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TPW Commission

Regional Public Hearing - Mission, November 6, 2018

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

November 6, 2018

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
MISSION EVENT CENTER
200 NORTH SHARY ROAD
MISSION, TEXAS 78572

REGIONAL PUBLIC HEARING

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Good afternoon,

everyone. And welcome to our Regional Public Hearing, which is called to order November 6th, 2018, at 1:38 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Before we proceed, Carter Smith has a statement to make.

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

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

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I just want to join all of you in welcoming everybody to our Public Hearing here in Mission. We're absolutely honored to be with all of you in deep South Texas. I hope all of you know, we have deep roots here and decades and decades of history of working with all of you to help steward and conserve the wonderful riches and natural bounty and lands and waters and fish and wildlife and parks of the Rio Grande Valley. And so we're honored to be with you today and to have a chance to hear from all of you today.

A little bit about the meeting ahead of us, we're going to kick it off with a welcome, I think, from Senator Hinojosa; and then after that, our team is going to provide a brief presentation on some of the activities that we have going on in the Rio Grande Valley with our parks, our Inland and Coastal Fisheries, our Wildlife and our Law Enforcement related activities. And then after that, we're going to open it up to comments from any and all of you that want to share messages and thoughts and feedback to our Commission.

Hopefully, you were told coming in that we ask you to sign up before you speak. At the appropriate time, Chairman Duggins will call you up by name. We'll ask you to come to the microphone and just let us know who you are and who you represent if it's somebody besides yourself and then everybody will have two minutes to share your feedback or thoughts with the Commission on any topic that has some bearing or relationship to the Parks and Wildlife Department.

And, again, we're very honored to be with all of you today. We're proud to live and work and serve your home ground and appreciate all of you making time to join us. So thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Carter.

Before we proceed with our first speaker, it's my privilege on behalf of my colleagues to recognize a very, very good friend of the Department and long-time supporter, State Senator Chuy Hinojosa. Those of you who live here, I'm sure know him for his many years as a dedicated public servant and statewide leader and we're really happy he's joined us and I think he'd like to make a few comments.

Welcome, Senator.

SENATOR HINOJOSA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I would like to welcome the Commission to the City of Mission, known as the home of the grapefruit, and welcome to the Valley. And you'll find out that this is one of the safest places in the United States of America.

And one thing I would like to say is I really want to thank Carter Smith. He's always testifying before the Finance Committee, advocating for Parks and Wildlife and actually also for our parks. We just had a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday here in Mission to Mission Sharyland on a grant that we received from you-all to build a tennis center. The walking trails and those parks and recreational areas are very important to us -- not only here in the Valley, but the communities throughout the state -- for our families to have a place to go and have some recreation with their families and get some exercise.

But also another comment is I really want to say that the game wardens have done a great job in terms of providing border security. As you know, we would get complaints from ranchers and farmers about the shortage of game wardens because they were moving some down from the -- to the Valley from other parts of the state. But last session or was it the session before last, we added 19 new game wardens; and that's just a sign of the respect that the Legislature has for the Parks and Wildlife Commission and the game wardens. They're out on the ranches. They're out in the farms, in the back roads, so providing border security and trying to also deal with human smuggling and drug smuggling. So they're doing a great job, and y'all run a very tight ship.

I would also like to thank the Commission because I know that Homeland Security wants to build a wall in Bentsen State Park and working with the Homeland Security and some of the local community folks, we know that y'all have offered different options trying to work with Homeland Security to minimize any taking of land, if you will, from Bentsen State Park that is so loved here in the Valley. It was donated by the Bentsen family. So we appreciate those efforts in trying to push back on some of the aggressiveness from Homeland Security to just build walls in place without getting the proper input from the community. So for that, I thank you.

And with that, I look forward to being here with you for a while, listen to some of the testimony. Then I've got to go change and go run -- look -- check out some of the precincts. It's election day, but I'll see you tonight again.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Senator, thank you so much for taking time to come today; and I sure hope as Vice-Chairman of the Finance Committee, you can work a little magic next session because we do love the Local Park Grants Program. It's terrific and we wish we, of course, had more and I know you do, too. But anyway, thank you so much. It's really great to have you here.

SENATOR HINOJOSA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and the Commissioners, for being here.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Senator Hinojosa raised a very -- an issue that I know is very important to each of you who live here. It's certainly highly significant to the Department and to this Commission and that is the planned border wall and its impact on the park, Bentsen State Park.

I would like to say, just in case you're interested, that the Commission, Carter Smith -- the leadership, if you will -- has endeavored for some time to work with the Customs and Border Patrol to try to see if there isn't -- aren't some other solutions besides building a 30-foot wall right through the northern part of the park. So far, our pleas and suggestions have not been met with any type of positive response; but I just want to assure you that this is not something that we have sat back and done nothing with.

Carter has worked very hard on this in trying to propose ways to still deal with the importance of border security; but at the same time, not damage the park and not cause some sort of inability of visitors to enjoy this beautiful piece of property. So I do want you to know we're continuing to work on this. It's a hot -- a top priority for us and will continue to be a top priority and so we appreciate each of you continuing to let State -- excuse me -- Congressmen and Senators Cornyn and Cruz know how important this is to you because they've got to fund it at the end of day.

So with that, there are two individuals who have submitted written comments, Leslie Bush and Mark Wilson on behalf of the Travis Audubon Society. Those -- copies of those comments have been provided to each of the members of the Commission. Thank you for those. As I understand it, you do not wish to address the Commission.

So we'll go to the first individual, who I think does wish to make comments; and that's Shelia Hargis, President of the --

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, do you want to start off with the presentation from our team; or do you want to take the public testimony first? How would you like to...

COMMISSIONER JONES: With Brent. Brent --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I guess I got a little ahead of myself there. Okay. There's going to be paybacks up here.

No, I did -- I should have looked at the agenda instead of moving forward. Our -- we're going to have a briefing from Brent Leisure, our COO, on Department operations and initiatives in the Valley.

Brent, my apologies for trying skip you.

MR. LEISURE: No worries, Mr. Chairman. It's a real privilege for me to be able to introduce five of my colleagues -- five of our colleagues -- that represent the different divisions down here in the Rio Grande Valley, where we have a proud and rich history of serving the resources and the people of South Texas. And I'm going to quickly go through an introduction, tell you a little bit of background of the five representatives that we have from State Parks and Inland Fisheries and Coastal Fisheries, Wildlife and the Law Enforcement Divisions. And then following my introduction, they'll come up in sequence -- in the same sequence -- and come up to give their presentation.

I would like to start out by introducing Reagan Faught of our State Parks Division to you. Reagan Faught serves as the Region 2 Director for State Parks in South Texas. Reagan attended Texas A&M University and received --

(Round of whoops)

MR. LEISURE: Yep -- a bachelor of science degree and master of education from the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications. Reagan began his career at Lake Whitney State Park before transferring to Bastrop, and it was there that he was a key member of the initial recovery work following the wildfire of 2011.

Reagan then promoted to superintendent of Atlanta State Park, Hill Country State Natural Area, and Huntsville State Parks before being promoted to the Regional Director here in South Texas in February of 2018. Reagan lives in the Coastal Bend area with his wife Stephanie and daughter Emma.

Greg Binion will represent the Inland Fisheries Division for us. Greg has worked with the Department's Fisheries Division for over ten years and currently serves as the distinct -- excuse me -- District Supervisor for the Corpus Christi Fisheries Management District. Greg received his bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky and a master's of science with an emphasis on fisheries and aquatic sciences from the University of Florida's School of Natural Resources.

Greg's research interests include fish population dynamics, sport fish management and restoration, aquatic habitat enhancement, and solving general quantitative fisheries management problems utilizing the applied management practices in that industry. Greg has served on several internal Inland Fisheries committees, has conducted population dynamic studies on Alligator Gar, currently serves as principal investigator evaluating the biological efficacy of the selective breeding component of the ShareLunker Program. He lives in Rockport with his wife Andi and their two children.

Perry Trial will represent the Coastal Fisheries Division. Perry began his career with the Department as a Fisheries biologist on the loner -- on the Lower Laguna Madre ecosystem team in July of 1998. In November of 2002, Perry transferred to the position of Fisheries biologist on the Upper Laguna Madre ecosystem team. And in June 2007, he was promoted to the position of Ecosystem Leader for the Corpus Christi ecosystem team. Since March of 2015, Perry has served as the Regional Director over the lower coast fisheries management teams.

Jimmy Stout, representing our Wildlife Division. Jimmy is a native of the Rio Grande Valley. He received his bachelor of science degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M in --

(Round of whoops)

MR. LEISURE: -- 2005. Jimmy started with Parks and Wildlife in 2010 as a habitat conservation specialist at Bentsen-Rio Grande, Estero Llano Grande, and Resaca de la Palma State Parks. In 2012, he joined the Wildlife Division as the project leader for the Rio Grande Valley ecosystem project.

And then finally, representing our Law Enforcement Division, Captain James Dunks. Captain Dunks started his law enforcement career in 1990 with the Alpine Police Department, where he worked until being accepted into the Game Warden Academy in 1997. After graduation from the Academy, Captain Dunks was stationed in Cameron County. In 2006, he was promoted to sergeant and became the master pilot of the Department's 65-foot patrol vessel, the Captain Williams. While on board the Captain Williams, he was responsible for patrolling half the Texas coast out to 200 nautical miles.

In 2013, Captain Dunks was promoted to captain in the Laredo district. While in Laredo, Captain Dunks was responsible for Webb, McMullen, and Duval County, the Live Oak and LaSalle Counties. In 2014, Captain Dunks was -- had the opportunity to transfer back home to the Rio Grande Valley, where he serves today as captain and supervises Cameron and Hidalgo Counties.

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, it's a real privilege to be able to introduce them; and with that, I'll go ahead and invite Reagan Faught up to the podium.

MR. FAUGHT: All right. Thank you, Brent.

And good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. Welcome to the Rio Grande Valley. I'm Reagan Faught, and I have the privilege of serving as the State Parks Region 2 Director and do appreciate the opportunity to speak before you today.

We might have a mild technical difficulty. There we go. All right, thank you for your patience.

All right. TPWD stewards four state parks and one state historic site positioned along the Rio Grande Valley corridor, stretching the 120 miles from Port Isabel to Falcon Lake. Those sites include Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site, Resaca de la Palma State Park, Estero Llano Grande State Park, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, and Falcon State Park.

Our four state parks totaling 2,700 acres of conserved and managed habitat, attracts more than 1,500[sic] visitors each year and generates $650,000 in annual revenue. The parks draw visitors from all over the world, who in turn contribute to the local economies of the Rio Grande Valley. The Rio Grande Valley has long been recognized as a region with abundant natural resources, holding an unmatched diversity of wildlife. In many ways, the 1944 donation of the property to become Bentsen State Park, set the mold for the network of more than 20 nature centers that can be found in the Valley today.

This network includes the nine world birding center sites that highlight the Rio Grande Valley as a world-class birding destination and celebrates the history, culture, and natural abundance of the area. This network provides a global model for and conservation and nature tourism development. A 2011 Texas A&M University study, found that nonlocal tourists spent over $300 million annually in the Rio Grande Valley.

Texas state parks will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2023. Our centennial plan provides a strategic framework for management and development of our state park system leading up to and beyond its 100-year celebration. Included in this plan are six broad imperatives to ensure the relevancy and viability of our park system.

The next three slides will showcase efforts related to these three important imperatives: Awareness, partnership, and stewardship. A central focus of our parks in the Rio Grande Valley is awareness, education, and outreach. This takes many forms from casual family visits to international birding tours to school groups using our parks as outdoor classrooms. During the last fiscal year, over 1,500 interpretive, special event, and school group program were held at our four Rio Grande Valley state parks and that reached over 17,000 youth, age 18 and up, and 22,000 adults.

One great example of the collaboration between nature center sites in the Valley is the "Family Summer Adventure Challenge" organized by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, bringing together 24 nature center sites that includes Resaca, Estero, Bentsen, and Falcon State Parks. The challenge encourages families to visit nature centers and participate in interpretive programming. 118 families took on this challenge in the summer of 2018.

In May of 2018, the inauguration of the Cristina Torres Memorial Astronomical Observatory was held at Resaca de la Palma State Park. The observatory, which is owned and operated by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and resides at the park, is a partnership that was first conceived several years ago by Dr. Diaz with the Department of Physics at the university. The partnership allows the university to facilitate observatory operations, academic study, and research at the park. Furthermore, it provides opportunities to the community at large to appreciate and enjoy the discipline of astronomy and as cooperative programs for park visitors continue to be developed.

After increasing infestation of the exotic and invasive Tawny crazy ant in 2014, Estero Llano Grande State Park began exploring options for control of the ant causing negative effects on both wildlife and park infrastructure. In 2016, the park partnered with Dr. LeBrun, a research scientist from the University of Texas Department of Integrative Biology. Dr. LeBrun had discovered diseased ants in Central Texas and introduced those into the colonies at Estero. The inoculation rate was monitored and continued research is underway, with initial results showing a drastic decline in the population of ants at Estero.

For centuries, the Rio Grande River regularly flowed over its banks covering the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The seasonal floods would replenish historic river channels, known as resacas, and spread rich nutrients assuring abundant habitat for wildlife in the floodplain. Due to flood-control structures aimed at taming the Rio Grande, this seasonal flooding no longer occurs. Today our teams at Resaca, Estero, and Bentsen implement resource management practices that mimic the historic river flooding.

Managing the water levels year-round, the resacas are flooded at times of the year suited for bird migration and are then allowed to dry during the summer. It is during these drying times that removal and reduction of invasive and nonnative plant species is performed by park staff. These wetland management activities help ensure quality year-round habitat is available for the abundant wildlife found in the Rio Grande Valley floodplain.

Two of our Rio Grande Valley parks, Bentsen and Falcon, are located directly on the U.S.-Mexico border. Our State Park police officers, along with their colleagues in the L.E. Division, contribute greatly to the unified effort in the detection and control of illegal activities, keeping our visitors safe and infrastructure secure within the parks we steward.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is currently proposing a border barrier along the levee at Bentsen State Park and has invited comment by the Department about the project. TPWD leadership has actively advocated its position for well over a year through multiple forms of correspondence that includes numerous phone calls, on-site meetings, and formal letters sent to convey our position. The Department submitted detailed comments about the proposed barrier with alternatives that we believe preserve the park's full operational capacities while meeting the border security objectives of Customs Border Projection.

In its simplest form the border barrier that's proposed, includes an 18-foot steel bollard fence positioned on top of a concrete levee wall adjacent to a 150-foot wide enforcement zone. TPWD has provided Customs Border Protection thoughtful alternatives that rely heavily upon implementation of enhanced enforcement and detection strategies through increased patrols by TPWD officers and Customs Border Protection personnel, together with the use of enhanced detection systems along the levee within and adjacent to the park. The alternatives provided range from constructing no border wall adjacent to the park to constructing only the concrete levee wall to a scaled-down barrier at the park entrance providing a less imposing structure, along with reducing the enforcement zone to 75 feet.

The Department has not received formal plans from Customs Border Protection that does incorporate proposed alternatives into the border barrier design.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much, Reagan.

MR. BINION: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and to the Commission for having me here today. I'm truly honored to be here with you. My name is Greg Binion; and I'm the District Supervisor for Inland Fisheries Division, Corpus Christi Management District. And today, I will provide a brief overview and highlight some of Inland Fisheries activities in the South Texas and Lower Rio Grande areas.

When it comes to our inland waters, the region offers vast fisheries and aquatic resources. This includes 51 impoundments, over 108,000 acres of reservoir, eight major reservoirs of greater than a thousand acres, several urban reservoirs, and 31 community fishing lakes. There are seven river basins in the region, with the Rio Grande to the south, to the Navidad drainage in the north.

A feature exclusive to the Rio Grande Valley includes the areas of resacas, which consist of a unique series of fragmented and sometimes interconnected channels. And just to provide a little bit of context and perspective on what a resaca is and how these are formed, these are actually former oxbows inside channels of the Rio Grande.

Several topnotch world class fisheries are located in the area. A couple that come to mind include Lake Falcon, known and ranked nationwide for its Largemouth bass fishery; and Choke Canyon Reservoir, known as a premier angling destination for Largemouth bass, Alligator Gar, and catfish.

So you might ask: What fisheries and aquatic resource management activities we participate in, and what are some of the major impediments we face? As far as what we do, Inland Fisheries staff conducts fisheries population surveys and assessments on eight major reservoirs and several smaller waterbodies. Other than ensuring our fish populations are healthy and abundant, other applied management activity includes fish stockings, habitat enhancement work, and invasive species control.

One of the primary impediments we deal with in South Texas is drought. Sufficient rainfall and water levels in our waterbodies play a significant role in aquatic ecosystem health and fisheries population dynamics. And you can see from this Choke Canyon Reservoir water level graph, this is pretty much the norm of what we work with on a lot of our South Texas reservoirs rather than the exception.

So this is a picture that I really love and it's a good lead in to highlight some of the premier fishing the South Texas Rio Grande Valley area has to offer, including producing good numbers of trophy Largemouth bass. To that point, several waterbodies within the region have produced and generated numerous entries into the Toyota ShareLunker Program. Angler donated ShareLunkers have come from Lake Falcon, Choke Canyon Reservoir, Lake Casablanca, and interestingly the Nueces River, which is the only river system with an entry into the program.

The area is also home to robust Alligator Gar populations and vast angling opportunities from a wide array and diverse set of waterbodies. This includes reservoirs to river systems to the various resacas in the area. Fisheries management for Alligator Gar focuses on a breadth of management strategies, such as trophy management at Choke Canyon Reservoir to a more harvest-oriented regulation at Lake Falcon.

So another critical and important tool in the fisheries manager's toolbox is the use of fish stockings. This allows biologists to establish and create fisheries, such as a put-take catfish fishery in a community fishing lake, and also to supplement and enhance existing populations. TPWD Inland Fisheries operates five freshwater hatcheries statewide and rears roughly 15 to 17 million fingerlings annually.

So this summary table provides an overview of our stocking activity in the region over the last five years. During this period, Inland Fisheries stocked seven species totaling over 5.3 million fish distributed across 26 waterbodies.

One collaborative effort we have been involved in is the Resaca Restoration Project. This is a community initiative led by the Brownsville Public Utilities Board to restore and enhance the aquatic health of the resaca system in the greater Brownsville area. To date, Inland Fisheries has conducted fish community assessments on two resacas and has conducted fish stockings at others. We have also performed a habitat enhancement initiative to reintroduce desirable native aquatic vegetation, and we have done this across four sites with four species of aquatic vegetation. And finally, Inland Fisheries staff has also provided technical guidance and training to Brownsville Public Utility Board staff.

So one of the core components in fulfilling the TPWD and Inland Fisheries mission, is engaging our youth and outreach -- excuse me -- in outdoor activities and science-based curriculum. We conduct several outreach activities in the South Texas region, but there are a few we conduct in the Rio Grande Valley annually I would like to highlight. The first is "Spooky Science Fest," hosted by our colleagues over at Estero Llano Grande State Park. This event focuses on fun, interactive science-based activities during late October. There is always an event theme and tie-in to Halloween where staff and participants are encouraged to dress up in their Halloween costumes. As an example, this past year's event focus was tying science to local culture and folklore. Unfortunately, this year's event was canceled due to heavy rains and inclement weather; but we're hopeful we can get this back on track for next year.

So other important outreach activities include a focus on engaging and exposing our youth to the great sport of fishing. The primary avenue to realize this goal includes youth fishing derbies. Inland Fisheries staff is involved and participates in two to three annual youth fishing derbies in the Rio Grande Valley and includes the Vaquero 4-H Derby in Rio Grande City and the Casablanca Youth Fishing Event, which is a special event for handicapped and disabled youth. And that concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Greg.

MR. BINION: Thank you.

MR. TRIAL: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Perry Trial; and I serve as the Regional Director for the Coastal Fisheries Ecosystem Management Teams on the lower coast.

Coastal Fisheries Division has numerous teams doing work here in the Rio Grande Valley. The Lower Laguna Madre Ecosystem Management team and the Ecosystem Resource Assessment team are housed locally at our Brownsville field station. Other teams, including the Hatcheries team from the CCA Marine Development Center, the Habitat Assessment team, the Artificial Reefs team, Policy and Education team, and the Water Resources team, are located in Corpus Christi, Dickinson, and Austin; but contribute greatly to our efforts here in the Valley.

All along the coast, including the Lower Laguna Madre and nearshore Gulf of Mexico off of South Padre Island, our Ecosystem Management teams collect fisheries data using a variety of gears and techniques. The data is used to monitor trends and abundance of marine organisms, including popular sport fish, as well as landings and fishing pressure by recreational and commercial anglers.

The Hatchery team at the CCA Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi conduct research and propagate Red drum, Spotted seatrout, and Southern flounder fingerlings for stocking on the lower coast. This year to date, about 3.1 million Red drum fingerlings and over 600,000 Spotted seatrout fingerlings from MDC have been stocked into the Lower Laguna Madre.

Our Ecosystem Resources Assessment team is involved in habitat conservation, restoration projects, and regulatory review. They work with local, city, state, and federal agencies to protect and conserve fish and wildlife resources and provide comments on public notices of permit applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, with recommendations for avoiding, minimizing, and compensating for impacts to fish and wildlife. Local examples of larger projects they've been involved with fairly recently include three large liquid natural gas projects at the Port, the Valley Crossing Pipeline, SpaceX, and the Lower Texas Coastal Mitigation Bank.

Local staff led by the Ecosystem Resources Assessment team, with support from the Lower Laguna Madre Ecosystem Management team, also respond to and investigate fish and wildlife kills caused by pollution and natural events such as red tides and freezes. Responders often transition into wildlife rescuers as we attempt to mitigate the impacts of these events. This past winter, Coastal Fisheries staff rescued dozens of cold-stunned sea turtles in the Lower Laguna Madre during a freeze and assisted game wardens, DPS, fire department, and local municipalities with rescuing Brown pelicans from being struck by vehicles along Highway 48 near Port Isabel.

When appropriate, the Division helps seek restitution for loss of fish and wildlife and damage to habitat. And as part of those efforts, Coastal Fisheries -- Coastal Fisheries staff participates in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Process, or NRDA Process. TPWD sits on the NRDA Trustee Implementation Group and is one of seven trustee agencies, including three state and four federal agencies. The NRDA Trustees recently approved 13 restoration projects worth over $45.7 million for Texas to compensate for damages associated with the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Three of these projects worth about 12.7 million are in the Rio Grande Valley. The projects include the restoration of natural tidal flow to Bahia Grande, which you can see here in the slide; and two separate land acquisitions that will result in over 3,000 acres being added to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

The Habitat Assessment team works on estuary and marine habitat mapping and assessment along the Texas coast and coordinate with other agencies and entities that also map habitat. The work they do helps inform, plan, and assess conservation efforts, restoration projects, and fisheries management all along the coast, including the Valley.

Our Artificial Reefs Program has three permitted nearshore artificial reefs within state waters offshore of South Padre Island: The Port Mansfield Reef; the Port Isabel Reef; and the largest of all of our nearshore reefs, the Rio Grande Valley Reef. These nearshore reefs are designed to contain low-relief materials and be located close to major ports so that fishermen and divers can have easy access to them. But we currently have an interagency agreement with UT Rio Grande Valley to conduct biological monitoring and side-scan survey work on these nearshore reefs. And in addition to the nearshore reefs, the Port Mansfield Liberty Ship Reef sits just outside of state waters near Port Mansfield; and the 473-foot Texas Clipper, which was reefed in 2007, sits approximately 17 miles east/northeast of the Brazos Santiago Pass.

Outreach has always been an important component of what we do in Coastal Fisheries, with the goal of increasing public awareness and knowledge of Texas coastal ecosystems. Our biggest event locally is the Rio Grande Valley Coastal Expo, which is an annual two-day event held each February in Edinburg. This year, the Coastal Expo was able to reach over 2,800 4th through 6th graders from 28 schools in 18 different school districts.

And, of course, without water there would be no fish and the Coastal Fisheries Division leads the Agency's research, management, and interagency coordination on all water-related issues, including assuring adequate instream flows for Texas rivers and sufficient freshwater inflows for bays and estuaries. Locally, Coastal Fisheries staff have represented the Department on the Rio Grande Regional Water Planning Group since its establishment in 1998 by Senate Bill 1.

And, finally, I would just like to recognize some of our local partners. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir. I'm just looking at the local partners real quickly.

MR. STOUT: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Jimmy Stout and I'm here as the Project Leader for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Ecosystem Project and I would like to present today the Wildlife Division's efforts in South Texas.

As you can see on the landscape map, the area I'll be discussing covers from the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau down through the South Texas Plains into the Gulf Prairies. Private land staff under the leadership of David Veale, who is here in the audience with us today, has a heavy workload focused on deer management. Ten field staff are responsible for assisting landowners in two to five counties each. Each color on the above map represents an individual biologist and the counties they are responsible for covering. Field staff work with over 2,000 tracts of land, receiving a Managed Land Deer Program harvest recommendations on over 7.4 million acres of land.

South Texas major resource issues include Chronic Wasting Disease and its potential impact on deer populations and its corresponding effect on hunters, landowners, and others who enjoy this resource. South Texas staff are not only collecting samples within their counties of responsibilities, but also charged with operating a mandatory check station in Medina County throughout deer season. With the help of four seasonal employees, they collected over 1,500 samples at this check station last year.

Our second issue is energy development. In this portion of Texas, it is primarily oil and gas; but also with the addition of wind. Oil and gas can lead to land fragmentation, changing land use patterns, and increase in rural traffic. Where wind can lead to a potential impact on migratory birds in a vital migration corridor.

Third on our list is invasive and exotic grasses. A variety of exotic grasses and some natives like Tanglehead, have caused habitat management challenges and can create monocultures in South Texas. These species are well-adapted to disturbance and common habitat techniques such as fire and burning can unfortunately lead to an increase in the abundance of these species on the landscape.

Next is Bobwhite quail. South Texas remains an important stronghold for prime quail habitat, with less impact of fragmentation than other areas of the state. Rainfall continues to be the driving force behind quail numbers in South Texas.

Final on our list is Cattle Fever Tick. This tick carries a disease that can cause a rapid onset of death to infected cattle. There is also a risk of quarantines for ranches and import restrictions to the cattle industry in Texas. Because White-tailed deer and Nilgai are secondary hosts to this tick, South Texas staff are working with Texas Animal Health Commission to treat ticks on these two species.

South Texas field staff, including technical guidance biologist Daniel Kunz -- who is also here in the audience with us -- work with partners, including the East Wildlife Foundation and Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, to survey ocelot populations on private ranches. The Managed Land Deer Program has often -- has led to building -- no, I'm sorry -- has led to -- has often been the catalyst to building relationships with private landowners that allows this important work to be conducted. The study is designed to better understand the role of private lands in ocelot conservation.

Now, I would like to discuss with you our public lands conservation efforts in the Rio Grande Valley. An estimated 1 to 3 percent of original native habitat remains in the Valley today. As can be seen on the map, conservation lands are scatter throughout the Valley and owned and managed by a multitude of partners. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in green is the largest landowner; with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife management areas and state parks in red, acting as part of a larger conservation effort of remaining habitat.

In the valley for the Wildlife Division, we have Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area. Staff consists of myself as project leader, a wildlife biologist, three fish and wildlife technicians, and an administrative assistant. Las Palomas consists of 18 management units throughout the Rio Grande Valley. These lands were acquired for the purposes of conserving White-winged dove nesting habitat. Purchase of the units started in 1958 and continued through 1992. Funding for the purchase of these units was primarily funded by White-winged dove stamp dollars. Of the 18 units, eight are currently leased and managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Initially, as I said, properties were acquired for White-winged dove nesting habitat. Efforts then focused on conservation and reestablishment of Tamaulipan thorn scrub through revegetation efforts in areas where it was lacking up through 2011. Efforts have now shifted to focusing to combating nonnative and invasive grasses through mechanical and chemical treatments yearly.

In addition to White-winged dove focus, in 2017 a 65-acre Monarch habitat restoration and demonstration site was planted at the Longoria Unit of Las Palomas. Las Palomas staff partnered with South Texas natives from Kingsville, Texas, utilizing a grant funded through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Another interesting project for us is Red-crowned parrot. The Red-crowned parrot is a globally endangered species native to northeast Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley and is currently a candidate for listing in the United States. Las Palomas wildlife biologist Tony Henehan has been leading the efforts and conducting quarterly population surveys along with universities and local volunteers since January of 2016. The population has dropped from 100,000 birds in 1970s to around three to 5,000 today as the Mexican population is greatly unknown. In the Valley, the population is between 750 and 800 parrots.

Public hunting opportunities at Las Palomas: There's two avenues to hunt down here. We have the annual public hunting permit. Those holders can hunt between -- or from September to February. They're allowed to hunt chachalaca, quail, rabbit, White-winged dove, Mourning dove, and White-tipped dove. It's important to note we are the only WMA complex in Texas which offers chachalaca hunts. The other avenue is special drawn hunts. We offer seven White-tailed deer hunts, five are youth specific, one adult archery, and one adult rifle. We also offer three javelina hunts at the Longoria Unit.

An area we tend to shine in and are known for down here is the hunts that we conduct during the Special White-winged dove days. During the 2018 White-winged dove days, we have 691 hunters with almost 4,200 dove harvested on three out of the nine units. The Anacua Unit shine most with 11 dove per hunter average, where the Carricitos Unit was nine dove per hunter average where most folks ended up getting their limits. So I thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Jimmy.

MR. TRIAL: Thank you, sir.

CAPTAIN DUNKS: Good evening or good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Carter. Welcome to the Rio Grande Valley. I'm here to represent Law Enforcement and go over a few things of what we've done over the last few years.

The Rio Grande Valley is a very unique area as far as being a game warden, due to the fact that we have a year-round growing season. To me, the fishing is better in the wintertime than it is in the summer. So there's always something to do; and when our weather does get bad, it's time to go hunt ducks. So we stay busy down here. This is the -- Cameron County has more game wardens than any county in the entire state. So there's our naval fleet.

But one thing that we have done is our IUU operations, which is unreported and unregulated fishing operations. We have a unique problem right here in this area when it comes to illegal fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. People come from Mexico, the La Playa Bagdad area, they come into our waters and harvest our snapper by the thousands and thousands of pounds. They take these snapper back to Mexico and they import these snapper back into the United States and sell them at a pretty high market value. So we have put together operations. If we can't catch all the boats fishing in our waters -- just this year alone, we have apprehended between us and the United States Coastguard, 65 illegal commercial vessels, which we call "pangas." Those are seized and never given back.

This right here is one of our operations at the border operation -- at the port of entry in Brownsville where we are inspecting everything -- every aquatic product that is coming across the bridge. This one operation we put together, there were six vehicles inspected. Fifty-two citations, two warnings, and 255 Red snapper were seized. This grew into an oyster operation where we had people that were harvesting oysters in Mexico and bringing them into the United States, which the only legal importation of oysters can only come from the Pacific coast, not the Gulf of Mexico. Oysters were tested. They did come from the Gulf.

Here's the seizures that we had. This is the 255 Red snapper. This really puts a hurt on the fishing industry on the other side. The illegal fishing along the Texas-Mexico border has been a long, lengthy process of trying to enforce. This right here is your typical panga boat. This is what we are up against out there in the Gulf of Mexico. They will come in in fleets of ten at a time. It's almost impossible to catch more than one or two at any given time. The types of illegal fishing that we face here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is gillnetting, long lining, crabbing, and oystering.

This right here is an example of a gillnet in the Rio Grande River. The Rio Grande River is a very valuable estuary to our ecosystem. It provides small juvenile tarpon, snook, redfish, Speckled trout, and all your native game fishes. This is an example of the indiscriminating fishing that a gillnet does. Anything that swims within this gillnet gets entangled, and it will end up dying.

Long line is also one of our biggest problems. This is a long line, which is like a huge trotline, that is put on the bottom of the sea floor. At times, we pick up to 10 miles of this at any given time. It indiscriminately catches anything that -- from shark to tarpon to marlin. Just any type of fish that eats that bait is going to get hooked. There's an example of all the bull Red drum that have been harvested off of one long line.

Crabbing, crabbing in the Rio Grande River -- you know, once again, that is such a valuable estuary and we do not have any legal crabbing that goes on in the Rio Grande River. Here's an example of your oystering that goes on within the Rio Grande River. These oysters are going to make their way back into our food system somewhere in Texas. So we're -- it's devastating. If you get one bad oyster harvested in a warm month such as July, it could really have an effect.

This was our Marine Tactical Operation Group. They're our tactical boating team that they specialize out here on working in the Gulf of Mexico. This was one gillnet set that harvested 139 sharks, 67 Spanish mackerel, menhaden, trout, and I had to throw the crab in there because he died for it.

This is a panga boat fishing in the Rio Grande River. This is typically what we come across where they will stretch gillnets from one end of the river all the way to the Mexico side. Anything that swims through there will end up getting killed and harvested.

Riverine operations, you know, when we're out working in the river, it's not just fishing, gillnetting that we come across. A lot of human smuggling. Game warden arrests, they include on the river human smuggling, assault, resisting, evading, smuggling of illegal drugs. We also save a lot of lives within that river while we're doing our conservation law enforcement job. Drowning prevention, we've done CPR. We've provided heat-related first aid, dehydration. We've provided as EMTs and notified EMTs and provided emergency transport off the river where nobody else could get to them but we can.

Also, this is one of our big adversaries along the river. When we're working, we just don't know what we're coming up against. It could be human smuggling or large loads of drugs. This right here was one load that was, alone, of over 4,000 pounds. And, of course, the human smuggling aspect of it. I'm just glad to see the kids in there wearing their life jacket. And this right here on behalf of Region 8 and District 5, these are the guys that provide a service to y'all. I had to throw that in there. So, thank you. Have a good day.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's terrific. All of you, thank you. Gosh, I had no idea we were facing that kind of pressure from illegal fishing. Good work, everybody.

All right. Brent, anything further?

MR. LEISURE: No, sir. That's it.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Permission to proceed with the public hearing.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, permission granted, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

All right. Well, jesting aside, this is a -- this presentation, particularly on law enforcement, is a real testament to the support we get from Senator Hinojosa and his colleagues because it's a real challenge to stay on top of this; but they've been very supportive in funding additional wardens and support for our Law Enforcement group. So thank you again.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, sorry. Commissioner Jones just reminded me. I know that we've told folks that everybody would have two minutes when they're called up, and Dee here will keep a green light/yellow light/red light system. And so green means go, yellow means just start to wind it down, and red means stop. So I just wanted to remind you of that. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Just don't tell him you're an Aggie because you'll get a whoop.

All right. We'll start with Shelia Hargis, President of Texas -- I can't say the word -- Society, followed by Evelyn Merz.

MR. MARK WILSON: Well, I'm obviously not Shelia Hargis.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I was going to say. Thank you.

MR. MARK WILSON: Shelia -- I'm actually Mark Wilson.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. MARK WILSON: I'm here for Travis Audubon. Shelia asked me to bring a copy of her letter down.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right.

MR. MARK WILSON: She would be a much better speaker than I, but she couldn't make it today. And thank you, Commissioners, Director Smith, for the opportunity to speak. My name is Mark Wilson. I'm here representing Travis Audubon Society. We have over 1,200 members in the Austin area. We work to promote the enjoyment, understanding, conservation of native birds and we're here to speak to our strong feelings of hoping we can find an alternative to building a wall or a fence structure through Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park.

I was going to read a letter, but I think I'm not because I think you have a copy and all the folks that have been up here from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have basically talked about what a great park it is and how I think what an excellent Department and how we can, I think as Texans, depend on our Department to protect the border at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park. So I want to thank you for everything you're doing to look for an alternative to building that structure and let you know that we'll work as hard as we can in our organization and up in Austin to back up your efforts and hope we can come up with a -- some alternative solutions that will protect our border, but also allow all our citizens to have access to our park.

I know we've spent a lot of money on that park. It generates a lot of economic activity. And so thank you for the opportunity to talk to you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Wilson.

Evelyn Merz; next up, Roberto Longoria the third.

MS. EVELYN MERZ: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, and Carter. I'm Evelyn Merz, representing the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. We had already submitted our written comments on Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park in the August public session. So you already know our concerns. I'm just going to add how much I appreciate what you-all have done to enlighten our elected officials and to let you know that we support Alternative 1 that was proposed by Parks and Wildlife in its June 18th letter to Customs and Border Enforcement and we're hopeful with the close of the election season, that elected officials and the media will start looking at this very important issue and the absolute necessity of protecting Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, as well as the border.

So I'm going to use the rest of the time on another very important issue I think that's important statewide to the park system and that is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's release of Atlas 14 Rainfall Frequency Report. If you've not already done so, we urge that Parks and Wildlife include this data in doing its infrastructure planning. Parks and Wildlife regularly has to deal with disasters to its parks and its wildlife infrastructure, and this report will have a big effect.

The NOAA Atlas 14 plan uses historical rainfall through 2017 to actually rerevise the expected rainfall frequencies for the 1 percent storm, the 100-year storm, the 250-year storm, etcetera. And what that means is that it will also impact the flood insurance rate maps. As an example, in Houston the -- currently, the hundred-year rainfall event is defined as between 12 and 13 inches in a 24-hour period. Under the new data -- which actually, the data has been finalized, although the report hasn't been issued -- now it's going to be 17 to 18 inches in the Houston area instead of 12 to 13 inches. You can imagine how this would impact the floodplain and impact all of the assets, the physical assets of Parks and Wildlife. So we're asking that you review this document carefully and integrate it into your planning because the floodplain is expanding. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

Okay. Roberto Longoria, followed by Amy Cummins.

MR. ROBERTO LONGORIA: Thank you for having me, Mr. Chairman, Commission, and Mr. Smith. As a member of the Rio Grande Valley community, I personally request that Parks and Wildlife Commission and the State of Texas continue to protect our natural resources, to continue to preserve our historical landmarks, including Bentsen State Park for the RGV.

So as far as everything is concerned, I just ask that we continue to look towards preservation and not perhaps potentially desecration. There is a lot of economic factors involved. It's a great -- it's a great asset economically; but just in terms of the wildlife and the natural resources that we have, it's a really precious commodity. I was thinking the other day with my family, my younger sister and my younger brother, what a blessing it is to have these resources available to us. As a member of this community, I just want to ensure and emotionally appeal to you that I just want future generations to be able to enjoy this. It's such a blessing; and as stewards of the land, that we continue to fight for this.

It's incredibly important that we not just read and see photos of these landmarks in history books, in natural history books; but to be able to experience it. There's so many resources that we're not able to experience today and I just, from the bottom of my heart, thank everybody. You've heard from the experts. You've heard now -- hopefully, continuing onwards -- from citizens, from visitors. So thank you for your help. I continue to look forward to your defending of our resources. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much for your comments.

Amy Cummins, followed by Jennifer Siegler.

MS. AMY CUMMINS: Well, I'm Amy Cummins. I'm a local resident in the city of Edinburg. I live here year-round. I live here permanently, and I'm not representing an organization or a group or my employer. I'm here to represent a lot of people that they're at work right. You know, they can't come out; but they can't wait to go to the state park this weekend or at night.

Without Bentsen RGV State Park, our health, our happiness would decline. Right now, I have a such a feeling of joy when I see your green-and-white logo. I think we're all pretty happy when we get to see the Texas Parks and Wildlife logo because we know we're going to have good time. Right? There we are at Bentsen RGV State Park or Estero Llano Grande State Park or resaca de la Palma, but we only have these three state park for a huge region. Our population here is tremendous. We've got millions of people. We've got so few state parks.

And this past Sunday I was over at Bentsen RGV with my family, and I saw other people there. I saw a three-generation family. You know, the grandparents, the parents, and the kid. They'd camped out overnight at Bentsen. It's one of the only places you can camp out overnight here. They'd had a great time except the helicopters were kind of loud. It kept them awake a little bit from 10:00 to 1:00. I saw a man with fishing rods taking his son out fishing. I saw a bunch of birders with their fancy, cool cameras. I saw some couples just out walking, having a good time on the cool trails: The Hawk Tower Trail, Rio Grande Trail, Resaca de la Palma Trail.

If the wall goes up through the state park, the state park's going to close and the community knows it without your hard work continuing. Thank you so much for trying to advocate to keep the park open, but we know that the wall would ruin the park and it would close down. Thank you all very much for your advocacy.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for your comments.

Okay. Jennifer Siegler, followed by Heather Wise.

MS. JENNIFER SIEGLER: I'm not a great public speaker, but I wanted to show my face and let you know I'm born and raised here in Mission. This park means a lot. To lose it not only is an impact to my city, but to my state. My family has spent so such time there.

I'm a Girl Scout and a Brownie who's camped there, but my parents and my brother have spent many hours there as artists drawing and painting that state park. Please, I know all the hard work you've put in and all the options that you've given the State and our government on a national level to argue against putting up that wall. Don't give up the fight. It means the world to all of us. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

Heather -- sorry. Heather Wise, followed by Ellie Widnick. I hope I pronounced that.

MS. HEATHER WISE: I never thought I'd actually get up and say anything; but especially because I'm not a Texan, but I got here as fast as I could. I I'm a winter Texan, and this is our fourth winter. Typically, we get up each morning. We head out to the park. There's the wristband. We walk our dogs. We have our binoculars swung around our neck and when we're all tired, we go to the air-conditioning and go to the butterfly center. That's why we came to this area. As soon as retirement came on, we said, "Let's go back because there's such a gorgeous place and there's so much to do."

But if those two things are gone, it will be sad. It will be sad not just for us, but because Bentsen is such an old park. There aren't a lot of really old places left in our country, and it's pretty precious because of that. I don't want to tell my grandchildren that I was right there and I didn't say a word. So please try your hardest. You can't replace these old places. When you mess them up -- it's easy to mess them up and it's impossible to bring back that and tell your grandkid, "Yeah, okay, you want to start over, get some mesquite trees, go down by the river, and in 300 years, you might have a park like Bentsen used to be."

So just keep trying. We all are. There's a lot of us out there that care and will be very sad to see that go. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

Ellie Widnick, followed by Kathryn Craddock.

MS. ELLIE WIDNICK: Hello and I'm here for the same reason. I want to keep the park open. I don't mind the wall. If we need it, it has to be done. But we are retired now and now we're taking advantage of going to the park and we make it a habit of going at least once or twice a week. We love it here. It's a unique habitat. There's birding, the butterflies. It's just a wonderful place. So thank you and keep working for us.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, ma'am.

Kathryn Craddock, followed Jeffery Gordon.

MS. KATHRYN CRADDOCK: Hello. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Kathryn Blair Craddock; and I live in McAllen, Texas. My husband and I moved down here 11 years ago from Dallas for my job. And anyhow, we love the park. We became birders after we moved down here and we would be very, very sad to see the area and the state lose the park.

We have gone there many times a year. We have a state park pass. We've gone there by ourselves, also with visitors with both of our sets of parents from Austin and Dallas, with visitors from Germany, with visitors from Alaska. We have met other birders there who have come from Europe, who have come from Japan because it's such a beautiful place and, you know, has such a wonderful variety of wildlife. We have learned so much.

We've gone out on the Hawk Tower with the hawk watchers. We've gone on the night walk and learned about the night birds and the insects. You know, we've learned about sustainable architecture and landscape architecture from the beautiful buildings of the park. We've walked all over the park, including the trail that leads down to the river before that was closed. We've met local residents, including children who were, you know, at the park with their families enjoying it. It's such a wonderful educational resource to help people learn about nature and about so many other things, as well as being a beautiful, beautiful place. It would really be a tragedy to lose the park. Please continue to explore alternatives. We'd thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

Before Jeffery Gordon comes up, I just want to say again it's very moving to hear people speak so strongly and sincerely about the value of this park and I would just say again that we're working to do what we can; but you can be part of that, too, by sending letters to the Republican leadership, both the Congressman and the two Senators, and let them know how you feel and urge them to -- not to fund the wall through the park, to look at alternatives.

And I'm not suggesting they're not concerned and they don't hear the wisdom in trying to find alternatives. There are lots of moving parts in this issue, but it just never hurts for them to hear from constituents. So I would encourage you to get a stamp out and send a letter or go through the website maybe it is easier and doesn't cost a stamp and let them know how you feel about it.

All right. Jeffery Gordon, followed by Carol Brown.

MR. JEFFERY GORDON: Hello. Good afternoon. Thanks for the opportunity to speak. I am Jeffery Gordon. I am the President of the American Birding Association. Our mission as a nonprofit is to inspire all people to enjoy and protect wild birds, and the first thing I want to say is just thank you.

I believe we have some representatives of the Bentsen family here. We have people who have given blood, sweat, tears, treasure. We have the TPWD who do a great job with really difficult work. So the birding community just thanks you-all. We love coming down here. We look at South Texas as being one of the great places in the entire United States, the entire North American continent.

And for those of us who've spent time down here and got to know it, we know that life along the border is complex. It's a little more complex than kind of gets portrayed sometimes in other parts of the country. And it really is that collision of cultures and ecosystems and climate that make it, that give it its flavor. So many great things come from our proximity to Mexico, including birds found nowhere else in the United States. And this just draws not only visiting birders like me coming hundreds of miles and fulfilling a long-held dream; but as other people have mentioned, there's not that many opportunities for locals to enjoy birding and fishing and hunting and other wildlife-based outdoor recreation that's so healthy and builds our community.

So I just want to say, you know, Bentsen and Falcon and all these lands are just treasures and so much work has been done to excavate them and polish them and put them on display in a way that we can truly treasure them. And future generations are going to look at us and say, "Did they really just slam the chest shut and toss it overboard?"

We've got problems, but let's find smart solutions. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Gordon.

Carol Brown, followed by Marisa Olivia.

MS. CAROL BROWN: Good afternoon. My name is Carol Brown. I live in McAllen, Texas; and I'm a retired teacher. I come to you today to ask the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and the State of Texas to save Bentsen State Park for the residents of the Rio Grande Valley and the State of Texas.

The proposed border wall will be built in the flood levee and will cut off the visitor center from the majority of the park, including all the camping and picnic sites, the hiking trails, and one of the last places the public can access the Rio Grande River. We know from experience what happens when Border Patrol walls off a park. CBP will require a 150-foot enforcement zone running the full length of the wall. All trees will be chopped down. All vegetation will be removed, and the soil will be paved over with gravel. This wide path of destruction will be tragic for both wildlife and park visitors.

Bentsen State Park and the adjacent fish and wildlife tracts are a critical part of a unique and invaluable wildlife corridor that we have spent decades and millions of dollars to assemble. It allows our native species to access river water and an escape from rising floodwaters. The border wall will restrict access to water, to higher land, and to other breeding populations. Some are endangered species and the last remaining populations in the United States.

If you allow the federal government to proceed with construction of the border wall, the park will be, at best, horribly disfigured and at worst, closed. I call on the Park's Commission to see that this doesn't happen. Do not back down and permit the erection of this destructive and racist symbol of hate. Tell our overreaching federal government "Don't Mess With Texas."

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Marisa Olivia, and followed by Melinda Melo.

MS. MARISA OLIVIA: Good afternoon, Commissioners. Good afternoon, Mr. Carter. My name is Marisa Olivia; and today, I'm coming to you as a citizen of the Rio Grande Valley. Although, I will tell you that I work in the profession of natural resource environmental education down here. And, first, I would like to thank, of course, your support for Texas Parks and Wildlife and their mission and their very active involvement in our community.

I'm involved with a number of programs here in Texas, some of which were mentioned in the slide show. So I was rooting in the back for Coastal Expo, the Family Summer Adventure Challenge. But I'm coming to you also as a long-time facilitator of Project Wild. This past year, myself and my team, we trained over 160 preschool teachers in the "Growing Up Wild" curriculum and we're trying to teach these children about the value of wildlife. And our concern with this border wall is not only as it's been mentioned as a symbol of hate and separation of these children and their families who come, a lot of them from Mexico; but also of a wall for them to access nature.

Bentsen State Park for the parents and for the grandparents was a very important memory, for my husband as well -- some of you who might know -- who grew up with this state park. And although we have wonderful state parks -- like Estero Llano Grande and Resaca de la Palma, Falcon State Park -- Bentsen has a special place. It is an incredible habitat. It's a riparian habitat that we hope that you protect. I'm very happy to hear that you are pushing back, that you are giving alternatives, and I encourage you to do that not only for Bentsen State Park; but all the properties.

We have so much land that is being developed constantly, that we have a hard time keeping up with development, keeping up with protecting the habitat, protecting the wildlife that is here. And so that we -- we ask that you fight very hard and if there's anything that our community can do with you, please ask us because we are very active and we're very involved and we're very passionate about this area. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: You shouldn't give me these softballs. I -- we certainly share your view about -- and I think two or three other speakers talked about the critical value that parks play in the quality of life. And we realize that parklands are short. We would love to build more, buy more park space and open more parks; but it's a question of funding. So there again, let your voices be heard with the State leadership, State Senator, Senator Hinojosa, Senator Lucio, the State Representatives and tell them how important parks and park space are to you and to your family and that will help us because we work hard each -- and we're coming up into a session where we'll be pursuing funding for more parks and park operations and long overdue capital improvements to our facilities. So thank you for your comments in that respect. Appreciate it.

Okay. Melinda Melo, followed Pam Havens.

MS. MELINDA MELO: Hello, Commission. My name is Melinda Melo, and I am a resident of the Rio Grande Valley. I've lived here all my life and I am also a member of Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club and I am here to speak today to continue to ask for you-all to advocate against the building of the border wall in Bentsen.

As a resident of the Valley my entire life and being born to parents that were biologists, I spent a lot of time as a kid actually camping in Bentsen State Park. So I have really fond memories of being in Bentsen and being able to appreciate the nature that exists here. And we do know that if a border wall is built in Bentsen, it will separate the visitor center from the rest of the park. And we've seen what has happened at the Hidalgo Pumphouse Birding Center where that border wall was constructed there and as a result, a lot of the pedestrian trails that were created there, were cut up and have been lost. Public access to those trails has been lost as a result, and we definitely don't want the same thing to happen at Bentsen.

We are down to less than 5 percent of our native habitat in the Rio Grande Valley. I'm sure that you-all know that, but Bentsen is one of the few places where you can still see riparian habitat that is native to the RGV. So losing that habitat would be really damaging to this area and we do know that Border Patrol and -- has said that if they want to build a border wall where they want to build it, they would want to create a 150-foot enforcement zone. So they would be willing to completely deforest -- they would be willing to completely deforest that habitat.

So I'm just asking for you-all to continue to advocate for keeping Bentsen State Park open and not allowing for a border wall to be constructed. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you. I'm sorry I mispronounced your name.

Pam Havens, followed by Jim Chapman.

MS. PAM HAVENS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Sorry. I know you as Pam Bentsen. That's why I'm thinking "Whoa." Welcome, Pam.

MS. PAM HAVENS: Thank you so much for letting me speak and I want to thank all the citizens from the Rio Grande Valley here today, all of you who are so concerned about preserving a legacy my grandfather and great-uncle left for this community.

It meant so much to our family when it happened. I wasn't actually born, I don't think, when it was given; but it means so much to our family. And if there is any way a type of wall could be constructed where we could preserve it as a park, my question is to you: If the wall goes up as it was earlier presented, would it still be a park?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I don't think we know yet until we see what ends up being constructed what the impact will be. We don't -- we would far prefer there not be a wall, but we just don't know. I can't -- I'm sorry we can't answer --

MS. PAM HAVENS: Even electronically, something like that. I'm just here to speak for my family and for all the people here; but I want to thank you for your diligent and hard work, your efforts in trying to preserve something that has been so special to our lives. Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you so much for coming and for bringing your mother and father, too.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Jim Chapman, followed by Chuck Crowsey.

MR. JIM CHAPMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners and Mr. Smith. My name is Jim Chapman. I live here in Weslaco. I am the Vice President of the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor and past President of Frontera Audubon Society.

First, I wanted to thank you for taking the time and effort to meet here in Mission. You're only a couple of miles from Bentsen Park, and I think it really shows that Bentsen matters to you. I'm not going to stand up here and tell you how valuable and unique Bentsen is. I think you already know that. I'm not going to tell you about all the terrible impacts that a wall would have at Bentsen because you know that and I know that because there are 22 pages of detailed correspondence from you-all to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection detailing all the impacts that a wall would have and that your preferred alternative is no wall and I think that is -- that's the alternative that we support and probably virtually everybody in this room supports. And I want to thank you for doing that. I want to thank you for standing up for Bentsen, for defending Bentsen.

I also want you to keep pushing. You need to do more. Two things, if you haven't been doing them already: One is to make sure that Governor Abbott knows what your preferred alternative is and have him use his bully pulpit and the same with Senator Cornyn and Senator Cruz.

I think we will do all that we can. I think you-all are in a special position to exert even more influence and I encourage you to just not back down, keep pushing, and thank you for what you've done.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Chuck Crowsey, followed by Dina Wilson.

MR. CHUCK CROWSEY: Yes. My name is Chuck Crowsey. I'm the Chief Financial Officer for the Lloyd Bentsen family. I thank you for the opportunity to speak on their behalf.

We understand border security, and we appreciate border security; but we would also like to voice our hope that a wall, preferably an electronic wall, would not cause the park to close. It is our hope that the park would stay open, and we just want to say thank you for your consideration.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Dina Wilson, followed by Jennifer Hall.

MS. DINA WILSON: Good afternoon. My name is Dina Wilson; and I'm a lifelong resident here in Texas, especially the Rio Grande Valley. I'm a retired teacher. I grew up here and camped out at Bentsen. I was a Girl Scout many years. I also had campouts.

I really don't think this wall is necessary and as you've already heard from everybody else who's spoken, I feel the same way. And I just felt like I was compelled to come and speak so my grandchildren and generations to come could enjoy this park. And I just thank you for listening and for doing all you can to keep this park open. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Jennifer Hall, followed by Becky Jones.

MS. JENNIFER HALL: Hi. I'm Jennifer Hall, and I'm here as a citizen of Mission. I've lived here since 2004. I'm also the former Park Naturalist and Assistant Superintendent at Bentsen State Park. You already know what a great place it is. I'm here to thank you for upholding the mission statement and defending our park.

It is such a special and precious place that we will not be able to replace. We will not be able to bring it back if this wall is built. So please continue to do all you can. You have all of us behind you. We are defending you. We are here. I am in contact with Cruz and Cornyn and Gonzalez all the time. I have been for over a year defending this place. Even though I'm no longer working there, I still love it and I still defend it and I still see the ripples throughout the community that this park has.

I now work in medicine. I see how the people in the Rio Grande Valley need outdoor recreational opportunities. They are literally dying because they do not have enough outdoor recreational opportunities. We cannot afford to lose Bentsen. In addition, it brings in the ecotourism dollars. We have more bird species in Bentsen State Park just within those 797 acres than the entire state of Hawaii. That is so precious and special. We wouldn't think to wall off the state of Hawaii. Why would we wall off our park?

This is such a community resource. We're not going to be able to get it back. And I want to thank you for defending it and for being there and upholding that mission statement and for making this resource available for future generations. And, you know, you've already told us be in contact with your Senators and your Representatives. We have been. We will continue to be. So please continue to fight. This is Texas. We don't do it for political gain. We do it because it's the right thing to do. So continue to do the right thing, even if it's not the popular political thing. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Becky Jones is next. Before you take the podium, let me say that when I suggest contacting your Representative, I wouldn't limit it just to the Congressmen in this area. I think you need to let the entire Texas delegation know how you feel because they all have a vote on the budget and the funding for the wall. Just a point of clarification from my end.

All right. Becky Jones, followed by Frank Zezulna. I hope I -- Zezulka, sorry.

MS. BECKY JONES: Good afternoon. Thank you, first of all, for your work. All of us appreciate the time, effort, everything that you do with regard to the parks in Texas, not just Bentsen State Park. Once again, my name is Becky Jones. My border wall concern is a little different from earlier ones.

My family farm is located adjacent to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. The planned physical wall will cleave my farm. In discussions during July and August with CBP engineers out of Washington, D.C., to discuss agricultural concerns and needs, it seemed that there were no provisions made for oil-and-gas well maintenance and safety vehicles to pass through the planned gates. This included location, weight, and turning radius dimension requirements.

I wonder if Texas Parks and Wildlife has been in consultation in CBP concerning any potential obstruction to any oil-and-gas wells either in production or plugged on Bentsen State Park or any other state park that may be affected by a future physical barrier. My concern extends beyond environmental and wildlife considerations to the responsibility Texas Parks and Wildlife has for the entire operation of the parks. I appreciate very much your time, your work, and your advocacy. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, ma'am.

All right. Frank -- if I pronounced that right -- Zezulka, followed by Marlon Duran or Yuran -- Yuran -- Duran, sorry.

MR. FRANK ZEZULKA: Thank you. I just simply have a request. Please state -- please save Bentsen State Park. I moved down from Michigan a few years ago. The three reasons: The lack of snow, wonderful people, and the beautiful parks. I now reside on Bentsen Palm. I'm a mile down from the park, and I consider it my backyard. And I'd appreciate if you do all you can do to save it for me. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

All right. Marlon Duran, followed by Karen Holleschau.

MR. MARLON DURAN: Hello. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I have also been a lifelong resident of the Rio Grande Valley and I like many others here, have grown up with Bentsen State Park. I'm part of a group called the Kaleidoscope Club that we go hiking and we've been through it many times and it's very important, you know, to have these green spaces. Like other people have said, that we have less than 5 percent of native habitat in the Valley. So it's very important to conserve these places and we will continue to fight and contact our Representatives, put pressure there. And I just want to thank you-all for the work that you've done and ask that you also please continue to put pressure so that we can stop this from happening. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

All right. Karen Holleschau, followed by Josh -- Joshua Torres.

MS. KAREN HOLLESCHAU: Thank you for providing this opportunity to voice our concerns. At the risk of repeating what everybody else already said most eloquently, I will just point out a few things that I have in my notes. I'm the President of the board for Estero Llano Grande State Park Birding Center in Mercedes, where I live for the past 30 years. I'm a retired teacher, and I love Estero Llano Grande; but I love all of the parks just as well. I've been to all of them many times.

I'm especially against a wall being built through the World Birding Center Headquarters at Bentsen State Park. In 1944, the members of the Bentsen family donated 587 acres to the Texas State Parks Board under the stipulation that the land be used solely for use as a public park. The Bentsens wanted a place of nature and beauty set aside for Valley residents to enjoy in perpetuity. Many years later in 2002, Mike and Lori Rhodes donated 270 more acres in order to create the present headquarters of the World Birding Center.

Their intention was to protect what is left of the old growth habitat still remaining, most of which has been destroyed over the years. The Valley's nine birding centers are like a string of pearls, stretching from Brownsville in the southeastern part of the Valley all the way to Roma over on the western edge. The birding centers go a long way towards improving the quality of life here in the Valley.

If a wall is built through Bentsen State Park, the park will essentially be destroyed, cutting off the natural habitat, the hiking trails, the birding areas, access roads, campgrounds, and the river from visitors, as has been done at the Hidalgo Pumphouse Center. In fact, Bentsen State Park is the only park in the Valley that provides for overnight camping. People come from all over the United States and even other countries to visit Bentsen State Park, as well as the other parks in the system.

If Bentsen and other parklands are destroyed, the visitors will stop coming here. These visitors spend many millions of dollars here at hotels, restaurants, and shopping. That money that they spend here, helps to provide us with a healthy economy. We cannot afford to lose even one park to a wall. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Next up, Joshua Torres, followed by Isidro Leal. I hope I'm pronouncing these names right.

MR. JOSHUA TORRES: Hello. I'm Joshua. Nice to meet you-all. I'm here to represent the environmental awareness community. It's part of UT RGV. We're collective students that just try to spread awareness about the environment and just to start off with a little bit of awareness.

All existing walls have already fragmented and degraded wildlife and we have seen from the past that -- that many -- that they're just going to continue to waive laws that would harm our environment. Just -- sorry. It gives me a bit of anxiety thinking about all of the laws that they just recently waived. But our community does care. I do ask y'all if you could help us come together even more because it's like, at this point, it's left to us, the community, to actually try to do something about -- to protect these parks because they do mean something to us. As you saw, there is a lot of emotional appeal to this and hope you could help us come together because we all do care. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Mr. Leal, followed by Robert Glick.

MR. ISIDRO LEAL: Hello, ladies and gentlemen. My name's Isidro Leal. I'm here on behalf or my tribe, Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, and Veterans for Peace. I'm a lifelong resident of the RGV. Also a concerned veteran.

I would like to advocate for Bentsen Park, try to stop the wall from going through there. It's very important to have it preserved. And a lot of these points have already been made, but I'll also make a quick reference to genocide issue of the border wall and getting rid of these conservation areas. Hidalgo Pumphouse is a pretty good example of access being cut off of two -- the other side of the wall and parks being shut down. The genocide issue regards removal of burial grounds and dismissal of tribal burial grounds. Carrizo/Comecrudo isn't the only natives -- actually, first nation from the South Texas and north of Mexico areas. There's dozens of us. Some of us, especially out of the history books. And as mentioned before, denial of sacred sites. Like Hidalgo Pumphouse, there's a few sacred sites back there that Texas citizens have been -- and native citizens have been blocked off from.

And let's see. And also with any kind of construction, comes the oil development or the wall we have going through now. There's looting of tribal artifacts on the sacred sites. And for us natives, I would also like to point out that we don't really have a concept of landownership. For us, the land bounds us to it. Like, the land technically owns us. So I'm out of time. Thank you for your time, everyone.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much, sir.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Mr. Glick, followed by Shane Bonnot.

MR. ROBERT GLICK: Thank you, Commission, for the opportunity to speak. I'm Robert Glick with Friends of RGV Reef. I love the park, but that's not why I'm here.

I'm here to ask to consider starting to fund artificial reef construction in the Gulf of Mexico. Texas Parks and Wildlife Artificial Reefing Program is funded from the Offshore Oil Rigs to Reef Program, which is in decline with oil prices and we will soon lose many more in the next wave because they get plugged off at a rate that's more rapid than they can be permitted and reefed.

Texas Parks and Wildlife studies show over the last 20 years, artificial reefs, 70 percent of offshore fishermen visit them. And the fish don't just want natural and artificial reefs. They have to have them. The scientific community is coming to the understanding that reefs, especially juvenile habitat, limits juvenile snapper. For example, it doesn't matter if you have a huge spawn or a small spawn. It doesn't matter if you reduce juvenile snapper mortality in shrimp trawls by 90 percent. You still get the same number of fish. That amount is the amount that exists -- existing in low-reef structures.

See, you've got to have the right size rocks to dodge faster line predators, the right size rocks to get out of the current behind, a place to ambush prey and to rest and turn that food into body mass. We are also seeing that as the population of the pelagic shrink, the ranking Kingfish, Bonito, Jackfish, Ling are found around the reefs. We are also uncertain about Texas anglers use of federal waters beyond the nine miles offshore. If the Modern Fishing Act passes the U.S. Senate, Texas Parks and Wildlife gets to manage those fisheries. Then all we have to worry about is the management of stock; but if it fails, the Gulf Management Council will push Texas anglers back to three days or no days of Red snapper fishing in federal waters, which historically crashes the number of saltwater anglers.

So we have a substantial threat to saltwater habitat, saltwater fish numbers, and saltwater fishing license sales, all of which can be lessened by the installation of large nearshore artificial reefs containing industrial scale nursery reefs, graduating steppingstones of habitat for the different life stages and species of fish. RGV Reef was conceived and designed and constructed to be the example and it works like gangbusters. Artificial reefs are the biggest bang for the buck, no matter how you look at it. Hope you consider it.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

Okay. Shane Bonnot, followed by Jaime Flores.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Good afternoon, Chairman Duggins and Commissioners. My name is Shane Bonnot. I'm with --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Sorry.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: That's okay. I'm with Coastal Conservation Association Texas. I'm the Advocacy Director, and I'm here just to give comment on two subject matters that are the source of gray hairs and sleepless nights for fishery managers and dare I say Law Enforcement.

First of all with Red snapper, I'll follow up with Mr. Glick's comments in that our -- the colleagues within Coastal Fisheries Division, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Riechers, working at the Gulf Council to try to ensure a permanent management of the state -- Red snapper in state waters and federal waters, we appreciate those efforts that they're doing.

There's an amendment, Amendment 50, and it's trying to move forward and I just wanted you guys to know that Texas Parks and Wildlife is doing everything that they can to make sure that that amendment goes forward so we do have a recreational Red snapper fishery moving beyond 2020. So thank you guys for those efforts.

Secondly, oysters. We're opening the oyster season this year with nine closed areas and we appreciate everything that Law Enforcement is trying to do to ensure that commercial oystermen aren't fishing in closed waters and everything that Coastal Fisheries Division is trying to do to ensure that waters that are being fished, aren't overharvested. So we thank the Department for the continued efforts on those two items. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

Okay. Mr. Flores, followed by Liz Gordon.

MR. JAIME FLORES: Mr. Chairman, Commission, Mr. Smith, thank you for allowing me to speak. My name is Jaime Flores. I work for Texas Water Resource Institute and I'm their Lower Colorado Watershed Coordinator. I've turned in some documents to guys. It's actually a -- our watershed protection plan that was approved last year and it was developed by local stakeholders of which Texas Parks and Wildlife local staff were key partners in it, including Las Palomas Wildlife Management Center.

We also have hosted meetings at Estero Llano Grande, and I was hoping you guys could look -- review the plan. We align ourselves with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and several of the parks are in the plan; but one of our mission statements is to protect the terrestrial and riparian habitats in the Valley. And, of course, these natural -- these parks, especially Santa Ana and Bentsen, are critical components of our plan and of the entire ecosystem here in the Rio Grande Valley. So I would just like you to consider that; but also like everybody else is stressing here, please try and protect our natural habitats here, especially the ones along the river because they're the ones that have the largest riparian areas in the Valley and it's something that we've all worked on for so long, but especially the parks and -- the people in Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife that have dedicated their whole lifetime to protecting these parks and now to see them destroyed so quickly is quite a shame. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

All right. Liz Gordon, followed by Savannah Claeys.

MS. LIZ GORDON: Hello, and thank you for letting me speak. It's nice to see you-all. There's an address in my head: 4200 Smith School Road. I can never forget that address. I was lucky enough to learn about birds when I was 23 and I helped start the Rio Grande Valley Festival and this year, we're celebrating our 25th anniversary and Texas Parks and Wildlife has been a huge part of that. We've had over 15,000 people come specifically. That's just quick number of registrants over the past 25 years. And it's really, really -- you know, you guys have helped us so much. So thank you.

I know you guys are up against a really big monster and I'm sorry that you have to face that and if you guys know, there is an army out here that will support you. We are here. We are strong. I arrange events for the American Birding Association and I see people all over the world and they all know about Texas and our birds. So it's bigger than just us.

Our birds, you know, Bentsen is a place where birds come from the north to go to the south. So it's a huge area. And one more thing -- and I'm on the yellow light -- fishing, my brother's a fisherman and he was telling me about croakers and people are fishing with croakers and there's no more fish out there he told me just this weekend. So, yeah, it's all connected and you guys are a huge part of it and thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

Okay. Savannah Claeys.

MS. SAVANNAH CLAEYS: Hello. My name is Savannah Claeys. I did not expect to speak today, but I caught the bug. I am a native of the Rio Grande Valley. I am the granddaughter of my grandparents who built their house in the early 50s five miles away from the Bentsen State Park. I wanted to address the urgency that this wall would have on our health and the important laws that are being waived to build this wall.

We are turning aback -- our backs against the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act that would harm all of the wonderful organizations that we have with wildlife and our community, the Solid Waste Disposal Act that all of these laws would greatly impact our health. It would damage our ecosystem not only in the Valley, but furthermore affecting the entire state and our country.

I just wanted to bring -- address the urgency that the assembly of this wall has on our land, and it is completely unconstitutional to our land. Thank you for listening to all of us, and that is all. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

That runs through the list of cards that I've been given. Is there anyone else that would like to speak who has not spoken?

Okay. Well, we really appreciate that you took time to come share your concerns and thoughts with us today and hope you will continue to share those concerns by e-mail, through our website, or mailed to us. And we certainly heard the very sincere, heartfelt love for the park here and we share that with you and we do have a real challenge, but we'll continue to do what we can to try to address that.

And also the other topics that we heard about are important. Red snapper is something we have continued to work with, particularly Senator Cornyn on, as Robin Riechers and Lance Robinson have really done a great job with the pressure that they get from other interests in this fishery and they're going to continue to labor on that in that regard and we're also mindful of the challenges oyster -- harvesting undersized oysters, harvesting oysters in closed areas present and we're going to do what we can to address that.

So thanks, everybody, again for coming out and for sharing your thoughts and --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, might I -- might I just say one comment?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Sure.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I know I didn't sign up, but...

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Well, then we'll give you leave.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I just know -- you-all didn't hear from the other Commissioners, but I want to make sure that you-all understand that we share the Chairman's view of the park and I hope you-all realize -- as I know you did because you acknowledged it -- that we've been at this for some time. We didn't sleep once we found out what the proposed wall was going to do to the park and so our people and Carter got right on it and that's at the urging of the entire Commission. So we haven't given up. We're not going to give up and --

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER JONES: And I want to make one more point. We don't know what's going to happen to the wall or no wall or whatever suggestions that we bring to the table and how they're going to be accepted or taken. But whatever happens, we're still committed to the park and we're going to do whatever we can to make sure the park is managed and cared for under any conditions. We'll -- sometimes we're dealt a good hand and sometimes we're not dealt a good hand; but whatever we're dealt, as your Parks and Wildlife Commission and as your Agency that you've paid for, we are committed to doing whatever we can do to make that park still enjoyable for you. So I just wanted to make sure that was said since we don't know what's going to happen. You still have our commitment.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody else want to make comments?

Okay. With that, we have completed our business. So I declare us adjourned. Thank you again.

(Public Hearing Adjourns)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS ) COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

I, Paige S. Watts, Certified

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

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto

set my hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, ________.

___________________________________

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2020

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

TPW Commission Meetings