Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting

March 31, 2010

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 31st day of March 2010, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

P R O C E E D I N G S

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to call the Conservation Committee to order. And the first order of business is approval of the previous minutes, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So moved.

COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: It has been moved and seconded. All those in favor, please say aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any opposed, same sign.

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, the motion passes. Before we get to the agenda, I want to let everyone know that Committee Item 5, land acquisition in Hall County, at Caprock Canyon State Park and Trailway has been withdrawn at this time.

Committee Item 1, Update on Texas Parks and Wildlife Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan. Mr. Smith.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you will recall, you all gave us a very clear directive that once the Land and Water Plan was developed, you wanted to make sure that it was fully operationalized through every element of the agency. And so obviously, we are going to make sure that that is institution and division operating plans. And then every one of us at the staff level, our personal performance plans are tied back to specific goals and strategies and actions in the context of the plan itself.

Also, as you will recall, kind of the foundation for that plan were the 12 watershed-based conservation and recreation forums designed to really get full interdisciplinary input from around the state, from our field, all of our colleagues, and all of the divisions, to help us identify the key issues in the plan. But we also intended for those to be living forums.

Meaning, that they would continue on, in which colleagues from around the state could get together to identify issues that were cross-cutting across divisions to work together on, and make sure we are identifying the highest priorities to work on and invest on. And so I wanted to let you know that those forums are back underway. We have reactivated those with the team leaders who have developed the plans, and meeting around the state, even as we speak.

The second and last action item that I want to report on in the Plan. It calls specifically for us to have an Upland Game Bird plan and a Migratory Game Bird plan completed for this agency by December of this year.

Thanks to leadership in our wildlife team, the Upland Game Bird Plan, dealing with, you know, bobwhite quail, blue quail, lesser prairie chicken, turkeys, et cetera, is done. We got great input from your advisory committee, our Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee. And we are now in the throes of kind of getting the Migratory Game Bird Plan as well.

And that will help set the blueprint for where do we want to go to implement the plan on the ground, in the field. So I just want to report that progress to you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you. Committee Item 2, Proposed Land Sale, Cherokee County, 1.422 acres adjacent to the Texas State Railroad. Ted Hollingsworth. Greetings, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners. Good afternoon, good evening. Good afternoon.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I'm Ted Hollingsworth; I am with the Land Conservation Program. This is actually the second reading of this item. It is a proposal to divest ourselves of a small tract of land in Rusk, Texas. It is in East Texas. At one time our agency owned and operated the Texas State Railroad. We received a number of tracts of land in the course of taking on that project, a few of which were just really odd sections of rail bed that had no relationship at all to the Texas State Railroad. We divested one a couple of years ago. We have had a request to sell this one in Rusk. As you can see from this map, it serves no operational purpose. In fact, it is a liability for the agency. Folks in the area have gotten in the habit of dumping trash on that tract. It is a long skinny tract. The State Railroad Commission agrees with us, that it serves no purpose for the operation of the Texas State Railroad and is pleased to have us sell it to the adjacent landowner. It has been appraised. We have a contract with the adjacent landowner at appraised value. And the motion before the Commission is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the resolution in Exhibit A, which you have. The provisions of this land sale in Cherokee County. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It really didn't have anything to do with the railroad. It was just all part of that from the old days.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It is a couple. Well, in theory, we have got all of the bed connected to two terminals.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: But in that bundle of deeds, we are just some odd pieces, that I am sure at one time were a railroad bed, but are far removed. This one, removed by a couple of miles from any of the bed that ever served the Texas State Railroad itself.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Aren't there a couple of other pieces like that that we can just address?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Probably. This landowner actually paid a title company to do the research to determine if we even in fact appear to be the owner in the chain of title. And it was a pretty elaborate process, just to make that determination. We assume there are probably a few other odd deeds. But the amount of research required to ferret those out, and determine if we own them is kind of prohibitive. So as in this case, in the case a couple of years ago, as adjacent landowners have said, I wonder who owns that and have done the title work, and have contacted us and say you own this odd lot, then we have kind of done the research and made that determination, and liquidated those. There are probably a couple of those that we just don't know for a fact.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What does the adjacent landowner use the adjacent land for today?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: What does he use this tract for? Or his property?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: His tract, that is adjacent to the tract that is proposed to be sold.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: He has a small commercial operation, some kind of a warehouse. I don't know exactly what the business is. But it is a small commercial operation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And what was the appraised value of the property?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: $3,000.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: That probably won't pay the legal fees.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We actually talked to a couple of real estate agents in the community. We talked to a couple of real estate agents who told us to expect the appraisal to be in the $2,000 range. He spent several hundred, or a $1,000 or more doing the title research. And we felt like $3,000 was probably about as much as it would be fair to ask him to pay for the tract.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When we have property such as this, are we on the tax rolls?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir. The state does not pay ad valorem taxes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean, is it shown as having any value, even though we don't pay any taxes?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It varies from county to county. In this case, we were not on the tax rolls. This title was so convoluted that it was one that had kind of fallen off the radar screen.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And you said it has got a bunch of junk on it now?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Actually, this landowner has for several years now, has kept that tract, has picked up the garbage off that tract. But our staff in the area have confirmed that people have been in the habit of pulling up and tossing out bags of garbage and so forth. And he has been picking those up. Which was one of the reasons he really ‑‑ which was one of the reasons he asked to own it. Because he is doing that work anyway. And it is a liability for his business, as well as for us.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And do our staff in the area think this is a fair deal? I mean, that the property, that price is fair and reasonable?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It goes back on the tax rolls. It is good for the county, too. Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right. Thanks.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other discussion?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If there is none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Committee Item 3, Utility Easement, Polk County, Lake Livingston State Park. Once again, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth; I am with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a request to grant a utility easement for an electrical corridor for a line that is being replaced off the north boundary of Lake Livingston State Park in Polk County, in East Texas. The current line is now inadequate. It will not carry enough current for the neighborhood that has sprung up on the northwest corner of the park. The power company investigated several routes and worked with our staff. We have been working with them for about a year to identify a route that minimizes impacts. That route is down an existing public road that dips into the park at one location on the north end, which is the need for the easement for us.

Our natural and cultural resources staff have been working with Sam Houston Electric Co-op for, like I say, about a year to identify the route that would have the least impact, both aesthetically and to natural resources, on the park and the adjacent community. This would be a standard ten-year easement term. We will take into account the fact that it is a State Park.

And although it's far from the day use area, our current damage and rate fees are minimums. And we will probably mark those up to reflect the fact that it is State Park land that is being taken for this utility line. COMMISSIONER HOLT: There is already a line there, and they are going to upgrade it?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: There is not a line at this location. There is an existing line. But you can see very easily.

It actually crosses that cove. And their engineers assure us that it is not practical to go to a higher voltage line, a higher tension line, and cross that cove. So literally, what the new line is doing is going around that cove, to get to that neighborhood on the west side of the park.

Their engineer will be here tomorrow. In case you have any questions about the nature of the line, or why there is no prudent alternative to replacing that line that crosses the cove.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Will the easement agreement limit their ability to expand whatever they are proposing to build?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. The easement agreement will be specific only to the line that is installed at this time. Any upgrade of the line would require them returning to us for a new surface use agreement and or a new easement, depending upon the nature of the upgrade.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And the amount that we ask for this easement would be proportionate to the interference and obstruction of whatever it is that they are proposing to build?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. The rate schedule that you all have seen is a minimum schedule. And in this case, because it is forest habitat, and it is good natural resource habitat, we will increase that fee to reflect the impact of clearing the right-of-way for the line.

Now the cultural staff and natural staff have worked carefully to identify a route that minimizes the amount of vegetation that has to be removed. And it runs alongside an existing public road. Nonetheless, we will take into account the fact that this is a new impact, a new aesthetic impact and a new natural resource impact.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: In terms of that easement, it has been established, and it has been accepted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir. What the Commission will do is grant authority to the Director to negotiate those terms and conditions. All we have negotiated is a route.

I talked to the project manager earlier in the week. At this time, they are not even able to tell me if they want to put those lines on wooden poles or metal poles. And I explained to him, until we have that level of detail, and an operations plan, that we can't issue the easement, or assess the damages and fees.

So what the Commission is doing in the motion would be to authorize the Executive Director to complete the negotiation of those terms and conditions, and enter into that easement.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. Is there any other discussion on this item?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If there isn't, then I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Committee Item 4, Land Acquisition, Grimes County, approximately six acres at Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site. Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Chairman, Commission, good afternoon. For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This is an acquisition in Grimes County, at Fanthorp Inn. There is an area and some of the other facilities in the area.

This is from a willing seller of approximately six acres. The green polygon is the existing park. The yellow is what we would acquire.

The transaction will double the size of the park. It's from a willing seller. Included some important archaeological resources, provides some needed room for expansion. It was identified as a priority site for preservation.

And the seller is going to reserve the mineral rights. But there will be no surface right to explore or extract any minerals. He will keep the mineral rights, but no surface use will be used for minerals. That will be in the deed.

MR. SMITH: So no surface occupancy.

MR. KUHLMANN: No surface occupancy.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: So if he has to drill, he has to come in from someplace else.

MR. KUHLMANN: Drill, or ‑‑ he owns an adjacent, he and his sister own an adjacent property. And there is already a well on their property. So they will use it for pooling or directional. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Does he own the property to the south of the yellow?

MR. KUHLMANN: He owns to the south and to the east.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I can't remember whether on this, did we ask about seeking a right of first refusal on that?

MR. KUHLMANN: Right. When I visited with him, I asked. And he said, they won't even talk about selling any of that, the rest of that family property. He inherited the six acres we are going to purchase. He inherited that individually from his dad. The rest, he and his sister own together.

And he said that they wouldn't talk about selling any part of the rest of the family land. And I asked about a right of first refusal if they ever did, and he said he didn't think they wanted to go there.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other discussion?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process. As mentioned before, Item Number 5 has been withdrawn.

Committee Item 6, Acceptance of Land Donation, Houston County, .236 acres at Mission Tejas State Park.

MR. KUHLMANN: Again for the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is a small donation to Mission Tejas. And when I say small, it is .236 acres. It is one of the adjacent properties.

You will remember, maybe a year or so ago, we got another one of these properties. This shows it a little clearer. We got Parcel 1. We purchased it. We acquired it.

This tract will be donated by the Foundation to us, if you all choose to accept the donation. It is a small strip of land between us and Highway 21.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any comments or questions for Corky on this?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

MR. KUHLMANN: I failed to mention that we are doing this in a one-meeting process, because of the small size, and that it is a donation. So it is an action item.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Do we need to vote.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: No. I will place this on the ‑‑ tomorrow.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: You will place it for tomorrow. Yes. Okay.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I jumped down to Item 7. I apologize. I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment.

Now, Committee Item 7, Land Acquisition, Brazoria County, 38.5 acres at Nannie M. Stringfellow Wildlife Management Area.

MR. KUHLMANN: And this is the second showing of this item. We viewed it the last meeting. Nannie M. Stringfellow in Brazoria County. It is a 38.5-acre tract at a bargain price.

Again, it is owned by a church here in Austin. The seller wanted to reserve the mineral rights, but with the same condition; no surface occupancy.

This site is part of Nannie M. Stringfellow's 3,642 acres, primarily hardwood bottom land. And this would be a good tract to add to it. It is also hardwood forest and would make a good addition to the WMA. I will take any questions.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions on this item?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. I do have a question on Committee Item 6. Is ‑‑ because of the small size of the tract, would this be an action item at tomorrow's meeting?

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. Well, I guess I need to ‑‑ do I need to read that into this, because it does not say that here.

MS. BRIGHT: You can say it for the record.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. That is fine. All right. Let's see. I believe that is the last item on our agenda. I did want to state that the minutes, the motion was made by Hughes and seconded by Falcon. I don't know that I said that.

Thank you very much. And I believe, Chairman Holt, that this Committee has completed its business.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir. Are you going to autograph our book?

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If you are lucky.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you.

(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded at 3:26 p.m.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: March 31, 2010

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 18, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

04/06/10
(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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