Commission Meeting Agenda Item No. 7
Presenter: Ted Hollingsworth

Request for Drainage Easement – Orange County
Approximately 20 Acres at the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area
January 27, 2022

I.      Executive Summary:   The Orange County Drainage District (OCDD) requests a pair of easements across the Old River and Nelda Stark Units of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to clean out, enlarge, and extend a system of stormwater drainage canals.

II.     Discussion: The Lower Neches WMA consists of three units totaling approximately 6,600 owned acres and 1,437 leased acres adjacent to the Neches River near its confluence with Sabine Lake in Orange County. The habitat is made up almost exclusively of coastal wetlands including open water and natural and restored marshes, with small areas of transitional and upland habitat. The area is a popular destination for fishermen, waterfowl hunters, and nature watchers.

The WMA is bordered to the north by the community of Bridge City. Much of this community rests only a few feet above sea level and drains south into the WMA or into waters adjacent to the WMA. The community is subject to flooding, especially during high-rainfall events associated with tropical storms.

Increased runoff from development regularly overwhelms ditches and canals excavated decades ago. The OCDD believes the most effective way to reduce stormwater flooding is to re-profile the existing ditches and canals, excavate new canals to connect existing systems, and extend canals across emergent marshes within the WMA.

If not properly designed, canals can exacerbate marsh deterioration and loss and increase pollutant and nutrient loading. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff has been working with the OCDD to minimize the proposed taking of TPWD land and reduce potential impacts to fish and wildlife resources.

III.   Recommendation: The staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion:

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the Resolution attached as
  Exhibit A.”

Attachments – 4

  1. Exhibit A – Resolution
  2. Exhibit B – Location Map
  3. Exhibit C – Vicinity Map
  4. Exhibit D – Site Map

Commission Agenda Item No. 7
Exhibit A

A Resolution by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Regarding the Granting of a Drainage Easement Covering Approximately 20 Acres of Real Property in Orange County for Drainage Improvements 


        Whereas, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) owns and operates the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area (LNWMA) for a variety of conservation and recreation values, including restoration and management of coastal wetlands and uplands that provide habitat for resident and migratory waterfowl and a variety of other fish and wildlife and providing fishing and hunting opportunities for the public; and,

        Whereas, much of the community of Bridge City drains into the LNWMA through surface runoff and through a decades-old system of ditches; and,

        Whereas, the Orange County Drainage District (OCDD) is seeking to reduce flooding in the community of Bridge City by upgrading drainage infrastructure upstream from the LNWMA; and,

        Whereas, the OCDD requests an easement on the LNWMA to accommodate part of its planned drainage upgrade to clean out, enlarge, and extend a system of stormwater drainage canals; and,

        Whereas, the OCDD requests the use of approximately 20 acres of land on the LNWMA in the form of drainage easements to accommodate the proposed drainage improvements; and,

        Whereas, OCDD and TPWD staff have worked with OCDD’s drainage consultants to design a drainage system that minimizes the taking of TPWD land, minimizes short and long-term impacts to the natural resources of the LNWMA, and optimizes drainage benefits for the community of Bridge City; and,

        Whereas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (Commission) finds that as required by Texas Parks and Wildlife Code (PWC) chapter 26, notices of today’s hearing of this matter were published at least once a week for three consecutive weeks in newspapers of general circulation which are published at least six days a week in the communities nearest to the LNWMA in which such newspapers are published (The Beaumont Enterprise in Jefferson County), with the last day of publication being not less than one week or more than two weeks before the date of today’s hearing; and,

        Whereas, the Commission finds, in accordance with PWC chapter 26, that (1) there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use or taking of such land (Easement); (2) the program or project that requires the use of an Easement includes all reasonable planning to minimize harm to the land; and,

        Whereas, the Commission finds that the grant of an Easement subject to conditions that will minimize harm of the Easement to the LNWMA is in accordance with PWC section 11.301; and,

        Now, therefore, the Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to negotiate terms and conditions under which an Easement may be granted and to grant an Easement to the OCDD for the purposes and subject to the conditions described herein and in the motion approved in this Resolution.

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this 27th day of January, 2022.

Arch “Beaver” Aplin, III, Chairman

Dick Scott, Vice-Chairman

James E. Abell, Member

Oliver J. Bell, Member

Paul L. Foster, Member

Anna B. Galo, Member

Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Member

Robert L. “Bobby” Patton, Jr., Member

Travis B. “Blake” Rowling, Member

Commission Agenda Item No. 7
Exhibit B

Location Map for the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area in Orange County

Commission Agenda Item No. 7
Exhibit C

Vicinity Map for the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
Between Nederland and Orange

Commission Agenda Item No. 7
Exhibit D

Site Map for Proposed Route Drainage Improvements on Lower Neches WMA
Outline of Lower Neches WMA in Yellow
Proposed Drainage Improvements in Blue