Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., Nov. 8, 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. Texas Tech Study
Staff: Lydia Saldaña
Committee Only
3. Senate Bill 1
Staff: Larry McKinney
Committee Only
4. Land Sale – Nacogdoches County (Alazan Bayou WMA)
Staff: Jack Bauer
9
5. Land Acquisition – Kendall County (Old Tunnel WMA)
Staff: Jack Bauer
10
6. Land Acquisition – Randall County
Staff: Karen Leslie
11
7. Other Business

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee

August 30, 2000

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 30th day of August 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 12:30 p.m., to-wit:

I. COMMISSION ATTENDANCE:

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

II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Chair Dinkins dispensed the minutes of the previous meeting (May 31, 2000) (attached) as the Commission had not had a chance to read them.

III. Recessed into Executive Session.

SUMMARY OF MINUTES

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

CONSERVATION COMMITTEE

May 31, 2000

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 31st day of May, 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 3:50 p.m., to-wit:

COMMISSION ATTENDANCE:

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

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

The minutes of the last committee meeting were approved.

THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED FOR COMMITTEE ACTION:

2. ACTION – SEA GRASS CONSERVATION RULES

Presenters: Bill Harvey and Larry McKinney

Dr. Harvey stated that he and Dr. McKinney briefed the Committee in April on the proposed rules to create State Scientific Areas in Redfish Bay and the Nine-Mile Hole, under the authority of Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 81. The rules were published in the Texas Register on April 28, 2000 for public comment, with endorsement by the Sea Grass Conservation Task Force. Dr. Harvey recapped the proposals, noting that the State Scientific Areas would be for the duration of five years. In Redfish Bay staff would continue the ongoing sea grass research and implement a boater education and outreach program. Navigable channels would be marked to help boaters avoid sea grass meadows, with prop-up zones and improved access. The proposal for the Nine-Mile Hole was drafted with the specific goal of enhancing the fishing experience and facilitating research by managing boat traffic in the northwest quadrant. A mandatory no-run zone within the area would restrict access to one of the three cuts entering the Hole from the Intercoastal Waterway to marked running lanes.

A public hearing was held in Corpus Christi on March 15, 2000 with 120 attendees. Fifty-two people spoke in favor of both proposals; thirteen opposed the Nine-Mile Hole proposal and nine speakers opposed both proposals. After the meeting an alternative proposal was submitted for the Nine-Mile Hole that would include a restriction to boat traffic only during a period within a window of May 1st to September 30th. This was not changed in the actual rule proposal but public comment was invited on the seasonal restriction during the 30-day period. Dr. Harvey said he expected some public comment on that during presentation of the item on June 1st. The Nine-Mile Hole proposal for year-round restrictions was initiated and supported by the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and several other organizations, affects about 25 percent of the area and will simplify enforcement and research while significantly diminishing the amount of damage to the bottom. The downside is that it will result in limiting access. The seasonal restriction proposal would allow limited boater access, particularly during periods of high tide, and would accommodate different fishing strategies; however, Dr. Harvey said he believed it could affect future research efforts and was not supported by the CCA.

Dr. Harvey noted that during public comment the following organizations supported both proposals: The CCA, the Coastal Bend Guides Association, the Corpus Christi Bays and Estuaries Program, the Corpus Christi Bays Foundation, the Environmental Defense, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Federation of Fly Fishers. The Rockport Chamber of Commerce and the Aransas County Commissioners supported only the Redfish Bay proposal. Two organizations opposed the Nine-Mile Hole proposal: The Recreational Fishing Alliance and the National Marine Manufacturers Association. As of May 30, 2000 the Department received 68 comments (either e-mail, letters or phone calls) in support of the Nine-Mile Hole proposal and 15 in opposition. On May 31st three more letters were received in opposition to the Nine-Mile Hole proposal, bringing the total number to 18, plus a petition with 550 signatures who wanted Nine-Mile Hole kept for the sole use of kayak and wade fishermen.

Dr. McKinney added that he just received a call from the General Land Office regarding an oil and gas lessee or potential lessee that is opposed to the Redfish Bay proposal because they either have a lease or are bidding on leases; however, the Scientific Area designation would not interfere with that. Commissioner Angelo reported that a representative of the company would be coming to the meeting on June 1st because they are concerned about their ability to operate and explore for oil and gas in the bay. The Committee members then discussed the law enforcement issues in relation to the budget, as well as mandatory rules for the Nine-Mile Hole versus voluntary actions and an educational approach as part of the study at Redfish Bay.

Commissioner Watson moved that the item be placed on the agenda for the full Commission during the public hearing on June 1, 2000. Commissioner Henry seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

3. ACTION – STATEWIDE AQUATIC VEGETATION

Presenters: Bob Sweeney and Larry McKinney

Mr. Sweeney introduced himself as legal counsel with the Resource Protection Division. He discussed the proposed aquatic vegetation rules, which encompass beneficial species such as cattails, and troublesome species, typically non-native, such as hydrilla and water hyacinth. The rules are intended to guide local decision-making on aquatic vegetation management by implementing House Bill 3079, which concerns the development and financing of a statewide aquatic vegetation management plan. No money was appropriated; however, staff believes they can write and administer rules within the existing budget because there is a need and public support. A group was formed in January including representatives from TNRCC, Texas Department of Agriculture, river authorities, environmental groups and industry representatives. Interest groups had a chance to comment and participate in the first draft of the rules.

The department is preparing a reference document for use by public entities containing detailed information about the particular kinds of aquatic vegetation and recommended control measures. The proposed rules envision that public entities will consult this guidance document in order to judge the seriousness of aquatic vegetation problems and choose good control strategies. The rules also allow river authorities and other entities to adopt local plans if their provisions are at least as stringent as the State plan and if approval of the local plan is received from TPW, TNRCC and the Texas Department of Agriculture. All measures undertaken under either State or local plans to control nuisance aquatic vegetation have to be submitted to TPW. Staff will then consult and advise regarding the best ways to deal with the situation. The consulting role is backed up with the power to disapprove proposed measures.

Mr. Sweeney pointed out that most of the public comment received so far supports the plan. The strongest written comment in opposition to the rules was from two environmental groups working together, SMART and Clean Water Action, who thought that the rules didn’t go far enough to establish requirements for vegetation identification, education, organizing local and state stakeholder groups, and elements of local plans. Staff made some changes in response to these comments, but most of the issues will be handled through education rather than regulatory control. The San Jacinto River Authority asked whether the rules would prohibit people who are unlicensed by the Department of Agriculture from applying aquatic herbicide. House Bill 3079 does have specific procedures for unlicensed applicators, so at this point staff has not proposed a blanket prohibition on unlicensed applicators. There is a statutory requirement that State money cannot be used for applications except by licensed applicators.

TNRCC expressed concern that the mechanism for review of local plans is not clear enough. Staff responded that this section has been kept to a minimum in order to allow maximum flexibility in the design of local plans. Also, the guidance document will have a checklist of elements that TNRCC, TDA and TPW would like to see in the submission of local plans.

There was some discussion regarding how the statute allows unlicensed applicators at this point and that so far there are no enforcement provisions other than an Attorney General’s injunction or possible violation of a TDA regulation. Dr. McKinney explained that the legislation was the result of a compromise between groups, with the issue to be readdressed next session. Commissioner Angelo moved to publish these rules in the Texas Register for public comment. Commissioner Watson seconded it and the motion passed unanimously.

4. ACTION – METEOR CRATER FUNDING

Presenter: Tim Hogsett

Mr. Hogsett explained that the Legislature mandated TPW to develop a proposal for funding development of the Odessa Meteor Crater. This crater was formed 25,000 years ago by a meteor strike and was designated a national natural landmark by the U. S. Department of Interior in 1965, with no money appropriated. This 40-acre site is owned by Ector County, with some interpretation and access. We’re proposing a $500,000 Texas Recreation Parks Account Grant to Ector County for development of a visitor’s center, a residence and maintenance building, outdoor classroom and interpretive trail, a small picnic pavilion with a few picnic units, restrooms, perimeter fencing to control access, parking and landscaping. Jim Watt prepared a master plan and TPW will assist with the interpretive program of the site. Ector County will be solely responsible for operations and maintenance of this facility. Commissioner Ryan moved that the item be placed on the consent agenda for the Public Hearing on June 1st. Commissioner Henry seconded it and the motion passed unanimously.

5. ACTION – LAND TRANSFERS

Presenter: Walt Dabney

Walt Dabney, State Parks Director, reviewed the five potential site transfers. H.B. 2108 authorized $2,000,000 each year for FY2000 and 2001 to effect transfers of State park sites where it was mutually agreeable to a local entity such as a County or a City. Out of the initial discussions with 12 to 15 entities, the following appear to be probable transfers:

Lubbock Lake Landmark is a national historic landmark, currently jointly operated by Texas Tech University and TPW. Tech primarily operates the museum and does the archeological work while TPW takes care of the site. This transfer would give Texas Tech full operation and maintenance; their Board of Regents has passed a resolution in support of the transfer. Final negotiations are continuing regarding the amount of money necessary to fix the facilities and what transitional operational monies they would need to effect a transfer over the next two-year period.

Jim Hogg State Historical Park in the city limits of Rusk is less than 200 acres, with a three-quarter-scale reproduction of Governor Hogg’s home. It’s on Governor Hogg family land but does not have any original buildings. Rusk has passed a City Council resolution and submitted their proposal.

Old Fort Parker is currently operated by the City of Groesbeck. Mexia and Groesbeck are negotiating to take over the site, which is a replica fort.

Port Lavaca Fishing Pier was extensively damaged by fire in 1999, with half of it destroyed. TPW is requesting to use $100,000 of the transfer money to do an engineering study on the pier and determine whether to rebuild the entire length. The City of Port Lavaca has an interest in accepting transfer of the pier, along with funds for renovation and reconstruction, if determined feasible.

The last one is not a State park; however, transfer would not include any funds. The Sam Houston State University is asking to use the Huntsville State Fish Hatchery for biological field studies, while managing it for continued habitat and archeological resources. It is critical habitat for the red cockcaded woodpecker.

Mr. Dabney stated that it would not be possible to spend all of the $2 million available for transfers this fiscal year; therefore, some of it would go for the regional park projects in the next item. He did not have the final figures for the transfers yet, but explained the different entities would be doing the work and the sites would actually be transferred to them, with deed restrictions to use the property only as a park.

There was discussion regarding employees at these sites being transferred (one at Jim Hogg and one at Lubbock Lake Landmark), and the fact that Huntsville State Fish Hatchery is not operational. Mr. Dabney mentioned several other potential transfers still in the talking stage: Lockhart and Navarro House.

Commissioner Angelo moved to place the item on the consent agenda for June 1st. Commissioner Idsal seconded it and the motion passed unanimously.

6. ACTION – REGIONAL GRANT FUNDING

Presenter: Tim Hogsett
Mr. Hogsett discussed the Regional Park Pilot Grant Program, authorized by House Bill 2108. Proposals were sent to all major metropolitan areas in the State and eight applications were received (one of them was determined to be ineligible). The criteria came from the Texas A&M study that was done a few years ago wherein they determined a need for large, intensive-use parks in the major metropolitan areas, or regional park systems and conservation-type projects, particularly trail linkages or greenways. They also recommended water resources to provide both habitat and water-based recreation. Mr. Hogsett proposes to use $1,000,000 from the Texas Recreation Parks Account and $1,000,000 from the Facility Transfer Program that would not be used in Fiscal Year 2000. He also proposes to use approximately half of the Fiscal Year 2000 Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund program.

The four proposals chosen were:

Williamson County along Brushy Creek (between Round Rock and Cedar Park) proposes to develop a two-mile section of trail along with some other related facilities, with the cooperation of Williamson County, cities of Round Rock and Cedar Park, and two municipal utility districts, being part of an 8 mile trail in the County’s master plan. There are plans to interpret the history of the granite blocks left under the railroad trestle on their way to build the capitol when the trail derailed.

El Paso County proposes to eventually develop a 60-plus mile trail beginning at the Texas/New Mexico border along the Rio Grande River, going through metropolitan El Paso east all the way to Mexico. The city of Juarez, Mexico will eventually connect this trail with parkland and open space acreage.

Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen is an adobe home built in the late 1930’s. The City proposes to develop a nature center that will also be McAllen’s wing of the World Birding Center, acquire 3 acres and renovate a greenhouse to use as a butterfly conservatory.

Brays Bayou Greenway is in the southern portion of Houston. This is a cooperative effort between the city of Houston and the Harris County Flood Control District to develop a 31-mile trail corridor and an associated lake site, Willow Water Hole. The Flood Control District is interested in developing detention ponds that will be water-based recreation opportunities, as opposed to concrete channels.

Mr. Hogsett pointed out that each of the four projects is to receive $750,000 apiece, for a total of $3 million. Committee members discussed the fact that all of the project sponsors are investing a substantially greater amount than $750,000 themselves and that this is a new and positive way to stimulate interest from other government agencies and private entities. Commissioner Angelo moved to place the item on the Public Hearing agenda for consideration by the full Commission. Commissioner Idsal seconded it and the motion passed unanimously.

5. ACTION – OIL AND GAS LEASE – SHELDON WMA

Presenter: Kathy Boydston

Ms. Boydston stated the department owns 100 percent of the minerals at Sheldon Lake State Park, approximately 2,219 mineral acres, and all seven tracts have been nominated. Staff recommends continuing the policy of requiring a minimum bonus bid of $150 per acre and a 25% royalty of $10 per acre delay rental for a 3-year lease, along with the usual conditions for no-surface occupancy. Commissioner Henry recommended that the income from the bonus money and the delayed rentals be directed for and restricted to Sheldon Lake State Park since it is used primarily by many lower income people in Houston, to more fully develop educational and recreational activities. A decision will be made on the royalty money later, since no one can estimate how much that might be yet. Commissioner Angelo moved to place the item on the consent agenda for the public hearing on June 1st, with the recommendation to commit the $150 per acre bonus plus $10 per acre per year for three years to Sheldon Lake State Park. Commissioner Watson seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously.

6. ACTION – EXCHANGE OF PIPELINE AND EASEMENT – LAKE HOUSTON STATE PARK

Presenter: Kathy Boydston

Ms. Boydston described the request to exchange a portion of an easement for natural gas pipeline replacement purposes at Lake Houston State Park. The existing pipeline crosses Caney Creek, which has shifted and currently exposes the pipeline. Replacement will require an offset from the existing alignment by expanding it .44 acres on the north side. The new segment will be directionally drilled and a new tie-in established. Once that is complete, the old line will be removed. The easement on the south side, approximately .44 acres, will no longer be needed and will be transferred back to Parks and Wildlife. All cleared areas will be replanted with native site-specific species and maintained annually by the operator, at his expense. The operator has also agreed to the terms and conditions in Exhibit B and the payment will be $5,000.

Commissioner Watson moved that the item be placed on the consent agenda at the public hearing on June 1st. Commissioner Henry seconded it and the motion passed unanimously.

VI. Meeting adjourned at 5:00 p.m.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Chairman's Charges
November 2000

(This item will be an oral presentation.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Lydia Saldaña

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Texas Tech Study
"Texas Parks and Wildlife for the 21st Century"
November 2000

I. DISCUSSION: Texas Parks and Wildlife has contracted with Texas Tech University to conduct a comprehensive research study that will assist state leadership in charting a conservation course for the future. Texas Tech is conducting the research in two phases. Phase I is a public opinion survey led by Mark Duda of Responsive Management Inc, who is nationally known for work examining human and social factors impacting wildlife conservation. Phase II is a statewide needs assessment for outdoor recreation and natural and cultural resource conservation, led by Clif Ladd of Loomis Austin.

The subcontractors are currently working on their final reports to Tech. The two reports will be compiled by Tech into a final report to be delivered to TPW by the end of the year. An executive summary is expected to be completed before Jan. 1, 2001.

BACKGROUND: During the past 100 years, Texas has evolved from a rural sparsely settled land of 3 million with an average population density of 11 people per square mile to a population of 20 million with an average population density of 74 people per square mile. As the population of Texas doubles again during this century, our natural and cultural resources will be further taxed. Now is the time to plan for tomorrow and part of that planning in Texas requires a thorough assessment of both public opinion and the conservation needs of Texas.

In 1998, the Texas A&M study titled "Texas Outdoors: A Vision for the Future" found that the lack of basic information about users and non users, the resource base and the system limits the ability of TPW and other providers to make optimum decisions. The study recommended that TPW undertake further research.

In 1963 the Texas State Parks Board and the Texas Technological College produced a long range plan for the state park system. This document was accepted by state leadership and became the blueprint for parks in Texas. Subsequently, the Texas Legislature submitted a constitutional amendment to the state's voters, which resulted in the passage of $75 million in bonds for the acquisition and development of state parks.

Almost 40 years have passed since the original Texas Tech study was published and much has changed. Because of steadily increasing demand, TPW has opened virtually all of its land and facilities including wildlife management areas and hatcheries to public use. In spite of that increased access each year, citizens and community leaders press for additional outdoor recreation facilities in their area. Meanwhile TPW has struggled with the urgent need to maintain current facilities.

The 1998 Texas Outdoors study recommended actions for meeting future recreation and conservation needs, but the study parameters did not include quantifying and delineating actual acreage or funding needs. Such physical quantification is necessary to determine and subsequently meet and adequately fund anticipated needs. It is also critical to have solid information about the opinions and attitudes of Texans on these issues. This study will provide the data with which to make informed decisions.


Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Larry McKinney

Conservation Committee
Action
Senate Bill 1
November 2000

I. DISCUSSION: Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) staff has worked closely with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), and the sixteen regional planning groups established in Senate Bill 1 by the 75th Legislature. The regional plans are now complete and have been forwarded to the TWDB for review and compilation into a state plan by January 2002.

The briefing will summarize TPW staff efforts to support regional planning groups, assess environmental aspects of the regional plans, and discuss future actions as related to TPW’s role in development the state plan.


Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Sale – Nacogdoches County (Alazan Bayou WMA)
November 2000

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 9.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 5
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Acquisition – Kendall County (Old Tunnel WMA)
November 2000

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 10.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 6
Presenter: Karen Leslie

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Acquisition – Randall County (Big Lake Bottom WMA)
November 2000

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


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