TPW Commission

Work Session, August 26, 2020


TPW Commission Meetings

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Are we live? All right, thank you.

Good morning, everyone. Before we begin, I'll take a roll call. Chairman Morian is present.

Vice-Chairman Aplin?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. This meeting is called to order August 26th, 2020, at 9:42 a.m. But before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

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

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'd like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Before we continue, I'd like to announce that the Work Session Agenda Item No. 6, Managed Lands Deer Permit Fees, Recommended Temporary Suspension, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register has been withdrawn.

I'd like to remind everybody, please announce your name before you speak. And the first order of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held May 20th, 2020, which have been distributed.

Do I have a motion?

Motion Commissioner Scott.

Seconded by?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer, thank you.

Voting will occur by roll call. All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I'm going to overrule our General Counsel. I'm just going to ask if there are any nays. Is anyone opposed to approving the minutes from the previous meeting?

Hearing none, the motion carries.

Next, we have Work Session Item No. 1, Update on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan. Mr. Carter Smith, please make your presentation.

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

For the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I appreciate the chance to share a few words today about various and sundry going ons inside the Agency. A number of updates that I want to be prepared to share with y'all.

And, Andra, if you could change slides, please?

As a point of departure, it is customary we'll start with the Internal Affairs related report. For the new Commissioners, in particular, I want to remind you as is customary at the end of the fiscal year, our Internal Affairs team will repair -- will prepare a year-end summary of all of the activities of that team with a listing of the nature and types and kinds of complaints that have come into Internal Affairs and also the dispensation of those complaints.

And so the team should have that report prepared and ready for distribution to the Commission sometime I'd say in the next 30 to 45 days and so we'll be sure and get that out to you.

I believe at the last meeting, I also reported on our new e-mail complaint reporting portal that we set up. This was designed to make it easier for those that wanted to put in a formal complaint about something with the Agency, to be able to do that through an e-mail process that went directly to our Internal Affairs related team. That's set up, and we've been fielding a number of complaints that have come in.

I'd have to say probably the majority of those have really been related to, again, kind of more management administrative decisions related to the current COVID climate that we're in and particularly concerns or issues or complaints that people had to do with various rules inside state parks limiting capacity or questions about face coverings or why certain facilities were closed or, you know, why they needed to make a reservation in advance or couldn't pay cash or those sort of things. So they've been fairly routine.

Those have been distributed to our State Parks team, who I have to say has been very, very responsive in responding to those. But I did want to make sure that you knew that that new portal was up and running and another way for folks to be able to register any concerns.

Last but not least -- and we will certainly fête him accordingly and appropriately at the right time -- but I do want to just give you a heads up that Jonathan Gray will be retiring at the end of the fiscal year and, you know, Jon has been with us for 30 years. Served in a wide variety of capacities as a Game Warden down in South Texas on the coast and in Central Texas, was in our Environmental Crimes and Special Operations related unit for many, many years where he really distinguished himself as an investigator and, obviously, then worked his way up through the ranks in Internal Affairs to be our Major where he's just done a terrific, terrific job.

And so we're going to -- we're going to bid him adieu and wish him well as he moves on to tend to some important family things in his life, but we know he's not going to go far. And, again, we'll celebrate his retirement at the appropriate time. Jon's just been a terrific addition to the team and we're sorry to see him go.

In the interim, Assistant Commander Mike Durand will be able to work with Mark and Johnny and Patty and very capably carry out the duties and functions of that team. We will be posting that position for the Major of Internal Affairs sometime in September and certainly will expect a number of eminently qualified and talented applicants from inside the Agency to pursue that. So we'll keep you -- keep you posted in that regard.

Andra, if you can change slides?

Obviously, as all of y'all are acutely aware, on August 8 our Department suffered an unspeakable tragedy and irreplaceable loss with the death of three just extraordinary men and colleagues and professionals and fathers and friends on a West Texas mountain while carrying out Bighorn sheep surveys and other wildlife management activities at the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.

I want to tell you just a little bit about these men. Brandon White who grew up in a little community of Spur up in the rolling plains in the panhandle had moved to West Texas in the Alpine area, attended Sul Ross for a period of time, owned a very successful air-conditioning business, loved the outdoors and met some of our wildlife colleagues and ultimately passed on his business to a family member and joined our team as a technician working at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Black Gap. And Brandon loved the outdoors, integral part of that team. You know, could fix and build and do anything on those big, spacious, expansive rural wildlife management areas. Involved with the public hunts, the -- you know, the construction of guzzlers for sheep, taking care of the waterlines, the roads. You name it, you know, Brandon was right in the middle of it and just a deeply, deeply valued colleague. He leaves behind a wife, Letty, and kids and stepkids, as well. And his loss is sorely and deeply felt in West Texas and beyond.

Dr. Bob Dittmar, the Commission candidly had a fair amount of exposure with. Bob was a fifth generation rancher's son over there in a little community of Doss around Harper and his grandkids will be the seventh generation to still run that sheep and goat and cattle ranch operation over there. Bob was a proud Texas Aggie. Went to vet school at A&M and was a beloved, beloved Kerrville area vet where he had a clinic for many, many, many years and just the stories of folks that, you know, brought their -- whether it was a horse or a cow or a dog or a cat to Bob for their care, just so much respect for him. Bob's love has always been the land and the livestock and wildlife. And we had the good fortune of bringing him on about six, maybe seven years ago to be the first State Wildlife Vet and to start our Wildlife Health Program and it, obviously, could not have come at a more propitious time given the issues with Chronic Wasting Disease and other and Bob brought such a calm, level-headed, grounded, pragmatic, veterinary based approach to that position and his counsel was always so wise, so sage, and so well thought out. And Bob leaves behind a wife Bernadine, two kids, Whitney and Trey, and four grandkids and a number of grieving nephews and nieces and many, many, many friends throughout the Hill Country and beyond.

Dewey Stockbridge is a native son of Mason. Dewey was a star athlete there in Mason, an outstanding student. As many of us for the first time learned, also a very, very gifted writer. Just beloved in that local community where his family has been for a long time. Dewey attended Texas A&M. Got his degree in wildlife biology. Came to work for the Department as a technician at the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area and just fell in love with the Bighorn sheep and Mule deer and antelope and wild things and wild places of that part of the world. Worked his way up into a lead biologist position. And before he died in that tragic accident, he was our Assistant Project Leader overseeing all of our West Texas wildlife management areas. And, again, like Brandon and Bob, contributed so integrally and instrumentally to our work for wildlife and wildlife management and habitat and public hunting and conservation throughout West Texas and beyond.

And, Chairman, with your permission, if I could just ask for a moment of silence with the Commission as we honor the passing of these three men and I'd also like to add that if you are appropriate doing so, ask that you say your prayers for the pilot who is still recovering from the accident, is in stable condition. We wish nothing but the best for Mr. Ezell and ask that you keep him squarely and center oriented in your prayers.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Absolutely, Carter, and thank you. We'll have a moment of silence. It's a real tragic loss to the Department and the families involved.

(Moment of silence)

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


MR. SMITH: You know, I've always said and I think the Commissioners have heard me say this, you know, Parks and Wildlife shines the brightest when times are the darkest. This is absolutely no exception and I want to thank the Commission for all of your support during this horrific accident. I also want to thank the leadership of our Wildlife Division, starting with, you know, Clayton as COO, John Silovsky, Julie, Mark Garrett our Regional Director out in -- our Regional Director out in West Texas as well that just have been so involved in helping to support the families and colleagues during this horrific, horrific loss that just pulled together in extraordinary ways. Calvin Richardson, in particular; Mark Garrett our Project Leader. Our Law Enforcement team has just been extraordinary also helping to support this not only in the very, very, very difficult business of body recovery following the accident; but just providing a huge amount of support for the Agency as a whole as we work through all of the myriad issues. And I want to thank Chad and Ron and Chris and Jason Huebner and Clint Hunt and Cody Hatfield and so, so many, many others who have helped pulled together to support the team and the Agency through so many parts of this, as well as many, many other parts of the Agency from HR and others that have worked to support the team during this very, very difficult time.

We've also gotten a lot of support as y'all know from many other quarters and the Governor himself and the Governor's Office have been very involved in helping to support the Agency. There's just been an artesian well of offerings of help and condolences and support and it's, you know, clearly a reflection of the respect and reverence that they had for these three men and the work that they do for the Agency, as well as the others that do the work like it and it's just been huge.

As I think all of you are aware, the Texas Bighorn Society started a fund to help raise funds to help support the families in the immediate time of need following the accident. So we're very grateful for the Texas Bighorn Society for that. Also Nyle Maxwell and Alan McGraw and others have set up an educational fund to support Dewey and Shannon's kids, Jameson and London, who are five and a half and 18 months, to help support their future educational related needs and we're also very grateful for the thoughtfulness behind that.

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, the Department also plans to do an appropriate memorial of these men and honoring their service and contributions at one or both of the two wildlife management areas where they principally operated there at Black Gap and Elephant Mountain and so we'll keep you posted on that front. Also, we've had some beginnings of discussions about creating a student educational scholarship fund in honor of these three men at the universities of the families' choosing and so that's something that we're going to want to talk to all of you about, as well as others, so again that we can continue to honor the legacy and contributions of these extraordinary colleagues who left us way too soon.

As you might imagine, an incident that hits as deeply as this has caused a lot of reflection and soul searching inside the Agency as we have confronted their loss. One of the things, obviously, that's front and center on our mind are our aerial surveys that we conduct all over the state to be able to assess, you know, wildlife populations and censuses and various bits of biological data that we need to collect in order to do our jobs from a management perspective.

We have, by and large, put in place a temporary moratorium on flying of wildlife surveys at the current time for our wildlife biologists, with a couple of exceptions that we have permitted to go forward with. But we're going to be looking at our aerial surveys from top to bottom really with kind of three things in mind. First and foremost, of course, is making sure that we're doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our colleagues that are flying these surveys, whether it's sheep surveys or low-level deer and Pronghorn surveys or waterfowl surveys or alligator nest surveys or whatever the purpose is.

Secondly, we also want to take a hard look at the need and efficacy of the data that we're collecting just to make sure that it's critical that we get that biological data. And last but not least, obviously explore, if available, if there are other means by which we could collect that data and in some cases, there may be opportunities to use more drone related possibilities for that. So that's obviously a discussion that we'll follow up with the Commission on at another time, but I wanted to let you know that that's underway.

Most importantly again, I want to again thank the colleagues inside this Agency who have just raced to the support of the families and the peers that have lost, you know, a loved one, a family member, or a friend. And I also just want to acknowledge the huge amount of support from around the state, Chairman. It's been --


MR. SMITH: -- incredibly gratifying, Chairman, to see the level of support from literally every corner of every county. And so this Commission has a lot to be proud of with men like this that work for the Agency and the quality and integrity of their work and who they are as people and what they bring to their jobs.

Andra, if you could go to the next slide, please?

On a less somber note, as y'all know, Clayton this summer was promoted into the Chief Operating Officer position and he has hit the ground running. You know, his nearly 27 years of expertise with this Department have candidly been a godsend and he's got relationships deep inside this Department, knows the Agency round, has hit the ground running in this role and his work experience both at Temple-Inland in the private sector, but his many leadership positions inside the Agency, not the least of which was our Wildlife Division Director for nearly 12 years, have served him well. And he was selected over a very talented suite of candidates and I want to publicly congratulate Clayton on his selection and thank him for not only the work he has already done, but the work he will do in this Chief Operating Officer position. And we're thrilled -- thrilled to have him. And so, Clayton, welcome. Welcome aboard the new position.

Andra, next slide.

Also as all of you know, we've got a new Colonel, Chad Jones. Grahame Jones retired this spring to take care of family matters, but also to take on another position leading the Hundred Club in Central Texas to continue supporting the families of law enforcement officers and first responders. Grahame is doing a terrific job in that regard. We had, again, an extraordinarily talented applicant pool for this colonel position. Very, very difficult choice. And ultimately, I selected Chad to take on this role.

Chad has got experience all over the state as a field based game warden, a captain in Uvalde. He was Lieutenant Instructor at the Game Warden Training Center. He headed up our Forensic Accident Reconstruction team. He's been a major on the coast, a major in East Texas, and Chad has recently settled into his new role as a Colonel and so we welcome him aboard.

He and Ron and team are obviously very busy right now with respect to the requisite emergency response activities that are called of the Department as Hurricane Laura will soon come ashore somewhere obviously on that Texas-Louisiana border. And Chad and Ron and the team and Chris and everybody are well staged and well positioned to help with respect to water-based rescues and aerial rescues and search and rescue as we need it. But we welcome Chad into this role and look forward to the Commission having a chance to work with him as well.

Andra, next slide.

I wanted to provide an update, Chairman and Commissioners, on the Sunset process and where that stands. As all of you are aware, the Sunset Commission staff issued their report in June of this year and I want to acknowledge their diligence and hard work in putting that report together. Obviously, a lot of effort on their part went into the preparation of that report. I want to thank Allison and Cidney and Ann and others inside the Agency that were our principal liaisons with the Sunset staff over a six- to eight-month period.

I think as y'all are also aware, there were really four major issues that were identified in that report. There were a number of findings and recommendations that were more granular, but generally four general issues that they covered in the report. One of which had to do with our licensing and permitting related regulations and enforcement and a desire to see that more contemporized, more coordinated, more accessible, in some cases potentially more transparent to various permittees and so there were a number of recommendations that they proffered as part of that.

There was also an issue that was discussed inside the report having to do with our strategic planning and specifically the preparation of our Land and Water Plan, which we update every ten years and then the Natural Agenda which we prepare our Strategic Plan for the Legislature which we prepare every two years and wanting to see those a little more coordinated with the Commission, more outcome based measures established within those plans, and some other recommendations that they proffered as part of that.

And then the third one had to do with Internal Audit and specifically a desire to see what they felt was a more need for a little more robust or comprehensive risk-based analysis of the Agency's operations and activities. And I think Brandy and team have already made a number of changes to address some of those concerns and she may even mention them in her report to you a little later on this morning.

And then last but not least and perhaps the punchline that we'll save for last, the recommendation that the Department be continued for another 12 years. So we'll all breathe a sigh of relief on that one.

The Chairman and I submitted a response, a formal response to the recommendations, which I believe all of you have a copy of. There have been two planned hearings in which the Commission was going to meet and deliberate the staff findings and the Chairman and I were going to have an opportunity to testify. Both of those meetings have been postponed for various and sundry reasons. At some point this fall, we expect a hearing to transpire. Ultimately, the Commission to vote on the recommendations for the Department and then come January, presumably a bill to be filed that would call for the reauthorization of the Department, replete with whatever recommendations that the Sunset Commission initially offers. So we'll keep you posted on that as we know more; but at this juncture that's really all I know about the schedule and timing and it's fairly, fairly general.

Andra, can you change slides, please?

As y'all are aware, the Administrative Procedures Act and State law requires that each agency's governing body formally reviews their rules every four years to assess the, you know, underpinnings and basis behind the creation of a rule and make a decision about whether or not the rules have a need to be continued. And so we are in the throes of that process right now as you know. And because of the volume of rules that need to be reviewed, we're essentially taking them in various chapter tranches and looking at them in tranches of three or four chapters at a time.

And what the Commission is required to do is to have the staff review all of the rules that are in place, make a decision as to whether or not those rules should be readopted as is or reauthorized with changes or rescinded if there's no need, no further need for those rules. The way we handle that with the Commission is essentially a three-meeting process. And so first, we give formal notice to the Commission and to the public that we're starting the rule review process and that's what I'm doing today with these three chapters having to do with finance and parks and resource protection.

Our team will review the rules within those chapters, see if we have any proposals to the Commission about rules that need to be rescinded or modified in some form or fashion. We'll bring back those, the benefit of those reviews and any suggestions to y'all at the November Commission Meeting, at which point any changes in proposals will be put forth in the Texas Register if the Commission directs us to go forward for public comment and review. And then ultimately in January at the third meeting, the Commission will make a formal vote on how to handle it. And so, again, just want to give you notice that these three chapters are now going to be undergoing review by the Agency team.

Andra, if you could change slides?

Also, I know y'all are aware that back in May, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor and Speaker directed most all of the State agencies to reduce their current biennium budgets by 5 percent of their general revenue and general revenue dedicated related funds and every agency was given a target based on their amounts of general revenue and general revenue dedicated funds. That direction came in May. So we were pretty well down the road in the first fiscal year. So, you know, while the percentage reduction of the budget is 5 percent, it was a little bit bigger impact if you take into account the fact that we were, you know, roughly three-quarters of the way or so through the first year of the biennium.

Our target for the Agency rounding up was about $31.8 million. The State leadership gave agencies like ours a fair amount of latitude in terms of how to approach that, which was helpful. Including really encouraging us to look at ways that we might be able to shift eligible expenses to federal funds that were available as opposed to State funds. They encouraged us to look at deferring capital projects where that made sense and encourage us to try to, you know, minimize any significant reductions to really core operation, staff, and programs.

And so with that latitude, we took a hard look at our budget. Came up with recommendations that I've discussed with the Chairman. This outlines them kind of categorically. You'll see the roughly 11 and a half of method of finance swaps where we were able to substitute a variety of federal or non-state, nonfederal funds in lieu of State funds for things likes by buy-back programs and grant related activities, little bit of law enforcement related activities. We have recommended deferring a little over $10 million in capital construction projects. Reduce certain programmatic activities by a little over $6 million through salary lapse and hiring chills and reductions in travel and training and expenses that, again, we felt like that we could delay or defer or if needed, do without and then $4 million in reductions to the local park grants and so that's how we came up with that -- with that number.

And that number, that 31.77 or let's just call it 31.8, is germane to the next slide. Justin Halvorsen will be making a presentation certainly tomorrow on the budget for next fiscal year and one of the things I just want to call your attention to and it's just a little bit of an artifact of how the Comptroller or Legislative Budget Board are dealing with 5 percent reduction, the budget that you're going to be asked to consider and approve for next fiscal year will not include this 5 percent reduction. So it will not be net of that $31.77 million.

Now, we know it's going to be taken. It will be swept later on next fiscal year. We're not planning on spending it, but just know when Justin presents that budget, it will not be less that amount. So I just wanted to give you a heads up on that.

Andra, if you'll change slides, please?

All that being said now is, of course, customarily the time in which we are literally on the verge of submitting our Legislative Appropriations Request to the Legislative Budget Board for the next biennium. In this case, the 22-23 biennium. Obviously, with all of the issues surrounding COVID and other things, things are a little bit more delayed and so last week we just got the instructions from the Legislative Budget Board about the preparation of our LAR and how we needed to approach that.

We are going to need to submit ours by the 9th of October, and that will be upon us quickly. So Justin and team are working assiduously to prepare us for this; but, you know, they knew it was coming and so it's not as if work is not already been underway on this. But we did get some guidance and it's pretty high level really. The base budgets that we were given, the base budget numbers were basically equivalent to the base budgets for the current biennium, save and except the 5 percent reduction and then plus or minus any additional adjustments that the Legislative Budget Board deemed necessary and I'll show you one in particular that they made with respect to our base budget.

As all of you have gone through this process here or elsewhere know, that any requests above and beyond the base budget are fashioned as what we call exceptional item requests, other needs that we would specifically ask for for operations, programs, capital, et cetera. Obviously, the -- I think the Legislature is probably going to take a very narrow and skeptical view on most exceptional item requests with the budget climate ahead and so we will, too, be looking very judiciously and skeptically at exceptional items that we maybe otherwise had contemplated for the budget. So I expect those to be pretty skinny, to say the least, compared to LARs prior. And so we'll keep you posted on that.

Andra, can you change to the next slide?

The high level, these are just basically the numbers. The base funding levels -- and, again, this is independent of federal funds and other kind of non-GR/GRD related funds; but you can see the proposed biennial budget is $641 million. They accounted for the 5 percent reduction that was called for in this biennium and then you'll see in that third line the other LBB adjustments to base and that's what I referred to earlier. Basically, that $21.4 million includes a reinstatement of funds generated from the so called sporting goods sales tax that are put back into our budget that we had proposed to reduce in the current biennium to meet the 5 percent target. And, obviously, as y'all know with the Constitutional amendment, there's certain parameters governing the appropriation and authorization to expend those funds. So they've put those back in the base and so that gives us a target of $630.93 million that we need to hit with the preparation of the budget.

And so, Chairman, in particular, obviously we'll be keeping you apprised of the development of the budget and particular issues that we think the Commission needs to be particularly aware of, including any exceptional items that we want to ask about. But at this juncture, again, I'd consider this a very preliminary starting point.

We still really don't have a good window as to what the State budgets will look like and I would expect a different budget to be rolled out by the Legislature in January when things really get started; but this is our starting place and this is what we have to work from.

Next slide, Andra.

Along with just purely the numbers in the LAR and the budget are also the Legislative riders. You know, those are various descriptors that go along with the budget that govern certain expenditures in the budgets and those can be very important to both the appropriation and the authority to spend dollars for certain things in which, again, there's very explicit direction about how to accomplish things.

We have a number of rider related requests that we plan to bring forward and I'll call your attention to a couple of them, particularly those that are categorized as new. Obviously, you're aware that last session the Legislature passed a bill that enabled the Commission to be able to set a fee for participants in the Managed Lands Deer Permit Program. A fee has been approved by the Commission and barring any changes, it would go into effect essentially in April 2021, is when we'd start to collect fees. Also, very clearly the expectation of the Legislature and the Commission that those funds would be restricted to be used to hire new wildlife biologists largely out in the field to help support this program, which y'all know is so important to private lands, conservation, and deer management across the state.

The rider governing that in the current biennium is in a different part of the budget than the Department's article and so we're going to be asking that that be put into the Department's bill pattern specifically and also some language that will, again, authorize the collection of those funds and authorize the expenditure of those funds. The amounts are going to be a little bit to be determined based upon participation. So there's a little ambiguity we need to work with the Legislative Budget Board and the Legislature on, but that's going to be important.

We have a State Parks business system vendor, Aspira, which manages our back-end state park registration and revenue related system. That vendor is basically paid on a percentage of revenue basis. It's not a, you know, per transaction fee. And so the amount that they recover basically floats depending upon how much revenue we generate up or down, they participate in that. We're hoping to have a rider in the budget that if the revenue exceeds the estimated amount for the biennium that the Legislature provides, that we can pay the percentage owed to the vendor above and beyond the estimated revenue to be collected. And so that's something we're going to be working with the Legislature on in the coming session.

With the new oyster mariculture rules in place also, you know, y'all are aware we put in place some new fees for those that are going to participate in that. Clearly, we want to be able to access those fees to be able to cover the costs associated with administering those programs. So those are examples of kind of rider related requests that -- as well as a number of others that we'll be working with the Legislature on and we'll keep the Commission closely apprised of as we go forward.

Andra, if you'll change slides, please?

Last slide, I want to give you an update on the status of the Battleship Texas and there has been just a voluminous amount of work that's been done by Rodney and the State Parks team, our Governmental Affairs team, our Infrastructure team and working with the Battleship Texas Foundation and others on the transfer of management responsibility of the ship.

You will recall last session the Legislature passed a bill that called for the Department to enter into an agreement with a qualified nonprofit to assume responsibility for the management of the ship. The Department retains ownership of the ship, as well as all of its artifacts from the guns to, you know, the plates that are in the ship from, you know, the dining room of the ship when it was open and serving sailors; but there are literally thousands of artifacts in that ship. And ultimately, the Legislature directed us to work with the qualifying nonprofit Battleship Texas Foundation to come up with a restoration plan to safely remove those artifacts and come up with a plan that BTF would execute to move the ship, put it into dry dock, replace or repair the hull and keel on the ship to make it seaworthy, and then ultimately decide where the ship is going to be berthed, whether that be back at San Jacinto or elsewhere.

Our team has been working with BTF and others on this over the last year plus. The Legislative Budget Board approved the formal restoration plan that they had prepared. BTF worked with a company called Valkor, which prepared a plan after months and months and months of engineering and structural analysis of the ship to figure out how to safely and simply move the ship by barge to a place where they could dry berth it and then safely essentially replace those outer steel plates basically from the waterline down the hull on the blister tanks on the outer part of the ship and then replace the steel plates along the keel where they're the most deteriorated.

In order to do that, Valkor has come up with a plan that involves, you know, obviously dredging out the current berth at San Jacinto, injecting this basically expandable closed cell foam into the compartments of the blister tank, which will essentially take up all of those compartments or spaces, make it hopefully airtight and watertight to preclude water from penetrating particularly those blister tanks on the outside of the ship, which are the most deteriorated and damaged. That also will help with the buoyancy of the ship as they ultimately tow the ship by barge to a dry dock facility, do the repairs, and then take it to a place to berth it, which again is still undetermined at this moment.

There's been an extraordinary amount of work on this, Chairman, by the team and I would be terribly remiss if I didn't acknowledge -- I won't call out names, just because I'll call forget somebody -- but our -- you know, for our team that's been continuing to manage the Battleship through all of this, dealing with all of the movement of the artifacts, historical artifacts, you know, coordinating with the Historical Commission which has taken over responsibility of San Jacinto now. NRG, which has provided a warehouse for us to be able to store all of those thousands of artifacts that our, you know, archaeologists and culture resource specialists have had to very carefully catalog and curate to make sure that they were appropriately documented and that their care is going to be taken care of. You know, our contracting, our payments related folks, and financial resources accounts payable, state parks budget and procurement, state park leadership, Historical Commission, Battleship Texas Foundation. It's a long, long list; but a huge amount of effort has gone into this.

And on August the 1st, I believe, we transferred over management responsibility of the ship to the Battleship Texas Foundation. They'll still be working for the next several months with Valkor and the contractors on putting in the foam-based solution and finishing up the maintenance dredging in the berth and making the requisite plans for the movement of the ship. But, obviously, we continue to work closely with them and we wish them nothing but the best for this extraordinary piece of history and important legacy of the Department's stewardship over many, many, many decades. And so I want to thank our team again for their work on this.

Andra, I think that's my last slide.

And with that, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm happy to entertain any questions that any of you may have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions or comments by Commission?

All right. Thank you, Carter.

MR. SMITH: You bet. Thank you, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Work Session Item No. 2, did we want to do the financial overview or we're going to do it again tomorrow --

MR. SMITH: I think we're going to do it tomorrow, Chairman.


MR. SMITH: Unless the Commission really wants to hear it twice, I think Justin will cover it very thoroughly. He's here if you want to hear it.


MR. SMITH: But I'd probably recommend you do it tomorrow. I think you'll have --


MR. SMITH: -- enough detail on it.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. With regard to Work Session Item No. 2, Financial Overview, Fiscal Year 2021 Operating and Capital Budget Approval, Budget and Investment Policy Resolutions, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments?

If not, I will place the Financial Overview, Fiscal Year 2020 [sic] Operating and Capital Budget Approval and Budget Investment Policy Resolutions on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 2, Financial Overview, Fiscal Year 2021 Operating and Capital Budget Approval, Budget and Investment Policy, we've just postponed that.

Item No. 3, Fiscal Year 2020 Internal Audit Update and Proposed Fiscal Year 2021 Internal Audit Plan. Ms. Brandy Meeks, please make your presentation. There you are.

MS. MEEKS: Good morning, Chairman, Vice-chairman, and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Brandy Meeks and I'm the Internal Audit Director. This morning I'd like to update you on the status of our fiscal year '19 and '20 internal audit plans, discuss recent external audits and assessments, including the proposed Sunset Advisory Commission's recommendations for internal audit, explain our fiscal year '21 annual risk assessment methodology, and present to you our proposed diversified fiscal year 2021 internal audit plan.

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So this slide shows the status of our fiscal year '19 internal audit plan. And as you can see, all of our audits and advisory projects are now complete.

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The next two slides show the status of our current internal audit plan. Twenty-five of these projects are fiscal control audits, which we will cover on the next slide; but what you will see here are our IT performance and compliance audits, as well as our special projects. Numbers one and two under audit projects above are IT audits. The first one is an audit of the incident reporting system, which is currently in the reporting phase. The second is the cybersecurity audit, which focuses on mobile devices. This project just started the fieldwork phase.

Numbers three and four are our grant and contract audits. No. 3 was an audit of four selected off-highway vehicle grants which is now complete; and No. 4, the audit of selected contracts is focusing on the contract closeout process of ten contracts selected across various divisions within the Agency. This project is currently in the fieldwork phase.

Some of the special projects we've completed this year include assisting Internal Affairs on two investigations and participating as a team member on another State agency's peer review. And as mentioned last Commission Meeting, we are due a peer review this fiscal year. We have received audit committee approval to engage SAFE to perform the peer review during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021.

Next, I'd like to discuss follow-up. The follow-up process has always been an ongoing process throughout the year, but we recently changed the reporting of follow-up items to the Audit Committee from annually to quarterly. We released our first quarterly follow-up report in June and are our next quarterly follow-up report will be released next month.

And lastly, I'd like to note that we requested and received approval from the Audit Committee to remove two projects from the plan this year: The orphan boat ramps audit and the construction change order process advisory project.

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This slide shows the status of the 25 state park fiscal control audits on our current plan. During the last Commission meeting I shared with you that due to the pandemic, we had rewritten the state park audit program in order to perform these audits remotely and to account for the new PBS system. At that time in May, we had just completed the audit program rewrite and had just started using it to perform the state park audits again. At that time, 15 audits had not been started and only one audit report had been issued.

As you can see from the slide above, the audit team has made tremendous progress since then. Today we only have four audits that have not been started and four in the fieldwork phase. The remaining 17 projects are either being reviewed or in the reporting process or are complete.

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Next, I'd like to talk about external audits and assessments. The Comptroller of Public Accounts is currently performing an overpayment recovery audit. Estimated time to complete this project is four to six months. So it will probably be completed during the second quarter of next year. And as you know, the Agency was also reviewed by the Sunset Advisory Commission this year and they proposed some changes to Internal Audit.

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The Sunset Advisory Commission proposed four changes. One, to formally establish an Internal Audit Subcommittee. We currently have an informal audit committee and we hope to formalize this committee next fiscal year. For numbers and two and three above, the Sunset recommended we develop and implement a more comprehensive risk assessment process and then this enhanced risk assessment process should result in a more complete and diversified internal audit plan. We have completed both of these recommendations, and I'll discuss them in just a little bit.

Lastly, the Sunset Advisory Commission proposed that we include more information on the status and implementation of audit recommendations as a part of our newly developed quarterly status update to the Audit Committee. Our second quarterly status update issued in June to the Audit Committee contained an audit recommendation follow-up report. We plan to continue this update and reporting process quarterly. So this recommendation has also been completed.

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Now, I'd like to discuss next year's audit plan. Texas Government Code 2102, also know as the Internal Auditing Act, requires that the audit plan be developed using a risk-based approach consisting of executive management's review of Agency functions, activities, and processes. Agency risks should be ranked on their probability of occurrence and impact to the Agency and the financial, managerial, compliance, and information technology areas.

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Our new risk assessment methodology not only meets the requirements of the Internal Auditing Act, but also address the Sunset Advisory Commission's recommendation to develop and implement a more comprehensive risk assessment process. In addition to using the SAO's risk assessment guide for small agencies as recommended, we also employed risk assessment methodologies of large agencies, such as considering division level risk factors to develop a division level risk score. The division level risk factors considered include the division's budget and contract dollars, outstanding audit items, the time since the last audit, number of employees, and recent turnover within the division.

Next, we did our best to identify Agency risks by interviewing all division directors and other selected managers and from our audit knowledge and past audit reports. The entire audit team participated in this process. During our interviews with management, we not only discussed risks within each division; but any other threats or concerns outside of their division, as well. We also identified any issues or concerns they are experiencing with the IT systems they utilize.

For all the risks identified during this process, we discussed and scored the probability of occurrence in the financial, compliance, public exposure, and IT system impact to our Agency. We input this information into a risk matrix to ensure consistent evaluation among all identified risks. And lastly, using the division level risk scores and the impact scores of all identified risks, we were able to rank and identify what we believed to be the top risks to the Agency.

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From the results of the annual risk assessment, we identified possible audit and advisory projects to address the top-ranked risks and to ensure a diversified audit plan. We also analyzed the resources needed to perform the projects and presented the risk assessment and the possible audit projects to executive management for discussion. Our proposed fiscal year 2021 internal audit plan is the result of those discussions.

We presented this plan to the Audit Committee earlier this month for input, review, and comment and received positive feedback from Commissioner Latimer. At this time, I'd like to present our proposed fiscal year 2021 internal audit plan to the entire Commission.

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Shown on the screen is our proposed fiscal year '21 internal audit plan, along with the budgeted hours. First, we will have carryover hours to complete this year's plan. We still had fiscal control audits, the mobile devices cybersecurity audit, and the contract closeout audit to complete. The new projects proposed for next year include three IT and cybersecurity projects. We'd like to look at our social media sites, our boater/hunter education system, and the employee off-boarding process.

Next, we'd like to continue our grants, contracts, and fiscal control audits as these continue to rank high on the risk assessment. We'd also like to perform a use-of-force compliance audit this year, as well as work with HR to complete an FLSA classification advisory project. The remaining hours will be spent on our quarterly follow-up and status reports, our special projects and investigations and our administrative projects such as the annual risk assessment, annual audit plan, and the annual report. We have also proposed alternate projects should we need a substitute project or should we complete our plan early.

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Our plan is diversified. About a third of our time will be spent on fiscal control audits, 16 percent on grants and contracts, almost 30 percent on IT and cybersecurity projects, and about 15 percent on other assurance and advisory projects. I also want to point out that one of the concerns of the Sunset review was that we spent too much project time performing fiscal control audits. As you can see from the chart above, we will spend about 19 percent fewer hours on fiscal control audits this year than what the Advisory Commission computed. This year's plan more evenly distributes our time among the different types of audit projects and is closely aligned with the results of our risk assessment.

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I would like to recommend that the Commission adopt the following motion: That the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approve the Fiscal Year 2021 Internal Audit Plan as shown on the previous slide and as listed in Exhibit A.

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We request -- request that this item be placed on tomorrow's agenda for public comment and action.

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And this concludes my presentation. Thank you so much for listening and I'm happy to answer any questions at this time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Brandy.

Are there any questions?

If not, I will place the Fiscal Year 2020 Internal Audit Update and Proposed Fiscal Year 2021 Internal Audit Plan on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

MS. MEEKS: Thank you, Chairman.


We'll move on to Work Session Item No. 4, Rule Review, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Chapter 51, Executive; 52, Shocking -- Stocking Policy; 55, Law Enforcement; 60, Maintenance Reviews; 61, Design and Construction. Ms. Bradsby, would you please make your presentation.

MS. BRADSBY: Yes. Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, I'm Colette Barron Bradsby, the interim General Counsel.

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As you just heard from Mr. Smith -- who stole my thunder -- under the Texas Administrative Procedure Act, all State agencies must review their rules at least once every four years. This is to determine whether there is a need for each rule and whether any rules should be amended or repealed or -- repealed, excuse me.

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At Parks and Wildlife, our rule review process plays out across three Commission Meetings. At the first meeting, staff requests Commission initiate the review process which is done by groupings of chapters from 31 Texas Administrative Code. A notice informing the public of a specific rule review is published in the Texas Register, and appropriate Parks and Wildlife staff members review each rule and prepare recommended changes.

At the second Commission Meeting, staff seeks permission to publish any changes in the Texas Register for public comment. And at the third meeting, staff seeks adoption of proposed changes and the readoption of the rules that remain unchanged.

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This slide just shows how Parks and Wildlife has grouped chapters for rule review and shows the applicable schedules for each grouping. As you can see, Chapters under consideration at today's meeting are 51, 52, 55, 60, and 61.

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During this review cycle, staff determined that no changes were necessary to the rules in Chapters 52, 60, and 61.

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And so that brings us to the actual proposed changes starting with Chapter 51, Executive. Section 51.141, sick leave, has been amended to remove a requirement that donations to the sick leave pool be made in writing. These are actually done now through our online time management system that is maintained by the Comptroller, the CAPPS system.

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Section 51.642, the San Jacinto Historical Advisory Board, you all remember that the Historical Commission Sunset bill last session transferred the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site to the Historical Commission. Therefore, the advisory board created by Parks and Wildlife is no longer necessary in our rules.

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So Section 51.80, Mandatory Hunter Education, amendments to this rule provide that a duplicate certificate of completion of hunter ed requirements may be obtained online, but a stored electronic copy of a certificate is accepted as proof of completion and provide conform -- conforming language changes related to the term "hunter education deferral."

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Moving on to Chapter 55, Law Enforcement, changes to Sections 55.302 and 303 eliminate outdated references to slow, no wake signs and replace those with precise language referencing the Water Safety Act.

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Changes to Sections 55.401 and 402 clarify that party boat operators must also comply with Parks and Wildlife Code Section 31.040, Livery Vessel Requirements. Parks and Wildlife had heard from some party boat operators that they were confused on that issue, and so this provides clarification.

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Next, we have changes related to marine safety enforcement. Staff proposes repeal of Section 55.805 regarding instructor course standards, as these instructor training courses are not utilized due to officers simply utilize -- utilizing Parks and Wildlife instructor led courses. Section 55.802 inserts an acronym for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. And Section 55.804 is amended to address online marine safety enforcement course providers and provide a method of payment for those providers.

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And finally, staff proposes a related -- a related change to Section 53.50 to allow a $10 fee for marine safety enforcement online courses rather than a $25 fee for in-person courses. Now, you'll notice this particular change is in Chapter 53, Finance, which was not included the group of chapters in the rule review cycle. Nothing prevents the Commission from proposing changes to a particular rule outside of the quadrennial review cycle. So in this case, staff believed it was important to make a conforming change to Section 53.50 to specify a reduced fee for those online courses.

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So staff requests permission to publish the proposed amendments to Chapters 51, 55, and 53 in the Texas Register for public comment. Thank you and I'm available for questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Are there any questions or comments by any of the Commissioners?

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

We'll now move to Work Session Item No. 5, Wildlife Rehabilitation Permits Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Ms. Longoria, please make your presentation.

MS. LONGORIA: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Good morning.

MS. LONGORIA: For the record, my name is Meredith Longoria and I'm the Nongame and Rare Species Program Leader in the Wildlife Division. As you may recall, I presented a list of proposed changes to the wildlife rehabilitation permit rules at the May Commission Meeting. Today I will introduce some recommended modifications to those proposed rules and tomorrow, with the approval of the Commission, I plan to seek adoption of the proposed rules with modifications.

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I will begin this presentation with a brief overview of the intent of the proposed changes as presented in May and then we'll introduce a list of modifications to those proposed changes that staff recommend based on input received from the greater rehab community.

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This group of proposed amendments with modifications aims to revise these rules to address issues and concerns relating generally to wildlife disease control and response and specifically to the detection and management of Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD.

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CWD management and control strategies were adopted by rule over the last five years by the Commission in response to emergents -- to the emergence of CWD in Texas, especially with respect to the movement of deer held under various Department permits. A major component of that strategy has been to implement regulatory identification, reporting and recordkeeping requirements to make disease investigations more efficient and more productive.

As part of this effort, staff seek the opportunity to align wildlife rehabilitation activities involving deer with CWD management and response rules, including adding provisions regarding facility and testing requirements.

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The impact and causality of the novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has introduced additional dimensions of concern as it originated as a wildlife disease before jumping to human populations. Disease outbreaks, including COVID-19 and other diseases that occur in indigenous wildlife populations both in the wild and in captivity, pose threats to the health and safety of other indigenous wildlife, livestock, and humans.

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Under the current rules, unnamed volunteers may assist with wildlife rehab activities at both registered and nonregistered facilities. Subpermittees may conduct rehab activities at nonregistered facilities sometimes located hundreds of miles away from the permittee responsible for providing supervision and recordkeeping requirements are minimal, with no requirements for maintaining reconciled inventories. All of these things make disease tracing difficult, if not impossible.

The proposed rules address those concerns, making it possible to quickly identify where an animal came from, who came into contact with it, and what other animals it may have come into contact with. The proposed changes aim to limit the number of unpermitted individuals allowed to engage in permitted activities, limit where permitted activities take place, allowing such activities to take place only at facilities registered with the Department, and require electronic reporting and maintenance of daily logs at registered facilities.

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Staff also identified the need to improve the current rules in the context of disease management by more clearly specifying the requirements for release of rehabilitated wildlife, who is allowed to retain non-releasable wildlife and under what circumstances, what to do with animals that die or are euthanized, use of regulated substances for treatment of injured and sick wildlife, training and certification standards for permitted wildlife rehabbers, and when and where wildlife can be transferred. Again, staff believe these updates are necessary to facilitate disease management and contact tracing.

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Staff conducted two virtual scoping meetings to review the proposed rules and provide an opportunity for permittees to ask questions and express concerns. The first scoping meeting on June 17th functioned as a focus group in that it included a small group of longstanding rehab permittees selected to represent the wide variety of specialty areas and rehab facility types. This group provided staff with extensive feedback on the proposed rules, influencing the develop of the recommended modifications.

All wildlife rehab permittees in Texas were invited to attend the second scoping meeting on July 8th, during which staff reviewed the proposed rules and introduced the draft modifications developed after the first scoping meeting. A Q and A session was held after the presentation to provide an opportunity for additional concerns to be raised and to answer questions pertaining to the proposed rules with modifications.

The second scoping meeting presentation was recorded and a link to that recording was then e-mailed to all wildlife rehab permittees to ensure anyone who was unable to attend could receive the same information and opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns via e-mail or phone call.

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After taking all comments and concerns from both scoping meetings, as well as input received via e-mail and phone call into consideration, staff recommend the following modifications to the proposed rules.

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Staff received overwhelming opposition to the elimination of volunteers and many concerns with the proposed rule changes pertaining to subpermittees. Staff recognize the critical role that volunteers play in the day-to-day operations of rehabbing wildlife. In response, staff recommend clarifying the rules of volunteers and subpermittees in the rules such that volunteer is defined as an individual who works with permitted wildlife in the presence of the permittee or subpermittees and volunteer activities relating to animal care that are conducted outside of the presence of permittees or subpermittees would be limited to administrative work, feeding, watering, and cleaning and a volunteer log would be maintained at registered facilities where volunteer contact information would be recorded where they sign in and sign out.

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Staff recommend a provision to allow subpermittees to retrieve and transport injured wildlife to a registered facility without requiring a presence of the permittee and also to allow subpermittees to be in possession of an injured animal long enough to stabilize that animal in order to safely transfer it to a registered facility.

Staff recognize the critical support role subpermittees provide in rehab operations and understand there is a need to provide an approval process to allow subpermittees to continue to perform rehab activities outside of the supervisory permittee's registered facility in order to address the large volume of animals in need of rehab that exceed the capacity of any one registered facility and provide time intensive, overnight care such as feeding every hour or two hours, as well as provide advanced training opportunities to help prepare subpermittees for applying for their own wildlife rehab permit should they wish to pursue that option. Therefore, staff recommend modifications that would allow subpermittees to register their homes as satellite facilities under specific conditions that I'll cover on the next slide.

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Staff recommend a provision to allow permittees to request registration of home satellite facilities to be operated by subpermittees. Permittees would ensure that the subpermittee's home satellite facility meets or exceeds the appropriate standards for the rehab activities that will take place there. Satellite facilities could be approved for any range of activities based on the need of the permittee and desire of the subpermittee.

For example, some subpermittees may choose to rehabilitate neonate squirrels in the spring in their home. Therefore, that home facility would only be required to meet the facility standards for fulfilling that stage of rehab for that species and the subpermittee would then be expected to transfer the neonates to another registered facility once they're ready for the next stage of rehab.

The permittee would be held responsible for ensuring the satellite facility is maintained at the appropriate standards required and must agree to provide the necessary supervision to the subpermittee by visiting the satellite facility on a regular basis while rehab activities are taking place. TPWD would issue a facility ID before rehab activities would be approved to take place at that satellite facility and that facility would then be listed on the supervisory permittee's permit in addition to their main -- their main registered facility and assigned to a single subpermittee who would be responsible for maintaining and submitting all quarterly facility inventory reports and volunteer logs for that satellite facility.

Initially, staff recommended placing a two-year limit on these registered satellite facilities, at which time the subpermittee would have had to apply for a wildlife rehab permit of their own in order to continue to conduct rehab activities at that home satellite facility. However, not all subpermittees want to pursue a permit of their own. Thus, rehabbers may lose many subpermittees if a two-year limit were enforced.

Staff recommend waiving that two-year limitation to allow subpermittees to continue to conduct rehab activities at their registered home satellite facility for as long as they are registered and listed on a supervisory permittee's permit and in compliance with all requirements as described.

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What we previously called "daily log requirements" in the proposed rules created much confusion. To clarify our expectations, we proposed a more accurate description of facility inventory. Basic information on animals as they enter and leave a facility would be required, including where an animal came from, how they were received and from whom, and their ultimate destination upon leaving a facility. A separate inventory would be required to be submitted from each facility to TPWD quarterly in a Department approved electronic format that maximizes ease of exporting for the permittee and importing into the TPWD permit's database.

Most rehabbers currently maintain this information routinely in a format that could easily be exported electronically and for those who do not, TPWD would provide a no-cost electronic format to enable them to fulfill this requirement.

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Rehabbers often have relationships with universities and other educational or zoological institutions permitted to receive diseased wildlife, and 72 hours to transfer may be unreasonable. There are also registered facilities with crematoriums on site or where deceased animals are routinely buried on site. Type 1 landfills may be hours away from some registered facilities and/or may have a cost associated with disposal.

Therefore, staff recommend providing alternatives to disposal in a Type 1 landfill to accommodate on site burial or incineration methods that comply with local and state regulations, excluding the use of open pit burial and burn piles for incineration and removing the 72-hour provision to facilitate transfer to other authorized permitted individuals or institutions.

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Landowner permission is required for the release of all wildlife on private property and staff recommend also specifying that permission for release of wildlife on managed public lands would be required. Staff recommend that the proposed amendments be adopted without the high fence requirement for release of rehabbed deer under the conditions included in the next slide.

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In order to relax testing and the high fence requirements for releasing rehabbed deer while still sufficiently addressing concerns associated with the management of CWD, staff recommend the following modifications to the proposed rules. Fawns may be kept in a rehab facility through the end of the calendar year in which they are born or up to six months of age. Deer older than six months may not be initiated into a rehab program. CWD testing may not be necessary for deer released before six months of age; however, that's still under consideration and testing -- testing may be required as directed by the Department, and TPWD will assist with the cost of tags and testing. Deer may only be released in the county of origin or within a 5-mile radius of the approximate location of rescue in order to reduce the potential of spreading CWD to new counties. There would no longer be a need to report deer mortalities to TPWD within 24 hours of discovery because that information would be provided in the facility inventory reports as described earlier. Meeting these requirements would ease staff concerns regarding release of rehabbed deer to open range.

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Concerns were voiced over the cost and availability of courses and conferences for qualification and renewal. As such, staff recommend expanding the list of approved courses and including both online and in-person options.

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Staff recommend assembling a Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, or WRC, an ad hoc group of permitted wildlife rehabilitators that will assist TPWD staff in developing and approving wildlife rehabilitation permit regulations and policies. The WRC would be composed of a select group of long-term wildlife rehab permittee represent -- permittees representative of the spectrum of wildlife rehabbers in Texas. They would be responsible for establishing and maintaining a list of approved courses that would satisfy qualification and renewal requirements to be made available online and by request and establishing a grace period for satisfying continuing ed renewal requirements and they would also review and approve ongoing course suggestions as submitted. The WRC would meet at least annually and more frequently as needed.

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To reduce the need for veterinarians to obtain a wildlife rehab permit to assist and stabilize wildlife for transfer to registered rehab facilities, staff recommend adding a provision that would allow veterinarians to possess animals until they are stabilized and remove the 48-hour limit on possession currently in place.

And I'd like to take a moment to recognize and honor Dr. Bob Dittmar once more. As Carter mentioned earlier, he was our TPWD Wildlife Veterinarian who we tragically lost this month. Excuse me. He contributed greatly to these proposed rule changes, along with countless other contributions he made to conserving Texas wildlife. His presence and expertise will be greatly missed.

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In addition to the two scoping meetings, all permittees were notified by e-mail once the proposed rules were published in the Texas Register on July 17th and were provided with instructions on how to comment and what the next steps would be in the proposed rule-making process. They were also provided with a summary of the modifications to the proposed rules presented today. One final e-mail went out Monday of last week to all rehab permittees with a copy of the recommended modifications, a reminder about public commenting, and instructions on where to find more details about how to participate in the Commission Meeting today and tomorrow.

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As of yesterday, we received a total of 18 comments. Of those who commented, one agreed and 17 disagreed.

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All reasons provided for disagreement with the proposed rules as published in the Texas Register fell within the following six general categories that staff were largely able to resolve with the recommended modifications I described earlier. Those include elimination of volunteers, proposed changes regarding subpermittees, daily log requirements, proposed rules for handling deceased wildlife, deer tagging facility and release requirements, and requirements for permit renewal.

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Staff recommend the Commission adopt the proposed amendments to 31 TAC Subsections 69.43 to 69.52 as published in the July 17th, 2020, issue of the Texas Register with recommended changes.

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At this time I'll take any comments or questions that you might have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Are there any questions or comments?

Well, thank you very much. That was an enormous amount of work and I think it's some great improvements and thank you for all your effort.

MS. LONGORIA: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: If there's no further discussion, I will place the Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 6 has been withdrawn.

Work Session Item No. 7, Deer Breeder and Other Permitting Rule Amendments, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Mr. Mitch Lockwood, please make your presentation.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Director of the Big Game Program and this morning I'm seeking permission to publish in the Texas Register proposed amendments to the rules governing the deer breeding, DMP, and Triple T permitting activities, as well as amendments to the comprehensive CWD rules.

As may be of no surprise to y'all with a deer presentation here, it is somewhat lengthy as this is a compilation of issues that have surfaced over the last few years. Some of these are quite simple. Some of them are not and I expect some will be contentious, as well. We've presented this -- we've presented potential solutions to these issues to our Breeder User Group back on July 21st and they did provide alternative approaches to a number of these suggestions or solutions that we had and many of their alternative approaches we've incorporated into this proposal and I will attempt to share the feedback of that Breeder User Group and other stakeholders as appropriate to this proposal. But if at any time you're curious about some feedback on any of these issues that I fail to mention, please feel free to ask.

We'll begin with what I consider to be some housekeeping amendments, starting with removing some superfluous terms and definitions. For example, accredited test facility is defined in our comprehensive CWD rules, which is located in Subchapter B of Chapter 65 and we believe there's no need for the redundancy of that term and def -- or rather that definition in Subchapter T, the deer breeder rules. Also we propose to replace the terms of "sale and release" with "transfer" as the reasons for the transfer aren't as important as the actual activity of the transfer itself.

See, we use this term "transfer" to encompass all situations in which a transfer permit is required, which does include the purposes of release or sale. In fact, these proposed rules -- if published and ultimately adopted -- they certainly would reference Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 43.357 where these permit privileges are codified.

We also propose to remove the language in the current disease monitoring section of the deer breeder rules because, again, this information is already provided in the comprehensive CWD rules in Subchapter B. We also would like to clarify that a movement qualified status and a transfer permit are required to transfer breeder deer to or from a registered deer breeding facility or a registered facility rather, with one exception and this is under current rule. There is an exception where a transfer permit is not required and that's when there's a need for emergency transfer to a veterinary clinic for medical treatment, emergency medical treatment, and we do not propose to change that allowance. However, because of concerns with Chronic Wasting Disease, we do believe that if the deer ends up leaving that transport vehicle at that veterinary facility for treatment and is actually housed in a location that may house other susceptible species, then at that time we think it would be appropriate or prudent to have a transfer permit activated. And that would be very important so that there is a history, a movement history and a location history of that deer in the event that that deer is ever tied -- tied up in an epidemiological investigation. But I want to be very clear, this would be after the emergency has subsided and just sometime before that deer is to return back to its source facility, we propose that a transfer permit be activated to document that transfer in that case.

Some more housekeeping amendments on this next slide. We propose to clarify that breeders may acquire breeder deer from locations other than deer breeding facilities, such as a loaner buck that may be returning from a DMP facility. And as a result of a bill that passed, the Deer ID bill that passed in the last Legislative session, we need to harmonize our regulations with those statutes by removing the four character limitation to a unique number that breeder deer are -- that identify breeder deer.

Again, another instance of where we see some redundancy here with our comprehensive CWD rules, we propose to simply reference the comprehensive CWD rules regarding the authorization to transfer deer and, again, remove that redundant and unnecessary language.

Now moving on to some items here that certainly have generated more interest and more discussion. I'll start with our proposed amendment to the definition of a facility. A deer breeder facility we propose would be one or more contiguous enclosures in the aggregate. What we have in the state is we have some permitted deer breeders who have multiple sets of pens at one location, at one property if you will. And in some cases, that deer breeder will have a permit for each set of pens; but they're not required to under the current rule. They can have multiple disjunct sets of pens at that branch under a single permit, which means all of those sets of disjunct sets of pens have one facility ID and one inventory for all pens combined, all sets of pens combined if you will. And so that -- that -- we've learned hard way through CWD investigations, that does create a lot of confusion, if you will, and greatly complicates an epidemiological investigation in the event that CWD does surface in one of those facilities or is detected there.

And so I'd like to -- well, and I should also say by doing so, it actually could at times involve and tie up far more deer breeders than are necessary and so I'd like to use the next few slides to just give you an example of how this might happen. So with this slide, we have -- this is a hypothetical situation here. We have a ranch that would be -- that's shaded in yellow on this map and you have five different sets of pens. I'll call it the main breeding facility up on the north end and then I'll call those other four sets of pens satellite pens or satellite facilities, if you will. But -- and as I shared with you earlier, this person could have five permits to make this happen. He could have one set of pens under each permit. Some do that. They choose to voluntarily, but they don't have to. And so the alternative would be to have them all under a single permit.

And what might happen here is in these breeding pens on the north end, that's where your bucks are, your does are, that's where your fawns are born; but in this particular model, which is actually the case for a couple of our CWD positive facilities, once those buck fawns are weaned at, oh, about six months of age, they're then transferred out to these other satellite pens that may be referred to as grow-out pens. And so these roughly six-month-old fawns would be placed there and then they would live there for next three years until they're ultimately released to be harvested.

So in this example here, your blue set of pens to the southwest might be buck fawn -- might consist of buck fawns. The green set of pens might consist of, say, two-year-old bucks. And the maroon set of pens might consist of three-year-old bucks and then, obviously, that would be the group that would be released next.

Now, these satellite pens could also receive deer from other deer breeding facilities. And so I have numbers corresponding with these arrows on this slide just giving you an idea of many source facilities could be providing deer to these satellite pens, if you will. Four different breeders are providing to the blue pens and four different breeders are providing to the green pens and six different breeders are providing to the maroon pens in this example. And then, of course, you've got several breeders that are providing deer to the breeding facility on the north end. Fifteen different breeders in this case.

And then you have this group of pens to the far southwest in this example, this brown set of pens that are actually not receiving any deer from the breeding facility that's on that same site. They have a different model for that pasture or for that set of pens and they're buying only from external breeders, outside sources of deer. And there may be, say, four different deer breeders supplying that set of pens.

Well, in the event that CWD is detected in that facility, everything that I just shared with you when I broke this up into five different sets of pens, if he chooses to do this under one permit, we don't know where the deer came from that are in each of these pens. We don't know if deer have moved between the pens. We have very poor knowledge or understanding of the transfer history and location of the deer within those five sets of pens. What we know is that 33 different breeders have supplied deer to this location, to this overall deer breeding permit. And in this example, all 33 of those deer breeders would be tied up in an epidemiological investigation. They would be issued hold orders by Texas Animal Health Commission, issued herd plans, and they would remain under a hold order for up to several years if that's what it takes to meet the need -- the requirements of that herd plan.

But if this proposal were adopted, we would actually know that that brown set of pens received deer from four specific sources and it would be those specific sources of deer that would be the focus of an epidemiological investigation that would be led, of course, by Texas Animal Health Commission with our partnership and assistance and we wouldn't have to necessarily tie up those other 29 breeders in this hypothetical situation here in this example.

I will tell you that there is actually a lot of support for this proposal amongst the Breeder User Group and really just everybody I've talked to. Having said that, there have been requests by some members of the Breeder User Group for us to consider not charging the same $200 fee for each of those pens if this were separated as proposed. Currently, as I told you in this example, there's some individuals that have this set up under multiple permits. So they do pay $200 per permit. But in this example, this individual would be paying $200 for all five sets of pens. If this proposal is adopted as proposed and as our system exists today, that individual would now have to pay $1,000 instead of 200.

Now, I've used this particular example because it is the extreme example. There is one deer breeder in the State of Texas who has chosen this, who has five disjunct sets of pens whose fee would increase from 200 to 1,000. The vast majority of them have two disjunct sets of pens. They would go from two to 400. But nonetheless, I'm certainly not making light of the situation. There is an individual that has five.

I will tell you that staff really do not have a recommendation with regard to the fee. We do agree with all the feedback that we've received as far as the need to be able to separate these into separate facilities one way or another so that we can perform this trace-back. But just while y'all contemplate this not only today, but potentially over the next couple of months, I think it's important just to share a little bit of information with you regarding the fee.

First of all, after having some brief conversation with our IT department here very recently, they haven't been able to dive deep into this, but on the surface they do believe that there's two approaches that could be taken to address this if we were to entertain not charging a $200 permit fee for each set of pens. One way that would make the most sense and I think would be most favorable by the deer breeding community and certainly by the Agency, would be a very, very large endeavor. It would require at least six months of programming. It would be a very expensive project, and it would -- under the current schedule that's set up with our IT projects, it would be at least a year before they could even start on that.

The other approach, which would be less desirable I think by the community and by the Agency, would still be a very large project; but it would take about half as much time they predict, at least three months of work. So that's something to keep in mind.

One other thing is that if it is the Commission's desire for a permit fee to recover the cost of administering a portion of the program, it is important to note that it does require twice as much work to administer two facilities as it does one facility. I know there's a thought that if our Game Wardens go and do an inspection and the two facilities are at the same location, that would save a lot of time; but in reality, it would save some gas money but it really wouldn't save much time because there would be two different inventories to inspect and so on.

So, again, staff don't have a recommendation with regard to the fee; but I just want to share that information with you as we consider that moving forward.

Okay. Moving on to mortality reporting. Staff do believe that there is a need for more expedient, more timely reporting on mortalities, and more timely reporting of CWD samples to the diagnostic lab for testing. Currently, a deer breeder is not required to report the mortalities until the end of the report year. In fact, not until six week after the end of the report year. So theoretically if a deer died on the first day of the report year, the Department may not be aware of that for 13 and a half months. Probably a greater concern would be that that person may collect that CWD sample immediately, but may not submit it to the lab until many, many months later. And if that deer did test positive for CWD, well in the interim unknowingly, that deer breeder has sold deer to many other deer breeders -- could have sold deer to many other deer breeders in the state, many release sites in the state, and this could be spreading like wildfire and we all know what the ramifications of that would be. And so we think it would be prudent for more timely reporting.

We did go to the Breeder User Group with more expedient reporting than what I'm bringing to you today; but after receiving their input, they offered that it would be reasonable to require mortalities to be reported within 14 days of discovery and that it would be reasonable to expect CWD samples to be submitted to the diagnostic lab within 14 days of collection.

Now, I did have -- I'm having conversations with members of the Breeder User Group quite a bit on the phone lately, including the leadership of Texas Deer Association yesterday. They did ask if we would consider a 30-day period to submit samples to the lab as opposed to 14. Staff would like to give that some more thought and some more consideration; but at this time, if this proposal is published, we would request that it be published as it's presented now with a 14-day submission to the lab, understanding that the Commission would have the prerogative to adopt at a later date some amendments to that proposal.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Mitch, what was the reasoning for wanting 30 days instead of 14?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, I'm not sure that I can articulate it very well; but it was just explained to me that there are situations in which 14 days they thought just may not be reasonable. Example that was given to me was ranch hands that's on site on a daily basis where the deer breeder may not be on site or is not on site in some cases on a daily basis and they're depending on a ranch hand who is quite capable of performing animal husbandry practices, but maybe they don't have a lot of confidence in boxing up samples and submitting them to the lab and filling out the submission forms properly and they thought 30 days would give the permit holder more time to get to the ranch itself, to the breeding facility to perform that work himself or herself. That's how I understood the request.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay, thank you.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay. The next item deals with germplasm and the source of germplasm and I'm speaking of semen, embryos, eggs. This, of course, has -- as you might imagine -- has generated quite a bit of discussion, as well. We initially went to our Breeder User Group suggesting that perhaps the source of these products -- source of semen and embryos, for example -- be Texas deer breeding facilities with a movement qualified status and our reason for this -- I'll go into a little bit of detail on here momentarily -- but our reason has to do with our concern for the potential for transmission of CWD.

And clearly Texas has a higher bar than what we see in many other states and even higher than, in our opinion, higher than the standards that are set out in the USDA Herd Certification Program, at least in some respects. And so we felt most comfortable if we limited the source of semen or embryos or eggs to Texas breeding facilities. But, again, we received a lot of feedback on this. There's a strong desire to maintain the ability to receive semen, especially from other sources.

And so after taking that into consideration, we have proposed to provide quite a bit more latitude there in this proposed amendment to allow the source to either be Texas breeding facilities with movement qualified status or any facility that is enrolled in the USDA Herd Certification Program and advancing through that program each year. So we're not even requiring that they be certified, but that they be enrolled and advancing.

And I'd like to take just a little bit of time to explain the justification of why we have some concern for the potential for transmission of CWD. We acknowledge that there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted through semen, for example, and infect another deer because that research, quite frankly, is lacking. But there is research in a number of peer reviewed articles that does demonstrate the presence of prions in semen in different species and including White-tailed deer, even in -- even with other TSEs like scrapie in sheep. There's also been published peer reviewed work on the presence of prions in embryos in different species. And so what we don't know ultimately is does that lead to an infected animal and can you have transmission either through mechanical means, like through the instruments themselves, which some even -- even some who have opposition to this particular proposal admit they have concern with potential for mechanical transmission. But also the potential for, you know, vertical transmission that ultimately you end up with an offspring that's infected with CWD. We have seen some very young animals infected. In fact, in Texas even a five month CWD positive animal; but I can't tell you exactly when it was infected. So bottom line is that we do think there's a real risk. Now, I will tell you that some in the breeding community will challenge some of these -- especially the most recent publication in which the detection of semen -- prions in semen in White-tailed deer in -- I should say in which they were detected.

I know, Commissioner Latimer, I remember you attended the last CWD conference -- I believe it's December of 2019 -- when Dr. Morales, Rodrigo Morales presented this work where he detected prions in semen and some of those who challenge his work do so because there was one animal that was considered to be a negative control animal that tested positive. And when I say "negative control," they believe the deer -- it was in the study because they thought it did not have CWD and it was a control animal and, again, through his methodology it tested positive. His methodology is an amplification technique, either the PMCA or the RT-QuIC. In this one it was PMCA and that requires these prions that are in low quantities, if you will, that they have to amplify them enough to be detectable with this platform. And so there's a thought that you can amplify them so much that you're creating prions that you didn't start with and I visited at length with this researcher and actually, there may be some truth to that; but he argues very strongly that the number of cycles of amplification that it would take far exceed the number that were performed in this research and apparently the experts who were his peers who reviewed the research understand that, as well.

He explained -- excuse me -- that there's only one of two ways that that one animal could have tested positive that they thought was a negative control and that is either there was contamination in the field of that sample, which is possible, or it truly was an early detection of a CWD positive animal and that's something we'll never know. So I just want to share that with you. There are some who will challenge this research that I am using as reasoning for our concern for the potential for this risk. I'm sorry for belaboring that.

I'll move on to the next slide here and we'll move on to another topic that this Commission has discussed before and that's how to address the -- these deer that have been reported as escaped. Not in the past, but in the future how to address this issue. As y'all know, we've had almost 3,000 deer reported as escaped over the years. Actually, quite a few more than that; but almost 3,000 that were never recaptured and returned to the deer breeding facility. And then, of course, in this table on the right we had -- I don't see the number here -- but I think it's close to 9,700 deer that our Department actually determined were missing from facilities when conducting inspections over the years. And I think this issue on the right, this issue with missing deer, I think we're beginning to address. In fact, I think we're going to make a huge impact on it with this proposal for that more expedient mortality reporting, that 14-day window.

I think it's that long period of time in which mortalities are forgotten and not reported, that leads to a lot of these missing deer in these facilities. They truly are dead deer in many cases. And if they're required to report them more frequently, I think that's going to help keep these recon -- these inventories more reconciled.

But back to the escapes, we have a proposal to try to address this. No. 1, they're currently required to report escapes to the Department; but now what we would like to require is on that -- with that reporting, to advise the Department what they're actions are to recatch the deer. We want to ensure that there is an earnest attempt to get those deer back into the facility. So tell us your plans on how you're going to recatch them and then notify the Department daily of your efforts, of the progress that you're making until you've recaptured all of them or until ten days have passed and then at which time they would -- as is with current rule -- be considered free-ranging deer at that point except for a few -- except for I'll say more extraordinary circumstances.

We also would like to propose that they provide evidence of facility enhancements to prevent future escapes. And then finally, some of these facilities certainly have CWD surveillance deficiencies. In fact, some of them are not movement qualified facilities. Now, when I visited with our Breeder User Group on this, we had concerns for any facility where there were escapes for having CWD surveillance deficiencies because those deer -- I mean, they are now out of the inventory and they're inventory numbers are lower as a result and so their surveillance requirements are reduced as a result.

But we finally after a lot of discussion agreed to amend the proposal to focus only on those facilities that are not movement qualified at the time of escape or subsequent to that time of escape because I think we'd all agree those are the facilities that are of greatest concern. They're not movement qualified because they're not meeting the CWD surveillance requirements. And so for those particular facilities, if they're not able to recatch the deer, we would propose that they be issued a testing plan which would involve testing on that site of hunter-harvested deer on that site where these deer escaped and/or antemortem or live animal testing in the deer breeding facility from which they escaped to address those surveillance deficiencies.

I'll move on. Here's another item on this next slide that has generated quite a bit of discussion in the last two days. Up until now, I hadn't heard much; but it's getting more and more interest and that is a proposal to restrict the residency in a deer breeding facility to the White-tailed deer or the Mule deer that are included in the current herd inventory, except for the fawns, of course, that are not yet expected or required to be reported at that point in time.

So this sub-bullet here also would clearly prohibit the commingling or interbreeding of White-tailed deer and Mule deer. There's a lot of support for this. The Breed User Group supports this. I have not heard any objections to this. I'm sure there are some, but I have not heard these objections yet to a prohibition on hybridizing White-tailed deer and Mule deer. However, in the last couple days we have heard -- especially in the last day -- we've heard a lot of concern for not allowing for occupancy of other animals, whether it be livestock or other exotic livestock. In particular, CW -- species that are not CWD susceptible species.

When I visited with the Texas Deer Association leadership yesterday, it was explained to me that there would not be opposition to not allowing for residency of other CWD susceptible species; but there is opposition to prohibiting residency, you know, to other species not thought to be susceptible.

Now, as you've heard already and you'll continue to hear with this proposal, we have made a lot of amendments to this proposal after getting feedback. This is one particular issue that we still would have a lot of concern with. And first of all when it comes to CWD, we don't really have a really good idea of species -- which species are and aren't susceptible. I mean clearly the ones that are susceptible that we know about, there's no -- there's no controversy over; but there are many species that are thought to be not susceptible but, quite frankly, we don't know. There's been very little work in looking at Axis deer, for example. Who's -- we've tested more Axis deer than I can guarantee you everybody else in the world combined and we haven't tested a whole lot of Axis deer for CWD. We certainly haven't run any experiments to see if they're susceptible.

So first of all, I'd just like to state that there's a lot of question along that list of CWD susceptible species, not just within the Agency. But I want to be very clear that our concerns here stem well beyond CWD. Our concerns are for other reportable diseases, as well. Including foreign animal diseases. I mean, I personally have seen wildebeests walking through a deer breeding facility through open gates, all the way through a deer breeding facility, and they're known carriers of malignant catarrhal fever. Now, they're silent shedders of that and so are sheep and goats for that matter. Domestic sheep and goats, there's three different strains -- at least three different strains of herpes viruses that lead to that, that cause that disease and one of them is known to be in wildebeests and one in domestic sheep, one in domestic goats; but they're silent asymptomatic carriers, but the disease is actually acute with a very high mortality event in cattle and in White-tailed deer, for example. But that's just one example.

I mean, we like to -- I say we like to, but people commonly think about bovine tuberculosis as being a concern. Some people are more concerned than others. In that same phone conversation I had yesterday that I've referenced a couple times, you know, there was a thought that if we have bovine TB out there in the state -- TB I mean -- we're going to know it. Clearly we're going to know if we have bovine TB out there.

Well, there are not many people in the wildlife health professional world that will agree with that statement. Including the State Epidemiologist for Texas Animal Health Commission and many others I've visited with. You know, the reason we find out about when we do learn about bovine tuberculosis in Texas, we learn about it through slaughter facilities. That's the safety net that the livestock industry has. We don't have that safety net with White-tailed deer and Mule deer or many of these other African hoof stock. I'm sure some of them might go to slaughter facilities; but I'm certain that many of them stay at that ranch as the terminal facility, if you will, and there's no surveil -- or very little surveillance anyway for these other diseases, including that one. Bovine TB doesn't cause large, massive die offs in White-tailed deer; but we all know what a problem it would be if we end up with bovine TB out there in our free-ranging -- or captive -- deer populations.

So, again, we think this is a -- this is certainly a significant concern of ours and think it's something that it would be prudent to limit the residency to the species that the permit authorizes them to possess.

And then finally, we would propose -- we believe that the cloning of White-tailed deer and Mule deer already is not an authorized activity, but it has become apparent to us that the rules should clearly state that. We have not received opposition to this from our Breeder User Group. However, especially since we've agreed to amend that slightly to state to basically allow for an exception under a scientific research permit if the situation or the need for such arose.

Okay. Moving on to the subject of deer transfers. A transfer permit authorizes the movement of breeder deer to and from facilities and that transfer permit has on it -- among other things -- the source facility and the destination facility, the location, the ID numbers, it identifies those facilities; but it also identifies the breeder deer that are being moved. But in cases where you have large shipments of deer that involve, say, multiple trailer loads of deer or multiple trips of deer from one location to another, there has been confusion in the past because the deer on the transfer permit were not -- the ID numbers, I mean, were not consistent with the IDs of the deer in the trailer. Many times it's because there's far more deer on the piece of paper than are in the trailer and that's led to confusion.

And so after visiting with the Breeder User Group on this issue, we -- we've amended what we originally were thinking in this proposal and we agreed to go ahead and continue to allow for a single transfer permit to be used in the event that multiple shipments are needed to complete a single transaction, but to be sure that each transfer permit has with it an addendum that clearly identifies -- and this is just a handwritten list, if you will, of deer that are in that trailer, in each trailer. So if there's seven deer in one trailer, that transfer permit would have an addendum identifying those specific seven deer and the other trailer would have a different addendum identifying those specific deer.

I got a little bit ahead of myself here with that. In this sub-bullet you see here, we also think it's very clear that the rule clearly state that a transfer permit should be active before the breeder deer are actually loaded into the trailer and/or otherwise before they're transferred out of the facility. This next sub-bullet that -- addresses the transport manifest, that's what I was referring to when I was talking about that addendum identifying the deer, the specific deer on the trailer.

And then finally, we also would like to propose that the deer be transferred only to counties within their historic range. And to effectively administer this, we would basically say only to counties in where there's -- in which there is an open season for the species and this would address some disease concerns, as well.

Okay. Moving on, next slide we would propose -- let me just preface it with this. Any time there's an application for a deer breeder permit, it includes with it plat of the facility that is -- the intention is to give a good diagram and layout of the facility and we would like to propose that that plat clearly define each distinct enclosure within the facility boundaries. And we'd like to modify this proposal just slightly after getting some more input yesterday from members of that Breeder User Group and say that it should clearly define each distinct enclosure within the facility boundaries to include internal fences and gates. That's something that some of those members thought was important and I thought that was some good feedback, as well.

And then finally on this topic, we would like to clarify that when enclosures are added to a facility after the permit has been issued, that those -- those enclosures be approved prior to being put into use, which could be a very quick process. The approval process, I mean.

And nearing the end of these breeder rules proposed amendments here, we have a couple of miscellaneous items. First of all, it's become apparent to us that the standards that have been put in place for deer breeding facilities, it should be clear in rule that those standards also apply to nursing and medical facilities, as well, and that the infrastructure -- that they infrastructure appropriate for the humane treatment of deer. Now, again, some of the feedback I got in these recent conversations is they'd like for us to consider some different terminology than "humane treatment," since that may be and is somewhat of a subjective term. And so with your approval, we'd like to give that a little bit more thought before this is published, if it is indeed published in the Texas Register.

And then finally on this slide, for whatever reason sometimes fawns are left in nursing facilities for extended periods of time, far longer than what is needed to provide the adequate nourishment for those animals. It's well accepted within the breeding community that fawns should be -- can be and should be weaned within the first 90 days. But, again, after receiving some feedback, we've agreed to put a 30-day buffer on that and basically require or limit the residency of fawns in nursing facilities to no more than 120 days following their birth.

And then the final slide on the breeder rules proposed amendments would be some modification to a term we currently have in rule that is a term for a certified wildlife biologist, who is a person who inspects deer breeding facilities prior to a permit being issued and the role of that is to ensure that the facility meets the standards and also the good certified wildlife biologists out there also provide good counsel, good guidance to these perspective breeders. They teach them a little bit about animal husbandry practices and whatnot.

But there has been a request over the years to give that a different term, give the person who serves that role a different term because it's a little misleading. It can be confused with a biologist who's certified by the Wildlife Society who meets some rigorous education and experience requirements who actually and some, if not many cases, isn't really the best fit person to conduct these inspections. May not have that experience with captive deer or White-tailed deer in general.

And so we propose to re-term that, rename that role to a Certified Pen Inspector and then simply codify what we currently have for required qualifications for these individuals and actually reduce some of the education and experience requirements slightly.

Okay. Moving on to the DMP rules. This is about to get quite a bit simpler, I think. We have -- on the DMP side of things, we propose simply to harmonize the disease detection rules with our comprehensive CWD rules and we also propose to correct some gross errors in the existing code. That is there's some inaccurate terms in there. As you all know, all White-tailed deer and Mule deer in the State of Texas are wild by definition. As you know, they all belong to the people of the State of Texas. However, there is some language in the DMP rules that state that if DMP are released, they become, quote, wild which implies that some of those White-tailed deer and Mule deer -- or excuse me, White-tailed deer are not wild. Obviously, that is an inaccurate statement and we propose to strike that term and simply call them free-ranging.

Likewise for those loaner bucks, those breeder bucks that are used in a DMP facility and go back to the source breeding facility, the existing language says that those deer would remain private property. Well, of course, they never were private property. That's an inaccurate statement that we propose to strike and just simply state what's authorized here and that is transferring them back to the breeding facility.

And finally in our Triple T rules, we once again propose to harmonize these rules with our comprehensive CWD rules that are, again, located in Subchapter B of Chapter 65 and then to incorporate game birds -- not just game birds, but some other game animals as well, like javelina. And I should be clear, we already allow for Triple T of game birds and javelina; but it's not clear in the rules. There's very -- almost all Triple T applications involve deer, in particular White-tailed deer. And -- but, again, we would authorize and have authorized like turkey Triple T's for example in the past; but the rules have become deer-centric over the years and so we just want to make sure the rules aren't so restrictive in that regard.

And I think the most substantive change really is you flip through the proposal, you probably see a lot of strike-throughs and a lot of underlines and additions and whatnot; but really the most substantive change would be to allow aggregate acreages to apply as trap sites and release sites. As we all know, there's a correlation between the area or the size of your suitable habitat and the success of a restoration effort. Quail would be a good example. The larger that area of suitable habitat, the more likely that translocation is going to be successful. And so we would like to provide this opportunity to landowners to join together to aggregate their acreages and work under a cooperative wildlife management plan and apply as a release site together or a trap site in some cases.

And finally, there's proposed amendments to the permit denial language. You're all very familiar with the permit denial language that we have for our various deer permits and not just deer, but even some of the nongame permits Ms. Longoria has presented to you before. And most of those -- especially those that involve deer -- what would trigger a potential for permit denial in most cases would be egregious violations to specific subchapters of Parks and Wildlife Code. That would be Chapter 43 Subchapter C, E -- C, E, L, or R, which are basically the subchapters that involve the possession of wildlife. But in this case, with this Triple T being inclusive to more than just deer, there are a few -- three additional subchapters that we think would be relevant and violations of those subchapters, we think that that would be -- should be grounds for permit denial and that would be Subchapters F, G, or H, which deal with the Aerial Wildlife Management Permits, the Depredation Permits, and the private bird hunting areas.

And so with that, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to entertain any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, I only have two comments. One, let's continue to follow up on the importation of semen and whatever research we can uncover. I would hate for that to be an avenue that -- or a lack of knowledge we allowed to have CWD enter.

The second thing is -- would you go back to the slide -- how many escapees -- how many -- what was the slide that had 12,000 or 10,000?

MR. LOCKWOOD: So I'm going through it now, Mr. Chairman. We have almost 3,000 deer that have been reported to the Department as escaped and not recaptured. Here we are. And that's the table on the left.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: The 9,687, I was looking at. That's an enormous number of deer and those have just gone missing, right?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Those -- those have gone missing, Mr. Chairman. What this is -- this table also has a column on the far right that tells you the number of facilities that were involved in this to just kind of give you an idea. Certainly sometimes there are some outliers contributing to this. We have actually had two facilities over the years that have had over 400 deer missing from the facilities. But having, you know, tens of -- say, 70, 80 deer missing, unfortunately hasn't been too uncommon out there and that could be -- and, again, we learn that when our law enforcement goes out either for a routine inspection or usually it's when our permitting staff requests an inspection and we might request an inspection because a facility might go many years without ever reporting a mortality and they have 400 deer in their inventory and not have a deer die in six or seven years, which is highly unlikely and we would request a Game Warden to conduct an inspection and then we would find many deer missing.

In many cases, we believe that those deer -- most, if not all of those deer -- did die in the facility, but who knows? I mean, there could be some that were released without transfer permits. There could be some that escaped that were never reported. It could be all of the above. But, there have certainly been a number of cases where we did find numerous carcasses in the pens and in every case, Mr. Chairman, we assume all deer are dead and we do that because then we're able to determine how many CWD test results are lacking for that facility and then we know how many live animal test results we need to make up for that and to get movement qualified.

And you're all familiar with -- in fact, you're the ones that put into place some means for these facilities to get out of that proverbial mousetrap when they need more samples than the number of deer they have in the facility because of this.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And is a serial site that has 40, 50, 100 deer that are missing, is that grounds for permit revocation?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, we haven't revoked permits to date; but we -- it has been grounds for permit denial if we end up with convictions and it's something that we see to be egregious violations of those relevant subchapters or there is one other provision that does give us the authority to refuse permit issuance if they did submit inaccurate -- inaccurate annual reports. And oftentimes if they're missing that many deer, they did submit an inaccurate annual report. And so we have denied some permits based on that.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay, thank you.

Are there any other questions?

Dick, do you have any?



COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: It looks like a pretty extensive rewrite of the breeder program. Can you help me through why such a big rewrite? Clarification? Wholesale change?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's a -- that's a very good question, Commissioner. There's -- as I shared with you probably on the introduction slide, this has really been a compilation of issues that have surfaced over the last few years. We actually started working on this proposal four years ago; but for a variety of reasons, it's just kind of been building through time to where we're finally presenting this. But it's -- I think the shortest answer is it's a compilation of issues that have surfaced over a number of years.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. So really you see it, I mean, a bit as an iterative process wherein you've observed issues and this is really just an iterative or incremental response to try to improve the clarity of the program.

MR. LOCKWOOD: It certainly has been an iterative response, but I'd say a good bit of it is to provide more clarity. But as we've covered, some of it is more substantive than that and it would go beyond just what I would think of as just --


MR. LOCKWOOD: -- clarifying some things.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And just a couple more comments. One, I mean, as the Chairman points out, I mean 9,700, 9,686, I mean that -- that is a large number. And if these deer breeders are going to be in business, it is a business and so they need to conduct themselves as any high-quality operator would and I think that there's got to be consequence for sloppy adherence to the rules. I mean, it's like any -- it's -- I'm in the energy business. If I had 10,000 missing violations, I mean you can believe that the regulatory agencies would shut me down or clearly fine me in a big way. So I just I can't impress enough that if people are going to run a business and they're going to make money out of it, they've got to conduct themselves as prudent, high-quality operators and there needs to be a consequence to lack of regard for regulation because that's all this is. So that's one.

Point two, I don't see any reason why you wouldn't charge an incremental fee of $200 or whatever it may be per pen because you've said, you know, very clearly that we have more costs associated with if pens are not contiguous to each other. I mean, you can have a 50,000-acre ranch and four pens out over 50,000 acres, that's a lot of work and ultimately independent of each other. So those are just two comments I make that I'm pretty strident about, to be honest.

MR. LOCKWOOD: I think they're -- Commissioner Hildebrand, I think they're very good comments. On the last comment, I'll tell you again there's been a lot of support for that proposal and the feedback we got regarding the fee was they would appreciate consideration; but they agree that change is so important to make, that we need to make that change however -- whatever it takes to make it. But they do appreciate that consideration be given.

Regarding your first comment, I will tell you to the credit of the vast majority of permit deer breeders out there, they agree completely with your first statement and I received very similar words from Executive Director of Texas Deer Association yesterday. I mean, he would echo what you just said. Even offered their support if there's a way that they could help with that, which I'm trying -- working with Stormy King and others to give some thought on how -- how that -- you know, we can take advantage of that. But many people, including them, agree with those comments thankfully.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Because what it does is when those don't -- the low-end operators don't follow the law, it is -- they reduce their cost of business. And the high quality operators are playing by the book and spending incremental money to maintain an inspection program and it puts them at a disadvantage and it sullies the reputation of the industry in my mind. So -- and that's what why high-quality operators always want good, clean transparent regulation.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And so I will make just one more comment, if I may. Because oftentimes when we have these discussions, I think there's a perception that's given to some that the whole industry or the whole permitted community is being painted as non-complaint. And as you look at this table, Commissioner, I mean in 2019 there were 21 facilities that were involved in 892 missing deer. The year before that, there were 35 facilities that missed over a thousand deer. This isn't the vast major of the permitted community. And so sometimes incorrectly the whole permitted community, the whole industry, is painted with, you know, or seen by some as non-compliant and by no means do I mean to imply that.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Right. And I'll make one more point. All you have to do is compare this to the energy industry and if I've got 21 operators that are spilling oil in the water, having environmental health and safety issues and I'm doing everything I can to be a high-quality operator, it paints me into the same --


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: -- into the same painting as all these guys that are averting the law to make an extra dollar.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Exactly.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. I think we all agree with your comments. Let me clarify one thing that -- going back to the embryo and semen.

I think what I'm asking is that you continue to study this issue, realizing there's very little data; but get a better scientific picture of the exposure there and defer that part of the rule for now is my proposal.


Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I'd just like to comment as a Commissioner and someone who thinks our rule should be consistent across divisional structures and going back to Meredith Longoria's recommendation and rehab facilities that we don't co-mingle so many species for that reason that she discussed. I think that it probably is important we require the same kinds of rules on the deer breeder permitting. And that's just -- that's just my personal epidemiological viewpoint.


Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, I've got a few things. One, I would point out -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Mitch -- that under the deal of the number of deer that ends up totaling the 9,000 plus, your comment was is that we really don't know. So then if we go do a check, you assume they're dead or escaped. We don't really know that, right?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's correct. That's correct. I mean, like I said, there's a number of cases where we do see many, many carcasses and we know a large number are dead; but we can't say with certainty that they all are. But we do end up recording all of them as dead, yes.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So the only reason I make that point is I'm not sure this 9,000 number is a valid number. But, obviously, we don't have dead accurate data.

Another thing I would comment on -- and I agree with Commissioner Hildebrand's -- most of his comments. But we need to make sure that we're not contaminating data to make the ends justify the means. And so one question -- one thing I request from y'all, I want to see a list of everybody you're dealing with from that community. I want to understand who you're talking to. You make reference to TDA all the time. I want to see a list of everybody you're conversing with and their opinions --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- before I get any more further into making an analysis in my mind. I want to see who is being represented.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay. I can share it with you now if you'd like.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No. I'd like it in writing.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And then lastly at this particular moment, I understand that we're not voting on anything until November; so we're still accumulating data. So I would just ask that we need to be focused on the relevant data. Don't come up with a whole mountain of stuff. We know what's important. I think everybody understands what's important. So if you would, keep the data specific.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir. That's -- I'm not sure what could be saved from this presentation anymore, but we'll certainly give that some more -- another look.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's fine. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Thank you, Commissioner Scott.

Any other comments?

Yes, Commissioner Abell.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: I'd just like to comment, echo your concerns for the policies regarding the semen and eggs. You know, I don't -- I think the research ought to drive the recommendations and regulations and until there is more credible research, I'd be hesitant to expand that or make any changes in that direction.


Are we clear on we're going to defer --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- that part of it?

MR. SMITH: We are, yep. And we'll follow up accordingly. Yep, thanks.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other comments or discussion?

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

Thank you, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Work Session Item No. 8, Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamation, Temporary Closure of Oyster Restoration Areas in Galveston Bay and Aransas Bay, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Ms. Clarkson, please make your presentation.

MS. CLARKSON: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Emma Clarkson. I'm the Team Lead for the Habitat Assessment Team in the Coastal Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting a proposal to publish an amendment in the Texas Register to temporarily close six oyster restoration sites until November of 2022. The proposed amendment would also -- has a housekeeping item to correct the name of a reef that is currently temporarily closed and scheduled to be open to harvest in November 2021. It's currently referred to as South Redfish Reef, but its more commonly known as Pasadena Reef.

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Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 76 grants the Parks and Wildlife Commission the authority to close an area that is being reseeded or restocked. Multiple reefs across the coast are being planted with cultch material to restore degraded and lost substrates. A two-year closure gives the oyster larvae that recruit to the fresh cultch the opportunity to grow to harvestable size and repopulate the reef.

In the past, restoration efforts have been funded primarily by grants; but the conservation measures of the Shell Recovery Program of Senate Bill 391, which was the 82nd Legislative session in 2011, and the Dealer Cultch Recovery Program of House Bill 51, which was the 85th Legislative session in 2017, have led to a more stable source of funding for oyster restoration. We expect this to result in continued large-scale, long-term oyster restoration activities in the future.

To date, the Coastal Fisheries Division has restored 507 acres of oyster reef in Galveston Bay, 25 acres in Sabine Lake, and 17 acres in Matagorda Bay using this cultch planting technique. Over 18,000 cubic yards of cultch have been replace -- have been placed as a result of House Bill 51 alone.

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So in 2020, six reefs are being restored using the cultch planting method, including five in Galveston Bay and one in Aransas Bay. Funding for these restoration projects was generated from a mixture of sources included in the Shell Recovery Tag Program and the Dealer Shell Recovery Program, as well as various grants including the National Marine Fisheries Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Grant and the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.

Over three and a half million dollars are being invested into the restoration of these reefs. The temporary closure is requested only for the exact footprint of the restoration site and not the entire reef on which the restoration occurs. A total of 175.9 acres would be temporarily closed, including 95.9 acres in Galveston Bay and 80 acres in Aransas Bay.

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So this map shows the location and the acreage of the proposed temporary closure areas in the Galveston Bay System. The gray area that you see represents natural oyster habitat. And as you can see Pepper Grove, which is kind of down on the right-hand corner there, that's located in east Galveston Bay south of Smith Point and the Trinity restoration sites are towards the north end of the map in the upper Galveston estuary near the Trinity River. And on the left bottom, you see the Resignation Reef, which located west of the Houston Ship Channel near San Leon.

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So this map shows the location and acreage of the proposed temporary closure area in the Aransas Bay System. Again, the gray area represents natural oyster reefs. So Grass Island, which is the area in the red box, is northeast of Rockport-Fulton and southwest of Goose Island State Park.

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So we respectfully request to publish this amendment in the Texas Register. We propose that all six sites aforementioned will be temporarily closed for two harvest seasons and will reopen November 1st of 2022. As I mentioned earlier, we also have a clean-up item as well to rename a temporary closure area from South Redfish Reef to its more commonly known name as Pasadena Reef.

This concludes my presentation. Thank you for your time, and I am happy to take any questions that you may have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you very much.

Are there any questions?

Commissioner Scott?


MS. CLARKSON: I'm so sorry. I can't -- it didn't come -- that audio didn't come through at all on the TEAMS meeting. I'm so sorry.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, I'm looking at my mic. Can you --

MS. CLARKSON: Oh, now I can -- yes, now I can hear you. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry about that. I can hear you now.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Not a problem. Hey, that's technology, right?

Now, my question -- my question was: What are we going -- what are you going to do if we get the bad storm that they're predicting and where it's going? It's going to have a lot effect on some of those reefs that you're talking about temporarily closing. I remember four, five, six years ago when we had the hurricane come through and we lost many, many oyster reefs that were covered with sand and silt and everything. So my question is: What are we -- are you -- are you going to look at changing your game plan, so to speak, if we do get a really, really bad outcome out of this storm tonight and tomorrow?

MS. CLARKSON: So one of the things that we've incorporated in our restoration practices over the last few years is a mounding approach, where we used to spread the cultch in a thin layer and that was a little bit susceptible to sedimentation, but it was still largely successful. A lot of the areas that we've restored with that thin 3-inch layer have shown to be successful after a lot of these hurricanes. After Harvey, you know, they're still there. However, because we are aware of those, we've started to build these high, vertical reliefs that kind of have 2-foot -- 2-foot height and 10-foot diameter. They are these mounds and we've found them to be very resilient. And so we will be employing that design for most of the area.

And then, of course, every time we build a reef, we go through and survey it with a side-scan sonar and a multi-beam to make sure that it still has that vertical relief. If we do still see sedimentation, we can always pursue funds or have an adaptive management approach to restoring that, restoring the restored habitat. Bagless dredging has been successful in the past when that does happen.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. I was just curious. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other questions? Comments?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I have one, Mr. Chairman.


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: What's the cost of these various restoration projects?

MS. CLARKSON: Okay. I have that all written down here. So they're conglomerative of multiple funding sources. So I have my notes that I have to kind of consult here.

For example, the one that I -- we just finished in Aransas Bay, it is 185,000 from the Shell Recovery Fee and 1.2 million from the Harvey Disaster Relief. And so the total project was 1.5 million to place 9,237 cubic yards of cultch. So the cost -- usually we talk about it in either cost per cubic yard or cost per acre. And I can say that the cost per cubic yard has gone up to around $116 to $160 -- $160 per cubic yard. And so that's what we're seeing. So that one project was about 1.5 million.

The Trinity Project is around 2 million and then the other ones are very hard to track the costs because those are the Dealer Placement events that are occurring as part of the House Bill 51 mandate that dealers return 30 percent of their cultch. And so those are cultch placed, but no cost to the Department that we can track. Does that answer your --

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. Well, it does. I mean, I'd actually like it on a per acre basis, I mean, if you've got it. You don't have to give it to me now, but it just -- I just -- I question to replace 12 acres of an oyster reef or remediate it, to spend a couple of million dollars is a lot of money to be spending for a pretty, pretty insignificant, you know, wildlife activity when that money could be spent elsewhere. And maybe -- maybe you're getting federal money or -- but we just need to be a good steward of the resources, obviously.

And so can you do a quick calculation on a per acre basis what a standard oyster project costs?

MS. CLARKSON: Yeah, I just did a quick one. It's going to hover around 50,000; but then again, that depends on the size. There's certainly economies of scale. The larger projects are much more cost effective than the smaller ones. So about 50,000 per acre is what my very quick math just showed me.

And if it does help, we have been monitoring our oyster restoration projects over the past few years and we've found some really great, positive impacts in terms of increased spat sets, increased oyster abundance, and fish utilization. We actually get -- we have a citizen scientist that writes in frequently to report how great the fishing is on our restored reefs. So we are seeing a very positive impact in elevation, ecological lift at these sites. But, yes, it does -- it does vary a lot on the price per acreage around 50,000.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. And one other question maybe off point a little bit. You may not know the answer. But does Texas have a Rigs-to-Reef Program? We do?


MS. CLARKSON: Uh-huh. We --




MS. CLARKSON: Yeah. I'm not part of the Artificial Reef Program, but I do understand that there's a donation-based program to take decommissioned rigs and turn them into the reefs. Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I mean, because one of the things you're going to be seeing over the next several years is really the abandonment of a lot of these platforms in shallow water Gulf of Mexico. I know totally different program, but just I put the marker out there. It's really -- you know, if you go over to Louisiana and fish on some of those old, old rigs, I mean it is absolutely some of the best fishing in the U.S. And so clearly that means there's lots of wildlife, lots of marine animals and fish and oysters and you name it. And so I just I think as a Department, we should understand that that trend will grow because of gas pricing and the state of the industry. So we should get on it and do more of that versus less, work with operators in a prudent way.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. We agree completely, Commissioner, on that front. The Rigs-to-Reef Program I think is one of our most successful programs in terms of helping to create habitat out in the Gulf and in the bays for a wide variety of organisms and we get immediate, you know, ecological lift as Emma suggested. Lots of recreational and commercial value come with it. The biological values of those structures are just immense and we've had some terrific relationships over the years with various industry partners who donated those.

But, you know, I think it might be helpful for us to just get you a little briefing on the background. It's helpful to hear your perspective from the industry side, knowing that there's going to be a pipeline of more opportunities here going forward and we want to be prepared for that. Yeah. Yeah, thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay, good comments. Thank you.

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

Work Session Item No. 9, Proposed Amendments to the Exotic Harmful or Potentially Harmful Fish, Shellfish, and Aquatic Plants and Fee Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Ms. McGarrity, thank you.

MS. MCGARRITY: Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Monica McGarrity and I'm the Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species Management in the Inland Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting on proposed amendments to the exotic harmful or potentially harmful fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants rules and the associated fee rules.

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Under our regulations, exotic species are those not native to Texas. Some of these exotic species become invasive. Meaning they're causing or have the potential to cause harm to the ecosystem, economy, or human health or quality of life. Invasive species are costly to the nation and our state. A 2011 Cornell university study estimated that these costs within the U.S. are approximately $219 billion per year.

Preventions such as in the form of regulations is critical because new invasive species introductions follow what's known as an invasion curve. By the time most species are detected, the infestation is already outside of the brief window when rapid response and eradication may be possible for some species. After that point, the situation often rapidly progresses into the more costly, long-term active management phase if such management is even possible.

Notably, the Texas Legislature recognized the need to appropriate additional funds to TPWD for combating aquatic invasive species to the tune of $6.3 million in the prior two and current biennia.

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The statutes established prohibitions against activities involving fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants and give the Commission the authority to regulate their legal possession and use. TPWD regulations for fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants, as is the case in most states, take the form of a prohibited species list and the primary focus to the list is prevention. Only a few of the listed species are allowed for use.

It's worth noting that the Commission also has emergency rule-making authority if warranted to address an urgent need with regards to a new species being introduced or spread.

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As the exotic species rules have gradually evolved in piecemeal fashion, they've not kept pace in both organization and substance with evolving threats and changes in industry and partner practices. The rule changes I'll present to you today focus on addressing these key issues.

First, there's a need to improve organization of the rules, largely for accessibility purposes. Much of this was accomplished in the proposed rules through reorganization of rules that are currently either intermingled or disjunct. Second, there's also a need to address the changing needs of the regulated community, such as the increase in individual selling fish for pond stocking who don't grow the fish. Third, there's also a need to address potential threats and recent introductions.

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To enhance accessibility, we're proposing to essentially reorganize and group the rules in a more logical fashion. The controlled exotic species list is currently found in the definition section and is difficult to find. We're proposing to create a separate section for that list. Similarly, information on the various types of permits available for the use of controlled exotic species is intermingled in the general rules, as well as in several other sections. We're proposing to create a single permit type section to provide this information in a more accessible manner.

There are other cases where the rules on a single topic are spread across multiple sections or grouped non-intuitively. So we combined or synthesized some of these rules into topical sections for ease of use. For example, creating a single section on transport rules and separate cohesive sections for permit application or renewal and for reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

We've also created species specific sections for Tilapia, Triploid Grass carp, and shrimp. Species for which numerous permits are issued along the lines of the current rules for water spinach.

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As I mentioned, our rules take the form of a controlled exotic species list and we're proposing the addition of seven species to this list. We obtained concurrence from the Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture and the designee of the Chairman of the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University System, as required under the Texas Agriculture Code on adding four fishes to this list.

A 2017 decision by the D.C. District Court of Appeals invalidated the provision of the injurious wildlife clause of the federal Lacey Act that would prohibit interstate transport of listed injurious species following introduction into the U.S., removing protections for the states. Adding Lacey Act listed species to our controlled exotic species list would restore these protections under other wildlife trafficking provisions of the Act.

We reviewed the eight fish species listed as injurious that are not currently on our controlled exotic species list. Of these, we identified four species we propose for addition. These species are not currently present in the U.S.; but there is a significant risk of introduction, as well as establishment in Texas and consequent ecological impacts.

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We're also proposing the addition of the Golden mussel to this list. Although this species is not yet present in the U.S.;, it's widely seen as an imminent risk that could be introduced via ocean-going vessels, become established, and spread. These are highly similar to Zebra mussels in their ecology and their impacts, but they also have the ability to withstand higher temperature and higher salinity.

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Finally, we're proposing to add two closely related plants -- Crested and Yellow Floating Hearts -- to this list. These are species that have been recently introduced in Texas and have already become established and problematic in a few locations, requiring active management. We consulted with researchers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the availability of these species in the ornamental pond trade in Texas. The researchers reported that they have not encountered these species in the trade in Texas during their efforts to obtain research specimens.

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Now I'm going to shift gears to discuss proposed changes to address the needs of the regulated community. One issue is that's increasingly come to the forefront is the use of traditional aquaculture permits for sellers of Tilapia and Triploid Grass carp for pond stocking simply because we don't have a permit tailored to their needs. These businesses operate on a direct delivery model, purchasing fish from an aquaculturist and either delivering them directly to a landowner's pond or holding them at a location such as a feed store for pick up.

We're proposing to create a permit more suited to this business model that would eliminate the requirement to have an aquaculture facility, provided that the fish are not cultured and are held at a physical location only for a short time.

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Biological control production is another area where a suitable permit is not currently available. Facilities such as the Caddo Lake Biocontrol Alliance support Department efforts to manage Giant Salvinia, yet must have a research component to their work so that they can obtain a research permit for this activity. We're proposing to create a permit for biological control production that would work hand in hand with the proposed allowance for landowners to purchase a small quantity of host plants with the insects from producers to have the opportunity to make use of biological control methods.

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We're also addressing the needs of Texas aquaculturists in several ways. First, we're proposing to provide multiyear -- not only annual, but also three- or five-year renewal -- options as the Department does for deer breeder permits. Given that there have been several instances of violations identified in recent years, we're also proposing to inspect these facilities at least once per five years. We're also proposing to eliminate the reporting requirement for Tilapia aquaculture. In comparison, reporting for other cultured species is straightforward and fairly easy. However, it's much more difficult to provide accurate information of value to the Department for number of Tilapia in possession and the effort and testing required to calculate this information is substantial.

Lastly, we're proposing to allow the culture and sale of an additional Tilapia species, the Wami Tilapia. We've received a number of requests for this over the years from aquaculturists and have determined that this species doesn't pose a greater ecological threat then the species currently allowed. Potentially less because research indicates it has a slightly lower cold tolerance.

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We're also proposing changes to the rules related to the use of Tilapia for pond stocking, which is typically done to provide forage for bass. Currently, only Mozambique Tilapia can be possessed without a permit and stocked in ponds. However, hybridization among the species in aquaculture is rampant and is not possible to confirm the species' identity with any degree of certainty. This places an unrealistic burden of proof on the aquaculturists and renders the rules unenforceable. We plan to address this by treating all Tilapia species in Texas aquaculture the same with regards to pond stocking.

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We're proposing to allow the use of Mozambique, Blue, Nile, and Wami Tilapia for pond stocking. The same species that would be allowed for aquaculture. This allowance eliminates the need for identification to species, and the risks posed by these species are highly similar. However, in allowing the use of additional species for pond stocking, it's important to ensure that doing so doesn't increase the risk of ecological impacts, particularly if some ponds are impounded creeks where unintentional escape could occur.

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To assess that risk and in consideration of our responsibility to protect natural resources, we conducted a spatial conservation assessment study which was published last year as a peer reviewed chapter in a book published by the American Fishery Society. We identified through literature review 19 fish species of greatest conservation need that may be negatively affected by Tilapia through competition, habitat degradation, and predation. These included imperiled fishes such as tiny Pup fish found in sensitive springs and Shiners found in rivers.

Through this assessment, we identified conservation priority areas for protection of these species from Tilapia impacts shown in red on the map at left. We then sought to balance this prioritization against the economic importance of the Tilapia pond stocking trade by identifying areas with high number of pond stocking customers. On the right, the areas with larger blue dots represent areas with more customers.

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The final product of this spatial assessment model was identification of a proposed zonal solution to balance the need to reduce potential impacts of escapes from Tilapia against potential economic impacts. In the counties in the proposed conservation zone shown in red on the map, individuals wishing to stock Tilapia in a pond would request authorization from the Department with no permit or fee required. This would enable the Department assess risk of escape and consequent impacts on imperiled fishes similar to the current procedures for Triploid Grass carp stocking.

The authorization would be specific to the pond. Repeat authorization would not be required and approval would be transferable to a new owner, provided the pond was not altered in a way that would increase the probability of escape.

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In the counties in the proposed stocking zone shown in blue on the map, the conservation assessment indicates risks of impacts are low and we're proposing that Department authorization for Tilapia stocking not be required. We're also proposing an allowance for the lower risk stocking zone to require only administrative review for permits for stocking of ten or fewer Triploid Grass carp to fast-track these applications, rather than having biologists inspect satellite imagery or conduct in-person pond inspections.

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We're also proposing changes to the rules governing possession. Currently, fish and shellfish must be beheaded or gutted upon possession. We're proposing to allow additional methods to dispatch controlled exotic species, including placing most species on ice. We're also proposing to allow lake- or pond-front landowners to possess Zebra mussels and Apple snails that foul shorelines, docks, and water pumps for the purposes of disposal, provided they're contained in a secure manner/prescribed manner for transport.

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Currently, an exotic vegetation removal permit is required to possess and dispose of controlled exotic aquatic plants that are found around docks and shorelines on both private ponds and public waters, even for someone who's simply raking these plants onto their property for drying or composting. We're proposing to eliminate this permit requirement, provided that the plants are securely contained in a prescribed manner for transport. Because businesses removing exotic aquatic plants for hire are likely to be transporting large quantities of plant material and therefore pose a higher risk, this type of activity would continue to require a permit.

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There's also been an increase in recent years in noncommercial aquaponics, where a small number of fish are kept in bio-secure or escape-proof systems where the fish provide nutrients for cultivated plants and are not sold. Species other than Mozambique Tilapia are more desirable, but currently require a permit. We're proposing to allow the use of the four species in aquaculture for noncommercial use in recirculating aquaculture systems without a permit.

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As we work with numerous partners around the state -- such as river authorities -- to combat aquatic invasive species, these collaborating entities may be required to obtain an exotic species research permit for efforts that are part of a Department-led initiative, such as Zebra mussel early detection monitoring. We're proposing a rule change that would allow these entities to request recognition from the Department, as an active partner, an exemption from permit requirements.

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We're also proposing to provide clarification with regards to disposition of controlled exotic species, similar to Department rules for deer breeder permits and address needs identified by Law Enforcement. The current rules stipulate that a permit holder who ceases operation, must lawfully sell, dispose, or transfer exotic species inventory. However, the current rules don't address procedures or instances where a permit renewal is denied or a non-permittee is found to be illegally in possession.

The proposed rule would clarify that the Department may prescribe a disposition protocol, which must be implemented within 14 days. Should the Department be required to implement the protocol due to noncompliance, the individual in violation would be responsible for the costs incurred by the Department.

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Finally, we're proposing changes to the fee rules to accompany the exotic species rule changes I've described. Specifically, these changes will establish fees for new permits equivalent to the current $263 standard fee for most exotic species permits and update the aquaculture permit fees in accordance with the new multiyear renewal structure and five-year inspection interval. We are not proposing changes to the current permit administrative or inspection fees.

For the aquaculture permit renewals, the fee would consist of the current $27 administrative fee per renewal, regardless of the duration, and a prorated $47.20 inspection fee for each year of the renewal period. This prorated fee is equivalent to one-fifth of the current $236 inspection fee.

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This concludes my presentation, and I'd be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, thank you very much. Quite fascinating, all 123 pages of this.

Any questions by the Commission?

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

And thank you for a very thorough review and presentation. It's impressive.

MS. MCGARRITY: Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Work Session Item No. 10, Possession of Resident License Rules, if anybody -- unless anybody has any questions, I'd just propose that we place the Possession of Resident License Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

All right. And same with Work Session Item No. 11, Civil Restitution Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Does any Commissioner have any questions or comments?

If not, I'll place the Civil Restitution Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 12, Temporary Commission Meeting Policy Regarding Meeting Procedures. Ms. Bradsby, would you make your presentation?

MS. BRADSBY: Yes. Good afternoon, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, I'm Colette Barron Bradsby, the interim General Counsel. Let's see if my slides will catch up here. But as you are all painfully aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes in the way that governments and businesses operate.

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In March of this year, Governor Abbott issued a disaster declaration and also waived portions of the Texas Open Meetings Act to address concerns related to in-person gatherings at government meetings, while still maintaining required government transparency.

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Under the waivers, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission may hold meetings by teleconference or video conference and may alter the methods for public participation.

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Staff believes it would be prudent for Commission policy to reflect the COVID-altered Open Meetings' requirements and therefore as in the May Commission Meeting, staff proposes changes to Commission Policy CP-001 provisions regarding meetings. These changes relate to in-person public comment and document submission.

Rather than having to adopt these temporary policy changes at each Commission Meeting, staff proposes to allow the temporary measures to remain in effect until rescinded by the Commission.

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The proposed changes to the conduct of meetings are identical to those adopted by the Commission at its May meeting. They include no paper comments accepted at tomorrow's meeting, but online comments encouraged. We will use an advanced registration and call-in process for oral public comments. Speakers must identify themselves before speaking. Members of the public must be able to hear the meeting and be able to address the Commission on action items. Regular rules of conduct and decorum will remain in place. The meeting will be recorded and archived. If technical issues arise, the meeting may be recessed to fix those issues.

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And with that, staff request that this item be placed Thursday's agenda for public comment and action. Thank you and I am available for questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions or comments by any Commissioners?

If there's no further discussion, I'll place the Temporary Commission Meeting Policy Regarding Meeting Procedures on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Again, thank you.

Work Session Item No. 13, Grant of Easement, Lubbock County, Approximately Tenth of an Acre at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Office, if any Commissioner -- does any Commissioner have any comment or questions?

If not, I'll place the Grant of Easement, Lubbock County, Approximately a Tenth of an Acre at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department of Law Enforcement Office on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session No. 13, we just handled.

Work Session Item No. 14, Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 600 Acres at Bastrop State Park, we will hear that item in Executive Session.

The work session presentation will be heard after we reconvene.

Work Session Item No. 15, Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 16 Acres at Bastrop State Park, again will be heard in Executive Session. The work session presentation will be heard after we reconvene.

Work Session Item No. 16, Acquisition of Land, Jefferson County, Approximately 10 Acres at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area will be heard in Executive Session. The work session presentation will be heard after we reconvene.

Work Session Item No. 17, Exchange of Land, Orange County, Approximately 2 Acres at the Old River Unit of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area will be heard in Executive Session and a work session presentation will be heard after we reconvene.

Work Session Item No. 18, Grant of Pipeline Easement, Brazoria County, Approximately 6 Acres at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area, this item will be heard in Executive Session. Work session presentation will be heard after we reconvene.

Work Session Item No. 19, Grant of Pipeline Easement in Brazoria County, Approximately 30 Acres at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process, this item will be heard in Executive Session and a work session presentation will be heard after we reconvene.

Work Session Item No. 20, Bastrop Fires, Litigation Settlement will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 21, Litigation Update, Oysters and CWD will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 22, Performance Evaluation of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director, this item will be heard in Executive Session.

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

We will now recess for the Executive Session at 12:41 p.m. Thank you.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Can you hear me now?

MR. SMITH: Yep, yep. We got you now, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: It was the red button on the -- on the switch.

MR. SMITH: Be careful about pressing those red buttons.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah. Okay we'll now reconvene the Work Session on August 26, 2020, at 3:05 p.m.

Before I begin, we'll take a roll call.

Chairman Morian present.

Vice-Chairman Aplin?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell is present.

Commissioner Bell dropped -- had to drop off.

Commissioner Galo?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand is present.

Commissioner Latimer is present.

Commissioner Patton?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And Commissioner Scott is present.

All right. We're going to move into the Work Sessions that we just covered in Executive Session. We'll start with Work Session Item No. 14, Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 600 Acres at Bastrop State Park. This item was heard in Executive Session.

Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. For the record, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a request from the staff for authorization to acquire 600 acres at Bastrop State Park.

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Bastrop State Park is about 30 miles east, southeast of downtown Austin.

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It is adjacent to Buescher State Park. The two parks comprise a complex which is extremely, extremely popular and serves a very large population area primarily in Central Texas; but we do get visitors from all over the state and all over the world, quite frankly.

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It is a CCC park. The -- there are still structures there that date from the 1930s. The park consists of about 6,600 acres now.

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The settlement of the Bastrop fires in 2011 has given us access to some funds which are -- which you have earmarked for land acquisition. The 600-acre tract is a tract that has a significant boundary in common with the park and is a tract that staff has had its eyes on for a number of years.

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The tract is on the east side of the park. All of it is within critical habitat designation for the endangered Houston toad. It has significant topography on it, including some of the highest area in the state park. It has very -- has a creek running through it and a fairly large pond and a couple of smaller ponds, which are also important habitat for the Houston toad.

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You can see in this close-up that it's a combination of improved pastures and native pine oak forest. The improved pastures, we know from experience, will be -- can be readily restored to the native pine oak habitat, which we will certainly plan to do upon acquisition.

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We have received one comment in favor of the proposed acquisition.

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Staff requests that this item be placed on tomorrow's agenda for public comment and action. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions?

If there's no further discussion, I'll place the Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 600 Acres at Bastrop State Park on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

And with that, Mr. Smith, I'm going to turn my microphone off because I'm going to leave and turn this over to Mr. Scott.

MR. SMITH: Okay, got it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, they say if I'm going to try to get in before the hurricane I got to go.

MR. SMITH: Yep, yep, yep. Understood.


MR. SMITH: Work Session Item No. 15.

MS. BRADSBY: And please introduce yourself for the record.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. Now, Commissioner Scott.

Okay. So we're on Work Station Item No. 15, Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 16 Acres at Bastrop State Park. This item was heard in Executive Session.

Ted, you're up again.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, have a safe trip.

Commissioners, for the record my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is another request for permission to acquire property at Bastrop State Park.

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This particular tract, the acquisition of which is also made possible by the settlement of the fires that occurred in 2011 at Bastrop State Park, this tract is essentially an inholding. It is surrounded by the state park. It has frontage along Alum Creek, which means it has a significant riparian habitat values, Houston toad values. Plugs a hole basically in the park and would prevent somebody else from acquiring that and putting it to use as it would be incompatible with the surrounding recreational and conservation values of the park.

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And you can see where that's located in the park on the east -- sort of east/southeast corner of the park.

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And in this close-up, you can see that the tract is, in fact, surrounded by the state park, has boundary on Alum Creek, and is a nice mosaic of native pine oak habitats.

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We've received one comment in favor of the proposed acquisition.

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And staff does request that the Commission place this on tomorrow's agenda for public comment and action. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Is there any discussion by the Commission?

Okay. If there's no further discussion, I will place the Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 16 Acres at Bastrop State Park on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action. No further action is required at this time.

Okay. Work Session Item No. 16, Acquisition of Land, Jefferson County, Approximately 10 Acres at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area, this item was heard in Executive Session.

Ted, you're up again.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: For the record, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is another request for permission from the Commission to proceed with an acquisition. This one is at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area in Jefferson County.

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It's in extreme Southeast Texas.

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This -- this -- the tract is actually adjacent to the public entrance/public driveway into the headquarters at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area just south of Port Arthur.

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The J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area is getting close to 25,000 acres now. Preserves just an amazing mosaic of coastal habitats, primarily freshwater, intermediate, and tidal wetlands, bayous, ponds, lakes, lagoons, emergent marshes, and coastal prairie. It is a destination not just for migratory waterfowl, songbirds, wading birds, shorebirds; but also for hunters and wildlife watchers. Just a very -- one of the jewels -- one of the crown jewels, quite frankly, in the wildlife management area portfolio.

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This particular tract is adjacent to the entrance to the wildlife management area. Staff has been working for 16 or 17 years that I know of to acquire this tract. The owners of the tract are now willing sellers. We've negotiated a fair market acquisition of the tract, and we've identified the funds to acquire that tract. The tract is being held under option, pending your approval that we acquire it.

I would also add that being adjacent to Highway 73 and to the park entrance, it's going to be very, very significant, giving us an opportunity for visitors to the wildlife management area to get off of the highway and park as they wait their turn to go into the WMA for -- primarily for hunting opportunities. We have times when that road is very crowded with overflow parking and is very unsafe. So there are not just -- not just operational reasons, but good public safety reasons for the acquisition of this tract.

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It's at the extreme north end of the wildlife management area.

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And you can see in this slide that it's 10 acres, of which about four is flat and adjacent to the highway and completely adjacent to the existing headquarter's complex at the wildlife management area.

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We received one comment in favor of the proposed acquisition.

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Staff does recommend that the Commission place this on tomorrow's agenda for public comment and action. I'd be happy to answer any questions.


Thank you, Ted.

If there's no further discussion, I will place the Acquisition of the Land, Jefferson County, Approximately 10 Acres at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 17, Exchange of Land, Orange County, Approximately 2 Acres at the Old River Unit of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area. This item was heard in Executive Session.

One more time, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Commissioners, good afternoon. I'm still Ted Hollingsworth with the Land Conservation Program. In this item, we're asking the Commission to grant the Executive Director permission to exchange approximately 2 acres of land with an adjacent private landowner at the Lower Neches -- at the Old River Unit of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area in Orange County.

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This is in Southeast Texas, just a few miles north of the wildlife management area we just discussed.

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The wildlife management area consists of about 8,000 acres right at the mouth of the Neches River where it empties into Sabine Lake.

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About 8,000 acres and three units very near Bridge City. In fact, basically butts up to Bridge City. Most of that land was donated by a Mrs. Nelda Stark. The area is known for its hunting and wildlife watching opportunities.

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There is a -- there is a private inholding at the southeast corner of that wildlife management area. We've been working with that landowner for probably 20 years to try and determine where our common boundary is. Our surveyor has done extensive research and the simple fact is that that boundary is obscured by the language in the deed and the fact that the -- any existing monuments are now submerged in the low water.

With more and more people visiting the wildlife management area and visiting a private boat launch at this -- that's on the property of this adjacent neighbor, we decided and the neighbor decided it was time we define a boundary so that we know when people are on the wildlife management area who should be there and when people are on the adjacent private property. And so we've worked with him to come up with a new boundary line that we're going to consummate by creating new deeds and recording those.

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Again, you can see where that is in southeast corner of the wildlife management area.

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And in this slide you can see the two tracts that would be exchanged. The green triangle in the north part of that slide is land that would come to us or at least that would be now deeded within the wildlife management area officially. And in the lower right-hand corner, that southeast corner, you can see there's a red polygon that is land that would now be part of the Baileys' property. And, again, those boundary lines are not definite; but they will be definite after this exchange is really in agreement of where the new boundary line will be.

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We received one comment in favor of the proposed transaction.

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Staff recommends that -- or requests that this item be placed on tomorrow's agenda for public comment and action. I'd be happy to answer any questions.


Thank you, Ted.

No further action is required at this time. We'll go on to Work Session Item No. 18, Grant of Pipeline Easement, Brazoria County, Approximately 6 Acres at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area. This item was heard in Executive Session.

Mr. Ted --

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman?


MR. SMITH: Before we proceed, don't we want to get your authorization to place the proposed exchange of land in Orange County on the agenda for tomorrow for public comment and action?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I can read that. It says or...

MR. SMITH: I think in this case, if you don't mind reading that first --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No, that's fine.

MR. SMITH: Okay, thank you.


Okay. If there's no further discussion, I will place the Exchange of Land, Orange County, Approximately 2 Acres at the Old River Unit of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Good to go.

Okay. Ted, now -- now we'll do No. 18, Grant of Pipeline Easement, Brazoria County, Approximately 6 Acres at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area. This item was heard in Executive Session.


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Commissioners, for the sake of the record, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is a second reading of this item. This item was held in Work Session in May and so the public has -- is aware of this item. Has had an opportunity to comment on it.

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The Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area is right on the coast. The southern boundary is the Intracoastal Waterway.

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Property is due south of Houston. About 60 miles south of the downtown area of Houston. It's just outside Freeport, Texas.

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As you can see in this aerial image, the WMA is surrounded on three sides by residential development, commercial industrial development, Port of Freeport facilities, and of course the Intracoastal Waterway.

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The wildlife -- Justin Hurst has been a wildlife management area since 1985 with the acquisition of the first 8,000 plus acres. It's now almost 15,000 acres. It's an amazing mosaic of coastal live oak forest, coastal prairie, wetlands ranging from estuarine wetlands and tidal wetlands to intermediate and freshwater wetlands. It is a magnet for shore and wading birds, for resident and migratory waterfowl, for neotropical songbirds that are in migration. It's also a magnet, quite frankly, for wildlife watchers, waterfowl hunters, deer and hog hunters. Just a -- just a very -- just a fantastic wildlife management area and a real island, quite frankly, because of the development adjacent to it.

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Enbridge has requested the easement that you're considering today. There is a bottleneck in the park in-between an existing tank farm and a property that's been acquired by Enbridge for the construction of another tank farm. That bottleneck is about a thousand feet wide and Enbridge needs to be able to connect those two tank farms with three 36-inch lines.

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The three 36-inch lines will be side by side and the -- even if you were to try to go around the proposed easement, you would still have to cross the wildlife management area to leave the existing battery or enter the new battery and so staff finds there's no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of Department land for the easement purpose.

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You can see in this slide both the bottleneck I'm talking about and that little red line shows where that -- where that short easement would be that would allow Enbridge to connect the existing tank farm and the new tank farm, which is labeled "proposed tank farm" on this map.

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We have received one comment in opposition to this -- to this act -- to this item. And the commenter does not believe wildlife management areas should be areas used for pipelines.

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Staff does request that this item be placed on tomorrow's agenda for public comment and action. I'd be happy to answer any questions.


Okay. There being none, if there's no further discussion, I will place the Grant of Pipeline Easement, Brazoria County, Approximately 6 Acres at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Okay. Now, we'll go to Work Session Item No. 19, Grant of Pipeline Easements, Brazoria County, Approximately 30 Acres at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process. This item was heard in Executive Session.


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. This item comes -- this is -- this will be the first public reading of a request from Sentinel Pipeline Company to install a couple of pipelines across the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area.

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Again, if you'll note in this picture, you can -- you can see that our adjacency to the Port of Freeport facilities, the strategic petroleum reserve in the lower right, and other industrial facilities, just means that under certain circumstances there may be cases where there just truly is no feasible and prudent alternative to going around the wildlife management area and the Commission has the authority to make that determination.

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Sentinel is in the process of trying to receive -- to secure permits to install pipelines that would connect to a proposed tank farm which would be north of the wildlife management area, connect those pipelines to the strategic petroleum reserve and to an offshore loading facility. A 36-inch line would -- is requested, an easement for a 36-inch line to connect the strategic petroleum reserve to the new tank battery and a 42-inch line to connect the new tank battery to the offshore terminal, which would -- if built -- would be about 33 miles off of Freeport in the Gulf of Mexico.

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The project is under review currently. Draft environmental impact statements should be published in the near future. A number of state and federal agencies have been involved in this process and will continue to be involved. After that EIS is published, there will be a public comment period.

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This slide shows the route that is requested for the easement. Staff have worked with Sentinel to try and minimize the distance of that line across the WMA and to -- and to ensure that each reach of that line that crosses the WMA will be installed by horizontal directional drilling to eliminate impacts to the surface. The total length of that line now is about 3.4 miles across the WMA.

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Staff requests permission to begin the public notice and input process. I'd be happy to answer any questions.


Okay. Thank you again, Ted.

If no further discussion, I authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Carter, do I need to do No. 20?

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir. If you can just kind of read through the rest of that script there and cover it, we should be wrapped up here pretty quickly.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. Number -- Item 20 is on the Bastrop Fire Litigation Settlement. We heard a presentation on that in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 21, Litigation Update, this item was heard in Executive Session. There's really nothing new to comment on that, particularly in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 22, well, we did our performance evaluation of Carter Smith. I probably won't make any comment about what we came up with. But, no, as usual we all recognize the good and hard work that Carter puts in and all of his team. So we thank everybody for that.

I guess that wraps us up.

Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its Work Session business and I declare us adjourned at 3:30 p.m.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(Work Session Adjourns)



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.


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

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2020

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681