Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., Jan. 19, 2000

Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Item
No.
Subject Public Hearing
Agenda Item No.
  Approval of the Committee Minutes from the previous meeting  
  Summary of Minutes  
1. Chairman's Charges (Oral Presentation) Committee Only
2. State Park Transfer Update
Staff: Walt Dabney
Committee Only
3. Wetlands Conservation and Ducks Unlimited
Staff: Vernon Bevill
Committee Only
4. Land Acquisition – Jack County
Staff: Kathryn Nichols
11
5. Other Business  

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
November 17, 1999

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 17th day of November, 1999, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the commission hearing room of the Parks and Wildlife Headquarters complex, Austin, Travis County, Texas, beginning at 9:40 a.m., to-wit:

COMMISSION ATTENDANCE:

Carol E. Dinkins, Chair
Lee M. Bass
Ernest Angelo, Jr.
John Avila, Jr.
Dick Heath (absent)
Alvin L. Henry (absent)
Katharine Armstrong Idsal
Nolan Ryan
Mark E. Watson, Jr.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

Mark E. Watson, Jr. moved to approve the minutes of the last committee meeting (June 2, 1999) and Nolan Ryan seconded the motion, which carried.

THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED FOR COMMITTEE ACTION:

1. BRIEFING – CHAIRMAN’S CHARGES
Presenter: Andy Sansom

Mr. Sansom relayed Mr. Bass’ request to hear all of the charges at one time, later in the day.

2. ACTION – FIBER OPTIC EASEMENT - TRAVIS COUNTY – SMITH SCHOOL ROAD

resenters: Mike Herring and Kathy Boydston

Mr. Herring informed the Committee about the request for a permanent easement along Smith School Road to install a fiber optic cable by a private communications company who purchased the building adjacent to the Department’s Austin headquarters. The easement would be 2,000 feet long, five feet wide and total 10,000 square feet. A construction permit and certificate of occupancy for ten years was previously issued, with a provision for conversion to a permanent easement contingent on Parks and Wildlife Commission and the Parks and Wildlife Board for Lease approval.

Mr. Herring went on to say that the company would pay $45,000 for the easement ($4.50 per square foot). Staff concludes there is no feasible or prudent alternative to the use of the easement and all reasonable planning has been done to minimize harm to the land. Mark Watson, Jr. moved that the item be taken to the Board for Lease and the motion carried.

3. ACTION – NOMINATION FOR OIL AND GAS LEASES, BRAZOS BEND STATE PARK – FORT BEND COUNTY, SHELDON STATE PARK – HARRIS COUNTY

Presenters: Mike Herring and Kathy Boydston

Mr. Herring noted that 662 of the 2,265 mineral acres owned by the department at Sheldon Lake State Park have been requested for nomination. The tract is so small that the conditions require offsite drilling or pooling. Two tracts totaling 3,170 acres have been requested at Brazos Bend State Park and standard restrictions, which are designed to minimize environmental impact, are imposed. There are existing well sites at Brazos Bend and drilling is limited to those sites. Compensation for both would be the standard $150 per acre bonus bid, a 25 percent royalty, and $10 per acre delay rental for a three-year lease. Surface damages of $2500 per drill site are also required for Brazos Bend.

Carol Dinkins asked if the existing well pads at Brazos Bend State Park have been mapped. Kathy Boydston stated they are located on aerial photography and the people requesting the nomination agreed the locations could be reached from those pads. There are other disturbed locations available in case they are not able to do that.

Ernest Angelo, Jr. moved that the item be placed on the agenda for full Commission consideration on November 18, 1999. The motion carried. Mr. Herring stated that both Item 2 and Item 3 would be good candidates for the consent agenda and John Avila, Jr. moved that the motions be amended to reflect that.

4. BRIEFING – TPWD IMPLEMENTATION OF S. B. 1

Presenters: Larry McKinney and Cindy Loeffler

Mr. McKinney introduced Cindy Loeffler as head of the water team and the one who is in charge of implementing Senate Bill 1. He then reviewed the process wherein the department works in partnership with the TNRCC and the Water Development Board. Each of the 16 planning regions of the state are charged with producing a plan for their region to develop water management strategies to meet future water needs for the next 50 years, which will be submitted to the Water Development Board in January of 2001. The overall state water plan will be due the following year. There will be a series of public hearings in each region through the summer.

Mr. McKinney recognized that staff from every division has been trying to make our resources available to planning groups in order to be sure fish and wildlife will be adequately addressed. He asked them to prepare, under Cindy’s direction, a progress report to indicate where we are in the process of addressing fish, wildlife and environmental issues with the groups. This is not necessarily a rating of how well these groups are including the issues, but whether they are at least a part of their development plans.

A number of the regions have not agreed with the state’s projections of population and water-use for the next 50 years and those are being worked out. It’s important to come to agreement on those issues because they will set the stage for strategies that will be developed. Another issue the department is working closely with the regions on is the potential for designation of rivers and streams for their unique ecological value. Only the local planning groups can propose the designations and then the legislature needs to adopt them. There are concerns being raised in some areas about impacts on private property. Department staff is seeking help from the Private Lands Advisory Committee to get that information out so people understand what it is, the fact that it’s a locally driven option and that it could be of value to them. All of this information is also on our website with greater detail.

Mr. McKinney stated that many times environmental considerations get put off until the last, but Department staff is available to each of the planning groups to assist them. Staff completed an evaluation matrix and the Water Development Board has distributed it. Staff is arranging to work with all of the state agencies, as well as all of the federal resource agencies, to bring a series of meetings together with each planning region and evaluate every one of their strategies in order to help them get through the entire process. Examples of the evaluation matrix were discussed, as well as the fact that a mutually agreed-upon consensus water plan needs to be the finished product.

Mr. McKinney then asked Cindy Loeffler to review other aspects of Senate Bill 1 implementation. She discussed the new water-availability models for the state (to be completed by 12/31/01), allowing staff, working with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, to use the most current information in analyzing how much water is actually available in all 22 river basins. These models will represent environmental flow needs, instream flow needs and freshwater inflow needs to the basin estuaries, and can be used as tools to look at the impacts of new water development, impacts of changing how current water rights are used, and impacts of reusing water. TNRCC is the contract manager, awarding contracts to private consulting firms to apply a model developed by Texas A&M with some modifications to different basins. Mr. Sansom emphasized that the assured-flow of freshwater to basin estuaries is the most important ecological issue to the estuaries.

Ms. Loeffler then reviewed the status of the coastal program estuary studies underway in concert with the Texas Water Development Board staff. She reported they are on schedule and results are available for a number of bay systems; the water availability models will incorporate the freshwater inflow needs for estuaries and help develop different water-use scenarios. The Regional Water Planning Groups will have these models available to look at impacts of different management strategies on freshwater inflows.

Senate Bill 1 also requires the department to study natural resources in areas that are described as priority groundwater management areas. An area that is expected to or is currently experiencing groundwater problems due to water quality problems, decline in groundwater levels, or future increasing demand, can be designated by TNRCC as a priority groundwater management area. Staff will provide technical information and data as to the natural resource issues and potential natural resource problems in respect to groundwater use. The Texas Water Development Board is currently undertaking groundwater availability modeling—how it affects springflows, how surface water and groundwater interact, and how groundwater activities can affect instream flows, freshwater inflows, and springs.

Ms. Loeffler also discussed the Texas Water Trust, which will allow a water right holder to dedicate that water right to environmental flow protection. This prevents the water right from being cancelled for non-use by TNRCC. The Water Development Board is helping to establish the procedure that the agencies and the water right holders would follow to carry this out. The Department is now ready to deposit a water right from Sheldon State Park that has not been used for the original intended purpose and can be dedicated to environmental flow protection. Mr. Sansom stated that he felt in years to come the Department would need to purchase water to put into this trust in order to make sure it’s there.

Ms. Loeffler described how all of the reports mentioned are posted to the website in order to be available to everyone and she reiterated that it has taken the dedication of staff from all the Divisions to come this far.

5. BRIEFING – STATUS OF PARK TRANSFERS

Presenters: Robert L. Cook and Walt Dabney

Mr. Cook told the Committee that H.B. 2108 provided some funding for the transfer of state park properties to other local governmental entities. He explained this is a very sensitive issue to everyone involved—department staff and people in the communities.

Mr. Dabney reviewed the process so far. Department staff first briefed key members of the legislature; then letters were sent to park employees explaining the situation and assuring them they would still have jobs. After that, letters were sent to members of the Texas Legislature, Texas Historical Commission, Texas Recreation and Parks Society, the various friends groups, river authorities, local officials, mayors, county judges, county commissions and city managers. The criteria used in this approach was that the locals clearly understood the needs for that site, whether that meant protection of natural or cultural resources or endangered species under state or federal law, control and operation, investment and potential long-term financial impacts of the site. Also, if it were not a state park anymore, what would the impact be? Another criterion is the level of significance: Is the site primarily of local interest or is it one that has a large regional or statewide significance? The last requirement is that this be a mutually agreed upon transfer—something reasonable both from the state’s standpoint and the local entity’s standpoint.

Mr. Dabney said there have been some inquiries, with a few face-to-face visits with mayors or city managers, or a combination of city and county officials. Department staff provided additional financial information. The next step would be some formal proposal such as a resolution from a city council or a county commission. At this time, staff has not gotten past the "Information Exchange" level, although serious discussions are on-going regarding Lockhart State Park and Lubbock Lake Landmark State Park.

There was discussion on different aspects of possible transfers and how there were no limits set to begin discussions; interested entities generally came to realize that most sites were being operated and protected better than they could do themselves. Staff felt it was important to keep the process straightforward and fairly simple. The Commission would be notified if negotiations become serious. Any transfer grant would need to be formally approved. One important outcome of these negotiations is the prospect for future partnering that would not otherwise be discovered.

6. OTHER BUSINESS - There was no other business.

Meeting adjourned at 10:25 a.m.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Chairman's Charges
January 2000

(This item will be an oral presentation.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Walt Dabney

Conservation Committee
Briefing
State Park Transfer Update
January 2000

I. DISCUSSION: Staff will present an update regarding the status of the State Park transfer initiative that resulted from passage of House Bill 2108 during the 76th Texas Legislature. Provisions of House Bill 2108 included grant funding for operations and maintenance of areas being transferred from Parks and Wildlife to other political subdivisions of the state for public use. The briefing will include a review of the transfer process, key issues and considerations associated with possible transfer of state park sites to other subdivisions of the state and potential transfers currently being discussed.


Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Vernon Bevill

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Ducks Unlimited
January 2000

I. DISCUSSION: The mission of Ducks Unlimited is to fulfill the annual life cycle needs of North American waterfowl by protecting, enhancing, restoring and managing important wetlands and associated uplands. The idea for Ducks Unlimited was born by the winds that created the Dust Bowl. Untold acres of wetland habitat vanished in the 1930's, taking with them the promise of generations of waterfowl. In 1937 a small group of conservationists who realized that the majority of North America's waterfowl breed in the Canadian prairies, organized to raise money in the United States for waterfowl conservation in Canada. Ken Babcock of the Southern Regional Office of Ducks Unlimited in Memphis, Tennessee will present an overview of the DU program with emphasis on the Central Flyway and Texas in particular. Texas Parks and Wildlife has had a long history of involvement with DU through the MARSH program and cooperation on three waterfowl joint ventures.


Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Kathryn Nichols

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Acquisition – Jack County
January 2000

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 11.)


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