the owner is --

MR. SMITH: Vistra.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yeah, all right.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah. Any other questions on that?

Okay. Chairman, one of the things that I don't think we've done as good a job coming back to the Commission on is just quickly updating you on the status of land acquisitions that the Commission has given us authorization to proceed on and at Ted and Brent's suggestion, we thought it would be helpful if periodically we come back maybe at the end of the year to just kind of let you know the status of where things stand with respect to specific land acquisitions.

And so just real quickly over the last year, our Land Conservation team has closed six purchases authorized by the Commission at various times, covering a little over 16,500 acres. Now, the big one there is Powderhorn and we'll talk about that; but you can see the diversity of these. Everything from the 23-acre tract that we acquired at San Jacinto Battleground at a very significant bargain sale. Very culturally significant there. The Whooping crane habitat over near Goose Island State Park that we acquired with the assistance of the Nature Conservancy with funding from the Deepwater Horizon. Some important inholdings at Bastrop State Park and over on Follet's Island with the help from the Trust for Public Land and two important places that we're concerned about. And, of course, the biggest one was this roughly 15,000 acres that we transferred from the Parks and Wildlife Foundation over to Parks and Wildlife and our Wildlife Division for our newest wildlife management area, the Powderhorn Wildlife Management Area. And so now Lynn Polachek and his team in South Texas along the coast are tasked with managing that acreage.

We're awfully excited to see that come into the inventory. Been a lot of work on habitat restoration. We've had some great youth hunts out there with the Texas Wildlife Association. We've had a number of public hunts this year that were eminently popular for hunters wanting to hunt White-tail deer and Axis, feral hogs and Sambar deer. The habitat is just extraordinary and we're really excited about this being the newest part of our WMA system. So I wanted to let you know that that has been formalized.

There is still acreage kept in reserve by the Parks and Wildlife Foundation that ultimately we hope and plan to transfer over to the Agency to manage as the state park part of this, but that will come in the future; but I did want to let you know about the balance of it having been transferred in October of '18.

Couple of other tracts that y'all are familiar with, the five-acre donation next to Balmorhea State Park. Just a critical, critical parcel to help with our operations and management and buffer of that park. And, of course, a land exchange that the Commission worked on diligently recently, the exchange of a little over 120 acres for that 1,280-acre tract there at the J.D. Murphree that the Conservation Fund helped so well with.

And so all of those tracts have closed and I wanted to make sure, Chairman, that you and the Commission were aware of those developments. Any questions about any of those? Anything?

Okay, good. Okay, Mr. Chairman, I'm going to do just kind of a quick Legislative update on where things stand. And obviously, you know, we're midway, which means things are really just getting going in earnest. Also, it's obviously ever evolving and so until it's over, let's not count our chickens before they hatch. So I'm going to simply just let you know where things stand to date in general without going into a lot of detail, but let me cover a couple of things both on the financial side and the programmatic side.

I don't want to spend a lot of time on budget numbers that we've already gone over with the Commission and which again are very fluid and in play. I'll just simply remind the Commission that we started in a good place with respect to the base budgets in the House and Senate. We felt really good about the starting points in terms of things like the appropriation of all the sporting goods sales tax and the Senate and the appropriation of critical funds for capital construction and repair.

We also felt really good on both -- in both chambers about adjustments to the base that the House and Senate proposed to address priority needs for us that total collectively upwards of $28 million and those are critical needs that were able to handle internally just by getting the House and Senate's proposed concurrents with us being able to move around some priorities in the budget. So things like plugging the hole from a deficit budgeting perspective in State Parks; getting our Infrastructure team off of project-paid funding and providing a secure funding stream for them; same thing with our TV show in Communications, helping to stabilize that; making sure that we had funding available to deal with our office space issue down at Corpus Christi; funds to help us with some staff compensation goals, which as y'all know are longstanding. So a number of critical adjustments that the Legislature started with in the base budget, Chairman, that we feel really good about.

So where do we stand today? You know, these were our eight exceptional items. These were the items that we asked for in addition to what was in our base budget. Again, all of this is in play. Neither the House nor the Senate have passed a formal budget yet and they certainly haven't gone to conference committee and so, again, everything very fluid here. So, again, I'm not going to spend any time going through this table, per se. What I will tell you is that the Senate has passed a supplemental bill and that purports to cover a lot of the needs that we identified in Exceptional Item No. 6, Hurricane Harvey related damages which y'all know well.

In addition, the Senate supplemental bill provided funding for the Law Enforcement radios that we really need from an interoperability perspective. So we felt good about that. The budget itself this year is initiating on the House side before it comes over to the Senate. So the discussions of our exceptional items in the Senate are still being considered by a subcommittee inside Senate Finance and, again, that's got some time to play out.

On the House side, the House Appropriations Committee has passed a proposed budget. They did that yesterday or the day before, along with a supplemental bill. Again, without going into a lot of detail, Chairman, both the supplemental bill in the House and their proposed budget bill covering the Agency looks good and we're guardedly optimistic about a number of these exceptionable items being addressed either in whole or in part; but, again, that's going to have to go to the full House, which we understand it will probably next week for a full vote. Then it will go over to the Senate. The Senate will pass their own budget. Then it will go to conference, and we'll see where it goes; but I will tell you at this juncture that we spent a lot of time on this issue with your support with members. Allison Winney and David, Mike and his team have been very active, as have other members of the team and we're very hopeful about what the budget will portend for the next biennium.

These are some budget riders I'll just -- that are important to us. And, again, everything still in play in both the Senate and the House. But the House Appropriations Committee has adopted several that were priorities for us. Others have been sent to what's called Article 11, which is essentially a parking lot or placeholder for things to be considered either by the full House or in conference committee. But, again, you can see a number of these that were already proposed to be adopted by the Appropriations Committee. So those go to the full House as their recommendation.

You know, I'll call your attention to the first one. One that we've talked to y'all a lot about, the ability to move unexpended balances for construction projects from one biennium to the next and that's a very important fiscal management tool for our Infrastructure team as they're dealing with unique peculiarities of State contracting and purchasing and bidding out construction projects big and small all across the state and so having a little bit more flexibility to help us manage through that will help.

I'll also remind the Commission that assuming the Joint Facilities Oversight Committee is reauthorized by the House and Senate that Chairman Hancock has very capably overseen, we'll continue to work very, very closely with that committee on dealing with sometimes our shifting priorities and our fiscal challenges that come up in the course of biennium. And, Chairman, I think you heard him speak to that relationship yesterday in Senate Finance Committee and how well Jessica and her team have done working with he and the committee on making sure that they are aware of things.

So we're not looking at this rider as a way to move lots of unexpended money from one biennium to another; but it will help us just from a cash management perspective and, again, dealing with the contracting issues that invariably come up as we bid out these projects. So, again, things are looking positive on this front.

Statutorily we've got a bunch of bills obviously up, and the committees are moving forward now. The Chairman was down at Senate Finance yesterday to hear testimony on Madam Chair Kolkhorst's Senate Joint Resolution 24 and Senate Bill 26, which deals with the proposed constitutional amendment in appropriation of the sporting goods sales tax to help fund state parks and historic sites. Chairman did a great job representing the Department's perspective in that regard and I'm pleased to report to the Commission that Madam Chair Kolkhorst's bill was voted out of Senate Finance eleven to zero and so that will then move to the full Senate for consideration and if the Senate elects to adopt that, it will then go over to the House for their consideration. And got a lot of cosponsors for that legislation in the Senate and also on the House.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And I would add to that -- and I'm sure most of you who are on Governor Patrick's e-mail list saw that this is one of his 30 top priorities for this session. So that, I think, is -- portends good future for this in Senate.

MR. SMITH: Yep, all appendages crossed. So, yeah.

Couple of other bills I'll comment on, the cultivated oyster mariculture, important piece of legislation that Robin and his team, Lance, have been working closely with Texas A&M Corpus, CCA, the City of Corpus, Texas Restaurant Association and others. If passed, this would give the Commission the authority to set rules governing the establishment of oyster mariculture along the coast. Obviously, a big issue.

That bill was heard in the House Culture Recreation, and Tourism last week. It was left pending, but probably expect for that bill to get voted out if not this week, next; but seemed to be a lot of interest in that. Chairman Perry's Breeder Deer I.D. Bill was heard in Senate Water and Rural Affairs yesterday. A lot of testimony surrounding that issue and had, obviously, a number of staff there to talk about that. Clayton and Stormy, in particular.

Today in House CRT, we expect the bill having to do with the oyster harvesting in closed areas to be heard, as well as the sand and gravel related bill as well. So lots of things moving statutorily, Chairman and Commissioners, and obviously we'll continue to keep you updated through David and Allison's good work as things progress and I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I would like to note that when you mentioned staff being down at the Capitol yesterday to work with Chairman Perry on the Breeder Deer I.D. Identification Bill, you were there too until after 7:00 p.m.

Question on the -- on HB 4079 on the oyster leases or certificates of location.

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Can somebody remind me of whether that bill proposes to change the statute that would allow a bidder -- allow the renewal -- sorry. Let me restate that. Would allow the holder of a certificate of location to continue to have a right of first refusal, but still up the -- at the expiration, up the bidding, if you will, to fair market rates?

MR. SMITH: I'll have to defer to Bob or Robin if they know the answer to that.

MR. RIECHERS: For the Commission, Robin -- or for the record, Robin Riechers, Coastal Fisheries Division. Chairman, the bill basically does two things. One, it does do what you said. It basically allows the first right of refusal, but gives the option for the Commission -- and even now, the Commission has an option to increase the fees; but it states that further. It also allows the Commission to change the terms of the lease. Meaning the length of time of the lease, which right now it's set at 15 years statutorily.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, could somebody send me the proposed language on the upping of the rates? Because as I think I've said before, in my view, it's fine to have the holder continue to have a right of first refusal; but the public ought to have a chance to bid at market rate and the State should receive market value for leases of its property. So I feel like we need to push for that if it's not being done, and I'm not suggesting it's not. So if somebody could send me that, I'd appreciate it.

MR. RIECHERS: We'll get you that language today.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, any other questions for me on anything I've presented? Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good?

MR. SMITH: Good. Yeah, thank you, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Carter.

All right. Item 2, Mike Jensen, Financial Overview.

MR. SMITH: Oop. Sorry, Mike.

MR. JENSEN: That's all right. Thank you.

Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Mike Jensen, Financial Resources Division Director. I have a number of slides. It looks like a lot, but I'm going to go through them fairly quickly because the Commission has seen this layout and format repeatedly with the exception of the two newer Commissioners.

I wanted to give you a snapshot look of the pattern of state park revenue that typically happens in a 12-month period. This is what the pattern has looked like for a number of years, but we are moving to a new park system. It went live at the end of January, and one of the differences with that system is how we handle reservations. In the old system, we only required payment up front of the first day of a reservation, even if it was multiple days; and reservations could be made for more than 300 days in advance.

The new system requires full payment of the reservation, as well as the entry fees at the time the reservation is made; and it also -- have an opportunity if you're not making a reservation, just day use, you can get a reservation in advance for the heavily visited locations. So that may change what this pattern looks like. It's going to probably take a full fiscal year or two in the new system to see what it's -- it's probably going to soften the curve, but the trend will probably be the same.

Hopefully, we like to have a trend of growth from year to year. I just wanted you to be aware of those changes. And the reason for those changes, they had a goal of minimizing the burden on the customer when they show up there. If all this stuff is done in advance, they actually can go to their site and enjoy the location without having to stand in line. So they're trying to reduce lines. They're trying to improve queue management. That was the main rationale for it.

But you can see that the pattern that we're familiar with, it's really spring break is the biggest month and the summer are the leading months. So the first six months are only 35 percent of the revenue. The last six months are 65 percent of the revenue. If you look at the current fiscal year for September through January, we're tracking fairly even with the prior fiscal year. Basically if you compare percentage, the change is zero percent. We're about $400 behind. So basically we're even. September was ahead by two -- almost 3 percent. October was behind by 10 percent. November was behind 5 percent, but December was up 7 and half percent and January was up 12 percent. I don't yet have the data on February.

Now, if we compare the prior four years for the same period of time, this is what it looks like. We're even again with '18; but we're behind '17, which is the year of record, by about 10 percent. But you've got to remember these months are the lowest periods of revenue for the Department. So if we have a strong spring break, which I hope that we will this month, and a strong summer, hopefully we get ahead or get closer to what that '17 level was. We're ahead of '16 by about 1 percent, and we're ahead of '15 by 8 percent for that same period.

And this is what it looks like just compared to the prior year. Like I said, we're even at zero percent, 16.55 million in each of those years for the same period. And this shows you where the variances are in revenue, as well as with visitation. You can see the entrance fees are down, but facility use fees are up. And with respect to visitation, total visitation is down by 4 percent; however, paid visitation is up just under 1 percent.

Moving to the boat revenue, this is what the pattern is for boat revenue. It's even more backloaded than state park revenue. The first six months only account for about 30 percent of the revenue. The last six months about 70 percent of the revenue. The peak periods are May and the summer. So we're basically starting right now this month the peak period for collection of registration fees and boat titling fees. And the importance of that is during a year, registration fees account for probably about two-thirds of this fee revenue stream during the course of a year, 22 to 23 million that comes in.

So if we look at each of the months of this current fiscal year, September was ahead 7 percent, October was behind 4 and a half percent, November was behind 10 percent, December was about even, January was ahead 9 percent, and February -- I have that data -- is actually ahead by 2 percent. So through January, we're ahead by 1 percent. And that's what it looks like when you compare the same period with the prior four years. It's a relatively flat revenue stream. '18 is and was the best year of record. So we have an opportunity to equal or exceed that. We hope we do; but like I said, the growth slope on this is fairly flat and has been for a number of years.

Revenue is up 1 percent. That accounts to about $52,000. And this gives you the variance of the three categories: Sales tax, titles, and registrations. What I'd like to point out for Commissioner Bell and Aplin since you're relatively new to the Commission, the amount that is reflected in this line for sales tax reflects the 5 percent that is appropriated and available to the Department. We actually collected 17.24 million in total sales tax. The other 95 percent, 16.38 million in '18 and 15.03 million '19, is retained by the State Treasury. So it's -- a lot of work is done out of the Law Enforcement offices on this area developing and generating revenue not only for the Department, but for the State of Texas.

And you can see we're behind in most of the categories with respect to registrations and titles; but then again, we need to see how we perform this spring and early this summer because that's really the period -- the peak period where these things we'll see hopefully some improvement.

License sales, the way it's structured, it's predominantly front-loaded. And, in fact, you can see from this slide that the first month really accounts for nearly 40 percent of the revenue. First six months is roughly 75 percent of the revenue that comes in and the last six months is primarily fishing related license fees and it's about 25 percent of the revenue for the year.

Now, if we look at each of these months for this current fiscal year, we can see September was ahead by about 4 percent, October was behind by about 7 percent, November was behind by about 7 percent; but December was up 2 percent, January was up 4 percent, and February is actually up about 6.3 percent. But we're tracking almost even, one-tenth of a percent better than the prior license year. So when you compare those four year periods, this is what the -- how it graphs out.

Ideally, we want to return to at least the license year '17 level. I don't know that we're going to achieve that this year because really with respect to the hunting, there's not going to be much of an opportunity to improve upon this variance that you see on this slide. There's not much hunting left to do, but we do have great opportunities with fishing. For where we are today compared to the prior year, we're ahead on the fishing licenses and we hope that trend to continue and to be even better this fiscal year.

Now, the last slide I have for you, one of the reasons I present is to get your review of the budget adjustments that were made. At the last meeting, the adjusted budget that was approved was 566.01 million. We have five categories of adjustment for the months of December and January. We have the first item of 5.12 million. That's operational noncapital unexpended balance. Those are moneys that were available in the first year, the fiscal year, that are now available in this fiscal year, the second fiscal year, the biennium.

The second item on there represents federal moneys from approximately 16 different federal sources or CFDAs. Top two was 85 percent wildlife restoration funding and state wildlife grants and that's an adjustment of -- total adjustment 7.9 million. The third item on there was appropriated receipts and unexpended balance of 1.47 million. A majority of this comes from donations and it also includes money from license plates.

The fourth item, capital construction UB, adjustment 15.56 million. It's across six different methods of finance to complete the projects that are in queue that the Infrastructure Division manages. And then we have an adjustment to true-up actual costs of employee fringe benefits of 130,000. So the total adjustments for those two months of December and January is 30.18 million. Our adjusted budget is 596.19 million. And that concludes the materials that I prepared for presentation. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try and answer them.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, questions or comments?

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I've got one question.

MR. JENSEN: Yes, sir.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Mike, on the boat revenue sales tax.

MR. JENSEN: Yes, sir.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Let me find my slide. Yeah, the -- you've got '18 versus '19. Sales tax is 862,791. In your variance, is that a positive variance?

MR. JENSEN: Let me look at the details that I have. It should be a -- I may have transposed the wrong column. Let me look for you.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Because it looks like our titles and registrations are up.

MR. JENSEN: I have the wrong -- it's -- in 2019, the sales tax is 862.2. I have them in the wrong column. I made an error. So the variance is actually correct.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Oh, '18 and '19 are --

MR. JENSEN: I put them in the wrong spot. That's an error that I made because I prepare the slides myself because I don't want anyone else to be responsible. I want to be responsible for my own errors. So that is an error that I made on the slide, but the variance column is correct and because -- if you swap those over because sales tax generally has been growing year to year primarily due to the efforts of the game wardens out there and the Law Enforcement office in the field. They've made this an area of concentration probably for the past four years. And so if you would look back at the trend of sales tax, you can see that it definitely has the most growth out of these three categories primarily due to their efforts.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody else questions or comments?

All right, Mike, thank you very much.

MR. JENSEN: I apologize for the error.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Next is work Session Item 3, Internal Audit Update, Cindy Hancock. Hi, Cindy.

MS. HANCOCK: Good morning. For the record, I'm Cindy Hancock, Director of Internal Audit. I'm going to give y'all an audit update.

So our fiscal year internal audit plan looks like this to date. With the Texas.Gov Reconciliation Advisory Project issued last week, all of our audits and advisory projects have been completed. Very happy to report that. For the fiscal year '19 audit plan, we have eight projects in progress. The IT audit regarding the Texas Wildlife Information Management System, or TWIMS, is in the reporting stage; and we've started planning for another IT audit where we'll try to determine the extent of hardware and software utilized outside of IT Division awareness.

The grant audit has completed the fieldwork stage, and I'm currently reviewing those working papers. I have two auditors conducting the Law Enforcement fiscal control audits and we've completed fieldwork at 8 of 12 field sites so far and we've issued four reports with only one office having a finding and that office took immediate action to correct that error.

The fiscal controls selected wildlife management areas is in the planning phase and our follow-up audit, which will be ongoing throughout the year. And since my last update to you in January, seven external audit recommendations have been implemented. Management's currently working to resolve the other 14 external and 17 internal audit findings. And finally the FEMA and the ADA advisory projects are ongoing.

For external audits, we've got quite a few. Fieldwork for Comptroller's post-payment audit continues. This audit has been going on for about a year, a little bit over a year. The State Auditor's Office has also begun an audit of the Texas Comptroller's vendor performance tracking system where they'll be looking at the accuracy of information and user access to the system. Their audit will include the Comptroller's Office, Parks and Wildlife, and the Texas Workforce Commission. Tentatively, this report will be issued sometime in May.

We also received notice that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Civil Rights Division will be coming later this year to conduct a compliance audit to the federal civil rights laws. This on-site review occurs every five years. Finally, the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Security Division is required to conduct a security audit every three years to assess Agency compliance with the Criminal Justice Information Security Policy and this assessment will begin in April.

For completed audits, the SAO has completed an audit of Information Technology job classification series. This audit involved all statewide natural resource agencies. Of the 88 staff reviewed at our Agency, 33 needed some kind of adjustment; but all adjustments have been or will be performed by April 1st. So this concludes my short update if you have any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

Okay, good report. Thank you.

MS. HANCOCK: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Work Session Item 4, our Statewide Commercial Fishing and Oyster Fishery Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Ken Kurzawski, followed by Lance Robinson.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski with the Inland Fisheries Division and today I'll be reviewing the proposed changes to the freshwater fishing regulations again for the new regulatory year that starts in September and I'll summarize the public comments on these proposals.

First off on Mill Creek, it's a small lake, as we've told you, near Canton that has a history of producing large bass. It is currently managed with a 14- to 21-inch slot limit. We are proposing a 16-inch maximum limit, which confines all harvest of bass less than 16 inches; but does allow temporary possession of bass over 24 inches and 13 pounds for submission to the ShareLunker Program. Goals are to maximize the catch of larger bass and also allow the harvest of some smaller bass.

Next on Lakewood Lake, which is here in the Austin area, it's being developed as a Leander city Park and will include fishing access. The lake will provide another opportunity in the Austin metro area for small lake fishing using kayaks and canoes. For Largemouth bass, our proposal is to implement an 18-inch minimum length limit and three-fish daily bag limit, which we decreased from the five-fish bag on your direction. The lake has an existing quality bass population, and an 18-inch limit is typically what we use to protect bass populations in these situations from overharvest.

Next on Alan Henry, Alabama bass are considered a different species than Spotted bass native to Texas. They are native to the Mobile River drainage in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. We have managed both species there with a five-fish bag that allows the harvest of two bass under 18 inches. While abundant, few Alabama bass have exceeded 18 inches. We are proposing to remove Alabama bass from that special five-fish bag, which means anglers could harvest up to five Alabama bass of any length. Increased harvest of abundant Alabama bass may benefit both bass fisheries.

On Southeast Texas, we currently have a 12-inch minimum length limit on Largemouth bass that covers that those areas indicated there and the change has been well received in the local area and has local support. We have had some compliance and enforceability issues with waters that border and extend into the non-listed counties. We want to encompass those waters that have bass populations with similar characteristics to eliminate some of those issues. So we are proposing to add a portion of Liberty County south of U.S. Highway 90 and all of Hardin and Newton Counties in an effort to improve understanding and enforceability of the 12-inch limit. Toledo Bend will continue to be excluded from the 12-inch limit.

And to take a look at some of the public comments we received on these, we did mostly receive comments that agreed with these proposals. All these comments were received online except one. The comments that disagreed or weren't in support, there wasn't any real consensus to those. Mostly a lot of people want to keep the same limit or had suggestions on different limits and particularly on the Southeast Texas, a lot of -- we had a few comments indicating to go back to the 14-inch statewide limit, but we think that 12-inch limit is the appropriate limit for that, that area.

So you will notice that we are not presenting the regulation proposal for Lake Conroe. We are pulling the staff's Lake Conroe recommendation from consideration tomorrow. Pending further evaluation, staff will come back to the Commission in the future about bass regulations on Lake Conroe. So before I move on to Alligator gar, do you have any questions or comments on these proposals or public input?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments so far?

Okay. Keep going, please.

MR. KURZAWSKI: I can do that. Starting off with the Alligator gar proposals on the Trinity River, we are proposing a 48-inch maximum length limit. This means that Alligator gar over 48 inches could not be -- that no -- Alligator gar over 40 inches could be harvested. There would be no change to the statewide bag limit of one. The length limit would be implemented on the Trinity River from the I-30 bridge in Dallas downstream to the I-10 bridge in Chambers County and this would include the east fork of the Trinity River as it goes up to the dam at Lake Ray Hubbard.

Under this limit, we would see more larger fish in the population and most of the spawning age fish would be protected when they reach reproductive age. This limit would still allow some limited harvest.

Next, we are proposing a -- to implement a drawing. The drawing would be -- would allow persons selected to harvest one Alligator gar over 48 inches in length per year from the same stretch of the Trinity River as we described for the 48-inch limit. This limited entry system would allow nontransferable harvest authorization for a set number of Alligator gar. Authorizations would be selected and distributed through a random draw of interested applicants.

Alligator gar could be harvested by any lawful means, including pole and line and bowfishing. The opportunity for harvest will be valid for one license year, September 1 through the following August 31. The mechanics of the drawing would probably necessitate that the authorization would be valid at a date later such as October 1st.

Next, proposing a nighttime ban on bowfishing between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise. You would not be allowed to take or possess an Alligator gar by means of lawful archery equipment or a crossbow. This probation -- prohibition would be in effect statewide. There are concerns about the increased vulnerability and harvest and ease of targeting large Alligator gar during night. Prohibiting nighttime bowfishing for Alligator gar is an additional measure that could be taken to protect populations from potential overharvest.

And finally, we would require mandatory harvest reporting. Persons harvesting Alligator gar would have to report the date, general location, size, and method in 24 hours by website or app which is similar to the current requirements for Eastern turkey. We are proposing to exempt Falcon Reservoir which has a five-fish bag and has a more robust population and that information is not needed to manage that particular population. Also, harvest reporting statewide would aid in tracking any harvest that is displaced from the Trinity to other areas.

Now, to go over some of the extensive comments we received on these proposals. I tried to segregate them out here by the various proposals. We had quite a few comments both for and against. A little bit of differences there. Some more agree. Some more disagree. We did -- went in there and looked at the methods. We did ask people what method they used and when they did respond to that, bows -- people who were using bows were the majority of those people responding to that. Had some -- pole and line was obviously the next and there were a few others, juglines and any other. And as I said, these were all people -- use -- self-identified those. We did have a few guides in that sample. A lot of considered opinions on both sides, and these are the ones particularly we got off of the online comments.

We also had public hearings. We had four public hearings at Conroe, San Antonio, Athens, and Livingston. Most of the people that did show up at those were against the proposals. We did have some e-mails and phone calls. We did do a Facebook live webinar. Got some comments there. All disagreeing mostly in general. And some of -- at least on these categories of disagreement, most of them were against most proposals. There was a little bit more agreement on some of the mandatory reporting.

We did receive a number of letters, e-mails from organizations/businesses pertaining to this and those in agreement. The Texas Wildlife Associates -- Association and Texas Foundation for Conservation supported all the proposals. The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club supported the 48-inch minimum, but they do have some concerns about harvest levels around the rest of the state. And then we had a number of letters and e-mails from organizations/businesses that disagreed with this. Bowfishing Association America and Lone Star Bowhunters Association disagreed with all the proposals. Bass Pro Shops/Cabela's were against the ban, nighttime ban, and concerns about the 48-inch limiting bow anglers on the Trinity River. Archery Trade Association and Congressional Sportsmen Foundation both supported our efforts to manage and conserve the gar population, but they were both concerned about the nighttime ban.

And just as I was -- as I've been sitting here, I received another couple comments from organizations or business. FeraDyne Industry, which is a bow -- archery manufacturer was against the nighttime ban and then also I received an e-mail letter from the Texas Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus Leadership that was against the nighttime ban that was signed by Representative Lyle Larson.

We also discussed -- went back out to the Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee and we did get some responses from them. The majority was in favor of most of the proposals except on the nighttime ban, which was a 50/50 split on that one and the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee also was in general agreement with the proposals.

And just to sort of somewhat try to categorize -- get our -- get my -- get our hands around the comments that we did receive, quite a few comments -- specific comments received on that, these are sort of in order of the ones that we heard the most through the process. Starting off with the general opposition, just people didn't like any of the proposals. They didn't think they were needed. They think the gar populations are in good shape with the one-fish bag. So that was their -- sort of a summary of that. And I'll mention a number them. The lack of, in their minds, supporting data to pursue these changes.

We received a number of comments on alternative regulations. Various things. Use of tags, different size limits, and there were even some people who believed that we should totally reopen Alligator gar to unlimited harvest. They think there's too many out there and they impact game fish. So that covered a lot of area there. A number of the comments certainly -- especially on talking about the ban of night fishing, they feel that target bow anglers and would have an economic impact in local areas where that activity occurs. There's some concern about hooking mortality on the catch-and-release of the pole and line anglers and then some general comments about the drawing being a little too restrictive for a tagging system or onerous, the reporting -- or the reporting measures.

So with that, that concludes my presentation; and if you have any questions or comments on the Alligator gar or the bass, I certainly would try to answer those.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: The objection to the prohibition on nighttime bowfishing, I wouldn't know that there have been any studies. Is it more advantageous to hunt at night? Is it easier to hunt at night?

MR. KURZAWSKI: In certain situations, it can be. For instance, where there's -- in the Trinity River where the water is very turbid, it's difficult to see the fish during the day in certain times of year. So some people do like to go out at night. Use the -- take advantage of the night. We don't have any, you know, percentages of harvest one versus the other or different -- the ability to go at night and people's preferences fishing for night during the day, it varies around the state. In general, bowfishermen like to go out at night. Especially during the summer months, it's a little better environment than being out there during the heat of the day, so.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay. I just didn't know if nighttime using lights made it less sporting, for lack of a better word? If the fish -- I mean, I just don't know any studies or if the fish are attracted to lights or if that somehow makes it --

MR. KURZAWSKI: In this case, the lights aren't used to attract them. It's just so they can see them in the water.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody else have questions or comments? Commissioner Warren.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: In the last Commission Meeting there was discussion about other states that have lacked -- and this specifically around the 48-inch limit that is proposed. Can you refresh my memory? Louisiana, in particular, I was kind of startled by it. I think the statement was made that they don't have many large Alligator gar anymore.

MR. KURZAWSKI: No, they do have a very good population. Some of that is that they don't have any sort of limits. They do harvest larger fish and then with the marshy areas in Louisiana, they reproduce there probably more frequently. So their population is probably sort of set up more to produce a lot smaller fish and not produce as many big fish as our, say, a river system like the Trinity River, which has more limited spawning over time and, you know, those year -- certain year classes will serve to keep that population going and those big fish are a little more noticeable in the population.

But typically when we -- usually when we deal with Louisiana, their regulations are typically more harvest oriented than ours are across the board. So we try and look at harvest, plus providing some quality and we have those quality populations here in Texas that we would like to certainly protect.

COMMISSIONER BELL: I have one question, and I have a partial bias just because I'm allergic to fish. I can't eat fish. However, I like all -- and I do love -- I love fishing and whatnot; but in regard to the gar population, isn't there a -- isn't there a suggested ban? I mean, they're just being hunted really for trophy? They're not being hunted for food?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, on the Trinity River, there is a -- the State's -- Texas Department of State Health Service has issued a consumption advisory against consuming any gar out of the Trinity River. That's correct. That's not a ban. You could -- it's not -- you're not prohibited there.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Right.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Their suggestion is just --

COMMISSIONER BELL: Eat at your own risk.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. You eat'em at your own risk. And there are other parts of the state where they aren't under those consumption advisories that people do harvest and then do eat some of those fish, so.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Anybody else?

I think based on what we've heard that in authorizing the proposed recommendations for tomorrow's action agenda, I want us to pull the nighttime -- the proposed ban on nighttime fishing so that staff can do more study and evaluation of the effects of spotlighting these fish at night and report back later on it. But for now, let's pull that component of the proposed recommendation so we will not be acting on that recommendation or that potential action item tomorrow.

With the exception that the nighttime ban, proposed ban, would still apply to the Trinity, unless you happen to receive one of these draw tags. In which event, you could use the tag anytime except during the spawn. Are we clear on that?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, we could -- we'll have to go --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So adjust it so that the proposed nighttime ban is not in effect except on the Trinity, unless you draw a tag. And, again, even a tag would not allow you to take if the Executive Director closes the fishery in the spawn. Everybody understand on that?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, sir. And we did have as part of that drawing, we did allow -- you know, legal archery equipment was part of that. So we would --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's correct.

MR. KURZAWSKI: -- continue it.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But the number of tags would be set by the staff, but I think that we should probably have some further discussion on just how many tags we should authorize, again, with the goal of protecting these large fish in a fishery where consumption is -- you'd be foolish to consume it, let's put it that way.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay.

MR. SMITH: So, Chairman, just to make sure I'm clear, but in the Trinity if you are drawn for one of the tags to be able to harvest a fish over 48 inches, you could do that at day or night?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's correct.

MR. SMITH: Okay. All right, I got it.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, sir. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. With that modification, I authorize the 2019-20 statewide recreational -- sorry. We've got to hear from Lance Robinson because you're finished, right?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Let's hear from Lance before I make the authorization on the full proclamation.

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Lance Robinson with the Coastal Fisheries Division. I'm here this morning to present to you four proposals that Coastal Fisheries is bringing for consideration for final action. I'm going to run through the proposals fairly quickly and then we'll -- at the end, we'll summarize the public comments that we've heard through yesterday afternoon.

So the Division, Coastal Fisheries, is presenting these four proposed regulation changes this morning. They include the expansion of the five-fish bag limit for Spotted seatrout, making the daily bag limit consistent coast-wide. The proposed regulation also changes -- that would include the requirement for the use of a non-offset non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for sharks, an increase in the minimum size limit for cobia from 37 inches to 40 inches, and finally the temporary closure of recently restored oyster reefs.

Regarding the Spotted seatrout proposal, the Department again proposes to expand the five-fish daily bag limit coast-wide. Currently, Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake have a ten-fish daily bag limit for Spotted seatrout. The Department has received requests from both private recreational anglers and fishing guides to consider lowering the daily bag limit to match the rest of the coast.

Coastal Fisheries data shows that the population of Spotted seatrout in these two systems remains stable. Additionally, most anglers fishing in these two systems land five or fewer fish per day. This slide shows the daily bag distribution for private recreational anglers during the 2017 fishing year. Over 91 percent of the anglers intercepted during these creel surveys retained five or fewer Spotted seatrout. Similarly, the bag distribution for guided trips shows a similar pattern, with almost 87 percent of intercepted anglers keeping five or fewer Spotted seatrout per day.

The previous two bag distribution slides represented the combined data for both Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake. However, it's been suggested that the current proposal would result in Texas anglers changing their behavior and would begin launching their boats on the Louisiana side of Sabine Lake to take advantage of the more liberal Louisiana regulations for Spotted seatrout, which currently includes a 12-inch minimum size limit, 15-fish daily bag limit, with no more of those -- no more than two of those fish being over 25 inches.

Department data, however, suggests that this is already occurring. There are two boat ramps on the Louisiana side of Sabine Lake that Parks and Wildlife conducts creel surveys. This slide represents the residency of anglers intercepted during the 2017 fishing year. Approximately 75 percent of the private recreational anglers and approximately 10 percent of the guided trip anglers that launched on the Louisiana ramps are Texas residents. However, data collected during these creel surveys from the two Louisiana boat ramps show that the majority of anglers, 82.7 percent, keep five or fewer fish.

We see a similar trend for guided trips that end their trips at the two Louisiana boat ramps on Sabine Lake, with almost three-quarters -- or about 71 percent -- of anglers keeping five or fewer Spotted seatrout.

To further gauge the opinions of anglers from these two areas and to get a better picture of angler preferences regarding this proposal, last summer the Department conducted a mail-out survey to a subset of licensed saltwater anglers living in a 14-county region. Utilizing the 2017 recreational creel survey data, the Department looked at fishing trips ending in Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake where anglers indicated they were either targeting Spotted seatrout or that trips actually had trout in the creel. They landed those fish.

Analyzing the county of residence for these anglers, we found that over 90 percent of these anglers resided in 14 counties around the state. Most of those counties, obviously, were around the two waterbodies. A random sample of 2,342 private recreational saltwater license holders from these counties were selected and mailed surveys. Additionally, surveys were mailed to all 358 all-water fishing guide license holders within the 14-county area. The survey results for the guides and the non-guides were analyzed separately and the effective response rate for the survey was 25 percent.

This map shows kind of a layout of the 14-county areas -- and I apologize for the size -- but the percentages that you see listed in each of those counties represent the percentage of anglers who targeted or retained Spotted seatrout in that -- from that county, from those surveys.

One of the questions in the surveys asked respondents to indicate their support for or against the reduction of the Spotted seatrout daily bag limit. Overall results by sector indicates strong support among guides for a reduction in the daily bag limit, with 77 percent responding that they support or strongly support the proposal. For private recreational anglers, 45.7 percent indicated they supported or strongly supported a reduction in the bag limit, while a quarter of the anglers opposed or strongly opposed the proposal. 29 percent of the respondents indicated they were neutral or had no opinion on the particular proposal.

When you look at the survey results by bay system, we continue to see strong support among guides who said they primarily fished in the Galveston Bay complex. For non-guides or private recreational fishermen, about 53 percent indicated they supported or strongly supported the reduction in the daily bag; 26 and half percent opposing; and then about 20 percent indicating that they had no opinion. They were neutral on the proposal.

However, when you look at and tease out the Sabine Lake information for those anglers who identified that they targeted or they -- Sabine Lake was their primary waterbody in which they fished, although the sample sizes are a little bit lower, there was less support among fishermen in these areas. Of the seven guides who responded to the survey, clearly 57 percent indicated they were opposed or strongly opposed. While about 43 percent indicated their support. For non-guides, about 39 and a half percent opposed or strongly opposed the proposal; 34 percent supporting; and the neutrality or no opinion was -- amounted to about 26 percent.

So that's all of my trout proposal. I'm going to go through the summaries of our public comments toward the end. I just wanted to move on to the other ones unless somebody has any particular questions at this point.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody have a question at this point or a comment?

Okay, keep going.

MR. ROBINSON: Okay. The proposal for sharks would require anglers fishing for this species in state waters to use non-offset non-stainless steel circle hooks. This requirement would not apply when fishing with artificial your -- lures, I'm sorry. The National Marine Fisheries Service has adopted these requirements federal waters to address overfishing of the species and to help with the rebuilding of the Atlantic dusky shark population. The proposal for cobia would increase the minimum size limit from 37 inches to 40 inches total length.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recently chose to change the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for Gulf cobia in federal waters to 40 inches. These proposals would make shark and cobia regulations in state waters consistent with federal regulations, which the Department believes will reduce confusion and enhance compliance, administration, and enforcement.

And finally, the Department proposes to temporarily close five oyster reefs within three bay systems that have recently been restored through cultch plantings or will be restored before the summer. These closures will be for two years and will allow juvenile oysters to attach to the newly placed substrate and grow to a legal size before being opened for harvest. The sites includes two areas in Galveston Bay, Pasadena Reef, 56 -- a little over 56 acres; Pepper Grove Reef, about 12 acres; one reef complex in the Matagorda/Lavaca Bay area, Noble Point of about 30 acres; and then two sites in Copano Bay, one that's been called the Sanctuary Reef, which is about 35 acres, and a non-sanctuary reef of about 35 and a half acres.

Buoys will be installed and maintained on the corners of each of these sites to help identify the closed areas to both commercial and recreational oyster fishing.

Moving to the public comments for all of the proposals, Coastal Fisheries, we received just over 2,700 comments through public hearings, online -- and online and e-mail comments. For the five-fish bag limit, we had about 70 percent of the respondents total speaking in support of the five-fish. That included support by the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, as well as the Coastal Conservation Association. We had about a quarter of respondents indicated they are opposed to the five-fish bag limit, and about 5 percent having no opinion on the matter.

Of the most common opposition listed at the bottom of the screen there, the number one was about 17 percent or 18 percent of the respondents indicated that the decision to lower the bag limit was not science based or that science didn't support the lowering of the limit. About 5 percent indicated that they were opposed because they felt like Texas anglers would buy Louisiana license and it would be a loss to the State of Texas. A few more have indicated that they were -- they just wanted to keep more fish, so they liked the idea of a higher bag limit. And then finally, about 3 percent of the respondents who opposed it, indicated that they believed that this only benefited fishing guides.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Lance, let me ask you question quickly.

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: If I'm a Texas resident, I go to Louisiana and buy, I guess, nonresident fishing license, fish, and I come onto the Texas side of the lake, am I subject to Texas bag limits or Louisiana bag limits?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir. And I'll --

MR. SMITH: Les, do you want to come forward?

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Director. For the record, Les Casterline, Lieutenant Game Warden for the Law Enforcement Division. I believe the question was over how the trout fishermen would be addressed if they had a Louisiana license crossing in and fishing while in the State waters in Texas?

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: No. I guess the first question is if you're fishing on the Texas side of the lake, are you subject to the Texas limit or the Louisiana limit?

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: If you're actively fishing in State waters of Texas, you're required to adhere to Texas' size and bag limits while actively fishing within our waters.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Regardless of where your license -- okay. So you're --

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: Correct.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: So --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Or where you launched.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Or where you launched. So this -- so buying a LA license, Louisiana license, wouldn't game the system if you were fishing in Texas waters, right?

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: Correct.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: If I saying that right.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: I guess the way to describe that would be if you're fishing in Texas waters and by chance you had -- you had actually launched on the Louisiana side, it would be possible that -- if they obtained their legal limit while fishing in Texas, if they were stopped in Louisiana waters on their way back to the boat ramp, you would have availability for them to increase to the Louisiana side while actually fishing in Louisiana where that limit would be lawful if they would land that limit in Louisiana.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay, thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody else questions or comments?

I would like to -- are you finished now?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir. Yeah, go ahead.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I would like to suggest that we carve out Sabine Lake for now, down to the High Island -- I'm using the High Island bridge as a dividing line because of the disparity in the regulations. As I understand it, Louisiana is considering whether to lower its limits. But for now, to avoid that disparity, let's just exclude Sabine Lake using High Island bridge from the proposed reduction and vote on the proposed reduction for everything else and that way we can continue to work with Louisiana and address ways to have a consistent management of Sabine Lake.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Now, Ralph, I want to make sure I understand what you're saying. You're saying the High Island bridge?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's -- that's the bridge that would be the --

MR. SMITH: You might -- hey, Lance, why don't you pull up those maps and show our two options that --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: There are two -- Law Enforcement has two options.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's the one I think is most efficacious.

MR. SMITH: Besides the 87 bridge?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: There you go.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

MR. ROBINSON: There were two options that -- in discussions with Law Enforcement. One, option one, would be the High Island bridge and State Highway 521 to the left bottom of the screen. The other option would be up State 87 bridge right up near the Texaco Point I believe is where that's called. But in discussions with Law Enforcement, I think the preference would be the State Highway 124 bridge and where it crosses the ICW; but as you'll see in that slide, as the highway kind of intersects Highway 24 -- 124 intersects with the beach Highway of 87, there's basically a 90-degree turn there. We would then propose that you extend that line, that boundary line, out to the 9-nautical mile line following that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: The only issue that I see with what -- with going with the High Island bridge, you know, we've got the issues that Rollover Pass. You know, where that thing's eroding out and everything real bad. So you're getting then closer to Bolivar Peninsula and I'm not sure that it's not more advantageous to move it a little bit further east and maybe use the other one rather than the High Island bridge.

MR. SMITH: So you've got two options. You could move it east over to that bridge over on Highway 87 right there at the edge of Sabine Lake. We can make either one of those work.

Les, I want don't want to put words in your mouth; but from a purely Law Enforcement perspective in getting angler compliance on this, what's our team's best assessment of where we can best accomplish that?

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: The most effective location just because of the layout of the area would be the 124 bridge. Mainly because by water with the inland waters, you're looking at just a small section where you would have a clean break in the Intercoastal Waterway and then a well-defined landmark on the Gulf side with where the highway actually intersects with the beach and it's just very clean.

If you move further to the east, what you run into is it's not as clean of a break. You'll actually have some of the areas on either side of the channel that are marshlands where you may have folks that are fishing that could wander into either side of that, across the line, making it a little bit harder for enforcement; but also might lead to a little bit of confusion on where the public would be when they're actually fishing and their knowledge of the area may come into effect there, as well.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So --

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Can I ask a question?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Arch, sure. Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: One of the things in the public comments, not that it's correct, but it says their biggest complaint is "Science doesn't support it" and we have quite a bit of experience in going from ten to five. Do we have any data about this public comment, "Science doesn't support it going from ten to five"?

MR. ROBINSON: Well, the -- yeah. The -- our current fishery independent data for both Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake when we look at our gillnet samples and recruitment numbers for Spotted seatrout, populations in both of those systems remain stable. As we saw in the Lower Laguna Madre when the change was first implemented down there, we were seeing some declines in the trends in those populations. And similarly, as we moved that line up to FM 457 there in Matagorda, there was also some indications in the data that suggested that there were some declines in those populations.

Now, subsequent to those changes, we've seen that population kind of pull back around and certainly the expectation here -- even though we don't see a -- we see stable populations in those systems -- a five-fish bag limit, we would expect to see some improvement in the -- those larger fish. We would have a higher population of those larger animals in that population.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: So we have experience in the two systems south of this that it improved the fishery. The difference is you're saying this fishery is more stable than the lower and the middle were when it was initiated?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: And so this has a 25 percent opposed and 5 neutral, 70 support?

MR. ROBINSON: Combined over both of the -- the aggregate of all those comments. That's correct, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Ralph, what -- if we exclude this and use -- let's say we use 124 as the divider. So when will we evaluate or readdress the issue about just going ahead and doing the whole coast, picking up Sabine Lake and everything?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I think that's a good question. I think we could come back at any time, but what I would suggest is give this at least six months to a year to see what Louisiana does.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Because I know I'm going to get -- obviously, going to get questions if we exclude it right now because surprisingly the input I've gotten is they support it way more than I ever thought they would. I'm talking about the whole --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, we can sure leave it in if --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- deal, so. I'm just -- you know, if we're going to do this -- and that's fine, you know, I can go either way. But if we're going to do this, I think we need to define what we're going to be studying. What is the criteria to go ahead and do all of it and to the Louisiana border?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I think what you'd have -- if, for example, you waited one year -- you'd have a comparison of what happened at Sabine Lake over that year versus what happened with the rest, assuming the proposed reduction passes. Wouldn't you at least have that?

MR. ROBINSON: It's going to take a couple of years to see the change, what change resulted from a reduction in the limit in Galveston Bay. Typically --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I guess when we took on the -- when we did the middle section, it was about two years before they finally figured out how much bigger the fish were and how much it had helped just like it did in the bottom third.

MR. ROBINSON: Yeah --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I think two years is about --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Would you be okay with waiting two years?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah. I just --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Do you want -- do you feel like --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- think we need to quantify it so that we -- people will understand why we're excluding it and just say, "Okay, we want to get more science. We want to get more data." I'd say a minimum of 12 months, but probably I'd do -- you know, you and I were here when we passed that middle third and we've seen what happened in two years.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I've got a law enforcement question. If we do exclude Sabine Lake, why don't you just make it the mouth of the Sabine River?

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: Is that -- I guess I would ask Lance if they've looked into the -- that as a possibility.

MR. ROBINSON: No, we have not looked at the Sabine River. Are you talking about on the north side where the Sabine River comes into Sabine Lake?

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: No. On the south side where it empties into the Gulf.

MR. ROBINSON: Yeah. No, we have explored that one, sir. We reached out to Law Enforcement kind of --

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: That just leaves Sabine Lake and none of this issue --

MR. ROBINSON: Oh, I see what you're saying. I see. On the -- as far as carrying the boundary out. Leave it at five-fish anywhere on the Gulf side all the way up to the --

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes.

MR. ROBINSON: -- mouth of the Sabine. Yeah, I mean that certainly is an option if the Commission would like to look at that. That's certainly an option.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I think in light of Dick's and Reed's comments, let's sleep on this. We'll let the proposal go forward as presently worded and talk about it in --

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And look at -- look at the Sabine River. But if we exclude Sabine Lake, which I can go either way on that, but I'm leaning towards two years and see what the results are and maybe Louisiana will be able to exchange information. So thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Jeanne.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: As far as Louisiana, I mean my preference would be to lead in this as an example for conservation rather than wait to see if they would also come along and maybe by this Commission doing it, Louisiana would look more favorably on it, I mean. So I'm with whatever everyone else feels like the best recommendation would be, wait two years and then include Sabine Lake when you have the data all along the coast; but it's --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, the proposal now would include --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Right.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- Sabine Lake.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Right.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And so let's -- I'm going to authorize that that proposal be set for vote tomorrow and we think about it overnight whether we want to proceed with it or modify it and exclude Sabine Lake to one of these points. Whether it's the mouth of the Sabine or it's Option 1 or Option 2 or some other option and ask Law Enforcement and Coastal Fisheries to discuss if they're -- if you were to exclude -- the Commission determines to vote to exclude Sabine Lake, what's the best location to draw the line.

MR. ROBINSON: Okay. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. So --

MR. ROBINSON: I've got just a couple of more -- if we go back to that one, the public comments on the other three proposals, just wanted to --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I have a question on that, too. So go ahead.

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I'm sorry. I thought you'd finished it.

MR. ROBINSON: I'm sorry. Let's see. Let me go through here. So moving on to the next proposal, was the circle hooks when fishing for sharks. About 47 percent, a little over 47 percent of the respondents that we heard from were supportive of this proposal, including the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee and the Coastal Conservation Association. Opposition was about 13 percent; but as you'll see in these following slides, there was a fair amount of commenters that just had no opinion. About 40 percent indicated their neutrality. Of those who indicated a reason for their opposition, you'll see at the bottom of the screen what the three top reasons for opposition occurred. The number one is that they didn't believe that the change would have -- make a difference and that some people expressed a desire to use hooks for other species and that this was unfair to land-based fishermen.

For the recommendation or proposal to increase the minimum size for cobia, about 49 percent of the respondents indicated their support. Opposition of about 12 percent. Of those that supplied those comments, again, about 39 percent were neutral. Of the respondents who were opposed, the number one reason for their opposition was they suggested that the -- that we wait for the results of the 2019 stock assessment that's currently being done by the National Marine Fisheries Service for this particular species. Others felt like they just wanted to -- they felt -- they indicated they wanted just to keep more individual fish. And then there was a small amount that indicated they prefer that there be some ban on commercial fishing for this species.

And then finally for the temporary closure of the oyster restoration sites, about 72 percent of those who responded indicated their support for the proposal. About 2 percent were opposed, and about a quarter of the respondents were neutral. Of the -- of those who responded in opposition, the main comment that we heard is that they just wanted -- they suggested that the area be kept open for recreational oyster harvest and/or that they wanted to clarify that the area was closed only to oystering, which in the second it is. It's only closed to oyster harvesting.

As far as the first comment, keeping it open for recreational harvest, the rationale and the reason behind the closure is to allow the oysters that settle and juveniles that grow, to grow to a legal size. So even if you left it open for recreational fishermen, there would be no legal oysters there for probably -- for about two years. It takes that long for those oysters to grow to a legal size. So it would be -- our proposal would be that it would be closed for both recreational and commercial harvest.

That's the end of my presentation and the public comments. Happy to address any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, of course, one of the proposals is to require use of non-offset non-stainless steel hooks for sharks; but I want to ask the staff to come back with a report and some guidance on extending that to other pelagic species. I don't see why we wouldn't do that. Consider it is what I mean. So if you will, as soon as practicable, come back and make a presentation to the Commission on whether or not staff thinks that that type of proposed action should be considered for other species.

MR. ROBINSON: Be happy to. Thank you. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Please.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Chairman, as you bring that up, one of the big questions they say is -- and it was going to be a Law Enforcement question -- but 6.8 percent of the people want to use the circle hook. And so for a Law Enforcement, you're snapper fishing with a circle hook, which most of them are --

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: -- because it's effective --

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: -- and then you catch a shark, how do we deal with -- how do you deal with that?

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: So I believe on that one right there because it's -- when you run into that, it's going to be looking at the targeting, what species you're going to be targeting. So that -- in general, your folks that are going to be targeting sharks, a lot of times will have a lot of different gear. You know, so I don't know that it will be a huge issue with the catching in the use of snapper fishing; but it could be, and we would use officer discretion on that as it relates to the take of it because it's not the target at issue.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: I think that's a viable point: What does Law Enforcement do if you're using a circle hook for whatever and you catch a shark?

And then along what you brought up, I believe a substantial amount of the people are kind of -- the problem they have with the circle hooks, the catch and release and just the nature of the shark, a lot of times people just cut the line and release it and the hook stays in and it's stainless and it doesn't deteriorate. Whereas if you're snapper or cobia or whatever, there tends to be a less cut the line, you can handle the fish and take the hook out or not. But that -- from a Law Enforcement, that would be -- I'd be curious how you -- it seems like it could be an issue for you guys.

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: I believe we would have to enforce that in the way that we would have to look at was there species that they were targeting. Was it -- were they targeting sharks or they targeting some type of reef fish?

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Now, did I read is this federal already?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Federal already?

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: And you're trying to connect the cobia with the federal regulations and the hooks with the federal regulation?

MR. ROBINSON: That's correct.

LIEUTENANT CASTERLINE: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Mr. Chairman, just a comment because I like what Commissioner Latimer said about, in part, taking the lead on Sabine Lake. And so maybe we, as we're thinking about this tonight, consider that; but also the balance is if we can align these regulations -- and I like recommendation that we're moving in one place to align with the federal regulations. It creates less confusion for anglers out there so that if we got -- where possible and where it makes sense -- if we've got a uniform set of rules, it's easier for them to comply and it doesn't seem like we're playing "gotcha" with anyone. So the extent --

MR. ROBINSON: Right.

COMMISSIONER BELL: -- that we can do that, I think that's a positive thing.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good point. And I certainly echo Commissioner Latimer's sentiment and if you haven't had a chance to watch the acceptance speech of Johnny Morris of the Park Cities Boone Pickens Award, you should watch it because one of the things he did -- unprompted by Parks and Wildlife -- was to call us out and talk about how Texas has been a leader in conservation and resource management and how it was a leader that other states tried to follow because we do take a proactive stance on this. So good point and we'll move forward with the saltwater recommendation as currently proposed and give some thought about what to do with Sabine Lake between now and tomorrow.

So unless there are other questions or comments -- again, to summarize, the Alligator gar recommendation, the proposal to ban nighttime fishing on waterbodies other than the Trinity, will be withdrawn and not considered tomorrow so that staff can continue to evaluate the effects of spotlighting for these fish and come back to the Commission at a later date with some guidance or recommendations and then we would permit nighttime fishing for a gar on the Trinity, so long as you drew one of these tags that we're contemplating authorizing. Okay? Thank you.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: One comment. Carter, Louisiana has had a different bag limit on Sabine Lake than Texas?

MR. SMITH: For some time. I think the bag limit, Lance, in Louisiana --

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: We have been leaders and --

MR. SMITH: Yep.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- it's going to take more involvement with Louisiana to encourage them to follow in our footsteps if they choose to do that. So I just point out that they haven't -- they haven't followed us so far, so.

MR. SMITH: And we keep an active dialogue, just so y'all know, with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Managers. Our Coastal and Inland teams and Wildlife teams are regularly visiting with their counterparts in Louisiana to discuss these shared fisheries or wildlife issues. So just know that is ongoing and a priority and something that's happening pretty regularly.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. Sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Work Session Item 5, the 2019-20 Statewide Hunting and Migratory Game Bird Proclamations, Alan Cain.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader; and this morning, I'll be presenting proposed changes to the statewide big game hunting proclamation, which we'll be seeking adoption of these proposed changes at tomorrow's meeting.

The first proposed change is in regards to the Managed Lands Deer Program and refusal for enrollment. Current regulations allow the Department to refuse enrollment in the MLD Program for participants that have missed reporting deadlines, exceeded harvest recommendations, failed to conduct required number of habitat management practices, and certain violations of the Parks and Wildlife Code.

This proposal would amend the current rules to authorize the Department to also be able to refuse enrollment for any tract of land enrolled in MLD in which a deer has been harvested, but has not been presented to a mandatory check station for Chronic Wasting Disease testing. Refusal for enrollment would not be automatic and the proposed change would clarify in rule that the Department would be able to take into consideration factors that include whether the applicant is advised of hunter mandatory check station requirements for CWD testing; whether the applicant has encouraged, advised, or directed a hunter not to present a deer at a mandatory check station; or the number of deer harvested on the MLD property that were not presented at the check station and any other aggravating or mitigating factors the Department deems relevant.

To date, we've received 124 public comments. 92 percent agree with the proposed change. 8 percent disagree. No comments were made by those that were disagreeing with the proposed change. This has also been presented to the White-tail Deer Advisory Committee, and they supported this proposed change.

The next change staff are proposing would be the expansion of doe days in 41 counties in the portions of the Blackland Prairie and Post Oak Savannah ecoregions. Staff would be considering two different doe day season structures. One for those counties in yellow that currently have a four-day season, and another season structure for the counties in green that currently -- where antlerless harvest is currently by MLD only during general season.

With this region, regulatory deer surveys indicate a positive trend in the population ranging from 4.8 percent estimated average annual increase in the population in the yellow counties and a 3.1 percent average annual increase in the green counties over the last 11 to 13 years. Our big game harvest surveys also indicate about 41 percent of the total harvest is comprised of antlerless deer, which may contribute to the skewed sex ratio in these regions with 3.8 does per buck in the yellow counties and 4.2 does per buck in those green counties.

Additionally, MLD participation is high in these regions with over 4,800 management units enrolled in the MLD Program. The majority of these properties in this area are associated with wildlife management associations or cooperatives, and they receive antlerless MLD tags through the co-op's MLD enrollment. It's especially true, again, in those green counties where antlerless take is by MLD only during that general seasonal.

Additionally, our MLD harvest data indicates that about 56 percent of the recommended antlerless harvest is achieved each year on average, which suggests that the MLD participation alone is not sufficient to address deer population growth in those particular areas there. More importantly, staff have been receiving requests over the last five to seven years from many constituents in this area asking for short doe seasons, an alternative to the Managed Lands Deer Program.

And so by expanding doe days, staff would expect to be able to address these requests from the public to have an option for antlerless harvest other than MLD, as well as provide additional hunting opportunities, reduce the potential impacts of deer browsing on native habitats, and relieve pressure on buck harvest in this region. Therefore, staff are proposing in these 20 counties to expand the current four-day doe season to 16 days that would run the first 16 days of general season.

To date, we've received 236 comments with 81 percent in support of these proposed changes in these 20 counties and 19 percent not in support of this proposed change. And the -- to sum it up, all of the -- those that provided comments not in support of the proposal, it generally comes down to they were concerned that overharvest would occur at a localized scale in their particular area. Additionally, the White-tail Deer Advisory Committee had also reviewed that proposal and was supportive of that change as well.

So in these 21 counties, staff are proposing to open a four-day doe season that runs from Thanksgiving day through the Sunday immediately following Thanksgiving day with a bag limit of two does during all seasons combined. And as a reminder, MLD harvest again is by MLD only and it's been that way since 1996. And landowners and hunters in these particular suite of counties have been reluctant to support doe day -- opening a doe day season in the past years until more recently. And so staff doesn't believe there will be any issue with opening a four-day doe season, but we are aware of the concerns of possible overharvest voiced by some of these landowners. So help -- to help ease concerns, staff would also propose an experimental mandatory harvest reporting of antlerless deer in these 21 counties.

Now, only antlerless deer harvested and tagged with a hunting license tag would need to be reported within 24 hours of harvest and this would be accomplished using the "My Texas Hunt Harvest" app available of mobile devices or the Department website. It's also being currently used for Eastern turkey reporting.

Now, MLD antlerless harvest is already required to be reported for all MLD properties. So this proposed change would not affect those MLD reporting requirements. And, again, the mandatory reporting would allow staff to accurately obtain harvest information so we can assess impact of this regulation on that deer population and address requests by some of these landowners in the area to monitor harvest closely.

To date, we've received 357 comments. 61 percent in support of the proposed change. 39 percent in disagreement. Again, primary concerns were overharvest or lack of deer in those particular areas and some were concerned that there would be reduced participation in the wildlife management associations in these -- this particular region. Staff also solicited feedback from the White-tail Deer Advisory Committee, and they were supportive of the proposed change. We did have one member of the committee that suggested that staff consider increasing the harvest rate for the harvest option, the MLD Program, to allow more doe harvest or antlerless harvest through that means rather than expanding doe days in these four counties.

The next change regards some Mule deer antler restrictions. If this Commission will recall, experimental Mule deer antler restrictions were implemented in six counties in the Panhandle. Those in the blue there in the 2018-19 season. And specifically, again, those counties outlined in blue. Additionally, a Mule deer season was opened in Lynn County for the first time in the 2018-19 season. And during last spring's regulation adoption process of the Mule deer season in Lynn County, the Department received a number of comments from hunters and landowners asking for the experimental antler restriction regulation to be placed in Lynn County.

Therefore, staff have proposed to include Lynn County in the antler restriction experiment and are seeking adoption of this proposal. Staff believe the inclusion of Lynn County to the experimental antler restriction would provide valuable data regarding the success of antler restrictions to maintain an older age buck structure, an age -- buck age structure and natural sex ratio since this past November was the first ever Mule deer season in Lynn County.

The antler restriction regulation limits the harvest to any buck with an outside spread of the main beams of 20 inches or greater, and bucks with a spread of less than 20 inches are not legal for harvest. In addition, the experimental antler restriction does not apply to MLD properties because the Department provides site-specific harvest recommendations that are generally conservative on these MLD properties. Staff also will continue to monitor the success of the experimental antler restriction regulation using population surveys and voluntary check stations to collect more antler and ear measurement data, as well as buck age structure data and also conduct opinion surveys of hunters and landowners and their support of this regulation.

To date, there are 103 comments with 90 percent in support of the proposed change and 10 percent not in support of the proposed change. Those that provided comment not in support indicated that it would be difficult for hunters to judge whether a buck was legal for harvest or had a 20-inch spread, outside spread of the main beams, or that this regulation favors trophy hunting and that hunters should be able to take any buck they like or takes away from the spirit of the hunt itself.

And the last proposal is regarding javelina season. Currently, there are 43 counties in the North Zone denoted by those counties in yellow with a javelina season that runs 151 days from October 1 through the end of February and another 50 counties in the South Zone, those in green, that have a season open year-round and the counties in gray have a closed season.

Current javelina range is primarily restricted to South Texas Plains, the western edge of the Edwards Plateau, Trans-Pecos, and portions of the Rolling Plains that are designated by that red crosshatching on the map that you see. You'll note that the range has expanded beyond the current javelina season in portions of the Southern Plains and Southeast Panhandle where those counties that currently have a season, you see it's expanded northward or northwestward and over the last several years, both Law Enforcement and Wildlife Division staff have received a number of reports from hunters and landowners on the increased number of javelina sightings and request -- have requested to open a javelina season in these areas.

Therefore, staff are proposing to add these six counties which include Borden, Dawson, Gaines, Hardeman, Scurry, and Terry Counties to the current suite of counties in the North Zone in which the season runs from October 1 through the last Sunday in February with a bag limit of two javelinas. Staff see no biological concerns with expanding of the javelina season in these counties.

To date, there are 101 public comments. 96 percent in support. 4 percent not in support of the proposed change. Those commenting suggested that the population was not sufficient to support harvest in those counties. And on the other hand, we had an individual that thought the bag limit needed to be increased in those counties. So that's summarizes the public comment for the javelinas, and that concludes my presentation. So I'll be glad to answer any questions if there is any.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments? Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a comment. Whoever's in this 4 percent that disagrees that says the population is not sufficient to support harvest, has never been to South Texas.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody else question or comment?

Okay. Thank you, Alan.

MR. CAIN: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Shaun Oldenburger, please.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Good morning, Chairman, fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. I'm the Small Game Program Director here in the Wildlife Division. Today, I'm going to present some information for tomorrow for recommended adoption of proposed changes. I'll continue where Alan left off on the statewide hunting proclamation and then continue on to the migratory game bird proclamation.

So we do have one recommendation, a proposal for statewide hunting proclamation with regard to wild turkeys; and, basically, this is a language clean-up for proof of sex. We've had some confusion from our constituents as far as what they need to have on them when they're transporting a turkey basically from the field basically to their permanent residence and so the language there is in front of you and I'll read it. It's basically we're changing the language to saying "During a season in which the bag composition for turkey is restricted to gobblers only or gobblers and bearded hens, proof of sex must remain with a harvested turkey attached or detached from the bird until it reaches either the processor's or possessor's permanent residence or a cold storage processing facility and is finally processed."

We do also have a little bit of language clean-up in regards to proof of sex for both gobbler and bearded hen, as well. And basically a gobbler would be, for proof of sex, one leg including the spur or a patch of skin with breast feathers and beard attached. For the bearded hen, the female turkey, would basically be a patch of skin with breast feathers and beard attached. Basically, we believe this will be -- decrease the amount of confusion for our constituents and put it in a little bit more plain language as far as regulation when it goes in the "Outdoor Annual" so that won't be confusing for our constituents and hunters in the future.

Just for some public comment, we had 125 online, 120 -- or 96 percent -- agreed completely. We had five disagree completely. There was some concern from one individual about using previous year's proof of sex. And just to let you know as well, the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee unanimously supported this proposal, as well.

Moving on to proposals for migratory game bird proclamation. And just to give you some background here for migratory game bird information available. A few years ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service changed the process as far as season settings. So, therefore, there is no early and late season regulation process to the Fish and Wildlife Service. And, therefore, we would be recommending to combine the early and late season migratory game bird proclamations into one. And also the federal frameworks are basically the football field that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sets for us as a state and is basically unchanged for the geese, dove, and other migratory game birds except ducks. They did extend the federal framework's closing date from the last Sunday in January to January 31st, for your information.

So proposed changes for waterfowl and doves. Basically, daily bag limits are the same this year as previous except pintails will decrease from two per day to one per day. That's due to the national harvest strategy for northern pintails that all four Flyways and the Fish and Wildlife Service have signed off on. So that keeps flipping back from two to one to two. All other migratory game birds coincide with waterfowl season and calendar adjustments where necessary in most other species.

And just also for your information, the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee completely supported these proposals, as well. We do have in attendance Mr. James Prince, who is actually the Chair of the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee, as well.

And so to give you some basically some information on statewide regular dove seasons -- actually, James, do you want to stand up?

MR. JAMES PRINCE: Howdy.

MR. OLDENBURGER: He'll get me back for that one, so.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for joining.

MR. OLDENBURGER: As you can see in front of you, here's the statewide regular dove seasons. There's three zones in the State of Texas. It's the maximum we're allowed underneath the federal frameworks, as well. We do have a 90-day season. We're allowed 15 birds in the daily bag limit and that's an aggregate of White-wing doves and Mourning doves. We are also allowed two White-tipped doves in the daily bag limit, but those mostly reside in South Texas.

And so we'll start with season proposals for the North Zone. We can only go as early as September 1st. And so therefore in the North Zone, we'd start September 1st, run to November 12th, and then start again December 20th and run out the rest of the days to January 5th. Central Zone, once again starting as early as possible on September 1st, running there through November 3rd, starting again once again on December 20th and running out the rest of the days to January 14th.

Last year, the Chairman asked us to go to the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee and get kind of a policy, per se, for our South Zone due to the federal framework change we did have there. Basically, the opening day used to be the Friday closest to September 20th, but no earlier than September 17th. And that got changed to a fixed date, basically, as early as September 14th a couple years ago through the Fish and Wildlife Service process. And so basically we came up with a starting policy which helps us as -- you know, basically where we can start the process with our technical and advisory committees. And basically it says the first segment will start September 14th and run to the first Sunday in November. The second segment would start the third or fourth Friday in December and run out the end of available days. Actually capture MLK weekend every year and once again, the advisory committee supported this.

And so therefore, the South Zone and Special White-wing dove days follow this and Special White-wing dove days are proposed to be September 1st, 2nd, 7th, and 8th and we're allowed 15 birds in the daily bag limit there; but only two Mourning doves. That's a special season underneath U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services season settings. So, therefore, we're not allowed more than two Mourning doves. Regular season will start September 14th, run to November 3rd, start again December 20th as the other two seasons and run out to January 23rd.

To see this on basically a calendar and see there, you can see the yellow would be the Special White-wing dove days. That's the afternoon-only season. And just for your information, you see that's a Sunday/Monday starting. That's the same kind of season structure we had in 2013 when we had these very similar dates due to calendar progression and then we'd start the regular season there on September 14th, early as possible underneath the federal frameworks and run to November 3rd, open again December 20th as I said previously, run out the rest of the days to January 23rd.

Moving on from doves, we'll get into waterfowl proposals for teal hunting. We're allowed 16 days underneath the federal frameworks. Staff preference has always been the last three full weekends of September to capture the -- most of the Blue-wing migration that occurs here in Texas. So, therefore, the proposed dates would be September 14th to the 29th. We're allowed six birds in the daily bag limit. That's an aggregate and that's Blue-wing teal, Cinnamon teal, or Green-wing teal; but obviously here in Texas, we're harvesting mostly Blue-wing teal coming from the Dakotas and Canada and passing through here to the wintering grounds.

Moving on to the High Plains Mallard Management Unit -- there you can see highlighted in Orange in the State of Texas -- for ducks, mergansers, and coots and this is regular youth season as proposed would be October 19th and 20th, regular season would be October 26th to 27th. We'd open again on November 1st. That's a traditional Friday opener and run to the last Sunday in January.

For all zones in the State of Texas, we have a five-day delay on dusky ducks. That's for the protection of mottled ducks that the Fish and Wildlife Service set a number of years ago. To look at this on a calendar here, you can see teal season highlighted in basically light blue and dark blue would be the youth season and the regular season in green. So a little bit different of structure here. We're allowed a few more days in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit underneath federal frameworks compared to the North and South Zones.

Moving on to regular -- for seasons in the North Zone, highlighted there in green on the map. The youth would be, as proposed, November 2nd and 3rd. Regular season would start November 9th, run to December 1st so we can make sure we capture Halloween weekend there and then -- or Thanksgiving weekend, sorry. And then open December 7th and run out to the last Sunday in January. And once again, dusky ducks are delayed five days in the North Zone, even though there are not many there in that area.

Here's what it looks like on a calendar. Once again, in light blue there is teal season, the youth season being in the darker blue, and the regular season being in green.

Moving on to the last zone for ducks, mergansers, and coots in Texas. The South Zone there highlighted in yellow. The youth would be October 26th and 27th as proposed, regular season would start November 2nd and run to December 1st, open again December 14th and run out to the last Sunday in January as well, being the 26th. Here we have a five-day delay on dusky dusks, as well. So, therefore, the season would not begin until November 7th.

Here's what it looks like on a calendar, as well. Once again, light blue there is teal season, dark blue being youth season, and green being the regular season.

So for daily bag limits for ducks, mergansers, and coots, proposed bag limits statewide. Ducks are six per day. Five mallards, only two which may be hens; three wood ducks; three scaup; two redheads; two canvasbacks; one pintail -- there's highlighted in yellow, that would be the change -- one dusky duck -- and there if you were wondering what a dusky dusk is, it's defined a mottled, black, or Mexican-like duck -- after the first five days, all others are six. Mergansers, five per day with only which two may be hooded mergansers. Coots, 15 per day and possession limit is three times the daily bag limit for all migratory game birds unless otherwise stated.

Moving on to geese, proposed dates for geese. There you'll see the Western Goose Zone highlighted in red and in light blue is the Eastern Goose Zone. A few years ago, we made a change where actually we are consistent now with daily bag limits across both zones. So we have five dark geese to include no more than two White-fronted geese and 20 light geese with no possession limit there.

For -- in the red there, Western Goose Zone, dark geese and light geese are concurrent from November 2nd to February 2nd. And the Conservation Order for light geese only where we do have some special methods allowed there for take start directly after on February 3rd and run to March 15th.

Eastern Goose Zone, we do have a Canada goose only season that runs concurrent with our teal season from September 14th to 29th as proposed. Basically, that's to take advantage of some nesting Canada geese we have in Northeast Texas. Traditionally, there weren't many nesting Canada geese actually in the State of Texas. Dark and light geese would start as well on November 2 and run out to January 26th, which is the closing frameworks for -- closing date for ducks. Start -- the Conservation Order would start January 27th and run to March 15th as proposed.

Moving on to Sandhill cranes in Zone A there in light blue. Basically, in the High Plains in Trans-Pecos of Texas. We can start October 26th as proposed and run to January 26th. Daily bag limit there allowed is three. This is a 93-day season. Zone B, which is highlighted in green, would start November 22nd as proposed and run out to January 26th. Just for your information, we do delay crane season in Zone B to allow Whooping crane migration through that area -- that's the primary migration area -- through that area, across the Red River, down there to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding lands on the coast of Texas.

Zone C, which is highlighted in red, we have a reduced season there underneath federal frameworks and that starts -- that would, as proposed, start December 14th and run to January 19th and we're only allowed two birds there in our daily bag limit underneath federal frameworks, as well.

Moving on to rail, gallinules, moorhens, snipe, and woodcock. Rail, gallinules, and moorhens would be concurrent with teal season, as proposed, September 14 through 29th, starting again November 2nd and running to Christmas. Snipe, we're allowed a 107-day season there, starting October 26th -- I'll get that out -- and running to February 9th. Woodcock is a 45-day season. We're allowed three birds in daily bag limit. End of federal frameworks there is January 31st. We back up. So, therefore, that's no change from the previous year. Starting date December 18th.

Proposed falconry seasons for Mourning, White-wing, and White-tipped doves, as proposed, November 16th to December 2nd. Just some additional days of opportunity for our falconers in the state where we do have about 250 to 300 or so. For woodcock, moorhen, gallinule, rail, ducks in the North and South Zones, January 27th to February 9th. We do not have a falconry-only season in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit because we already allocate our 107 days for take on ducks in that area, which we're allowed -- only allowed underneath the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

And so for public comment, we received a small number of public comment on this proposal. Nineteen of twenty-six, or 73 percent, agreed completely. One disagreed completely, and six disagreed specifically on various items. Those items would be increase woodcock daily bag limit, increase pintail daily bag limit. Those first two, we cannot do. We cannot be more liberal than federal frameworks. So those are not options for the state. The other are later snipe closure and reduced bag limits and possession for ducks and geese and then to have duck and deer season on the same weekend. Although, the zone is not specified there. And then also for South Zone for doves is basically returning to the historical opening day is what we had one comment on.

So with that, I'll take any questions with regard to the proposals that will go in front of you for adoption tomorrow if authorized.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

All right, thank you. I'll place the 2019-20 Statewide Hunting and Migratory Game Bird Proclamations on the Wednesday Committee Meeting agenda for public comment and action by this Commission.

Item No. 6, Proposed Deer Breeder Regulations Regarding Chronic Wasting Disease Testing Provisions and Release Provisions, Mitch Lockwood.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division; and tomorrow, I will seek adoption of proposed amendments to rules pertaining to deer breeding activities. Specifically, those amendments would create additional CWD testing options for deer breeding facilities that are currently prohibited from transferring deer into or out of their facility and would extend the period of time that breeder deer may be confined in a soft release pen or an acclimation pen before finally being liberated on a release site.

Regarding the first proposal -- proposed amendment -- there are approximately 155 deer breeding facilities that are currently not movement qualified because of inadequate CWD surveillance. And when I say "not movement qualified," I mean just that. They are not qualified to move deer into or out of their facility. And just over 100 of those facilities currently have enough test-eligible deer in their facilities to meet the surveillance requirements in order to regain movement qualified status and they would do that through live animal testing or antemortem testing options that we provide. But there are several facilities -- in fact, a little bit more than 50 facilities -- that do not have of enough deer to meet the surveillance requirements under current rule to regain movement qualified status. In fact, some of these facilities will never have enough deer to regain movement qualified status. They're essentially under a permanent quarantine order.

And so to address this concern, I proposed an amendment to our Breeder User Group which would involve antemortem testing of the entire herd one time and then following that, designating that facility or classifying that facility with what we called a TC 3 status. Meaning any recipient release site would receive a Class 3 status. Meaning any deer released on those Class 3 sites would have an RFID button tag attached in the ear and any deer harvested on those sites would have to be tested for CWD.

The Breeder User Group liked that idea and they also offered an alternate proposal, which in order to avoid that TC 3 designation and ultimately Class 3 designation for release sites, they proposed to allow two rounds of whole herd antemortem testing over a 24-month period. So we took those two options or proposed amendments to our CWD Task Force and the CWD Task Force was concerned with the first idea. They were concerned with the amount of risk that one round of live animal testing would pose to the native deer population and they advised that we proceed with the proposal -- the second option, if you will. The proposal that would require two rounds of antemortem testing over a 24-month period.

So with that, staff did propose to allow breeding facilities who are in this situation to regain movement qualified status after two rounds of whole herd antemortem or live animal testing and there's a not-detected test result for every single test-eligible animal in the facility. The first round of testing would occur 12 months -- at least 12 months after that facility has been determined to be a closed facility. In other words, after their status was changed to not movement qualified and the Department was able to identify all of the deer in the inventory. Then the second round of whole herd testing would occur at least 12 months after that first round.

Now, the second aspect of this proposal would extend the period of time --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Wait, wait.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before you go to the second -- the soft --

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- release proposal, are there any questions or comments about the first part?

I think that it might be a good plan for staff to continue to have a dialogue with the CWD Task Force to explore if there are any other reliable alternatives to these. Not in any way to suggest these aren't appropriate, but just to continue that dialogue to look for potential other solutions to deal with this situation.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir. Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Proceed on the soft release then.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay. So the second aspect of this proposal would extend the period of time that breeder deer may be confined in a soft release pen, which I may also refer to as an acclimation pen. I tend to use those terms interchangeably. And this would be the period of time in which they're placed in one of these pens prior to eventually being liberated onto a release site. I'm not -- I don't plan to go into as much detail in my presentation this morning as I did at the January Commission Meeting, but I'm often reminded that the details of this are a lot more complicated than I might think since I deal with it on a daily basis. And so please don't hesitate to let me know if I need to stop and clarify anything that I'm discussing.

I will refresh your memories that a deer breeding facility can release deer directly to a release site or that deer breeder may choose to place those deer in one of these soft release pens or acclimation pens for a period not to exceed 30 days. And the reason we call them "acclimation" pens is because the intent of this was to provide deer ample time to acclimate to their new surroundings before ultimately being released onto this larger release site. When I say "acclimate," I mean physiologically acclimate to this environment. Some may even argue behaviorally acclimate.

But this practice of releasing deer has evolved over years and an increasing number of deer breeders have been moving deer more towards a model of what involves an extended period of detention and what I'm going to refer to as de facto soft release pens. Rather than obtaining a soft release authorization, there are some who are fragmenting or subdividing their release sites by fencing off a small portion of the release site and basically transferring deer to that and then registering that smaller portion as a release site and then transferring deer directly to that smaller release site and they're doing this because they would like to -- they're doing this for purposes more than just acclimation and they like to keep those deer in that smaller site for a period longer than 30 days before ultimately opening the gates and providing them access to the larger site.

The reasons for this include things like placing bred does in there this time of year and then leaving them in there long enough to drop their fawns in the pens and then raise the fawns until they're at heel and then ultimately release them into the larger site or some have chosen to place a buck in there at a young age and then grow them out in one of these sites for two, three, four years and then ultimately release them to the larger site or they may place a buck with some does in one of these small release sites and have them breed for one season, two seasons, three seasons -- excuse me -- and then ultimately release those animals or I should say open the gates and provide those animals access to the larger release site. And that whole time those deer are in that pen, they might be legally harvesting deer on the larger release site and essentially replacing the population with a deer that they've confined in that smaller site for a few years.

Now, this practice though -- with few exceptions -- is no longer allowed because this Commission adopted rules in -- let me step back one -- adopted rules in June of 2016 that we referred to as the Comprehensive CWD Rules. And in that rule package, it states that no person may intentionally cause or allow any live deer to leave or escape from a release site onto which breeder deer have been liberated. And the idea behind this is these release sites should be -- for lack of a better phrase -- terminal facilities. The risk that is associated with transferring deer to these sites is intended to stay at that site and not expose other areas with that same level of risk.

Of course, there are some exceptions to this, such as when a release site owner may purchase adjacent or adjoining land and want to incorporate that into the management plan and extend a fence around the adjoining land too and so there certainly have been several amendments to these release sites to allow for that.

What this means is -- before I move to that next slide, I should state that to do this, what we would is we manually amend these sites by consolidating, in that example, two sites or we may even need to subdivide sites upon the sale of -- if a landowner sells a portion of his site, then we may manually go in the system and adjust this, amend the site, the size of these sites, whether it's growing the site or subdividing the site.

That's not a difficult process to do, provided it's a one-time process; but it would become very difficult to do administratively in our existing online application if this were to be a repeated process where sites were to consolidate and subdivide on a repeated basis. And so what this means that if someone wants to use soft -- engage in this practice of placing deer in a smaller area for some period of time before ultimately giving them access to a larger site, they would need to utilize the soft release provision; but we realize that the 30 days that's currently authorized isn't as long as what some people would prefer for reasons that I provided this morning, such as allowing fawns to be dropped and raised until they're old enough to release when they're at heel with the does.

And so staff -- to accommodate that, staff have proposed to amend the rules to state that breeder deer may lawfully be transferred to a registered release site -- I'll start over with that. Deer that are lawfully transferred to a registered release site may be held in temporary captivity for any period of time between March 1 to the eleventh day immediately preceding an open deer season to acclimate the breeder deer to habitat conditions at the release site. So this would be an extension from 30 days to more than six months.

This ending date is very important for two reasons. First, it is consistent with what is commonly referred to as the ten-day rule. Statutes of Parks and Wildlife Code state that deer cannot be released with antlers intact during an open season or within the ten-day period immediately preceding an open season. And this proposal would allow bucks to be released from a soft release pen with antlers intact and not conflict with that statute. Secondly, this ending date is important so that deer are released before breeding season begins because detaining does with one or more buck during a breeding season requires a permit. Either a deer breeding permit or a DMP or Deer Management Permit.

Following the Breeder User Group meeting where this was discussed at length, we -- some of us with the Department had a conference call with the leadership of Texas Deer Association and during that conversation it became quite obvious to us that the rules -- the rules needed to clearly state the requirements for facilitating that release and we believe those requirements should be consistent with the requirements for facilitating release under a Deer Management Permit or DMP.

Therefore, we proposed that the release shall consist of the removal of at least 20 feet of the components of a pen that served to maintain deer in a state of detention within the pen. However, no opening shall be less than 10 feet in width. Such components shall be removed for no fewer than 30 consecutive days. Again, this is consistent with the requirements we currently have for facilitating release from a DMP. This essentially would require the opening of two 10-foot gates.

Again, these proposals have been presented to the Breeder User Group. The first proposed amendment I shared with you this morning has been presented to the CWD Task Force and then both of these proposals have been presented to the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee. With the exception of one member of the Breeder User Group, all of that committee supports the proposals that you will consider tomorrow.

As I've already shared with you, the CWD Task Force did have concern with one of the options that was provided to them, which was the single round of whole herd testing; but they do support the proposal that was published in the Texas Register for two rounds of whole herd testing over a 24-month period and staff also have heard the request of the Chairman to consider -- continue dialogue with the CWD Task Force to continue considering potential for other options down the road.

The White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee also was supportive of the proposal for providing that additional option for regaining movement qualified status. There were several members of the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee who have concerns with the proposed amendments for soft release. While the soft release provision doesn't -- while soft release provision doesn't authorize individuals to handle deer, you don't -- somebody -- deer -- people with a soft release pen don't have the same privileges and benefits that a deer breeder would have with a deer breeder permit, such as being able to handle those deer. Nonetheless, many members of that advisory committee referred to these soft release pens as an extension of a deer breeding facility or satellite breeding pens some would refer them as. And they had concern with this because they don't come with the same obligations that come with a deer breeding permit, such as the need to -- the requirement to report mortalities, the requirement to test a percentage of those mortalities for CWD.

Now, I should make it clear that this proposal does not introduce any new liberties, any new risks that lead to these concerns. Rather these concerns that they presented are really in existence now with current rules and procedures that are in place. And committee members, they understand that. In fact, they actually provided some recommendations to address their concerns, such as compliance with the Department's stocking policies as done with our Triple T Permits. But unless otherwise directed by this Commission this morning and as long as the Department continues to -- with our current procedures for registering release sites, which does not take into consideration the Department's stocking policy, the staff intend to recommend adoption of these proposed amendments during the meeting tomorrow.

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

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Carter, do you have something you want to add?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, Mr. Chairman. I'm thinking about this. Obviously, a couple of really important issues for the Commission to be considering and there are a number of different dimensions to them and certainly, Mitch has done a terrific job reaching out to the many interested and rather diverse stakeholders who have a real interest in what you do in this regard.

Certainly, I will offer my opinion that with regard to the testing option, that I hope y'all will be able to move forward with that and I like the guidance you shared, Chairman, for us to go back to the CWD Task Force to see if there are any additional ideas that we could come back in May for y'all to consider.

I might respectfully suggest that we modify Mitch's proposal on the soft release permit. I think there's a lot that we can and should learn about how the permitted breeders are using the soft release permits. You know, for how long, what purpose, numbers of deer, et cetera. I think it would be in our best interest maybe to consider, you know, a pilot proposal of a year on that front. See if the permit is meeting the needs of the permittees and their various management needs; but also give us a chance to, I think, learn more about these soft release permits as a whole, collect some data, and then come back to y'all in a year to talk further about that and see if you want to extend it or if it would behoove you to modify it or align it again to better facilitate the Commission's goals and the various management needs that are out there.

So I guess I'd respectfully suggest that maybe y'all consider modifying Mitch's proposal for a pilot one-year study on the soft release extension.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I like the suggestion.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: One question, Carter. On -- if we go that route -- or maybe Mitch, one of you, either or both -- how -- what is that going to do to the people that are caught in that trap right now that, you know, and --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- it's a sizable number. You know, what? 135, 140 people. How are we going to overcome that situation in the short term to alleviate that headache that I know is a big headache for you as well?

MR. SMITH: So let me just -- I want to be clear. My suggestion didn't have anything to do with that testing requirement that you talked about. Mine was simply limited to the proposal to extend the provisions for the term of the soft release. So if you were to go forward with approving tomorrow the testing criteria for those breeders that are caught in a situation in which they can't currently test their way out to become movement qualified, then that would then give at least some of those breeders an option to start testing now. But the one-year pilot that I was suggesting, just to be clear, would pertain only to that soft release provision.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Only to the soft release?

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And then if I may clarify --

MR. SMITH: Please.

MR. LOCKWOOD: -- too, Carter. There are currently right at about 55 facilities that currently do not have enough deer under the current rules that are essentially under a hold order for an extended period of time and of those 55, 30 -- you know, I talked about a two-year period that this two rounds of testing would occur. But actually, 31 of those facilities could initiate that live animal testing today or as soon as this were adopted. Well, they could do it today. And -- and so really, it's really not a two-year period at this point because we've already been working with many of these facilities for some time. In fact, the latest that any of these facilities -- the longest it would take for any of these facilities to have their first round of live animal testing would be still less than a year away. It would be next January, and there's only two of those 55 facilities that fall into that category.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Jeanne.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So the deer breeding permit -- go back to -- I think it may be clearer, the slide with the deer breeding facility going to Release Site 2 and then out from there. So someone who has this, they have to have a deer breeding permit if the deer are in the deer breeding facility and then it goes to a Deer Management Permit when they go to the soft release and release sites?

MR. LOCKWOOD: No, ma'am. You're close.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay.

MR. LOCKWOOD: But a Deer Management Permit in this case -- I tried not to get into the Deer Management Permit discussion today to further complicate things --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Sorry.

MR. LOCKWOOD: -- but Deer Management Permit is not required in this example that I have. Somebody who has deer in a deer breeding facility would need a deer breeder permit and that is the only permit that would be required for anything you see on this slide before you today.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay. And all of these are high-fenced areas?

MR. LOCKWOOD: They are all high-fenced areas in this example, yes. And a release site must have a high fence as per current regulation in the comprehensive CWD rules.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody else questions or comments?

Okay. I'm going to authorize the proposed changes to be placed on tomorrow's agenda item for public comment and action with one exception and that is on the soft release provisions, that would be on a one-year sunset so that next year the Commission will hear an update at this time from staff and consider whether to extend, modify, suspend, or revoke. With that change, we'll proceed tomorrow with a vote on this.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

All right. Dr. Dittmar, Bob Dittmar, please give us Work Session Item 7, Disease Detection and Response Rules for Proposed Amendment to Containment Zone Boundaries.

DR. DITTMAR: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Bob Dittmar. I'm the veterinarian for the Wildlife Division and I'm here this morning to request permission to publish amendments to Chapter 65.81 concerning disease detection and response to extend the boundaries of Containment Zone 3. And I better get my clicker here.

Just to remind everyone, there are three areas in the state where Chronic Wasting Disease has been detected. Within those areas have been designated containment and surveillance zones with rules in place to monitor the disease through testing, surveillance, and to contain the disease through restrictions on movement of the live animals and those carcass parts that are most likely to be infectious.

This slide depicts the current delineations of Containment Zone 3 and Surveillance Zone 3, as well as the approximate locations of CWD positives in the area. And just the red dots are White-tailed deer. The purplish colored dots are elk.

To date, there have been 94 positive White-tail deer in permitted breeding facilities. Fourteen positive White-tail deer and two positive elk harvested on permitted release sites associated with those permitted breeder facilities and three positive White-tail deer harvested outside those permitted facilities in Containment Zone 3.

The Department, along with Texas Animal Health Commission, designated the boundaries of the surveillance zone using easily recognized geographic boundaries such as roads and streams. The boundaries of the containment zone in this area were delineated using a 2-mile buffer around the boundaries of positive permitted facilities and 5 miles around the location of positive free-ranging deer harvested outside of those facilities.

As the rules for mandatory testing of harvest and carcass movement restrictions are the same for both zones, hunters need only to know the boundaries of the surveillance zones to be in compliance. Only permitted facilities which can move live deer are affected by other zone restrictions, whether they're in the containment zone or the surveillance zone and the Department can determine the location of those permitted facilities and notice -- notify them of any restrictions under the rules.

In very late December of this past year, 2018, we received confirmation from National Vet Services Laboratory of a positive White-tail deer harvested outside a permitted facility; but within the current Containment Zone 3. Staff is determined to be consistent with the 5-mile buffer for these free range -- this free-ranging animal in all directions, a slight expansion of the containment zone is needed.

The Department has determined there are no permitted facilities within this expansion that would be affected by this change and also as there is no extension of Surveillance Zone 3, there would be no change in regulations to current property use of other landowners, including those new boundaries.

Another free-ranging White-tail deer was harvested and found to be positive in February of 2019 within the current -- within the current boundaries of Containment Zone 3. This deer is within the current 5-mile buffer, so that deer would not require any expansion of the zone. And this is just another view of those proposed expansion of that zone, along with some road and stream features that just help delineate this area.

For orientation, Hondo is down in the lower right-hand corner. Tarpley is up in the upper left-hand corner -- I'm sorry, upper right-hand corner. Utopia is in the upper left-hand corner, and Sabinal in the lower left-hand corner. And it's within -- it basically defines the boundaries of the surveillance zone.

So our request today is that our staff seeks permission to publish proposed amendments to Chapter 65.81 concerning disease detection in response to expand the boundaries of Containment Zone 3 in the Texas Register. And that completes my presentation, if you have any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

All right. Thank you, Dr. Dittmar. I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Work Session Item 8, Public Lands Proclamation, Request Permission to Propose -- Publish Proposed Changes, Justin Dreibelbis.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Justin Dreibelbis. I'm the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director in the Wildlife Division. In 2018, this Commission made certain arrow guns and airguns lawful for the take of game animals and nonmigratory birds. Staff has determined that because of the current rules governing the use of public hunting lands are silent on the subject of arrow guns and airguns, that changes were necessary with respect to possession, display, and use of these pneumatic weapons on public lands. This morning, I'll briefly cover a few proposed amendments to the public lands proclamation and request permission to publish in the Texas Register.

The first proposed amendment to Section 65.199 would prohibit the possession of arrow guns and airguns on public hunting lands except for permitted hunters, permitted researchers, commission law enforcement officers, and Department employees in performance of their duties. The second amendment, 65.201, would make it unlawful for a person to possess a loaded arrow gun or airgun in a vehicle unless the person falls into a certain category of disabled hunters that may hunt from a stationary vehicle. And then the last group of amendments would be to Section 65.203, which would require hunters using an arrow gun or airgun to comply to certain hunter safety provisions regarding the use of hunter orange or the discharge and display of certain weapons.

And so at this time, Parks and Wildlife staff seeks permission to publish proposed amendments to Sections 65.199, 65.201, and 65.203 of the public hunt -- public lands proclamation concerning the possession, display, and use of pneumatic weapons on public hunting lands in the Texas Register. And with that, I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

Okay. I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Work Session Item 9, Local Park Grant Funding, Request Approval of Proposed Funding Recommendations, Dan Reece.

MR. REECE: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Dan Reece and I'm the Local Park Grant Program Manager within the Recreation Grants Branch in the State Park Division and I'm here this morning to present 38 new local park grant funding recommendations.

Funding from a portion of state sporting good sales tax, as well as federal offshore oil and gas royalties, combine to provide matching grants to local units of government for the acquisition and development of public parkland. Currently available, we have $7,037,012 available in the Texas Recreation and Parks Account, or TRPA. The Texas Large County and Municipality Recreation and Parks Account, or Urban Account, currently has a balance of $5,245,957. And through the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF, we currently have available $3,990,363. And at this point, I would also like to mention that available federal LWCF funding, additional funding, could be made available later during the current fiscal year.

We have a total of five individual grant programs within local parks. These are each based on population, as well as proposed project scope. We have the Urban Outdoor Recreation Program, as well as the Urban Indoor Recreation Program; and these are both for communities with a population of 500,000 or more. We have the Nonurban Outdoor Recreation and Nonurban Indoor Recreation Programs, and these are for communities with a population of less than 500,000. And then we also have the Small Community Recreation Program, and this is for all eligible jurisdictions with a population of 20,000 or less. Each of the five programs listed here were offered during the current grant cycle.

We have an annual call for applications. Our most recent deadline was October 1st of last year, 2018. As of that date, we received a total of 71 eligible local park applications requesting a total of $25,377,315 in matching fund assistance. Exhibits A through E rank projects in descending order based on each grant program scoring criteria, which was previously adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Exhibit F displays the scoring for the Webb County nonurban outdoor application. Based on this application score, staff is prepared to recommend the funding of this application.

So these are the three motions that we're prepared to present tomorrow. Motion 1: Staff recommends the funding for projects listed in Exhibits A through E -- I'm sorry -- funding for projects listed in Exhibits A through E is approved in the amount of $16,005,139. Proposed Motion 2: Funding for projects listed in Exhibit F is approved in the amount of $248,000. And, again, this is specific to the nonurban outdoor application submitted by Webb County. And Motion 3, as I mentioned a little earlier, we do have the possibility of obtaining additional federal funding later in the current fiscal year. In the event this occurs, Motion 3 reads: Funding for projects listed in Exhibits A through B -- A and B -- is approved in the amount of additional LWCF funding that is made available in the current fiscal year, not to exceed $6 million, with first priority given to urban outdoor applications. And at this point, I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Chairman, I'm not sure if this is the appropriate time; but I do want to let you know that I will be abstaining on Exhibit F, dealing with the Webb County nonurban outdoor application because my husband is a Webb County Commissioner.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. So you're going -- you are recusing on Motion 2?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes, recusing. Excuse me.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. All right, thank you.

My only hesitation on the recommendation is the proposed priority to urban outdoor. I suggest we give priority to all outdoor, not just urban. So both non -- the smaller communities get -- are de-preferenced.

MR. REECE: Okay. So --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So adjust that tomorrow.

MR. REECE: Adjust that, okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. With that adjustment -- read the magic language here -- the local park grant funding request approval of the three proposed funding recommendations will be on -- placed on the Wednesday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you.

MR. REECE: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. With regard to Work Session Item 10, Disposition of Real Estate in Brazoria County, Approximately 355 Acres for Dredge Placement Area at Bryan Beach, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments? This has been previously presented. If not, I'll place it on tomorrow's agenda for action.

All right. So the disposition of real estate in Brazoria County, 355 acres, has been -- will be placed on Wednesday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item 11, Disposition of Property in Jasper County, Approximately 219 Acres of Land and a Permit for 811-Acre Feet of Water at the Jasper Fish Hatchery, Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is to discuss the prospect of disposition of a site that we've used for many, many, many decades and no longer use. Originally known as the Jasper County Fish Hatch -- or the Jasper County Fish Hatchery and more recently known as the East Texas Conservation Center, just northwest of Jasper, Texas.

We had the opportunity to discuss this a few months ago and you asked us to go back and do some additional research, which we've done. And just briefly to refresh your memory, we acquired that property in the 20s and 30s. Expanded it in 1947. At one time, it was one of our very active fish hatcheries, producing 30 percent of the Florida Largemouth bass fingerlings and 100 percent of the Blue catfish fingerlings that we stocked in public waters in Texas.

With the East Texas Fish Hatchery and the John Parker Fish Hatchery coming online early in this century, the production of those fingerlings was shifted to those newer, more modern facilities and ultimately ceased at the Jasper Fish Hatchery. At that point, the facility was transferred to Wildlife Division. They used it for a few years to support District 6 operations in East Texas. Again, it was called the East Texas Conservation Center. Those facilities have since been moved to other locations.

The site is about 219 acres. Includes about 70 acres of forest. I believe there's 63 hatchery ponds all together. There are offices, hatchery buildings, and a residence. Some of which do date to the 1930s. In 1931, the Game and Oyster Commission acquired a water right to divert up to 811-acre feet per year out of Indian Creek to keep those ponds full of water for fingerling production. Technically -- technically, the permit is for agricultural, wildlife management, and wetlands use.

The property we own includes a diversion structure on Indian Creek, and it's about a 3,500-foot channel that carries that diverted water to those hatchery facilities. You can see in this map the approximate shape of the property and you can see clearly where that 3,500-foot channel is and where the property is we own straddling Indian Creek, which allows us to maintain that diversion structure.

You can see what some of the facilities look like. Again, those older looking facilities do date to the 1930s. As I mentioned, the District 6 Wildlife Operations have been relocated to Nacogdoches. There is -- it's like a greenhouse structure. There's one structure right now on the site that produces Giant Salvinia weevils that can be reconstructed at several -- any of several other sites. The older buildings are covered by the Antiquities Code of Texas, which would mean that if we were to dispose of the property, we would need to coordinate with the State Historic Preservation Office and document those structures; but there's a protocol in place for doing that.

The property, as it sits now, has very little value to Parks and Wildlife for administrative, biological, or recreation purposes. It's really too small to manage as a park and it's been disturbed too much really for us to manage it as a wildlife management area and, again, it's just -- it's been very, very, very useful facility; but it's -- for our purposes, it's outlived its usefulness.

The property was acquired with state funds, which means there's no federal funds involved. We would not have to go through the process of conversion, which is a fairly complex process. The fact that it was purchased with state funds makes it much easier for us to divest of should you choose to do that. Staff recommends selling the property and dedicating the sale proceeds to acquisition of land with higher strategic value to Parks and Wildlife.

The associated water right has financial and conservation value and could be conveyed in whole or in part with the land. Any or all of the water right retained by the Department could be dedicated to in-stream use to protect fish and wildlife resources of Indian Creek. The water right, again, 811-acre feet of water -- up to 811-acre feet of -- acre feet per year of water can be diverted from Indian Creek. The right -- the water right also allows us to keep 225-acre feet of that water impounded at a time on the facility.

From 2000 to 2014, which is when we actually have records for, our average diversion was 446-acre feet a year. Most of that water was returned to Indian Creek. And, in fact, in about half of those years, we returned more water than we received. Remember this is Jasper County. Average annual rainfall is 59.8 inches. Average evaporation is about 48 inches. Which means in a normal year, you get more rain than you know what do with and so the water fills those ponds up and ends up being returned. We end up returning more water to Indian Creek than we actually use.

And as far as that water goes, in-stream use purposes can be added to that water right so that that water that we retain and commit to in-stream uses can be guaranteed to become a part of the flow of Indian Creek and we'll take a little bit closer look at our conclusions about what that means for Indian Creek. If the water is placed in the Texas Water Trust, we retain ownership; but the Water Trust commits that water to be -- to be dedicated to in-stream uses for conservation.

We started in December sampling -- again, per direction we received from the Commission -- taking a close look at the dynamics of that stream to get some idea of what that water right would mean for the health of that stream. I want to brag a little bit on our field sampling team. I think it's known throughout the nation that Parks and Wildlife Department is an exemplary conservation agency, period. And one of the reasons is that we are well staffed with people who are truly experts in their field, who know how to mobilize and get in the field and do this kind of sampling.

And so you can see pictures here of the crew measuring the creek. They took cross-sections. They created models, flow models. They looked at the sediments in the creek. They looked at the different types of habitat, the pool habitats and riffle habitats. They collected fish. You can see one of the calmer reaches of that creek here. They collected 14 species of fish in December, which is a very high number of species to collect when the water is this cold. The water -- the fish that want to can swim downstream to Angelina River where the water is a little bit warmer during the winter. But, again, a very interesting diversity of fish. The Dusky darter and Southern lamprey being a couple that have to have this riffle habitat, this riffle habitat for at least part of their life cycle.

And to get to the recommendation, staff does recommend divestiture of the Jasper Fish Hatchery. Staff recommends retaining a local broker to maximize the marketing value and the realization of potential land sale value. Staff recommends that the land sale proceeds be dedicated to acquisition of strategic wildlife management area or fish hatchery lands in East Texas. This sale -- again, this is staff recommendation, that the sale should include some of the Agency's water right to increase the tract's marketability. Any balance of the water right not conveyed with the land should be dedicated to in-stream use and considered for deposition in the Texas Water Trust.

Staff suggest offering the sale of 200-acre feet per year of water to go with the land and retaining 611-acre -- 611-acre feet per year. Staff does recommend a deed restriction that would prohibit the placement of any diversion structure in Indian Creek that would prohibit the upstream or downstream movement of aquatic species. There's more than one way to get water out of that creek. Historically, at one time, we had a dam across the creek that built up some headwater that then the water forced that water down the channel to the hatchery; but based on those species like the Southern lamprey that need to be able to move up and down and need that moving water habitat, we recommend that any future diversion not completely block off that creek so as to prohibit the movement of aquatic organisms up and down the creek.

Staff request permission to begin the public notice and input process. And with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions. We also have folks here who are more experts than I am on water rights and stream dynamics.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I'd like to call on Commissioner Scott who's been there and evaluated this to give us -- share his thoughts on this.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, I did go out and had a nice tour with all of our people up there who are as good as what Ted said. They're very, very conscientious. I can't see any use for us for this particular piece of land anymore. We've built the new facilities. You know, we've got the whole new fish hatchery and everything. I don't perceive that we would ever have a use. So I think -- and I like the way that the staff has prepared the way to go out and market it and to do the water rights and everything. I think they've done a good job. So I would support the sale and the disposition of this and keeping the funds available to use for a more worthwhile piece of dirt that does what we need it do to.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I also assume -- you didn't mention this -- that we would retain the minerals?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It is safe to assume that we will retain the mineral, any minerals that we have associated with that property. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I want to make sure.

All right. I think Carter has a thought or two, an update on another related item pertaining to this proposed agenda item.

MR. SMITH: Chairman and Commissioners, I do. Just as we go forward, I just want to call your attention on the map of the fish hatchery -- and you might pull that up, Ted. And I guess that's on the -- and, Stephen, you probably know this -- the southeastern boundary is a historic cemetery. And we've been approached by the cemetery managers about their interest in potentially acquiring I think up to an acre to allow for future expansion of that cemetery.

And I guess, Chairman, what we'd be looking for, we think that would be a worthwhile neighborly thing to pursue to look at selling a little bit of acreage -- again, one acre or so -- subject to appropriate deed restrictions that would limit the use to a cemetery or a reverter clause if they were not to use it as such; but give them a chance to expand it again, subject to, you know, a fair market value valuation. So if y'all were okay with that, we would like to pursue that as part of the divestiture of this property. And Commissioner Scott had a chance to see that and hear about that when he was out there.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, and I would -- my comment too would be that where it's located, it won't have any effect on the marketability of the other -- the large piece, I think. And I do agree that that would be the neighborly and proper thing for us to do.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And I assume, Carter, that you're suggesting the sale be at some appraise -- sorry -- appraised value?

MR. SMITH: Yes, that would be -- that would be my recommendation, just to make sure that we kept it consistent with how we would approach other sales and if for some reason there's some departure from that, we would come back and let you now.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody have any issue with that?

Okay. This item is also going to be heard in Executive Session. So we'll circle back later on it.

Work Session Item 12, Sunset Advisory Commission Recommended Transfer of Eight Historic Sites will also be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item 13, Litigation Update on Oyster Litigation, CWD Litigation, and Border Wall will be heard in Executive Session.

So at this time pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under 551.072 of the Act and seeking legal advice under 551.071 of the Act, including legal advice regarding pending or contemplated litigation. So we'll recess in Executive Session at 12:04 p.m.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: We'll now reconvene the Work Session on March 19, 2019, at 1:28 p.m.

With respect to Work Session Item 11, Disposition of Property, Jasper County, 219 Acres of Land and a Permit for up to 811-Acre Feet of Water at the Jasper Fish Hatchery, I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process regarding the disposition of that property.

With respect to Work Session Item 12, the Sunset Advisory Commission Recommendations for Transfer of Certain Properties Owned by the Parks and Wildlife Department to the Historical Commission, no further action is required at this time.

Work Session Item 13, Litigation Update, no further action is required at this time.

So I declare that the Commission has completed its Work Session business and adjourn us at 1:29 p.m. Thank you.

(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, 2020

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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