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TPW Commission

Work Session, August 21, 2019

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

August 21, 2019

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

COMMISSION WORK SESSION & EXECUTIVE SESSION

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm going to call the meeting to order at 9:07.

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

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, 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 Open Meetings Act. Mr. Chairman, I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Carter.

Before we proceed with any business, I would like to welcome the new commissioners: Commissioner Abell, Hildebrand, and Patton. You're going to thoroughly enjoy this committee. It's great for the State of Texas, and it's personally rewarding. We have a great team and a great staff.

I would also like to also congratulate the reappointment of Commissioner Galo. I'm so glad you're back.

With that, I'll go on to the first order of business, the approval of the minutes of the previous Work Session held May 31st, 2019. The minutes have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: So moved.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer. Seconded by Beaver. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Next, we have Work Session Item 1, Update of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan. That's --

MR. SMITH: That was a mouthful --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- a lot.

MR. SMITH: -- Chairman, wasn't it?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: That's a lot.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, for the record, my name's Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I want to join you in welcoming our new commissioners. Obviously excited about working with you and on behalf of all of our team, welcome. I think the Chairman captured it well. You're going to find this appointment and experience very rich and rewarding and all of us are really excited about working with you and supporting you in this capacity.

Mr. Chairman, I've got a couple of things this morning that I want to just go through for you and the commissioners. Just as is customary, let me start with just a very quick report on the Internal Affairs team.

Just as a reminder for you and all of the Commission as we approach the end of the fiscal year, one of the things that Major Gray will do is provide a year-end report to the Commission that we'll probably get done, Jon, probably by the end of September is a reasonable timeframe for us to shoot for. And that will provide an annual summation of all of the complaints, both of a criminal and policy kind, that came before Internal Affairs. We'll stratify those by the nature of the complaint and division and also dispensation of those; but it will give you an important, again, summation of that activity inside the Agency.

Also just want to compliment Jon on continuing to work on the training and professional development for our investigators on that team. He and a number of them recently attended a training on death and homicide investigations there in New Braunfels. Obviously an unfortunate and unpleasant thing to be trained in, but unfortunately a necessary one for our investigators. And so, Jon, I appreciate your making sure that our team is up to speed with the most contemporary training and education.

And just last but not least, Chairman, Jon has been working with Scott and his team on updating the operations manual for Internal Affairs, just to make sure that we have continually updated that with respect to our processes for handling and managing and disposing of all complaints that are coming forward inside the Agency. So we'll make sure that you get an update on that once we're done.

Just a couple of congratulations in order. I think last meeting -- I'm looking for Craig. I'm always point -- I don't -- you keep moving around on me here. I need to check my left shoulder.

We had a chance to celebrate Marcos De Jesus for an award that he had received and I think we had mentioned that Marcos was about to get a promotion to our East Texas Regional Director. Marcos was our District biologist here in Central Texas and oversaw an eminently capable team of Fisheries biologists and technicians helping to manage the Central Texas lakes and reservoirs and streams and all the fisheries and aquatic habitats in them.

He's now been promoted to Regional Director and so he's overseeing all of those functions in East Texas and suffice to say, he and that team have got a lot to say grace over with some just world class lakes and reservoirs, a lot of aquatic invasive related issues, a lot of habitat related enhancement, lots of community partnerships over there. And Marcos is very uniquely suited for that job. He's just got a great outgoing personality and he's a real leader in the fisheries community and a very noted and respected biologist. So we're excited about that and look forward to working with him in this new capacity.

And then over to Athens at the Freshwater Fisheries Center, Mandy Scott retired and Tom Lang was promoted to take that job. For our new commissioners, the Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, we've got a hatchery there. It's also a site for us to do outreach and education to the public about fisheries and fishing and conservation and aquatic habitat. We get -- what, Craig -- 70,000 or so folks that will come to the center over there.

The timing is also very serendipitous for Tom in that we're going through a modernization of that facility and updating that. We've got a partnership with the Parks and Wildlife Foundation to help manage through that construction project. Tom was up in Wichita Falls as our District biologist and one of our best outwardly facing community leaders inside the Agency. Really engaged with the community there on the revitalization of Lake Wichita, which was a hugely important project to that community up there and they're going to miss him; but it's certainly the State's gain in this new capacity. So we want to welcome Tom to that position.

While we're on the subject of all things Inland Fisheries -- Craig, I think we could make the whole presentation about your team today, just to make your counterparts squirm over there on the front row. In May, we had the 13th Annual Toyota Bassmaster Fest.

And, Commissioner Bell, I see you nodding your head.

It's a wonderful event. You know, obviously it's a professional fishing tournament; but it's a whole, whole, whole lot more. Toyota has really positioned that event to help promote conservation and the incredible fisheries work that our Fisheries biologists are doing across the state. And so the narrative really is about conservation and stewardship and habitat conservation and developing quality fisheries and Inland Fisheries is our point on that. Teams from all parts of the Agency help participate.

Also, I want to certainly acknowledge the Sabine River Authority, which was a great partner in this year's event and have been for a number of years. And so just want to thank Toyota for their longtime support since the lifespan of that event. They've donated upwards of $3 million to help with largely focused on getting more people in the outdoors fishing and have helped support our neighborhood fishing programs and so forth and so we're really, really grateful for their leadership and support. It's a great event and I hope next May y'all can put that on your calendars.

On another note, I want to just remind the Commission about the Sunset review that our counterpart agency, the Texas Historical Commission, just went through and obviously which we are just starting to go through now and I'll talk a little bit more about that in just a minute. But as part of the Historical Commission's review, their reauthorizing legislation directed Parks and Wildlife to transfer six historic sites from our portfolio over to the Historical Commission. Those are some of our most sacred sites in the state: San Jacinto and Washington-on-the-Brazos; but also, you know, important places like the Lighthouse down at Port Isabel and Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery and Fanthorp Inn and Lipantitlan.

There is a lot of work underway to facilitate the transfer of those sites -- all of the assets, contracts, land, projects, finances, records, artifacts, people, et cetera -- by the end of this fiscal year. And I would be very remiss if I didn't acknowledge publicly a couple of folks that have worked assiduously on this, not the least of which has been Colette Barron Bradsby on our Legal team and Justin Rhodes and Kevin Good and Rodney Franklin on our State Park team who have done yeoman's work providing the leadership on this front.

But also just I'd ask you to just to help me acknowledge our staff who manage those sites. As you can imagine, there's a fair amount of anxiety in the field going through a process like this when a site which you're responsible for managing or stewarding is going to be transferred to another agency and you're staring down the gun barrel of looking at working for another entity. And I just want to compliment our staff in the field for their extraordinary professionalism and really doing a terrific job continuing to perform their duties, going above and beyond and managing through that anxiety and helping us transition to moving those sites over to the Historical Commission, which by the way has been a very good partner working with us to help facilitate the transfer. We have no doubt that those sites will continue down the road in their exemplary stewardship.

But I'm grateful, Rodney, to the team for the work on this and, Bob, for Colette's work on this and others. So they've been terrific.

Speaking of historic sites/transfers, just a quick update on where we stand with the Battleship Texas. You will recall that Senate Bill 1511 mandated that we enter into a memorandum of understanding or agreement and a 99-year lease with a qualifying nonprofit organization to take over the operations and management of the Battleship Texas.

Along with that, the supplemental appropriations bill had a contingency rider that provided $35.5 million in appropriations to the Department to really do two things. One of which, a half million of which is to help fund our work in helping to remove, store, and secure the thousands of historical artifacts that exist on the Battleship Texas and so our team has been very, very, very busy this summer doing that.

The 35 million in remaining funds are contingency funds that will be granted out to the Battleship Texas Foundation, provided that they get approval from the Legislative Budget Board to go forward with their plan, which would involve moving the Battleship Texas Foundation from its current berth at San Jacinto and either through a wet or dry tow, taking it to a port either along the Gulf Coast or in some foreign country to replace the hull and then tow that back to Texas.

That plan and engineering and design work is being conducted by a company called Valkor, which contains former executives of Dockwise for any of you that have heard of that company which is a marine transport company that is in the business of moving big offshore oil and gas rigs and large ships and so they certainly know what they're doing; but they're the ones handling all the engineering, design, and permitting work. Ultimately, any plan to move that ship I will remind you has to get approved by the Legislative Budget Board.

And so we held a meeting with the LBB staff about two weeks ago to facilitate a briefing on that project by Valkor and the Battleship Texas Foundation and probably sometime in September, they'll be prepared to come back to the LBB with a more formal plan for them to review and then make a decision on.

Our disbursement of that $35 million is obviously contingent upon the LBB's approval of that plan to go forward and our MOU spells out the terms and deliverables and milestones by which we would grant that out. So as you might imagine, we've kind of got that managed in tranches from the funding, the engineering, the planning, the permitting, and then another tranche to deal with the tow out, another tranche to deal with the actual construction work -- again, wherever that's going to be taken to, either domestically or internationally -- and then the tow back and then obviously a contingency and reserve.

And Bob and our Legal team have worked very diligently with legislative offices and the LBB staff to make sure that our MOU provides all the requisite legal protections not only for the Department, but for the State. So we'll continue to keep you apprised on that; but at least as it now stands, we are looking at sometime in October to be transferring the operations and management of that ship to the Battleship Texas Foundation. So you might just kind of keep that in the back of your mind; but, obviously, we'll let you know when exactly that's going to happen and if it slides one way or the other. And if it slides, it would likely to be later as opposed to sooner; but we'll definitely keep you apprised on that front.

Last thing, Chairman, that I want to cover is an overview of the Sunset review process for the Commission. Some of you have familiarity with this and others don't. So those of you that do, forgive the introduction here; but I do want to make sure that everybody has got an understanding of at least the process and timeline in which we're going to be going through.

Just as a reminder, the Sunset review process is required for all State agencies, all 140 State agencies, and it happens every 12 years. And the Sunset legislation for any one individual agency essentially allows that agency to be reauthorized. The Sunset Commission -- a stand-alone agency that's governed by five appointed State Representatives, five Senators and two public members and then staffed just like any agency might be -- their charge is to make a recommendation about whether the agency under review should be reauthorized and if so, are there any changes from a management or a statutory perspective that should happen consistent with that reauthorization.

So they have a very detailed process by which they review and do a deep dive into an agency's mission, governance, operations, programs, activities. And they're really looking for redundancies. They're looking for duplications, inefficiencies. They're looking for obstacles to effectively carrying out its legislatively directed mission. And they're looking for ways to help, you know, polish the proverbial gold and so how can we make that agency better and more effective.

The process -- and I'll show you a timeline -- is typically about a six-month one for any agency going through it, not counting the legislative process on the back end. And both the initial Sunset review process that ends up formulating specific recommendations for an agency, along with the legislative process that's required to pass a reauthorizing bill to go for the Governor for his consideration, requires extensive public input and comment. And so it is an opportunity for the public to engage on issues that are important to them.

This is the contingent of House and Senate members who currently sit on the Sunset Commission. Just as a reminder that the House members are appointed by the Speaker. The Senate members are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. You can see that they've got staggered terms and a couple of the members on -- here in each chamber are slated to go off this year. So Senator Nichols and Watson and then Representatives Thompson and Flynn. They could stay on. Again, this complement of members could change as well; but this is the current composition of the Sunset review board of the commission.

Typically, the chairing of the commission rotates between chambers. And so in this past session, it was chaired by Senator Birdwell and so then what that would likely portend for this time is that Chairman Paddie would be overseeing the Sunset process and Senator Birdwell would serve as the Vice-Chair. And typically what we've seen for larger agencies like ours is that the chair of the Sunset Commission typically sponsors that reauthorizing legislation and carries forward the recommendation from the Sunset Commission through the legislative process and the normal bill process that you're familiar with.

A little bit on kind of the schedule of reviews or timelines. There are 20 agencies that are going through Sunset now. I'll show you a list of them. Basically, the Sunset Commission staff divides up their reviews into two tranches. There's a cohort that will start in September and then one will start sometime in April of 2020. But in the aggregate, those reviews again begin September. They'll start right after Labor Day. And then ultimately the reviews of all of those agencies will be wrapped up by December of 2020. Sunset Commission will make their formal recommendations in January of 2021, in time for the next legislative session and then a bill proposed to reauthorize those agencies that includes the recommendations from the Sunset Commission will be sponsored then by one of the members of the Sunset Commission. So that's the general schedule.

Here's the 20 agencies that are in our cohort. I'm obviously not going to read all of them; but I'll simply point out a couple of them that, you know, have relationships, collaborations, partnerships with the Agency. You know, obviously entities like the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards or TCOLE. They're the governing and standard setting board for all law enforcement agencies in the state and so any changes to TCOLE will have a bearing on the Department and our law enforcement functions.

You can see that the Texas Animal Health Commission is also going through Sunset, an entity that we work very close with -- closely with on wildlife and livestock related diseases. River authorities like San Jacinto River Authority and Brazos River Authority, who we work very closely with on the management of the state's waterways, are going through it. The Prescribed Burning Board over at the Department of Agriculture that we work very closely with in our prescribed burning work, which by the way, y'all will get an update from Jeff Sparks and Chris Schenck tomorrow on that work with our Wildlife and State Parks team and I'm excited for y'all to learn more about that.

This slide depicts kind of the life cycle for the two cohorts. Again, one starting in September. One starting in April. All 20 of us right now are in the throes of completing a staff-generated, self-evaluation report. And so this is an introspective report that basically lays out for the Sunset Commission, you know, our Agency or agencies like ours, it spells out who we are, what we do, how we're organized, what the governance is, what the programs, the activities, you know, or some of the obstacles to getting our work done from a statutory perspective, are there any obvious duplications or redundancies that we see across the state that we can identify to help them think through as they go through this review process.

And so we've got a report that is due -- it's actually due I think the 3rd of September; but internally we have all agreed that that report will be done before the opening day of dove season. So August 27th, I believe, is our internal deadline for this and I'll respectfully remind all of us that are working on that.

We have requested to be in that first cohort if we can in September. We think we ought to just jump right into it and get started on this, but obviously they'll let us know after Labor Day whether we'll start in either September or April. And obviously y'all are going to be an important part of that. The Sunset Commission staff is going to want to interview all of the Commissioners when they're doing their deep dive into the governance and programs and structures to get your perspectives on how the Agency can improve and I think that's exactly how we ought to look at this process: How can we be better? How can we improve? You know, are there some barriers, obstacles? Is there something missing? Are there some redundancies or inefficiencies that we can take care of? And so that's certainly the spirit by which we're approaching it and supporting it from the staff level and look forward to working with all of you in that regard.

Ultimately, the reviews will be done after five or six months. At the end of that, there will be public meetings and public hearings that the Sunset Commission will hold in which people can come and present their feedback and perspectives. Also throughout this process, Sunset Commission staff will be talking with stakeholders of the Department and getting their perspectives on the same kind of questions and topics that you and we will be asked to help answer and address as they formulate their recommendations. And then ultimately it culminates in January of 2021, in which the final recommendations that are made, put into legislation, and then it goes through the legislative process. So just wanted to let you know that time cycle and as soon as we know after Labor Day whether we'll be in that first or second cohort, obviously we'll let you know on that front.

Just, you know, maybe just to help provide a little more granularity to this. Last time we went through the Sunset review, they had a number of recommendations that came through. Some came from the Commission, but some also came through the subsequent legislative process. So just as a reminder for the Commission, the Sunset Commission may issue findings about here's some things that we think you ought to do differently from a management perspective or here's some things statutorily that are going to have to be changed by the Legislature; but once the authorizing bill goes forward in the Legislature, it's also an opportunity for legislators to help make suggestions and changes to that reauthorizing language. So, again, multiple portals for input and influence on that legislation and I just wanted to remind you of that.

You know, again, some of the things that were identified the last time we went through, obviously we were reauthorized or we wouldn't be sitting and standing here today. Things like wanting us to have a list of aquatic plants that could be imported without a permit, requiring state -- other state agencies that receive scientific comments from our biologists about fish and wildlife related considerations of major development projects around the state, whether it's water or transmission or reservoirs or highways, that they were compelled to actually respond to those comments and provide some rationale for why they either adopted them or didn't. Also the regular reporting to the Commission that we do every time of -- on our Internal Affairs team was something that was required in the last Sunset.

And, again, you can see here's a list of other things. I want won't read them all to you, but they covered kind of a broad brush and some of which bigger than others. But, again, that Sunset Process becomes an opportunity for lots of things to potentially get hitched to the Agency and so something that obviously we look forward to working with the Commission and all of you as we go forward.

With that, Chairman, I think I'm going to wrap it up and let the rest of the meeting ensue, unless you and any of the other Commissioners have any questions for me about any of those topics.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: That's it? Okay. Thanks, Chairman. Appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: With regard to Work Session Item 2, Financial Overview, unless a Commissioner has a question today, I'll place the Financial Overview on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

With regard to Work Session Item No. 3, Commercial Nongame Permits and Miscellaneous Wildlife Division Permits, the Refusal of Permit Issuance or Permit Renewal and the Review of Agency Decision, Recommending Adoption of Proposed Changes, unless there's a comment from any of the Commissioners or questions, I'll place this item on the agenda -- Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Hearing none, we'll move to Work Session Item No. 4, Amendment to the Threatened and Endangered Species List Rule, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. I think, Meredith, you're going to make the presentation. Thank you.

MS. LONGORIA: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. And welcome new Commissioners.

My name, for the record, is Meredith Longoria. I'm the Nongame and Rare Species Program Leader in the Wildlife Division. And it's important for me to note today that during this presentation, I'm representing a coordinated effort between Coastal Fisheries, Inland Fisheries, and Wildlife Divisions as I present proposed amendments to the state threatened and endangered species list rules.

This morning you'll hear me talk about two separate sets of lists: The state lists, which include state endangered species and state threatened species lists and the federal lists or species protected by the Endangered Species Act that include federal endangered species and federal threatened species lists. They have some similar terminology that can get a little confusing. So please stop me if you have any questions or need further clarification at any point.

I'll begin with a little background on regulations and statutes pertaining to our state threatened and endangered species lists. Section 68.002 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code dictates that species of fish and wildlife are listed as endangered on the state list if they are listed on the federal list of endangered species or if -- and here's where it gets a little confusing -- they're considered threatened with statewide extinction as filed by the Director of the Department.

Let me clarify that threatened with statewide extinction is a synonomous term with state endangered and it's separate from what we call state or federally threatened species. Hence, the confusion. I'll elaborate more on what determines whether a species is to be considered threatened with statewide extinction on the next slide.

As required by statute, our state endangered species list closely mirrors the federal endangered species list. However, the state threatened species list varies considerably from the federal threatened species list, as there's no similar statute that dictates what's to be listed as state threatened for animals. Section 68.003 of the Parks and Wildlife Code defines a species of fish and wildlife as threatened with statewide extinction if the Department finds that the continued existence of that species is endangered due to destruction, drastic modification, or severe curtailment of habitat, its overutilization for commercial or sporting purposes, disease or predation, or other natural or manmade factors. In other words, state endangered means that a species is heading towards extinction in Texas. This statute provides TPWD with the flexibility to add species to the state list of endangered species that are not on the federal endangered species list, although that rarely occurs.

State threatened species are defined under Section 65.175 of the Texas Administrative Code as any species that the Department has determined is likely to become endangered in the future. In other words, if a species continues the same trajectory, it's likely to become state endangered. Again, there's no statute that dictates that fish and wildlife species that are on the federal threatened species list shall be added to the state threatened list. Species on the state threatened list receive priority for research and conservation funding. They also provide a nexus for encouraging developers and other state agencies to consult with us for guidance, to minimize or avoid harm to these species, and for building partnerships with landowners who can choose to implement voluntary conservation measures to benefit these species.

As a result of these two things, keeping an up-to-date list of state threatened species places us in a better position to avert the need for federal intervention and to keep these species under state's jurisdiction. According to Chapter 88 of Parks and Wildlife Code and Chapter 69 of Texas Administrative Code, plants are to be listed as endangered, threatened, or protected if listed as such on the U.S. list of plant species or as filed by the Director of the Department, similar to fish and wildlife.

Code also states that if the list of endangered or threatened plants issued by the United States is modified, the Director shall file an order with the Secretary of State accepting the modification if the plant occurs within the state. This means that any native plant in Texas that's on either the federal endangered or threatened species list, must be reflected on the state lists accordingly. So that's a little different from animals. This --

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Meredith?

MS. LONGORIA: Yes.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Bobby Patton. I've got --

MS. LONGORIA: Yes.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: I've actually got a question. Who's the Director of the Department?

MS. LONGORIA: The Director of the Department is Carter Smith.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay, good.

All right. Thank you, Carter. I'm going to have one for you. So would coastal seagrass be covered by that?

MS. LONGORIA: As a native plant in Texas, yes.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay.

MS. LONGORIA: Yes. Okay.

MR. SMITH: But it's not recommended to be on the list.

MS. LONGORIA: No, it is not.

MR. SMITH: But, yes. Yeah, it would be a native plant. Right.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Maybe it should be recommended to be on the list.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, that's certainly something that could be discussed.

MS. LONGORIA: So this list may also be amended by the Director. In contrast, you might recall that fish and wildlife, only species on the federal endangered list must be reflected in the state endangered list based on statute. So that's a little different.

Let me point out some of the major differences between the protections provided by state and federal lists as shown here. Instead of reading it all to you, I want to really emphasize that the biggest difference that unlike federal law, state law does not protect habitat. Only the organisms themselves. Habitat protection is one of the biggest sources of discontent with the federal protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act. And, again, that does not apply to the state list of threatened and endangered species.

The biggest value of the state list isn't in regulation, but in prioritizing and encouraging voluntary conservation efforts. To expand on that, the value provided by maintaining a current state threatened species list process is it allows us to identify and prioritize the most at risk species in Texas based on current data that more accurately reflects their conservation needs. It directs our limited conservation resources to recover the most vulnerable and at risk species, thereby giving us a greater opportunity to conserve and recover those species most at risk through consultation with industry and partnering with private landowners to provide guidance best on based -- best available science. And ultimately, if we're successful in those endeavors, we can avert the need for federal protection entirely, keeping species under state jurisdiction.

And finally, for those federally listed species on our state lists, the values I just described help us -- help us recover those species so that they no longer require federal protections, like the Black-capped Vireo, bringing them back under state jurisdiction.

I would like to highlight a few examples of progress made in terms of filling data gaps and precluding the federal listing or actual conservation successes in the State of Texas for some listed -- state listed species. Due to genetic work we funded on freshwater mussels, it was determined that we -- what we previously thought were four imperiled species, were actually just two species and they might actually be more common than previously thought. This gives us the opportunity to now focus our efforts on gaining a better understanding about their current status and threats.

The Reticulate Collared lizard could have been listed, but wasn't as a result of research and data sharing between multiple state agencies and those data revealed that it's more common than we previously thought. The Texas Indigo snake is another example in which the state threatened status prioritized funding opportunities, allowing us to obtain more data that again shows that they're more common than we thought. And as I mentioned earlier, the Black-capped Vireo was recently removed from the federal endangered species list as a result of recovery due to the combination of research and then targeted educational efforts, as well as partnerships with landowners, governmental organizations, and stakeholder groups that led to the application of effective conservation measures on the ground. If Recovering America's Wildlife Act passes and Texas were to receive $57 million annually for research and conservation for nongame species, just imagine the progress we could make.

Recent changes to our state threatened and endangered species lists have centered almost entirely on reflecting the changes made to the federal list of endangered species for fish and wildlife or changes made to the federal list of threatened and endangered species for plants as statutorily required. Enhanced methodology and data sharing have led to a more systematic approach that I'll elaborate on a little later in this presentation. We've been working diligently to fill data gaps for species of greatest conservation need, which I will refer to going forward as SGCN. And as a result, we've had an influx of new data that provides us with a better understanding of the conservation status and the needs of many SGCN.

As we continue with this process, our state lists will be updated regularly as new data is obtained to reflect current conservation needs. Staff in all three natural resource divisions have been hard at work coordinating teams of species experts to conduct conservation status assessments using the NatureServe Network's protocol to evaluate SGCN identified in the Texas Conservation Action Plan, which is a time intensive process given that we have over 1,300 SGCN associated with the action plan.

This methodology is widely accepted because it's designed to be transparent, science based, and to reduce bias from the species evaluation process. And this tool is either used by or is consistent with similar tools used by other state natural resource agencies, natural heritage programs, and conservation organizations across the nation. Essentially, this process lays the groundwork for consistently maintaining and regularly updating the state list of threatened and endangered species as new data is obtained to more accurately reflect changing conservation needs over time.

The three main factors out of the ten factors that are considered that this methodology uses to assign conservation status value to a species includes rarity, threats, and population trends, as you see here. After all factors are evaluated for a species, a resulting conservation status is generated. The conservation status of imperiled or critically imperiled is the threshold we used to recommend species to be added to the state threatened list, as those are the most at risk species in Texas.

The total recommended changes to the state list of threatened species across all three divisions, if approved, would result in adding 47 species and removing 13, with 102 species from the current list remaining. That would result in a total of 149 state threatened species, which represents approximately 11 percent of our SGCN.

By now, we've made significant gains in filling data gaps and applying this new methodology for evaluating at risk species to better reflect their conservation needs. We plan to continue to do so and update our state list of threatened species on an ongoing -- perhaps annual -- basis to best direct our conservation efforts to protect our most at risk species. As stated earlier, species being added and removed from the endangered state list shall simply reflect federal list changes.

I'll now present the changes recommended by all three natural resource divisions, starting with the recommended additions to the state list of threatened species. Most of our recommended additions to the state threatened list are species that occur here and nowhere else in the world. They're often highly isolated geographically and restricted to a very narrow set of environmental parameters. In other words, most of these species are unique to Texas and we wish to keep them.

First, we recommend adding four species of amphibians, three of which are on the federal threatened species list; twelve aquatic invertebrates, including these four freshwater mussel species, two of which are under review for federal listing; seven aquatic snails, including these four, most of these are associated with desert springs or cave springs; these three snails, also plus one isopod listed here, which is under review for listing; three species of birds listed here; 13 species of freshwater fish, including these four; and these four fish including the Arkansas River Speckled Chub, which is under review for listing; as well as these five.

Unique funding opportunities yielded considerable gains through research on these fish species, enabling Inland Fisheries staff to fill data gaps and better identify the conservation needs of these 13 freshwater fish species. After filling data gaps, the next step is conservation efforts.

These two mammals, including the West Indian manatee, are also recommended for adding to the state threatened list which was recently downlisted from endangered to threatened and its current conservation status supports reflecting that change in the state list; eight species of plants, including these four species, one of which is under review for listing; and these four species, two of which are under review for federal listing; these two reptiles, including the Dunes Sagebrush lizard, which is under review for federal listing.

We coordinate closely with the Comptroller's Office on research and conservation planning efforts for multiple at risk species and they agree that adding this species to the state list of threatened species is complementary to their efforts in developing a voluntary conservation plan for Dunes Sagebrush lizard in Texas.

We also recommend adding three species of sharks, including the Oceanic White-tipped shark, which was just listed as federally threatened. And in summary, we recommend adding a total of 47 imperiled or critically imperiled species to the state threatened list. We recommend removing the Texas Horn chill -- Hornshell from the state threatened list and adding it to the state endangered list according to statute, since it was just listed as federally endangered in 2018.

As mentioned earlier in our -- in the progress stories that I mentioned, genetic research on these mussel species revealed that they're not separate species. And as such, they must be reevaluated under their new classification and so we are recommending removing these from the state threatened list. These species should also be removed as all three are no longer imperiled.

And finally, we recommend removing six reptiles, including these four species as new data indicates they are no longer imperiled in Texas and are more common than we thought; as well as these two species.

In summary, that makes a total of 13 species we recommend removing from the state threatened list because they do not meet the conservation status threshold of imperiled or critically imperiled. Therefore, we can concentrate more closely on the most at risk species. And finally as stated earlier, the only changes to the state endangered list will reflect changes to the federal lists as statutorily required.

As such, staff respectfully seek your permission to publish the proposed changes to the Texas Register and I'm happy to take any questions you have at this time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Is there any discussion by the Commission?

Yes, Commissioner Bell.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Just in terms of the items that we're looking at adding to the list, do you expect any pushback from different public groups saying that those -- that certain -- or have you gotten any feedback where people think that we're overstepping or overreacting?

MS. LONGORIA: I haven't received any feedback yet in that regard. However, I would anticipate there's usually any time you talk about adding something to a state list or a federal list for that matter, there will probably be some folks that might disagree, that feel like they might be impacted. But the thing to remember is that there aren't habitat protections and these -- adding these species to the state threatened list provides us with that opportunity to really focus our limited resources and efforts on working voluntarily with these groups that may resist that idea, to recover these species or to learn more about them and find out that, in fact, they don't need to be on the state list and they certainly don't need to be on the federal list.

COMMISSIONER BELL: And the reason why I ask is because I think it's a very good effort; but it's always the communication, trying to keep everybody on the same page and keep everyone aligned and realize that we're all working for a similar purpose, which hopefully at the end of the day leaves us in a better position overall to look at these different species and make sure they're protected or that they continue to exist.

MS. LONGORIA: Absolutely. And I think that's -- you know, that's where that message is critical that this is our -- this is our chance to -- our last chance to get ahead of any federal listing that might be much more problematic for groups that might be more severely impacted.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Thank you.

MS. LONGORIA: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Meredith, how often do you do this? Update the list?

MS. LONGORIA: So this is the first comprehensive update since we've adopted this very systematic transparent process of evaluating species conservation status. And so, you know, we plan to do that regularly, whether it be annual or biannual is yet to be determined based on the resources that we have to put into gathering more data that allows us to reassess the conservation status of species.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: This is the first time since when? How long has it been?

MS. LONGORIA: So 2015 was the last time that there were changes proposed to the state threatened and endangered species lists and those mostly reflected federal listing action changes. And so there has never been a consistent, you know, comprehensive approach at re-hauling or making sure that we have an up-to-date list.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: So 2015.

MS. LONGORIA: 2015.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: And so I don't really have any specific about any one of these. I just wanted to understand if I did the math correct, this is a 30 percent increase in numbers of the list. So I just didn't know if that was a standard type --

MS. LONGORIA: It was not.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: -- of increase that big. But over four years, it's obviously not as big an increase.

MS. LONGORIA: Right. And, you know, if this -- if we're able to move forward with this as a systematic approach like we wish to do, then there should be fewer recommended additions each year. It will just be as -- you know, as needed and as we gain new information and are able to move forward with the --

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Thank you.

MS. LONGORIA: -- removing or adding.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, Commissioner Hildebrand.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Thanks for the overview. Just can you speak to the delisting of the Bald eagle? It just --

MS. LONGORIA: Sure.

MR. HEGER: It seems -- it's curious to me that it's now off the list and so just for my edification.

MS. LONGORIA: So the Bald eagle was federally delisted years ago. I can't remember exactly how many years ago. And that species is doing well in Texas, and it also still receives protection under some other federal laws. So it has a very high level of protection, and the need for it being on the state list just isn't there.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. Any further questions?

Thank you, Meredith.

If there's no other discussion, then I'll authorize the staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

MS. LONGORIA: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Work Session Item No. 5, Passive Gear Tagging Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Mr. Jarret Barker, please make your presentation.

MR. BARKER: Good morning. Jarret Barker. I'm the Assistant Commander over Fisheries Enforcement, and I'll be presenting to you passive gear changes. We'll be requesting permission to publish these changes. It will be very brief most likely. It's a less complicated issue.

So these changes that we're proposing are coming from guidance that we received at the last Commission about maybe accelerating our ability to remove passive gear from public water and so we did a review of the statutes and Commission rules around passive gear to look at what are some of the obstacles and what we can do to accelerate that process.

Some of the negative impacts of these passive fishing gears are they continue to catch fish when they're left in the water. The gear is hard to identify. What you're looking at in this slide here is a jugline. You know, there could be multiple variations of that; but it's one of the only gears that actually has a float and it's because in order to create the jugline, you have a float on it so it's easily identified. But the passive gears that we're talking about are juglines, trotlines, throw lines, minnow traps, and perch traps.

Most of those gears do not have any floats on them. So they're placed in public water by an individual who wants to catch the resource and if abandoned or forgotten, that gear will stay there and it's not easily identified by our law enforcement patrols because you just quite honestly don't notice a small string tied to a stick on the shoreline. So adding some new requirements around this gear is going to aid us in identifying that and locating it.

Some of the problems again with this passive fishing gear is fish mortality increases as they remain hooked longer than four days. The devices can continue to fish when they're not baited. So even our law enforcement patrols have pulled and removed this gear and it's very easily recognized that the gear has been there for quite a long time, but we will find fish that are still attached to the gear or hooked recently. Inland Fisheries has done some studies to kind of confirm that and the gear continues to fish and catch even when it's not baited with a bait on the hook. And then the abandoned gear represents a nuisance to other anglers.

I'm sure many of you have been bass fishing and you're casting and reeling in and you'll hook a trotline that you didn't see that was there in the water. That gear also gets entangled in boat props and, you know, could be in a conflict with water skiers and other users of our public water.

So the removal requirements, game wardens who inspect passive gear, we're authorized under Chapter 12 and actually directed under Chapter 12 to remove gear that is placed in violation of Commission rules and that process requires us to post public notification through a local judge directing the sheriff to post at the courthouse that this gear has been removed from a public waterbody. It takes a certain amount of time. This Chapter 12 rule is not something that offers a whole lot of flexibility; but we have identified that if we make some changes in the gear definitions themselves -- in order to be a legal jugline, it's got to have a gear tag, there's some definition proposal changes within this that we would like to make -- that will clearly define what is a legal fishing gear and what is not. There's other illegal fishing gears that people place out there like a hoop net is something that is prohibited in Texas that we do come across in some of our patrols.

So some of the proposed changes, we're going to recommend adding the customer number that is on an individual's fishing license to the gear tag itself. Currently, the name and address of the individual who placed the device in public water is the only requirement. Adding the customer number will allow law enforcement to access information about the individual who placed the device, but it doesn't reveal any more information to other members of the public about the individual who placed the device in public water. So there's some privacy protections in place there.

We're adding the gear tag as part of the device definition. Again, so that if the device does not have a gear tag, well, then it's no longer a jugline under the defined statute. We are reducing the number of days from ten down to four days that a device could be placed in the water. They could renew the gear tag and continue fishing it. So an individual still has the ability to fish for 30 days straight, but it just communicates to us that they're updating their tag, they intended to leave that device there, and so that we know that it's not catching fish, you know, as an abandoned situation. And it's going to require -- or we're recommending requiring all passive gear to be marked with a float above the waterline. That's going to allow us, as a law enforcement patrol, to identify that that device is there. It's going to prompt us to check it and look at it, look at the gear tag, has it been placed, is it actively being checked and if not, well, then that's going to be part of that accelerated process of us removing the gear.

Within that, there will be some other recommendations about orange being reserved for commercial activity. Even our Inland Fisheries staff, if they wanted to survey the use of a public waterbody, recreational use versus commercial use, they could drive the lake and survey it just based upon the colors of the floats. Orange being reserved for commercial. Any other color being utilized by recreational fishermen. They would know, you know, is there commercial activity out here, how much commercial activity, how many days, and it kind of affords them some more data that they can collect based upon public use.

Again, this is what, say, a trotline would look like. At the terminal ends where you might attach it to shore or to an anchor, you would see an orange float tied out onto the water and again at the shoreline. That's going to tell you the direction of the line that's suspended underneath the water. So if you were another fisherman, you could avoid that if you wanted to. If there was a lake level drop and now the water surface was just a little bit above the hooks, a water skier and other public user would know maybe to avoid that stretch. Trotlines are not always tied to the shoreline and then out into the main lake. Sometimes they're placed in an open waterbody. And then the same for juglines, throw lines, limb lines that are tied to a tree. They're going to have this same float setup. It will be pretty standard.

So, again, these proposed changes will aid in the unintended catch of fish and other wildlife resources. They're going to help identify the location of the passive gear and help facilitate the removal of that gear from public water. If you have any questions, I would like to entertain those at this time.

Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Bobby Patton. The -- would a crab trap be included or potentially included in this?

MR. BARKER: Well, crab traps are included. They're not part of the proposed changes, as they already are required to have a float and marked with the same gear requirements. And the modification to the gear tag will -- because the crab trap is required to be marked with a gear tag, it's going to encompass those same changes; but since they already have the float, it's less impactful for that gear.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Do any of the proposed changes make the removal process easier as far as it relates to the public notification?

MR. BARKER: That's a great question. It doesn't. Chapter 12 is written pretty tightly where the language in there uses the terminology of fishing gear. So I think any device -- be it a hoop net, which is clearly illegal or a trotline without the proper gear tag -- is going to be fishing gear. So we're still going to need to do some of that public notification. But tightening up the definitions, we're trying to get to a point where lets say if I go to the lake and take a 12 pack of Coca-Cola, that Coke can that's sitting on my boat is mine. Nobody could come take it from me without it being theft. But if I crush it and throw it away, I've abandoned it much like some of this fishing gear. There's nothing to prevent public organizations, nongovernment organizations, or me as an officer to come pick up that trash and dispose of it. That's where we would like to get to and we're -- we would like to open Chapter 12 in the next legislative session to kind of get some better clarification or designate more in there what we could get rid of. But that's what we're trying to get to is so that anybody could remove that gear that is abandoned and derelict.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Would the fact that -- if we passed these rules, would that then make the gear that didn't have this identification or these parameters illegal then?

MR. BARKER: I don't believe so. We've vetted some of that discussion with Legal and given that Chapter 12 just says "fishing gear," I don't think it get us there right now. But making the changes will make the changes that we would like to make to Chapter 12 at the next legislative session a little bit easier to write.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other questions?

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Yeah. It wouldn't be illegal, but you guys could remove it?

MR. BARKER: Absolutely. We could remove it and we'll still do the notification and the posting.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other questions?

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

MR. BARKER: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

Work Session Item No. 6, Amendment to Deer Breeder Regulations, Additional Testing Options for Breeder to Regain Movement Qualified Status, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Mr. Mitch Lockwood, please make your presentation.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director for the Wildlife Division. Tomorrow I intend to seek adoption of proposed amendments to rules governing deer breeding activities. Specifically, the proposed amendments would provide -- excuse me -- would provide those deer breeders that have not been able to maintain movement qualified status under existing rules. Movement qualified status is obtained and maintained through adequate surveillance for Chronic Wasting Disease and it is a status that is necessary to be able to transfer deer into or out of a facility.

For the benefit of our new Commissioners and for a refresher for all, I think it would be a good idea if we spent just a little time reviewing some background information. Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is a very serious neurological disease that affects White-tail deer, Mule deer, elk, and at least some other species of cervids. This contagious disease, for which there is no known cure or treatment, always results in death and it is known to have population impacts at relatively high prevalence rates.

There was significant concern for widespread transmission of this disease throughout the state in 2015 when it was detected in a deer breeding facility that had transferred lots of deer to many different facilities throughout this state. During -- the blue dots that are on the slide before you represent the approximate locations of deer breeding facilities that had transferred deer to this index facility or the facility where the disease was first detected in captivity. And the red dots represent 145 different facilities in the state that have received 835 deer from that index facility during the preceding five-year period.

In an attempt to detect this disease early and to minimize the likelihood of transmitting this disease via permitted activities -- such as the movement of live deer -- this Commission adopted a comprehensive CWD rule package on June the 20th, 2016. That rule package resulted in increased CWD surveillance requirements, but they do allow for antemortem or live animal testing to help achieve those requirements. For example, if a deer breeder is not able to collect a sample from a deer that dies in his facility in a timely manner and, therefore, that sample deteriorates to the point where it's not testable, then that deer breeder may collect samples from live deer in the facility and use the test results from those deer as substitutes for those missing postmortem tests.

Under this comprehensive CWD rule package, more than 91 percent of the deer breeders have been able to either maintain movement qualified status or at least be able to regain movement qualified status immediately by taking advantage of these live testing options. Nonetheless, for various reasons, a small number of deer breeders have fallen so far below the minimum testing requirements or simply have released so many deer from the facilities before losing that movement qualified status, that they are unable to take advantage of these antemortem testing options to immediately regain movement qualified status.

In order to help these individuals obtain movement qualified status within a two-year period -- in fact, in many cases in just over a year period -- this Commission adopted rule amendments just five months ago to provide additional antemortem testing options, which basically allow for two whole herd antemortem tests at 12-month intervals. However, some deer breeders in this situation are seeking more expeditious ways to achieve movement qualified status. And with that in mind, this Commission directed staff to reconvene the CWD Task Force to explore additional options.

After much discussion with stakeholders, staff propose to allow deer breeders who are unable to immediately regain that movement qualified status, to be able to transfer deer to release sites following a single whole herd antemortem test. All age eligible animals in the facility would be tested using this live testing procedure at least 12 months following all animals -- or the herd inventory being documented. And then that breeding facility and any recipient release site would need to agree to operate under a testing plan that is written by the State wildlife veterinarian and that testing plan would be designed to achieve a sufficient confidence that the disease would be detected at some predetermined prevalence.

Now, during the March Work Session of this Commission when I first proposed a testing plan that would achieve 95 percent confidence that the disease would be detected at a 5 percent prevalence, there was some discussion amongst the Commission whether that was adequate. Staff were ultimately authorized to publish the proposal that would require a testing plan that was sufficient to achieve 99 percent confidence that the disease would be detected at a 5 percent prevalence, realizing that this Commission may opt to amend this particular requirement prior to adopting the proposal.

With that in mind and understanding that if present, the disease prevalence would likely be less than 5 percent, I was asked to provide some information to help explain just what it means to be able to obtain a specific level of confidence that the disease would be detected at various prevalence levels. This table shows prevalence on the Y axis there on the left and detection probability on the X axis across the top and the body of the table indicates the number of samples that must be tested to achieve these confidence levels.

The required sample size, as you can see, increases as you move from left to right or as you try to obtain higher and higher detection probabilities or another way to put it is you try to increase your confidence in detecting that disease. Likewise, more samples are required to detect the disease at lower prevalence rates. In other words, the less common the disease is, the harder you have to look for it.

We and others know that a prevalence of 5 percent -- especially out in the pasture -- indicates that disease has likely been on the release site for quite some time. Likely years. The prevalence at almost all CWD positive release sites in this state range from less than 1 percent to almost 3 percent, even though the two-source breeding facilities combined have detected CWD in more than 80 deer. The point with this is that the disease is expected to occur at lower prevalence and be more difficult to detect on release sites than it is in captive facilities.

With that in mind, using a model that is designed to detect the disease if it occurs on recipient release sites at a 5 percent prevalence, might not meet this Commission's goal for early detection. The proposal as published would require a participant to submit 91 not-detected test results to regain movement qualified status, as is illustrated here in the -- near the top right section of this table. This would give us 99 percent confidence that the disease would be detected, if present, in five out of every 100 deer.

Now, if you wanted to have the same degree of confidence that the disease would be detected if only two out of 100 deer were infected, you would need 229 samples; but only 149 samples would be required if you were satisfied with obtaining 95 percent confidence that the disease would be detected at a 2 percent prevalence.

So in closing, the proposal published in the Texas Register is designed to detect the disease with 99 percent confidence once the disease has reached a prevalence level of 5 percent. I'll take your direction on whether to proceed tomorrow with the proposal as written or modify the proposal based on your relative risk tolerance.

I believe this Commission has received a letter of concern from David Yeates, the CEO of Texas Wildlife Association. Other than that letter and until this morning, we have received two comments on this proposal, both in opposition to the proposal. None of which provided any rationale for that opposition. Now, this morning as recent as just a few minutes ago, I have received 11 more comments by e-mail. They were in the form of a form letter I guess is the best way to put it and those comments, I think it's safe to say, are generally supportive of the proposal; but they do have concern and, quite frankly, oppose one aspect of the proposal and that would be Subsection D which states that no deer breeding facility shall be allowed to utilize the provisions of this section more than once.

Now, I should state that that is a provision that was put in here at the recommendation of both the deer breeder user group and the Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force, both of which are stakeholder groups of this Agency. They're comprised of permit holders, deer breeders, deer breeders' agents. In the case of the CWD Task Force, they're also comprised of some wildlife health professionals, veterinarians, whatnot. And they felt very strongly that this be a one-time provision, if you will.

Now, keep in mind that during this discussion, we're really talking about the vast majority of the people that find themselves in this situation are here because, quite simply, they did not comply with existing testing requirements. And so there was some concern amongst these stakeholders that there could be continued noncompliance. This could be used to basically liquidate herds and then not comply with these testing -- this testing plan, you know, in the future.

This -- these stakeholders were not really taking into consideration when making this recommendation and were not considering what I believe these 11 commenters this morning are considering, which is those individuals who may be impacted by natural disasters, multiple natural disasters. Maybe hit by multiple hurricanes and having large numbers of mortality as a result of that. And staff certainly don't have concern with allowing for somebody in that situation who lose large numbers of deer, you know, beyond their control, to be able to take advantage of this, if adopted by this Commission, and to be able to operate under a testing plan. Staff certainly would not have any concern with that.

One other comment that I received this morning from the Executive Director of the Deer Breeders Corporation was that he's requesting that anybody who participates in this and operates under a testing plan -- which, again, would require them to test 100 percent of the eligible age animals in that herd one time -- that that facility be able to upgrade from a TC 2 status to a TC 1 status. This proposal does not speak to that. This proposal does not prevent that from happening. The existing rules would already allow that upgrade to occur if they test 100 percent of the animals. So, again, this proposal does not change that and I think would satisfy that public comment.

So finally, I should state that staff do believe that it is critical that we maintain minimum testing standards to provide confidence, that we're not inadvertently transmitting CWD throughout the state; but, of course, as has been demonstrated time and time again, we strive to provide flexibility to help deer breeders meet these minimum standards. The proposal that this Commission adopted last March and the proposal that you may consider for adoption tomorrow, both are attempts to provide that flexibility without compromising those minimum standards.

It may be important to note that if these amendments are adopted, that there could be as many as 31 deer breeders who could choose to take advantage of these changes and perform the required disease surveillance to be able to transfer deer to release sites prior to the upcoming hunting season. Now, I should make this clear that those individuals I'm referring to right now, they already have the ability to get movement qualified under the rule amendments that you adopted last March. They just wouldn't be able to do so prior to this upcoming hunting season. It would for most of them be the hunting season afterwards before they could release these deer and then harvest those deer. This proposal could allow them to release deer potentially prior to the upcoming hunting season.

A lot would have to fall into place for that to happen. Of course, that statement about them being able to release in time would depend on the capacity of the State wildlife veterinarian to even be able to draft that many testing plans in this short window. There's a lot of other things that would have to fall into place too, such as the permit holders being able to schedule the veterinarian to come out, collect the antemortem, conduct the antemortem testing, get test samples submitted to the laboratory, get test results back in time, all within less than a month from now would be the deadline to release those deer prior to the upcoming season.

So with that, I'll conclude this presentation. I'll be glad to entertain any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Mitch, I've got a couple. I can look at this 95/5 or 99/5 or 99/1 and I see the burden it could place on a facility; but then I think are we satisfied that a herd of 100 deer would have to reach five infection before you have a 99 percent chance of detecting it? That just seems like a big window. And I wonder what would happen to one of the facilities if we did go to 99/1? What kind of a burden does that -- does that delay them time-wise by multiple years or what is their solution there?

MR. LOCKWOOD: So the main burden would be, in my opinion, would be a financial burden, the cost of testing those deer. There's also some -- what's the right way to put this? I mean, it -- physically, there's burden to this too. It requires some work to collect these samples. You know, it's 8:00 o'clock at night. Hunters are there at the skinning rack. Several deer are there getting tagged, et cetera, and they're pulling samples and they're ready to go pull steaks off the grill at the same time. So there's some burden to collecting these samples, and that burden would be extended over a longer period of time as more samples are collected.

This rule would allow these samples to be collected over a number of years. This would not though -- keep in mind that the deer breeders who are for this opportunity would be releasing deer. I mean, they're not still -- right now as the situation stands, they are not movement qualified. Meaning they are not able to release deer from their facilities at all. They're just feeding deer in pens, spending money, and not being able to recover any -- you know, receive any revenue to offset those costs while they're not movement qualified.

This would allow them to at least get those deer out of the pens into the pasture. They could be hunted. They could sell those hunts. It's just they would have to be tested, which does result in some burden and some financial burden.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: They could move into the release pasture.

MR. LOCKWOOD: In a release pasture that would agree to operate under a testing plan.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: It just seems -- still seems like this is just such an episodic disease. It just seems like a -- wouldn't they possibly have detected -- if it's that prevalent in the herd, would they not detect it otherwise? I mean, visually or -- it just seems --

MR. LOCKWOOD: So that's a good question.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- that the horse is out of the corral by the time you detect it.

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's a very good way of putting it, especially if we're trying to detect it -- if we're waiting for it to reach high prevalence levels before we achieve a sufficient confidence to detect it. I just lost my train of thought. But that's a valid concern, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, go ahead.

COMMISSIONER BELL: A couple things, Mitch, because I'm still -- I mean, obviously I've gone through the briefings recently. But a couple of numbers that you threw out that I wanted to just make sure I understood correctly. Currently, more than 90 percent of the breeders are movement qualified; is that correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Either they are movement qualified or they are able to immediately regain movement qualified status by taking advantage of existing antemortem testing options.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Okay. So with that in mind, then the flip side of that is that the people that we're even more concerned with, represent less than 10 percent of the -- is that a fair statement? Represent less than 10 percent of the breeders?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That is a fair statement.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Okay. Then with that in mind, with our -- with our -- with the status -- because the other thing I thought I understood through the briefing was that we don't fully understand the incubation period and -- you know, in other words, this disease can be there and not necessarily be symptomatic for -- we don't know what period of time -- and then all of a sudden, it just kind of morphs into where we can actually identify it and so that creates a certain level of -- we have a built-in level of uncertainty with even the stuff we have released because the -- just the way the -- it's identified through the testing process. Is that fair?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BELL: And so -- and then so if we're looking -- when we talked about the number of tests, you talked about the number of tests; but we didn't talk about the number of tests versus the size of the herd. So in other words, 91 tests, it didn't have to do with 91 out of 100. It was -- it was -- it sounded like 91 tests. I could have 500 deer. I could have a thousand deer. I could have 92 deer. But I had to have 91 tests in this period of time to meet this level -- 91 separately distinct tests to meet this level of certainty. Is that fair?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Okay.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And so if I may, I would like to comment on that.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Go ahead.

MR. LOCKWOOD: The 91 tests in this example, assuming a population size -- an infinite population number. So this is -- the way that these testing models work is you do increase -- the sample size increases as the herd size increases to a point.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Okay.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And then it flatlines at that point. And so basically whether you have -- and I don't know -- well, I actually do I have some numbers I can give you examples of; but I'll just pull something out of thin air for right now. If you -- whether there's 5,000 deer in a population or 50,000 deer in a population, that sample size requirement would be the same at that point. It would be different if there's only five deer in the population; but in this example we're assuming -- in this proposal, we're -- we've designed it to try and keep it as simple as possible and not have a moving target across the board and just have the same requirement for everybody in this situation and that's to assume an infinite population. Did I really confuse things there?

COMMISSIONER BELL: No, because what I was really trying to understand when -- and this is not my area of expertise. So all I was really trying to understand is that for the number of people that might be upset, disgruntled, disappointed, disenfranchised, whatever term we might use with the rules, you also mentioned that there are 31 breeders that are currently not movement qualified that under these new rules could be movement qualified; but most likely because the window is really 30 days, that's not really likely to happen. So those people are probably -- even with these changes, those folks are probably still not going to be happy. Is that -- they're not -- they're not -- or they're not going to be back into the -- where they can gain any revenue via their herd.

MR. LOCKWOOD: There's a number of people who are not movement qualified right now who are -- this rule would still not allow to move deer prior to the upcoming hunting season for various reasons. You might recall that one of the aspects of this proposal is to not -- to allow for that whole herd antemortem test to occur at least 12 months after all animals in the herd have been documented. And the reason for that is, is it's very important that we know that we're dealing with a herd that has been closed, so to speak, for at least that 12-month period because as you stated, Commissioner, this disease doesn't just have a long incubation period, but it has a long period of what I'm going to call a latency period. A period at which the disease just isn't detectable by diagnostic test.

And so we believe it's important that if the disease is in a facility, that the animals in that facility have had an opportunity to be exposed to that disease for a sufficient number of time so they actually do test positive and so that's the reason for that 12-month requirement. There are some people who are in this situation whose herd inventories have been documented less than 12 months ago. And so they would not be able to call a veterinarian and come out tomorrow to do that test.

Does that kind of address your comment?

COMMISSIONER BELL: It does.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So the documented herds that -- if we amend this that all eligible deer greater -- that have been there 12 months after the documented herd, if they could test and be released -- which the ones that haven't met that requirement to date won't be for hunting season -- there's still a harvest requirement for any deer harvested on those release sites, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I'm not sure I understood the question.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: If people became -- if we pass this amendment and people could get movement qualified, you're saying it doesn't appear to be any that would be able to do it for this season; but say it's in the next hunting season, any deer that have been released onto the release sites still have a harvest requirement, reporting harvest test, right?

MR. LOCKWOOD: So this -- based on the data that I was able to acquire this week, it looks like that there could be as many as 31 deer breeders who potentially could take advantage -- if this is adopted tomorrow -- who could take advantage of this and potentially be able to release deer within the next month and have those deer hunted this coming season.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Since it goes through January. Okay. But those release sites, we also in the rules have a harvest requirement reporting for any deer harvested off of those release sites?

MR. LOCKWOOD: So it -- yes, ma'am. So any --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay. Thank you.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Anybody who would take advantage of this opportunity, that testing plan that I referred to applies -- it applies primarily to the release site. And so this table that's on the screen before you is really illustrating the number of samples that would need to be collected from deer harvested on that release site. And so in order for us to be able to keep track of that, yes, there would not only be a harvest requirement, but there would be a recordkeeping requirement, a harvest log, and then, of course, sample submission and test result submission.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

So I'm certainly very new to this. Don't know the full science, but a couple of clarifying questions. One, what is the cost per deer to conduct a live test?

MR. LOCKWOOD: With your permission, I'd like to go ahead and ask our State wildlife veterinarian Dr. Dittmar if he'll come up here and help answer that question. That cost is going to vary I know from practitioner to practitioner, but he came from the private industry and can do a much better job addressing that.

DR. DITTMAR: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Bob Dittmar. I'm the veterinarian for the Wildlife Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife.

As Mitch just mentioned, that fee can vary widely. You're looking at -- depending on the situation, some facilities have a working facility which can facilitate collecting those samples much easier. Some places don't, so that's going to require sedation of those animals. Also the type of tissue collected will vary, will cause a variation in that too. Testing tonsils is going to require sedation. No matter what you do, it's going to require some technical skill and it's going to require specialized instruments that are pretty expensive. So it's going to be more.

So I'm dancing around your question, but it's going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred to $200 per animal and that's a pretty broad estimate.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And if required, how long -- what's the timing related to this testing? I know you're going to say it varies; but, I mean, is it something that could occur in two weeks? Two months?

DR. DITTMAR: Yes, sir. The -- from the time the sample is collected and with antemortem testing, we're required to use a specific type of test and the minimum for that from the time the lab gets it until they can actually run the test is going to be a week; but in actuality because of the number of samples coming into the lab and it depends on the time of the year and all these other factors on their workload, two weeks is going to be probably the very minimum and, you know, realistically three weeks to a month, depending if -- during hunting season when there's lots of samples come in, probably longer than that. So it's going to be time consuming.

And I guess from my standpoint, I'd like to point out that we're dealing with a very short timeframe right now to get to the antler cutoff time in mid September to get all this enacted.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. Last question. What is the accuracy of the test?

DR. DITTMAR: Another excellent question and it's another one of those where it depends on what we don't know. But the tonsil biopsy test is going to be very, very close to the sensitivity of the retropharyngeal lymph node. The rectal test is going to be considerably less than that. Maybe somewhere around 50 to 75 percent. This is all dependent on the stage of the disease, the progression of the disease, and to a large degree, the genetic makeup of that deer because this disease has a genetic component as far as the progression of the disease. So we're comparing everything back to looking at -- in White-tail deer at least, the retropharyngeal lymph nodes where we're going to find the prions and the disease first. So we're comparing back to that. Understanding as has been pointed out several times, there's a latent period here that we cannot detect the disease when it's actually there, so.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. That's crystal clear to me. So --

DR. DITTMAR: I'm sorry. There's nothing about this disease that's very clear.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So the accuracy of the test is 50/50?

DR. DITTMAR: That's -- that's -- from an animal standpoint, that's probably -- we may be better than 50/50.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay.

DR. DITTMAR: The other problem we have is, again, there's some technical skill required, particularly collecting the tonsil samples. And we have to -- by the standard -- have a certain number of follicles present in that sample. We're taking a little bite of a difficult place to get to. So we will also have a fair number of samples that are not valid, and that also confounds our results.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So last question. This one is a little more general. But as a professional subject matter expert, why would we not test 100 percent of the deer to guarantee ourselves? I mean, a 5 percent prevalence rate seems incredibly high and so if we're testing 100 percent of the deer, I understand it's an economic burden; but, you know, this is a for-profit business and deer breeders should integrate that into their cost structure.

DR. DITTMAR: Yeah, and I'm -- make sure I understand your question. We're not talking about testing 5 percent. We're looking at determining a 5 percent prevalence that --

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I understand, but he had a case where it's an infinite herd and you're only testing 91.

DR. DITTMAR: Yes, sir. And that has to do with the statistical tables that would determine the odds of finding that disease by testing that number. And if you want me to really confuse you, I'll attempt to explain how that works and I'm not very good at it. But it's based on the percentage of animals that are positive. If you have a herd of a thousand animals, you're going to have more animals in there if you have a 5 percent prevalence. So it's going to be easier to find that first one.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay.

MR. LOCKWOOD: So if I may, I would like to clarify that this proposal would require 100 percent of the animals in the pasture on the release site that are harvested to be tested until this sample size goal is met. And so in the example in the slide before you, 100 percent of the test eligible deer or that are adult deer, if you will, until they have submitted 91 not-detected test results -- because at some point, I think most would agree that you've got to draw the line somewhere. And so the question is: Is where do we draw that line? Is it once we achieve a 99 percent confidence that we detected it if it was at a 5 percent prevalence or at a 2 percent prevalence or 95 percent confidence, et cetera? It's just where to draw the line, but it would be to test 100 percent of the deer. And, again, we are talking about deer in the release site, in the pasture -- not in the pens -- until this sample size goal is met.

In the pens, the deer breeders are required to test 80 percent of the adult mortalities that occur to maintain that movement qualified status. In fact, they even have to test a minimum number of deer in the facility. In the event they don't have any mortalities, then they would use live animal tests to substitute for that.

To also just expand a little bit on the question about dealing with accuracy and sensitivity of the test, Commissioner Hildebrand, we have -- I talked about using live animal tests as substitutes for post-animal tests. If they're not able to -- if they miss one in the pen, it's August and they're gone for three days and the sample deteriorates, how do they get back to movement qualified. As I said, they can use live animal tests.

I chose not to get into a level of detail to really confuse matters in this presentation and I'll try not to now, but that substitution comes at a three-for-one trade. Three live animal tests for that one missing postmortem. And the reason for that tradeoff is because not only because the live animal test tissue is less sensitive than the postmortem, especially when we're talking about rectal samples compared to lymph node samples, but also because sampling deer that are seemingly healthy in the pen are not nearly as valuable as the deer that come -- that die of natural causes in the pen. So for a variety of reasons, we require more live animal tests than postmortem tests.

And then one other clarification I would like to make, Commissioner Latimer. It was brought to my attention I probably didn't fully understand or completely answer your question and that is if I understand correctly, if there's any deer breeders who are not movement qualified today who choose -- if this rule is adopted and they choose not to avail themselves of this rule, of this new option, they would not be required to test in the pasture. In fact, if they took advantage of the rule adoption, the amendments that this Commission adopted last March which requires two whole herd tests at 12-month intervals, they would not be required to test animals on the release site after they're released. This is the only rule that we're discussing today that would require release site testing.

Basically, the -- I see some reactions there. The reason that we would -- we're proposing release site testing here is because as Commissioner -- Chairman Morian said, "The horse is out. The horse is out of the barn." And so if we let the disease out, we want to try to detect it as soon as we can.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I agree.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Reed, I've got a question for him.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Go ahead, Commissioner Aplin.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: The Chairman's point about the horse being out of the barn is important to me, to all of us. And so we need to keep this in the pen and not in the release sites, in my opinion. So if I understand this, less than 10 percent of the people that are in this box, so to speak, did not comply with our regulations prior and that's got them in this situation. And you mentioned that you and the staff have done everything they can to help with this and I believe that.

As recent as March, you guys recommended criteria to come up with to help this less than 10 percent that didn't comply in the past. And with the accuracy, as Jeff said, 50/50, maybe a little better, whatever it is, the technical skill, no one's shown me a reason why we would cut our standards that we already made available in March, why we would cut those standards in half again for such a dangerous, dangerous disease.

So, I mean, I think I understand where they are; but I haven't heard compelling reason to reduce our standards by that much and I'm like some of the people, you know, have talked about 5 percent seems very low. So I'm generally uncomfortable with what I'm hearing.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

I just have one more question. So the added burden to go from 99/5 to 99/1 is just the length of time that they -- the deer breeder would have to continue to test until he got to that number, which is the financial burden; is that correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes. Yes. They still may be able to achieve -- some people would be able to achieve this sample size goal of both the examples you just gave within one hunting season. Others it would take multiple hunting seasons.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, I go back to Commissioner Hildebrand's comment. This is a for-profit business and I just think we have to err on the side of protecting the entire Texas deer herd. So unless I'm missing something, the added time and financial burden, while it's -- I don't want to add a burden to anybody's business -- it seems like that's the safest way to go, unless somebody else has a difference of opinion.

MR. LOCKWOOD: There is one thing that based on a couple of comments I've heard that I would like to clarify. Perhaps I've grown paranoid over the years of some of my statements being mischaracterized and I don't mean by this Commission. I mean outside.

I want to clarify that, yes, less than 10 percent of the deer breeders in this state are not movement qualified and cannot get movement qualified very, very soon. It's not 100 percent of those are in that situation because of noncompliance. Some of those are in that situation -- they did comply with requirements; but in some cases, they released so many deer -- in other words, they released all but a handful of deer from the facility -- that then they were not able -- they did not leave enough deer in the facility to maintain that -- to achieve that minimum testing requirement through live animal testing. So not all of the people in here have been noncompliant with the rules, and I just want to clarify that for the record.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: What percentage of that 10 percent are in that situation because of natural disasters?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Excellent question. I'm aware of one individual who's lost a large number of deer during Hurricane Harvey. I heard of a second, so we'll say possibly two. I'm not aware of anyone who has lost a lot or all of the deer to natural disaster who are in this situation today who wish to continue deer breeding.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And when you say "lost," is it mortality or escape?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Mortality, most likely. All of them most likely died. I am aware of another individual, Commissioner, who has experienced anthrax in the facility and lost some deer. Was recommended to not -- by both our Agency and Texas Animal Health Commission -- to not submit samples from those deer because of the risk it could put that -- that that individual would be faced with.

And our CWD Task Force actually discussed this example and while we agree that someone who's experienced multiple natural disasters might be able to take advantage of this multiple times for that reason, the case of anthrax might not be a good example of that because preventative measures could be taken in that case for --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, I have no -- this -- we're getting off of the probability. But as far as an act of God, my personal opinion is that there ought to be an appeal process for a natural disaster; but not say they cannot use it again if they use it once. I just -- a finite number doesn't appeal to me, but they have to apply and present evidence that there's been a natural disaster, act of God which you can define.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I think we could build that into the rules to allow for that option and for it to be reviewed again under a limited set of circumstances that fall under that kind of act of God rubric. Yeah.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Mitch, one thing I don't know that was brought out quite strongly enough, with all the flooding that we had up there in the Hill Country, I know for a fact how many breeders and stuff lost lots of their herd and they weren't killed. They just escaped, water gaps and everything. So I don't know how you're looking at that in all your statistics; but there were many, many deer that got out due to those massive floods and we've had two of them.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, I appreciate that. That is news to me, Commissioner. But in that event, if they're reporting those escapes as required by regulation, then those deer would not be considered mortalities and so they would not be in this situation as a result of that. They would still be movement qualified.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Just one final comment, Mitch. Obviously, you're standing in there doing the Lord's work here on a very, very tough topic. So I appreciate you being able to field all the questions and try to understand the concerns that each of us may have here and that I think ultimately all the questions are just trying to make sure that we understand so we can get to the best possible resolution.

I agree with the Chairman that we're not trying to penalize anyone unnecessarily, you know, for some of it. I mean, we can use the term that it is a business; but still, we're not trying to disadvantage anyone. We're just trying to look at the -- if there is a -- you know, the safety and health aspect of this. How can we best blend all of these things so we can have the safety, the health, and the business opportunity for people involved so that it becomes a win all the way around and that Texas ends up being better at the end of the day than worse off, if that's fair? So thank you.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: So, Chairman, I think this really comes down to, one, I mean we plan to present this proposal for a decision tomorrow and so obviously you'll have the chance as a body to vote on whether or not you want to provide a third alternative of testing for I think, again, what we've characterized as a fairly small universe of breeders that are in a situation that could take advantage of this. And then it really comes down to we can integrate the act of God concern into it. It really comes down to the risk tolerance.

And so do you want us to proceed with recommending the 95 percent confidence that we can pick it up at a 5 percent prevalence or would you like us to propose something else tomorrow?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, right now we're at 99/5.

MR. SMITH: 99/5.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And -- yeah. Mitch, you could -- tomorrow you could brief us on how big of a burden would this be for people to go to 99/2. I just -- I need to understand what kind of burden -- and I'm not too concerned because it would interrupt their barbecue. But give us an idea about that tomorrow.

Everybody agree with that?

MR. SMITH: So I think what you're looking for, Chairman, would be, you know, kind of the length of testing on average that somebody who availed themselves would have to go through, how many could get it done in one year versus multiple years?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes.

MR. SMITH: You know, certainly we could give you a variable range of costs associated with the tests that were, you know, conducted to meet whatever standard y'all want to go with. But it is going to be -- it is going to be variable with respect to whether or not somebody could get all of these tests in one year or if it might take them two, three, or four years. So it's going to be pretty individual specific.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah, fine.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah, because I'm just uncomfortable with the 5 percent. I just think that's too big of a delay in detecting the disease.

MR. SMITH: And I think that's what this question really comes down to, Chairman, for the Commission is what is your relative level of risk tolerance and if the --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Zero.

MR. SMITH: And it's -- there are going to be a lot of tests, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: So let's work backwards from that on --

MR. SMITH: Okay. All right.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- what's acceptable.

MR. SMITH: Sure. And I think in fairness, Chairman, that's going to be in the eye of the beholder and so ultimately it's going to be incumbent upon the Commission to decide what your tolerance is. And, again, this table gives us the best quantifiable example of how to approach that, again, with a unified standard.

So hearing that, do you want us to proceed with we'll bring up the 99/5 again tomorrow, knowing that some of you are reflecting on that and you may want to modify that tomorrow or do you want us to change our --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes.

MR. SMITH: Okay, got it.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Mr. Chairman?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, Commissioner Hildebrand.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: One last question. So this relates to release sites, correct? And so answer the question: What is the likelihood a deer is released onto a ranch, it is shot for profit, what is the likelihood then that that sample is collected in this now disparate herd of deer across the state? How do we verify that that deer actually gets tested or that hunter just puts it in the back of his pickup truck and hauls it home?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, that's a question of enforcement, Commissioner. And so -- is Stormy King in the room here? He might be able to help address this question.

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

MR. KING: Good morning. Stormy King, Assistant Commander in Wildlife Law Enforcement, Law Enforcement Division.

Throw that question at me one more time if you would please, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So a deer is sold to a commercial, for-profit hunting ranch and it's 300 miles away from where it was bred. The deer breeder sold a hundred deer. What is the likelihood that those samples are collected from all of these various for-profit groups? And what is -- it just seems highly unlikely that those deer ever get tested. I mean, so the horse is out of the barn, to Commissioner Aplin's point. And so I clearly would be more for testing these deer in the breeding pens and that may be a very sophomoric approach to it; but I'm new to this. So I apologize.

MR. KING: That's all right. Well, in keeping with the theme of the day, I'll say it varies. The nature of the business, you know, the operation is going to have some impact on that. A lot of these facilities are likely releasing deer on site and have a very robust, kind of a commercial hunting program in which case they know to some extent when and what deer are going to be killed, you know, so there is some control in that as far as deer that are -- as you mentioned -- traversing across the state and being released onto more of what you would probably consider a -- picture as more of a wild condition.

One factor is that under regulation now, all -- and statute as of September 1st -- all of those release sites are required to be high fenced. So we do have some level of at least perceived control in their movement. Fences wash away. Deer jump fence. But the -- you know, we -- we're relying upon in the containment zones and things like that, people are required by law to report and present those animals for testing.

But to have any confidence overall that a deer is going to be harvested and tested? I mean, there's -- it just -- you know, there's no way to say, is my best answer.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Again, Mitch Lockwood, Big Game Program Director. We do have some safety nets built in. They're not foolproof, but this proposal would require harvest logs to be maintained at the site of harvest. And so if a game warden were to show up and see seven deer hanging, he needs to see those seven tier logged -- those seven deer logged into that harvest log.

We could then later, once those harvest logs are submitted to the Department after the hunting season concludes, we could then verify whether or not we have CWD testing test results for those deer in that harvest log. If you want to break the rules, you can. But I think there is a pretty good safety net put in place for everyone who's not intentionally trying to get around the rules.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: One more.

MR. KING: And I'll apologize --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Jeff, I've got one -- I want to clarify one thing that you brought up. You've got to remember now that you've got two different situations. You've got some deer being sold and moved to other sites; but then you have a whole lot of these people that basically raise them, turn them out, and sell the hunts themselves. So you're not dealing with everything scattering out, you know.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Remind me of the tattoo and tagging requirements. Which deer does that include?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Current rules require any deer -- breeder deer that's released from a breeding facility to have -- to be tattooed in the ear with a four digit alphanumeric unique identification number. This proposal would require any deer released to be tagged -- in addition to the tattoo, to be tagged with an RFID button tag, an electronic identification device. It's a button tag in the ear.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other questions or comments?

Well, with that I'll place the Amendment to Deer Breeder Regulations -- as amended -- to Regain Movement Qualified Status, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes for public comment tomorrow.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: And just to be clear, Chairman, as amended to integrate the act of God category, recognizing that you may revisit your risk tolerance threshold with respect to the confidence intervals.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Okay. We got it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Mitch.

Work Session Item 7, Boater Education Fee Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Mr. Tim Spice and Mr. Cody Jones, please make your presentation.

MR. SPICE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Tim Spice. I am the Boating Education Manager for the Department. I am part of the education and outreach section, which is housed in the Communications Division. We are seeking to -- permission to publish proposed amendments that I'm going to discuss to the Texas Register for public comment.

A little history on boater education. 1997, a law was passed requiring mandatory education for primarily young people. If you remember back then, personal watercraft, jet skis were all the craze and we were trying to mitigate some issues there. So the law had an exemption for anyone over 18 years of age. Then in 2011, the law was amended and primarily dropped that 18-year-old exception and changed the born-after date to 1993. That means today a person who's 26 years old, if they want to operate a power boat on public waters in Texas, they have to take a boater education course approved by the Department.

A couple of the things that we're wanting to propose changes to are some provisions, some relic provisions that have changed over time and a provision that requires the Executive Director to set up a service fee schedule. An example of some of those rules that are no longer necessary, there used to be a six-hour requirement for some national standards for education and we used to have a home study course if you remember back when before the internet was so popular and you got a VHS in the mail and you took a test and sent it back in. We haven't had anybody request one of those in a couple of years, so that's one change.

And then we have a service fee schedule that has become outdated since we started in 1997 with the changes in the internet and we are requesting to go to a free market model to -- so that providers can keep costs relatively low over a lifetime -- for a lifetime certification. We've determined that there are a number of easy and in some case free options for people to obtain boater education. It's unnecessary to cap the amount of the service fee that a provider may charge for a customer or a Texan to take a boater education course.

And a couple of other of the proposed changes would be to eliminate -- there's an exemption now for our online providers, a $10 fee that is sent into the Agency required by Code that currently online providers retain that fee instead of sending it in and paying them back that same fee. As we implemented online courses, we -- with the cap that we had on there of $20, it was hard for them to do a course for $10, send us 10, and we had a difficulty taking that $10 and sending it back to them to provide the service. Roughly 85 percent of the people who take boater education in Texas take it online and we currently have four online private providers that provide that service for our boaters.

And we also have a provision in there for enhanced courses. That definition of enhanced courses has changed over time. It used to be to provide a service for our partners, the Coast Guard Auxillary and the Power Squadron who offer courses through their programs. And now we have enhanced content on -- for our online providers and we want to offer boaters the opportunity to take an advanced, enhanced course online. So changing that language would help with that requirement.

And we have an additional recommendation that I'm going to ask the Boating Law Administrator to come up and discuss that came about after we made some of those requests.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Cody Jones. I'm the Boating Law Administrator, part of the Law Enforcement Division. Just coming forward to you today to add some additional clarification to the administrative rule that we have in place.

Recently we had a call from the Coast Guard captain of the port -- in one of our ports. As Mr. Tim Spice had indicated, the current statute requires that anybody born on or after September 1st, 1993, must be boater ed certified. The fact remains that the U.S. Coast Guard and many other military services have folks that are signing up for duty at that age limit and their requirement to be on board a boat, to operate a boat in the military services was non-exempted by virtue of our statute. So the Captain of the port asked that we look at that as an exemption moving forward.

So just for clarification, the current exemptions that are in place by statute are that a holder of master mate or operator's license issued by the United States Coast Guard or a nonresident of the state that is operating in our state and has a certification from the other state that we recognize. So specifically the master mate and operator's license are licenses that are given to commercial enterprises by the United States Coast Guard, but the Coast Guard does not give their officers inside the military organization those licenses.

So specifically moving forward, we're looking to ask permission to add to the proposed amendments for publication a recommendation to exempt service members who serve as a qualified -- have served or are currently serving as a qualified officer of the deck underway, a boat coxswain, a boat officer, a watercraft operator, or a marine deck officer in any branch of the military forces of the United States or the Merchant Marines.

In addition, we noted that as we exempt individuals that come from other states in the United States who are certified boater education, we exempt them in our state; but, however, we have a reciprocity agreement nationally with the Canadian provinces. We would like to also include that someone that holds a Canadian pleasure craft operator's card be exempted from the requirements for boater education in our state, as well.

So with that, I'm happy to answer any questions y'all may have and request your permission to publish the proposed changes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions?

COMMISSIONER BELL: I have one quick question. Just because you mentioned the reciprocity in Canada and just as we talk about we're looking at the north border or we look at the south border, is there any issue with Mexico having a similar thing that we should be looking at since we're looking at it right now?

MR. JONES: Yeah. Absolute -- excellent question, Commissioner. As it stands right now, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators is the governing body that works with the United States Coast Guard who has that reciprocity agreement with Canada. We don't currently have any working relationship with any of our southern countries that we can necessarily speak to.

There is a U.N. resolution, Resolution 40, that the United States has not signed onto, nor have several other countries; but some European countries have signed onto that agreement that requires licensing of operators in their countries and NASBLA is looking at that. So should the National Association accept those changes, we would likely come back to you and ask that anybody that falls under the U.N. 40 Resolution would be accepted as a boater in our state, as well.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Thank you.

MR. JONES: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other further discussion?

If not, I authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Work Session Item No. 8, License Possession Rules Regarding Verification of Hunting and Fishing License Information, Implementation of the Legislation Passed During the 86th Texas Legislature, Relating to House Bill 547, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes.

MR. KING: Good morning again.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Mr. King.

MR. KING: Good morning again. Stormy King, Assistant Commander Wildlife Enforcement for the Law Enforcement Division. This one should be pretty straightforward and clear cut.

As a result of House Bill 547 passed in the Legislature this past session, the Commission is now required to take some things into account when implementing or writing our regulations as in regard to proof of possession of a hunting or fishing license. These apply to recreational fishing, hunting, and combination licenses and they will not apply to any types of commercial licenses, anything like that.

The rules as developed -- as proposed, address concerns with legibility and clarity of image, taking into account all the possible pitfalls of somebody showing you a picture of their hunting and fishing license and these proposed changes to the rules will have no affect on tagging requirements or the possession of tags, endorsements as they currently stand.

Basically, what it does is require us by rule to continue a practice that we've been doing for a while and making it more convenient for the public to provide proof of possession of a hunting or fishing license. Any questions?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions or comments?

If no further discussion, I'll place the License Possession Rules Regarding Verification of Hunting and Fishing License Information, Implementation of Legislation Passed During the 86th Texas Legislature, Relating to House Bill 547, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 9, Sand and Gravel Program Rules Regarding Permit Requirements, Implementation of Legislation Passed During the 86th Texas Legislature, Relating to House Bill 2805, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Mr. Heger, please make your presentation.

MR. HEGER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Tom Heger. For the record, I administer the Sand and Gravel Permit Program in the Inland Fisheries Division. I'm here today to present proposed changes to the rules in Chapter 69 of the Texas Administrative Code, which pertain to administering the Sand and Gravel Permit program.

Under Chapter 86 of the Parks and Wildlife Code, the Parks and Wildlife Commission has the authority to regulate disturbance and take of sedimentary materials within public waters of the state and that includes the authority to issue permits for the issuance -- for the disturbance or take of material and the authority to collect royalties from commercial operations.

The statute creating the Sand and Gravel Program was originally passed in 1911. The program was intended to deal with the potential disturbance from the excavation of sand, gravel, marl, shell, and mudshell materials from Texas waters. These materials were used -- were the main source of construction aggregate back in the day and they're still used to some degree today.

Excavation of sediment from Texas waters has the potential to have adverse effects on fish and wildlife habitats, on water quality, and on the stability of streams and coastal waters. So the Legislature at the time understood that to be these impacts and, therefore, they designated that 75 percent of royalties would be dedicated to fish hatcheries in what may have been the first mitigation program in the state back in 1911.

Currently, the Sand and Gravel Program issues approximately two to three individual permits per year. These are larger projects that disturb or take more than a thousand cubic yards of material and these types of projects may be the commercial sand dredging operations on the Lower Brazos. Examples would be removal of sedimentary materials from Barton Springs Pool or restoration and recovery from flood deposits in waterways and that kind of a project.

An average of 25 to 30 general permits are issued per year and these are smaller projects, less than a thousand cubic yards. And examples would be removal of sediments from road crossings, bank stabilizations, pipeline crossings, and projects like that.

The jurisdiction over sand and gravel extends to public freshwater areas, including navigable streams and perennial streams that lie within what were originally Spanish and Mexican land grants. Jurisdiction also extends to tidewater limits of the state, including coastal waters up the mean high tide line and the Gulf waters offshore to three marine leagues which is Texas territorial waters. And the rules also include exemptions for some types of projects, particularly those that would restore or maintain the capacity of existing public water supplies, projects to maintain or build public utilities/lines when they're done by public utilities, and projects that are public road projects from TxDOT.

In 2019, the Legislature enacted House Bill 2805, which amended Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 86, which governs the Department's authority to issue sand and gravel permits and the changes in 2805 include requiring that there be a single application form for individual and general permits. Currently, there's a separate type of form for each of those two permits.

The statute also requires that all applications provide the same information, whether they're for general or an individual application, and that that information had to include information on publication of public notice and it required notice in both the newspaper of greatest circulation in the county, as well as in the newspaper from the community nearest the project.

The statute requires that proof of notice -- that -- proof that notice was mailed by certified mail was sent to landowners along shore a mile upstream and downstream from the proposed project. Currently, notice is mailed by the Department; but only on individual permit applications and only half a mile up and downstream. Now, the statute required an approved sediment impact assessment for all applications. Currently, a sediment impact assessment is only required for an individual permit application and only on a state owned waterway.

Also required was an amendment -- that any amendments to a permit be listed in the application for any application that's for renewal of an existing permit. Further, the statute required a maximum term limit of one year for general permits. And currently, that maximum term limit is three years. It required a final report of sedimentary material removed for all permits. And currently, there's not a requirement for a final report. It also requires that rules be generated regarding the delivery and the format of that final report and it finally required a new exemption from permitting for projects that are noncommercial, remove less than 125 cubic yards within a year, removal of unconsolidated materials, and removed from on channel impoundments that were created prior to 1956.

So, therefore, these statutory changes require some changes to the sand and gravel rules in Chapter 69. And, therefore, the following rule changes are proposed. First, the proposed changes to the definition in 69.102 changing the definition of the general permit to reflect the regulatory criteria listed in the rules as opposed to the current definition, which simply defines them as simply insignificant.

Proposed changes to 69.105 would implement many of the requirements for the applications, including establishing one set of criteria for all permit applications; require when an application form for all applications, as well; establish a newspaper notice requirements as required; required documentation of sending notice by certified mail for all applications; require a sediment impact assessment for all applications; and require the requested permit amendments for all permit renewal applications. And these are all as required by House Bill 2805.

Proposed changes to 69.108 would delete existing sediment study requirements in this section because they would conflict with the new posed sediment study requirements that are required by 2805. Proposed changes to 69.110 would limit general permits to a maximum term limit of one year as required and it would also clarify that the existing three-year maximum permit for individual permits would remain because House Bill 2805 did not address individual permits, so we're not proposing a change to the limits there.

Proposed changes to 69.111 would clarify various requirements for individual permits. Commercial operations come with requirements for having bonding, providing royalties, and various monthly reporting and those would be specifically notified -- pointed out in this section. Changes to this section would also require a final report as required for sediment volume removed for all permits. It would establish delivery and format criteria for that final report and would retain an option for interim reporting requirement by the general permits. There's currently language allowing the Department to require interim reports on general permits and that would be moved and consolidated into this section.

Proposed changes to 69.114 would simply clarify that fees in this section apply to individual permits only. There's no proposed change to the fee amounts themselves. Proposed changes to 69.117 would delete some general permit notification requirements in this section because they would have been combined and consolidated into 69.105 as previously described. But also a change here would establish a requirement for Department approval of emergency activities because currently there's no language in the rule that addresses the Department's ability to review a proposal or evaluate a claim of emergency need or emergency activity. And finally within there, changes to clarify the report requirement again is -- applies also to emergency situations. The same possible requirement for interim reports that applies to general and individual permits.

Proposed changes to 69.118 would again clarify language simply to indicate that the section refers to all permits rather than just general permits like it does now and reflect that 69.117 would no longer refer to general permits as previously described. Changes to 69.119 would clarify language referring to general permit application fee and, again, no proposed change to the fee itself is -- or no change to the fee itself is proposed. Proposed changes to 69.120 would add that required exemption for certain on channel impoundments as described previously.

One public comment has been received and it was in favor of the proposal and no other comments have been received. So if -- I'll entertain any questions at this time. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions by the Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I have one.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, Commissioner Latimer.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So how are the fees determined for the individual permit?

MR. HEGER: The fee schedule is in -- I forget the section number, but it's in a section. It's basically a flat $1,200 application fee for a commercial permit and it's 500 for an individual permit that's not a commercial permit.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: If there is no further discussion, I will place the Sand and Gravel Program Rules Regarding Permit Requirements, Implementation of Legislation Passed During the 86th Texas Legislature, Relating to House Bill 2805, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

MR. HEGER: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: With regard to Work Section Item No. 10, Local Parks and Outreach Grants Scoring Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments?

Because if not, I'll place the Local Parks and Outreach Grants Scoring Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 11, Exchange of Easements, El Paso County, Approximately Three and a Half Acres at Franklin Mountains State Park, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments?

If not, I will place the Exchange of Easements, El Paso County, Approximately Three and a Half Acres at Franklin Mountains State Park on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 11, Exchange of Easements, El Paso County, Approximately Three and a Half Acres at Franklin Mountains State Park -- wait a minute. Sorry. I didn't turn the page. With regard to Work Session Item No. 12, Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 19 Acres at Bastrop State Park, does any Commissioner have any question or comments?

If not, I'll place the Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 19 Acres at Bastrop State Park on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 13, Acquisition of Land, Starr County, Approximately 147 Acres at Falcon State Park. Mr. Trey Vick, please make your presentation.

MR. VICK: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, new Commissioners, welcome. For the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program and I'm here today to present to you an acquisition of land in Starr County, approximately 147 acres at Falcon State Park.

Falcon State Park sits in Starr and Zapata Counties. It's about 22 miles northwest of Rio Grande City. Falcon State Park consists of about 576 acres in Starr and Zapata Counties. It sits at the southern end of Falcon International Reservoir, which is an 84,000-acre reservoir straddling the Texas and Mexico border. It was formed by damming up the Rio Grande River.

Falcon dam was dedicated in 1953 by both U.S. and Mexico Presidents. The state received the land for the park from the International Boundary and Water Commission in 1949, and the park was opened in 1965. Staff is in negotiations to require approximately a 147-acre tract adjacent to the park boundary that sits in Starr County. This proposed acquisition would add critical habitat, provide the park additional buffer from commercial and residential development. It would also allow for a new trail system and would expand recreational opportunities for the park.

Here's an overall picture of the park. The current park boundary is outlined in red. The 147-acre tract is outlined in green. We've received three comments, all in favor of this transaction. And I'd be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I have one question.

MR. VICK: Sure.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: From the park to the water, is that land owned by the International Border?

MR. VICK: I believe this picture was taken when the lake was really down.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Oh, okay.

MR. VICK: During the drought.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Any questions or comments?

Commissioner --

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: So we go all the way to the lake?

MR. FRANKLIN: I believe we do, yeah.

MR. VICK: Rodney, State Parks Director, believes so. I can clarify that and have that answer for you tomorrow for the meeting.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: In the picture it looks like a long ways.

MR. VICK: It does.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: I'm kind of looking carefully at the pictures. Is there going to be a landlocked -- maybe a drilling location kind of in the corner of the green?

MR. VICK: Those two -- those two sites have improvements on them that we weren't interested in acquiring. So we survey -- or we cut around that as part of the negotiations.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: And then access would have to be dealt with?

MR. VICK: It has access along the county road that runs to the -- on the east side of the picture and then the park road on the north side of the picture.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: All right. Okay.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: What is the methodology to determine value? Do you have an appraiser or --

MR. VICK: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Right now we have a letter of intent with the estate that owns the property. The value is going to be either confirmed or determined by an appraiser, Yellow Book Federal Appraisal that we're -- we have them engaged right now.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And the regulations don't allow you to pay in excess of the appraised value; is that correct? Or do they?

MR. SMITH: Bob, do you want to answer that?

I think we have some latitude, Commissioner, on that front. Obviously, we try to adhere to not paying more than appraised price -- appraised value. But there may be circumstances in which we think the circumstances warrant it.

Is that right, Bob?

MR. SWEENEY: I think that's right, Mr. Executive Director. That's -- I'm Bob Sweeney, the General Counsel.

We don't have a specific regulation of our own that says we can't pay more than appraised value. In this case this -- correct me if I'm wrong, Trey -- is LWCF. So this is Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund funding. So we've got a -- this is the primary source of acquisition dollars is the federal -- is the federal program and in that regard, we're operating under their restrictions.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. But under a standard process as a State agency, you've got to go through a process to appraise and it's my understanding with some previous work, that we could not -- as a State agency -- can't pay more than the appraised value. But maybe we're mixing words here, but you're saying this falls under some other -- under some other program.

MR. SWEENEY: This particular acquisition, yes, is under the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Program.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Got it. Okay. All right, thanks.

MR. SMITH: But, Commissioner, just to be clear, we don't make it a habit of paying more than appraised value, even though that flexibility may exist for the Commission. If there were to be some project in which the cost was going to be more than appraised value, we would certainly notify the Commission and you would have a decision about whether or not you wanted to proceed.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any further questions by the Commission?

If not, I will place the Acquisition of Land, Starr County, Approximately 147 Acres at Falcon State Park on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

With regard to Work Session Item No. 14, Acquisition of Land, Cameron County, Approximately 17 Acres at the Longoria Unit of the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area, does any Commissioner have any questions?

If not, I'll place the Acquisition of Land, Cameron County, Approximately 17 Acres at the Longoria Unit of the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 15, Grant of Easement, Brazoria County, Approximately 66 Acres at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process. Mr. Ted Hollingsworth, please make your presentation.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. For those of you that are new, welcome. The Land Conservation Program is housed within the Infrastructure Division and we are essentially responsible for all things real estate.

We're responsible for acquisitions, dispositions, easement, surface use agreements, leases, licenses, boundary disputes, working with the General Land Office to negotiate oil and gas activity that occur on or under our properties.

This morning, I'm bringing a request for an easement at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area. We're asking for permission to begin the public notice and input process. The Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area is in Southeast Texas in Brazoria County, frontage on the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, and just immediately south of Clute, Lake Jackson, and immediately west of Freeport.

As such, it's kind of -- I don't want to say it's in the way, but it's an obvious target when it comes to pipelines that feed the strategic petroleum reserve that feed a number of oil and gas related industries, petrochemical industries associated with the Port of Freeport. And so this is -- those of you who have been with us for a while know that requests for easements at the Justin Hurst are not that uncommon.

It's about 14,734 acres of coastal prairies, bottomland hardwood forest, and wetlands. The wildlife management area has a very significant conservation value. As you can see, it's a very large contiguous area of coastal habitat in an area that's experiencing a lot of development pressure. Attracts a lot -- as you can imagine -- a lot of waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds; but also a lot of reptiles, amphibians, and other coastal wildlife. It's bounded by the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, as I mentioned earlier, and by commercial and industrial and residential lands to the north and to the east.

We've been approached by CenterPoint Energy. They propose to construct a new 345-kilovolt electric transmission line from the Bailey Substation in Wharton County -- basically northwest of the area -- to the Jones Creek Substation in Brazoria County east of the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area. They evaluated a number of routes, submitted evaluations of those routes to the Public Utility Commission. We reviewed those. A number of those did cross the wildlife management area, and the one that ended up being the preferred route does cross the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area.

The length of the requested easement across the WMA is 5.4 miles at a hundred feet in width. That's a 66-acre easement. It's a significant easement and you can see in this map that it pretty much straddles the wildlife management area all the way from west to east on the north end there.

Again, what we're doing today is requesting permission to being the public notice and input process. I'd be happy to answer any questions, but I believe this is -- you're going to have an opportunity to discuss this in Executive Session today.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Ted, I assume that you're using our standard rate fee structure for this right-of-way?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. We are. We have -- we've put those numbers to paper. We're prepared to share those with you in Executive Session. But that's where we are at this point in negotiation. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: It -- excuse me. It parallels an existing transmission line. Where would that be on the map?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It parallels actually two transmission lines that are adjacent to each other that are on the north side of where this new -- immediately north and parallel and run the full length of the WMA.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: This will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item 16, Litigation Update will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item 17, Performance Evaluation of the Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director will be held in Executive Session.

Therefore, at this time I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act, including advice regarding pending or contemplated litigation, deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act and delivering evaluation of personnel under Section 551.074 of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

We will now recess for the Executive Session at -- what is that -- 11:36.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)


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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