Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., August 29, 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 – Gus Engeling WMA
Staff: Kathy Boydston
12
3. Less-than-Fee Conservation Alternatives for Private Landowners
Staff: Bob Cook
Committee Only
4. Land Sale – Richland Creek WMA
Staff: Ronnie Ray
13
5. Land Acquisition – Bastrop County (Bastrop State Park)
Staff: Jeff Francell
14
6. Land Acquisition – Presidio County
Staff: Karen Leslie
15
7. Land Acquisition – Hardin County
Staff: Karen Leslie
16
8. Other Business  

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
May 30, 2001

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 30th day of May 2001, 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 2:26 p.m., to-wit:

I. COMMISSION ATTENDANCE:

Carol E. Dinkins, Chair
Lee M. Bass
Ernest Angelo, Jr.
John Avila, Jr.
Joseph Fitzsimons
Alvin L. Henry
Katharine Armstrong Idsal
Philip Montgomery, III
Mark E. Watson, Jr.

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

III. THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED FOR COMMITTEE ACTION:

1. BRIEFING – CHAIRMAN’S CHARGES

Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Mr. Sansom reported that staff worked hard during the legislative session to ensure that S. B. 2, the continuation of last session's S. B. 1 water bill, protected Texas' fish and wildlife. He stated the best that could be said was that we didn't lose any ground. S. B. 2 calls for two interim studies: To assess the instream flow impacts on fish and wildlife; and to assess the issue of river access.

He stated a proposal is being presented today regarding the sea grass conservation plan which is a minor modification that should make it more effective.

In relation to the initiative to address aquatic vegetation there will be a briefing on Giant Salvinia.

2. BRIEFING - AMENDMENT TO REDFISH BAY "PROP UP" ZONES

Presenters: Dr. Larry McKinney and Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey reviewed the rules adopted in June, 2000 which established the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area. He pointed out that Redfish Bay is located within a geographic triangle with Rockport, Aransas Pass and Ingleside as the base and Port Aransas at the apex. It's one of the prime fishing destinations along the entire Texas Gulf Coast, with extensive sea grass resources in the shallow tidal flats (particularly stands of manitou grass and turtle grass).

Redfish Bay also has extensive boating access, with 14 boat ramps in the immediate area. The shallow tidal flats have experienced extensive prop scarring in the past. The strategy for management is to protect and conserve those sea grasses principally through management of boat traffic. Redfish Bay has three areas which are called voluntary "Prop Up" zones where boaters are encouraged to shut down their engines and just drift across, pole, wade or use a trolling motor. These "Prop Up" zones are located in Estes Cove, the Brown & Root flat, and the area which is the subject of this briefing, called Terminal Flat. Staff has continued to work closely with units of government and other interested organizations in fine-tuning these zones; however, the policy is that no changes to the current strategy will be made before the Commission is briefed.

The Coastal Bend Guides Association has requested the Sea Grass Task Force to consider a request to add an additional running lane in the Terminal Flat area. The running lane would allow boat traffic to cross this flat at high tide and it would also allow a motor-out lane for anglers who are drifting or poling the flat. The Sea Grass Task Force concurred with that recommendation, determining that it would not result in any deterioration of the sea grass beds and would help in compliance with the voluntary "Prop Up" zones.

The current plan is to mark this new lane with signs indicating the presence of the lane, provide water-depth indications, and indicate times when it would be appropriate to enter the lane and times when the tide levels were so low that it would not be. This does not require any rule making.

Dr. McKinney explained that the Sea Grass Task Force is essentially the original one, with a few new members. There were no other questions or comments.

3. BRIEFING -- GIANT SALVINIA

Presenters: Phil Durocher and Rhandy Helton

Mr. Durocher explained that aquatic invasive plants are some of the most controversial and contentious issues dealt with in this agency, due to the large number of stakeholders involved. The river authorities hold the primary responsibility for managing the reservoirs; the anglers, recreational boaters, environmental groups and homeowners' associations all have different issues. During the last session the legislature mandated TPW to develop a statewide aquatic vegetation management plan. Under the direction of Dr. McKinney, staff worked with many stakeholder groups and put together a plan. Giant Salvinia is one of the key issues.

Rhandy Helton, Inland Fisheries Division, briefed the Committee on this aquatic fern from South America with the potential to do serious harm to the fresh water resources of Texas. It is a violation of the law to import the plant into the United States and move it across a state line, due to the fact that it is listed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture as a Federal Noxious Weed. It is also classified in Texas as a prohibited plant, which makes it against the law to transport or possess the plant.

Mr. Helton discussed the reproduction methods of this plant, stating that the wind can break it up into thousands of pieces and all those pieces can form a new plant. Giant Salvinia has the potential to drastically alter the natural nutrient dynamics of the water bodies that it colonizes by a rate of growth that is incomparable to other invasive aquatics in the State of Texas. In a greenhouse, the plant can double its leaf surface in 2.2 days. In a lab or sterile culture, it can do this in 3.4 days. In the wild in a natural system, it can double in 8.1 days.

Dr. David Mitchell of Australia said we can expect this plant to double in Texas in a week or less, which would be three times the rate of water hyacinth. Three critical growth factors for Giant Salvinia are high nutrient levels, relatively high water temperatures, and high light intensities. All three of these factors are in abundance in Texas.

Giant Salvinia is native to southeastern Brazil. It was first established outside of its native range in 1939. It is now introduced and established in Australia, Papua, New Guinea, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, several Caribbean Islands, Africa and now in the United States.

The first U. S. record in the wild was in 1995 in South Carolina in a 1.5-acre pond. It was eradicated in that pond with an aquatic herbicide and has not returned. Mr. Helton showed a map with red dots for the private farm ponds (.1 acres to about two acres in size) where it has been recorded and blue dots for the four public reservoirs in Texas that it has infested. These are: Toledo Bend in September, 1998; Lake Conroe in April of last year; Sheldon Reservoir in July of last year; and Lake Texana in September of 1999. The plant is also in five streams, including the Sabine River below Toledo Bend. Mr. Helton stated that the number of reports on this plant has definitely slowed down the past year, due in part to good public education efforts.

Committee members asked why Giant Salvinia is appearing in private ponds. There was discussion about its availability in commercial nurseries and whether the penalties for importing (no less than $1,000 and as high as six figures) and selling the plant (from $200 to $2,000 per plant) are being enforced. Mr. Helton's experience has been that law enforcement will talk to violators on the first offense; the second time there are penalties. There also was discussion regarding signs at boat ramps advising users to wash their trailers and boats.

Mr. Helton noted the following methods are being used in an attempt to eliminate Giant Salvinia: An aggressive public education campaign; aquatic herbicide applications; biological control releases (a host-specific weevil to be released in 2002); and physical control (water fluctuation). Research is ongoing, mainly by Federal agencies such as the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Future plans are to continue public education for professionals and non-professionals; apply aquatic herbicide; release the weevil; monitor the plant populations; and emphasize early detection efforts.

4. ACTION - NOMINATION FOR OIL AND GAS LEASE - FAYETTE COUNTY

Presenter: Kathy Boydston

Ms. Boydston stated the Department received a nomination for an oil and gas lease on the tract known as Monument Hill/Kreische Brewery State Historic Park in Fayette County. The Department owns 100 percent of the minerals under this 39.54 acre tract and proposes to continue the policy of requiring a minimum bonus bid of $150 per acre with a fixed 25 percent royalty and a $10 per acre delay fee rental, and a no-surface occupancy stipulation.

The Committee agreed to move it to the Public Hearing agenda on August 30, 2001.

IV. ADJOURNMENT: Meeting adjourned at 3:01 p.m.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Conservation Committee
Chairman's Charges
August 2001

(This item will be an oral presentation.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Kathy Boydston

Conservation Committee
Nomination for Oil and Gas Lease – Gus Engeling WMA
August 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 12.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Bob Cook

Conservation Committee
Less-than-Fee Conservation Alternatives for Private Landowners
August 2001

I. Discussion: Less-than-Fee conservation alternatives for private landowners provide permanent conservation benefits while allowing lands to remain in private hands. This briefing will highlight applications for this conservation tool and discuss the department's role both as a facilitator and potential holder of easement and development rights.


Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Ronnie Ray

Conservation Committee
Land Sale – Richland Creek WMA
August 2001

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


Committee Agenda Item No. 5
Presenter: Jeff Francell

Conservation Committee
Land Aquisition – Bastrop County – Bastrop State Park
August 2001

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


Committee Agenda Item No. 6
Presenter: Karen Leslie

Conservation Committee
Land Acquisition – Presidio County
August 2001

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


Committee Agenda Item No. 7
Presenter: Karen Leslie

Conservation Committee
Land Acquisition – Hardin County
August 2001

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


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