TPW Commission

Public Hearing, November 9, 2020


TPW Commission Meetings


November 9, 2020




CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Good afternoon, everyone. The Annual Public Hearing is called to order November 9th, 2020, at 2:04 p.m.

Before we begin, I will need to take roll call. Chairman Morian is present.



CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell present.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?



I know, Commissioner Patton, I heard you earlier.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yep, still here.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. And I can see Commissioner Scott, so I know he's here.

This is our Annual Public Hearing. And before proceeding with any further business, Mr. Smith, I believe you have a statement to make and some comments about how the system works.

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. 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.

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

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I just want to join all of you in welcoming the speakers today to the meeting, albeit virtually. We really appreciate those of you who signed up to speak to the Commission and taking time out of your Monday to join us.

Just a little bit about the rules of the road for the call today. At the appropriate time, you will be allowed in through the conference bridge to address the Commission about any matter of your choosing. Just as a reminder, each speaker will have two minutes to speak to the Commission and when you start, if you don't mind saying your -- saying your name and let the Commission know who you are and then please present the matter of interest to you. Again, we look forward to getting your input and feedback and thank you for joining us today.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I'll turn it -- turn it back over to you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you very much, Carter.

All right. This is usually one of our more productive and fun things to do, but this is our first attempt at doing a virtual meeting. So we'll go see how it works. And the first speaker is Alissa Magrum on water safety and drowning prevention.



MS. ALISSA MAGRUM: Can you guys hear me okay?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: We can hear you.



MS. ALISSA MAGRUM: Okay, perfect. Good afternoon, Chairman Morian and Commissioners. My name is Alissa Magrum. I'm the Executive Director for the Texas State nonprofit organization Colin's Hope. Our mission is to provide education, awareness, and resources to prevent drowning. I'm also on the board for the Texas Drowning Prevention Alliance and part of a group working on the National Water Safety Action Plan.

I speak to you today in an effort to increase collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife so that we can better educate Texans and visitors to Texas state parks about water safety to prevent drowning. I've been in this role for the last decade because I love spending time outdoors and recreating in water; but drowning is fast, silent, and a preventable epidemic.

In the last two years, at least 164 Texas children have fatally drowned. Forty-nine of those in open water. It's estimated that five to six times as many children have had a non-fatal drowning incident. That means another -- at least another 300 children survived a non-fatal drowning incident in open water alone. And those are just the child statistics.

At Colin's Hope, we believe that by educating children, parents, and caregivers, we can prevent these and all drownings. This summer we saw more Texas families at area lakes, beaches, and open-water swimming areas, as many pools were closed because of the pandemic. As Texas families get into open water to swim, recreate, and boat, many are uneducated about the dangers of open water and unaware of simple things they can do to prevent drownings from happening to their family. Together we can educate them.

Colin's Hope hopes to work alongside Texas Parks and Wildlife by providing water safety educational resources to be distributed at state parks, which support your goals two and three in your strategic plan. We would love to involve Texas Parks and Wildlife in developing and implementing a statewide drowning prevention program that dovetails and aligns with the National Water Safety Action Plan, as well as local plans throughout Texas. And we are able to provide training for TPWD personnel who provide outreach to children and families at Texas state parks.

Thank you so much for your time. Colin's Hope looks forward to any opportunity to work beside Texas Parks and Wildlife to help keep Texas families safer around recreating in, on, near, and around our open waters. Thank you so much for your time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you and thank you for what you do and I'm sure the Department is very interested in any collaboration that you can work out, so.

MR. SMITH: Very much, Mr. Chairman, and we'll follow up with her. Absolutely. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Thank you.

The next speaker is Dana George on water safety in Texas.

MS. DANA GAGE: Hi, everyone. Can you hear me? It's actually Dane Gage, to clarify the record. Can everyone hear me?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: We can hear you. I can hear you.

MS. DANA GAGE: Okay, very good. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Dana Gage and I'm speaking to you today about the importance of creating a more focused effort toward the very real and pervasive problem, that is drowning in our great State of Texas.

So by way of introduction, I'm founder of the LV Project. We're a nonprofit in Fort Worth dedicated to increasing the use of life vests on open water. I'm active in water safety at a national level, serving on the Board of the National Safe Boating Council and recently was appointed to serve on the Life Jacket Workgroup for the United States first National Water Safety Plan.

In 2019, I was deeply honored to receive your Agency's 2019 Boater Educator of the Year Award. But more than any of those titles, the reason I'm here is that I am first and foremost Connor's mom. Beside being a lifelong lake kid and an excellent swimmer, my beautiful 15-year-old son drowned on Labor Day weekend at Possum Kingdom Lake in 2012.

I have since learned that Connor's story is not at all unusual, but it is 100 percent preventable. And since open water is the catalyst with so many Texas deaths each year, I'd like to -- you to consider three things. No. 1, Texas is a top boating state. We rank No. 2 in the nation for annual spending on sales of new boats and related products. In 2019, the number was 1.9 billion. That's up 9 percent from the previous year. We are second only to Florida. In fact, there are currently 600,000 registered boats in Texas, with millions of people visiting our waterways each year.

No. 2, perhaps not coincidently, we're a top drowning state. According to USA Swimming, we're No. 2 in the country for drownings, with more than 1,800 souls lost over the past ten years. Many of those in open water. Third, drowning isn't just a little kid problem. Drowning rates triple at age 15, the majority of those are in open water. In fact, 72 percent of all drownings are in open water, most of them being teenagers and adults, just like my Connor.

Open water is fun, but it's dangerous. And as an Agency with recreational oversight, my hope is that we can all together take a very real look at this problem. I believe a very good start would be to create a singular, dedicated department to open-water safety in Texas. Thanks so much for letting me speak today.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, thank you. And, again, thank you for you what you do. I'm sure the Department would be more than happy to work with you and reach out.

All right. The next speaker is David Zane on also on drowning prevention.

MR. DAVID ZANE: Good afternoon, Chairman Morian, Commissioners, and Director Carter. My name is David Zane. I live in Austin, and I am testifying as a private citizen. I would like to add my voice to those others speaking today to raise awareness on the magnitude of drownings occurring in open waters in our state.

By trade, I am an epidemiologist. So I look to look at information and statistics. I've seen your Agency data on the number of open-water drownings that occur each year in the state, and the large number is concerning. Over the last five years, there's been over 300 open-water drownings. Sadly, that's an average of at least 60 per year in our state. This is probably not the full extent of the drowning problem since it does not include those that survive a drowning.

Sometimes it's important to have a perspective on things like this. So I want to compare for you the yearly number of these open-water drownings to the yearly number of hunting fatalities in Texas. Tragically, it seems that there are two or three hunting fatalities per year in the state. Contrast that with at least 60 drowning fatalities per year. Or to put it another way, for every hunting fatality, there are at least 20 to 30 drowning fatalities each year.

Despite the sobering data, we all know that drownings are preventable. So with that in mind, I would like to encourage the Agency to do two things. First, to strengthen the prevention strategies outlined in your Agency's strategic plan. Specifically as it relates to data collection and analysis. And, two, work with -- work with community drowning prevention organizations across Texas to develop and strengthen a statewide drowning prevention effort related to open waters.

In closing, I want to thank you for the opportunity to raise the importance of preventing drowning in open waters, an issue that is a concern in Texas. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. And it's -- you've addressed -- all three of you addressed an issue that I hadn't really focused on, but certainly Parks and Wildlife can be involved.

All right. Next speaker is Ashford Rosenberg speaking on the Gulf of Mexico CARES Act Spend Plan, I guess.

MS. ASHFORD ROSENBERG: Good afternoon. Can y'all hear me?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, thank you.

MS. ASHFORD ROSENBERG: Hi. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Ashford Rosenberg, and I am the Policy Analyst for the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance. We are the largest organization of grouper and snapper fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. We have members in all five Gulf states, including a strong membership -- strong membership base in Texas. We are incorporating Texas and have been based in Galveston since 2007.

My comments today are focused on Texas Spend Plan for the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on commercial fishermen across the Gulf of Mexico. Most seafood product caught by Texas commercial fishermen goes to restaurants on the coast and throughout the country. With the closure of restaurants over this year, fishing was essentially shut down and the traditional supply chain for Texas products severely disrupted. And in May, President Trump signed the CARES Act into law, which included 300 million in disaster relief for commercial fishermen nationwide.

So the 9.2 million allocated to the State of Texas through the CARES Act is not enough to make fishermen whole, it could provide a critical stopgap for fishermen and seafood businesses still recovering from the first shutdown and with potentially more restaurant closures coming down the pipe.

Today I'm seeking information on the status of the -- status of the spend plan for the State of Texas. Other states are accepting applications and Texas commercial fishermen are curious of when they can expect to be able to apply for assistance. If possible, I would appreciate it if the Commission could provide any light on the following questions: What's the status of the spend plan, and when will it be submitted to NOAA for approval? What criteria will be used to determine the 35 percent revenue loss for commercial fishermen and fishing businesses? What will the application process be, and will there be an opportunity for industry input into the plan?

Thank you so much for your time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, thank you for taking your time out, reach out to us. I don't really know --

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, maybe I could comment on that and so --


MR. SMITH: -- that is something that we are working on with the Governor's Office and Robin Riechers is our lead on that and why don't we just have him follow up with Ms. Rosenberg directly to be able to answer those questions that she raised. And I'm sure Robin is listening; but if not, we'll follow up right after the meeting.


MR. SMITH: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Great, thank you.

The next speaker is Mr. Ken Hale, but I understand he's not on.

Then we have John Gully, who is also not -- he's -- he's there. Okay. Mr. Gully with East Matagorda Bay. Okay.

MR. JOHN GULLY: Yes, sir. My name is John Gully. It's a pleasure to be on with y'all, and I thank you for Parks and Wildlife for everything that y'all do for the State of Texas.

And I just want to say I fish East Matagorda Bay probably in the area for the last 20 to 25 years. And when I started fishing the bay, it was just awesome, awesome bay to catch trout and reds. It was very easy to catch it trout. And I'm concerned and many other friends of mine are concerned that the trout fishing has gone down significantly over the past five years and I have some reasons I wanted to bring out to y'all to point out why I think that's happening.

And one, you know, it's population growth. That's just -- that's just the nature of the business and technology increase, there's nothing you can do about that. But I think the Matagorda area is just oversaturated with the amount of guides that are over the area. And I don't mean to sound like I'm a guide basher because they provide a very good service for kids and people that don't have boats and stuff like that, but I've heard of multiple guides that will take more than one, two, three trips per day and that is really -- really hit me down to the core. That's just very frustrating. You know, why should they take -- abuse the bay and take more than one trip a day? They should only be limited to one trip a day.

Say the average fisherman fishes one or two times a month. Say they take 20 to 40 trout per month. A guide will go out and fish. Say they will take six trips a week. I guess if they had a good week, that's 120 trout a week. Okay? And then you do that -- say that -- say 50 guides do that. That's 6,000 trout per week. Over a 10-month period, say two months they don't get to fish much, that's 60,000 trout over a whole entire year. So that's -- to me, that's an exorbitant amount of fish taken.

Unfortunately, you know, there's no way you can take guide licenses away; but I wish there was a way that you could limit the number of licenses that are issued for a particular bay or make it more difficult to get a license.

And another thing that I wish that could be implemented is for guides to have to fill out a log, and it would be a very simple log. I don't mean to give Parks and Wildlife more work to do; but it would be what bay system we fish on, particular bay, how many fish are harvested, and how many clients we took out in this particular bay, and that would be submitted maybe per month, per year, and that would give an idea of how many fish are harvested for a particular bay system for the entire year.

So I have some suggestions that -- that could be implemented. No. 1, one of my friends suggested up the 15 inches to 18 inches. Go 18 to 25 inches. One thing that I was going around was maybe November to May, drop the 25 to 20. Make it 15 to 20 inches for November to May. And I don't know if it would work or maybe make it three trouts per person or ten trouts per boat and then make guides do a logbook, only one guide trip per day, limit the number of guide licenses issued and per bay system, if possible.

And No. 6, no more running the shorelines by power boats. I think that has taken away some of our grass in the shorelines. I went to other states on what they do. You know, Louisiana is just -- that's just too much, 25 trout. Florida, they have so many different complicated rules and regulations. I think Texas does an awesome job. I like the fact of five-trout limits. I like how guides are not allowed to submit their catch; but say there's four people on a boat, three clients and one guide, they're going to take three limits. And I've heard of many occasions where the guide will contribute to the catch and a good majority of the catch. And I know there's nothing that anybody can do about that. That's just kind of the nature of the business.

I just wanted to bring that up and if y'all could take my suggestions into consideration, I'd really appreciate it. And I'm an avid fisherman, very passionate, and I want my kid to enjoy the fisheries as much as I have, and then his kids and kids and to continue to enjoy fishing. It's an awesome thing to do, get the kids out there and fish. I thank y'all very much for my time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: We want to -- we want to do the same thing, I can assure you. And you've given us a lot to think about and I'm sure they'll make note and think about what we can do.

Mr. Ken Hale, I understand you're now on the line. You're speaking about exotic fish regulation fee changes. So, please go ahead.

MR. KEN HALE: Yes, sir, I'm here. Thank you.


MR. KEN HALE: I'm sorry. You're breaking up just a little bit. What -- would you repeat that, please?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: No, I just said go ahead. You're on.

MR. KEN HALE: Oh. I'm in the middle of the stage. Huh? Okay.


MR. KEN HALE: Well, as I'm sure all of your other participants have said, I appreciate the opportunity to submit what my thoughts and feelings are. Of course, the area of my concern has to do with your Exotic Species Division, particularly where we are involved, of course, is with the sale of the sterile Grass carp and the sale of the Tilapia.

And I noticed the recommendation was that essentially even though we're not talking about a great deal of money, you were going to be doubling the fees and cutting the workload at the same time and I found that very interesting. I know you do have expenses and the Governor has forced everyone, every department, to submit major cutbacks; but I really have a little issue with some of that.

And really and truly, the overall issue -- not with the sterile Grass carp, because I feel like that's -- you've really got that worked out pretty well where you can keep track of what's coming in and keep up with that. But the Tilapia, being of the capa -- fact that they just really have very little capability to overwinter unless they're in a power plant lake, really have not proved themselves to be any kind of problem. And I think we are missing out on a great deal of commerce by keeping these kind of restrictions on these fish where they could not be used for other purposes.

My area that I'm selling to, of course, is for individual pond and lake stocking for vegetation control and, of course, for forage for the bass and the catfish, which they do a tremendous job since they are so prolific. Now, I realize, you know, you'd have to draw a line somewhere down in Southern Texas where they just do not have the winters that we do up here in the northeastern part of the state; but I think Mother Nature pretty well takes care of this without having to get into so much regulatory control.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Well, we'll take your comments into account and I appreciate you taking the time to voice them.

MR. SMITH: (Inaudible).


MR. SMITH: (Inaudible).

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Let me just call their name just for the record. Mr. Eric Brazer was going to speak on commercial fishing.

Okay. And Mr. Donny Lynch, he was going to talk about the gate closure at Caddo Wildlife Management Area.

Is there anybody else on the line that has not had a chance to speak?

All right. In that case, the Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned at 2:28 p.m. Thank y'all.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(Public Hearing 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.

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

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


Paige S. Watts, CSR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2016

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681


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