Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., Jan. 24, 2001

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. Nomination for Oil and Gas Lease – Sheldon Lake State Park
Staff: Kathy Boydston
13
3. Land Acquisition – Uvalde County (Garner SP)
Staff: Karen Leslie
14
4. Land Acquisition – Brewster County (Big Bend Ranch SP)
Staff: Karen Leslie
15
5. Land Acquisition – Nacogdoches County (Alazan Bayou)
Staff: Jack Bauer
16
6. Land Acquisition – Anderson County (Big Lake Bottom WMA)
Staff: Jack Bauer
17
7. Land Acquisition – Brewster County (Black Gap WMA)
Staff: Jack Bauer
18
8. Other Business  

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
November 8, 2000

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 8th day of November, 2000, 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 2:00 p.m., to-wit:

COMMISSION ATTENDANCE:

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

APPROVAL OF MINUTES: The minutes of the last committee meeting were approved.

THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED FOR COMMITTEE ACTION:

1. BRIEFING – Chairman’s Charges

Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Mr. Sansom explained that Texas Technological University is in the final stages of a statewide study of resources and recreation behaviors and preferences and that Phase I, the demographic research, will be reviewed today. He stated that another important briefing with respect to charges is Dr. McKinney’s status report on Senate Bill 1 implementation.

6. BRIEFING – S.B. 1

Presenters: Dr. McKinney and Cindy Loeffler

Dr. McKinney introduced Cindy Loeffler, Head of Resource Protection Division’s water resource team and she proceeded to give the Committee an overview of S.B. 1 activities.

Ms. Loeffler explained that S.B. 1 was drafted during the 75th session of the Legislature in 1997 and signed into law by Governor Bush in June of 1997. The biggest change that S.B. 1 brought to water planning in Texas is regionalization, with 16 water regions created. Each of those regions is made up of at least 11 different interest groups and it wasn’t until November of 1998 that the regions were actually created, with members being appointed. At that time, regional planning rules were adopted and Parks and Wildlife staff had input into the rules.

The regional planning groups have been working on putting together their regional water plans. The draft plans, along with public comments, were submitted to the Water Development Board in October 2000, with copies being forwarded to the department on October 9th. Ms. Loeffler stated that staff from Resource Protection, Inland Fisheries, Coastal Fisheries and Wildlife Divisions is currently reviewing the 16 regional water plans and should be finished later in November. These people are non-voting members and attend the meetings and support the different regions. Staff hours spent in meeting, preparing for meetings, etc. are estimated to total 2,656.

Department staff prepared seven reports for what is called the "Priority Groundwater Management Area (the PGMA process); reports to document ecologically significant rivers and streams in the regions; and two studies documenting resources in regions that would be affected by different types of water management strategies. Department staff also were involved in several long-term baseline studies: Freshwater inflow studies for the bays and estuaries and instream flow studies, looking at water availability, both groundwater and surface water.

TNRCC is taking the lead on the water availability modeling project, with TPW as a member of the Management Advisory Team taking part in the selection of the consultants to actually construct the models. This will be a tool to show the effect water diversions, reservoir projects and water right permits will have on instream flows.

The Texas Water Development Board is spearheading an effort to model groundwater availability, which will help decision-makers determine impacts to these resources. This will be completed in 2004 and will eventually link with the surface water models.

Dr. McKinney explained that Department staff grouped the proposed water management strategies from least impactful to the environment to most impactful. He stated that every ecological region in Texas, every ecosystem and every species of wildlife would be affected by the plan. He compared it to the 1997 Consensus Water Plan with 343 pages (Senate Bill 1 Regional Plans have at least 25,000 pages). The 1997 Consensus Water Plan contemplated eight reservoirs as opposed to about 22 in S.B. 1. Costs to implement compare from $4.7 billion to $17.7 billion.

S.B. 1 also allowed for the identification of ecologically unique stream segments and unique reservoir sites, where a reservoir might be built in the future. Dr. McKinney pointed out that Department staff identified 228 stream segments meeting a set of criteria adopted in the rules to make the first cut. There were a total of 46 sites nominated as potential reservoir sites by the regional water planning groups, mostly in the northeast corner of the state. Only one region chose to nominate ecologically unique stream segments.

Dr. McKinney recognized that S.B. 1 contained a clear and direct mandate for this water plan to be a grassroots effort from the regions, with resource agencies in supporting roles. The Department was criticized for holding environmental workshops at the beginning of the planning process. Staff’s ability to work with different regions was uneven. Region H was chosen as the one that stood out because they identified ecologically significant streams and put together a special group to look at freshwater inflows and how that needed to fit into their water management scheme. Other regions did this to varying degrees.

This was a monumental job with very little time and money to accomplish it, so most regions were only able to identify the water resources in their region, along with the demands and needs. Therefore, environmental issues will be resolved during the regulatory process when the plans move forward for implementation, going through state permitting and federal permitting. Dr. McKinney suggested during the next round of S.B. 1 planning that Department staff work with the Water Development Board and others to put together environmental evaluation screens to sort through strategies and see which ones would work and which would create problems. Another screen needs to be built regarding costs.

Ms. Loeffler explained how the process would work from here on. Staff will prepare a letter to the Texas Water Development Board containing the Department’s concerns and comments for all 16 regions. She said they hoped to be able to send information to the Commissioners in December containing a thorough explanation of the issues involved. Also in December the Water Development Board will be working on the executive summary to the state plan, which is due to the Legislature by February 2001. Staff should have some input. Next summer, June 2001, the Water Development Board plans to adopt all of the 16 regional plans. Then in September of 2001, the state plan will be completed (it should be printed and distributed by January 2002).

Ms. Loeffler also discussed the next round of regional planning, which is envisioned to occur on a five-year schedule. Staff suggested enhancing the Department’s participation in the regional planning groups in order to help avoid future permitting pitfalls, either state or federal. Another suggestion was to include representatives from businesses that would be affected by these decisions in the planning groups. Currently there is one representative for the public and one for the environment.

Dr. McKinney mentioned that one issue all of the regions have identified as needing more clarification is the designation of unique rivers, streams and reservoirs. He discussed the steps needed for the Legislature to act on a designation and what it means once it has been accomplished.

He stated that he felt the most important issue is the Department’s capacity to respond to these water management strategies after they are implemented. Staff needs to be fully involved in the process of future planning, the regulatory process and the development process. Dr. McKinney also discussed the Governor’s Task Force; specifically the section dealing with water. He said it provides the policy, the background and the framework for staff to make sure that fish and wildlife are part of the water decisions.

Mr. Sansom requested clarification on the principal issues facing the Department now. Dr. McKinney said the first issue is to work with the Water Development Board in consolidating the regional plans into the state plan, in order to eliminate future problems. Ms. Loeffler added that the permitting process in a year or two would be a challenge. Dr. McKinney noted that turning technical information from studies on rivers and freshwater inflows into policies and putting them into play would be a big challenge as well.

7. BRIEFING – Texas Tech Study

Presenters: Lydia Saldaña and Mark Duda

Ms. Saldaña, director of the Communications Division, briefed the Committee on the study entitled "Texas Parks and Wildlife in the 21st Century." She introduced Dr. Nick Parker, head of the COOP Unit of Texas Tech, and Dr. Bob Baker, a biologist at Texas Tech. Ms. Saldaña explained the study is being done in two phases: A statewide needs assessment for outdoor recreation and natural and cultural resource conservation being done by subcontractor Clif Ladd of Loomis Austin; and a comprehensive public opinion survey that Mr. Mark Duda, Executive Director of Responsive Management, will review today. She then introduced Mark Duda.

Mr. Duda stated that their intent was to bring a scientific approach to understanding different public attitudes on parks and wildlife issues. They conducted a series of 13 focus groups and seven telephone surveys, one of the largest studies that has ever been done for a state fish and wildlife agency. Key constituent groups were included such as hunters, anglers, boaters, daytime park users, and overnight park users. Also included were rural landowners, outdoor recreationists, urban residents, suburban residents, Hispanics and African Americans, looking at issues of natural resources. Mr. Duda explained the seven telephone surveys encompassed the general population; licensed hunters; anglers—both saltwater and freshwater; boaters; park users-both day and overnight visitors; outdoor recreationists; and landowners with 640 acres or more.

Mr. Duda discussed the results of the studies, showing slides depicting the percentage of Texans who participate in a variety of outdoor activities. One of the most revealing issues, both in the focus groups and the telephone surveys, was the importance of water resources to Texans. Surprisingly, Texans didn’t understand the issue of habitat loss and fragmentation, except on a local level. Mr. Duda stressed the importance of educating and communicating with Texans on these problems, pointing out that the highest response to questions regarding the most important outdoor recreation issues and most important historic preservation issues in Texas was "Don’t know."

Mr. Duda pointed out that natural resource environmental values were more important to the people surveyed than recreational values. The next issue of importance to people was passive outdoor recreational activities—having land available for people to enjoy nature. The third issue consisted of recreational values such as hunting, fishing and boating. Some of the survey questions related to whether people thought the Department needed more funding and 82 percent supported the use of unclaimed boat fuel tax refunds. Other methods of obtaining money were suggested also, such as a larger portion of revenue from the sporting goods sales tax; one-tenth of one percent real estate transfer fee; or one-eighth of one percent sales tax.

Mr. Duda said that the surveys at this point addressed Department ratings, which were very high, and ability to identify the agency. About 36 percent of Texas residents 18 years and older were able to accurately identify the Department as the agency responsible for parks, natural resource management and wildlife. The next question dealt with Department activities: Law enforcement in terms of recreation and habitat, and upkeep and maintenance of state parks were at the top of the list, as well as all forms of education (hunter, boater, wildlife and environmental), and endangered species management.

There was discussion regarding how the people surveyed rated the different activities. Mr. Duda stressed that there were definite differences in terms of regional participation—Texans who live in the prairies and lakes region versus those who live in the Hill Country, as well as differences in the various groups. The questions measured current activities and asked what activities people would like to participate in, in order to obtain numbers for demand in the future. Mr. Duda stated that the margin of error depends on the sampling size and the distribution of the opinion. On the big general population study, it would be plus or minus two percent; on the smaller studies, it’s plus or minus five percent. The regional studies would be plus or minus eight or nine percent.

The question of a demographic breakdown on how the different subgroups reacted was raised and Mr. Duda said he could provide that. He pointed out that in focus groups with African Americans, historic sites were very important, but they were interested in African American historic sites only. The final report will set out the quantified numbers, as well as the opinions from the various groups.

Ms. Dinkins indicated the last two items on the agenda had been covered in Executive Session.

IV. Meeting adjourned at 3:16 p.m.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Chairman's Charges
January 2001

(This item will be an oral presentation.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Kathy Boydston

Conservation Committee
Action
Nomination for Oil and Gas Lease
Sheldon Lake State Park
January 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 13.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Karen Leslie

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Acquisition – Uvalde County (Garner SP)
January 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 14.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Karen Leslie

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Sale – Brewster County (Big Bend Ranch SP)
January 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 15.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 5
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Acquisition – Nacogdoches County (Alazan Bayou)
January 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 16.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 6
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Acquisition – Anderson County (Big Lake Bottom WMA)
January 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 17.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 7
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Acquisition – Brewster County (Black Gap WMA)
January 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 18.)


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