Commission Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter:  Ed Hegen

 

Action
Seagrass Conservation Rules – Redfish Bay State Scientific Area
May 27, 2010

I.       Executive Summary:  This item presents for adoption a proposed amendment that would remove the expiration date from rules governing the protection of seagrasses in the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.  In addition, the proposal updates the proper names for two species of seagrasses to be consistent with the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. 

II.     Discussion:  In 2000, a large triangle-shaped area on the mid-Texas coast, encompassing all of Redfish Bay, was established as a state scientific area.  The substantial meadows of submerged aquatic vegetation (seagrasses) within this area were receiving extensive boating pressure and subsequently the seagrasses were being uprooted and scarred by outboard motor propellers.  The Commission reauthorized the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area for five years (July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2010) and subsequently prohibited the uprooting of seagrass within the area, effective May 1, 2006.  Extensive efforts by Coastal Fisheries staff to educate boaters and conduct scientific research has proven that seagrasses are being protected by the current regulation.  The Coastal Fisheries Division has determined that the expiration date in the current rule should be eliminated and that the proper names for two species of seagrasses should be updated to be consistent with the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. 

The Regulations Committee at its March 31, 2010 meeting authorized staff to publish the proposed rule in the Texas Register for public comment.  The proposed rules appeared in the April 23, 2010, issue of the Texas Register (35 TexReg 3210).  A summary of public comment on the proposed rules will be presented at the time of the hearing.

III.    Recommendation:  Staff recommends that the Commission adopt the proposed motion:

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts an amendment to §57.921, concerning Redfish Bay State Scientific Area, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the April 23, 2010, issue of the Texas Register (35 TexReg 3210).”

Attachments – 2

1.   Exhibit A – Redfish Bay Map

2.   Exhibit B — Proposed Rule

 


Commission Agenda Item No. 3
Exhibit A

Redfish Bay State Scientific Area Map

Redfish Bay State Scientific Area Boundary

 


Commission Agenda Item No. 3
Exhibit B

Redfish Bay State Scientific Area
Proposal Preamble

1. Introduction.

          The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) proposes an amendment to §57.921, concerning the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area (RBSSA).  The proposed amendment would remove the expiration date for the effectiveness of the section.

Submerged seagrass meadows are a dominant, unique subtropical habitat in many Texas bays and estuaries. These communities of highly evolved marine flowering plants play a critical role in the coastal environment, including functioning as nursery habitat for estuarine fisheries, a major source of organic biomass for coastal food webs, effective agents for stabilizing coastal erosion and sedimentation, and major biological agents in nutrient cycling and water quality processes. Recent studies show that seagrasses are sensitive to nutrient enrichment and water quality problems, as well as physical stress from human disturbances.

         Destruction of seagrasses in the RBSSA by boat propellers has been well documented.  See, e.g., Montagna, Holt et al., Characterization of Anthropogenic and Natural Disturbance on Vegetated and Unvegetated Bay Bottom Habitats in the Corpus Christi Bay Natural Estuary Program Study Area (1998); Pulich et al., Current Status and Historical Trends of Seagrass in the Corpus Christi Bay National Estuary Program Study Area (1997).  As a result, many Texas scientists, resource managers and environmentally aware citizens have concerns about the ecosystem health of these seagrass resources.

         In January 1999, (TPWD), the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (the precursor agency to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) published ’The Seagrass Conservation Plan for Texas.’ The Seagrass Conservation Plan recommends that these three agencies take measures within their jurisdictions to conserve this critical coastal resource. The Seagrass Conservation Plan identified propeller scarring as a factor in seagrass destruction.

         In 2000, a large triangle-shaped area on the mid-Texas coast (encompassing all of Redfish Bay) was established as a state scientific area.  The substantial meadows of submerged aquatic vegetation (seagrasses) within RBSSA were receiving extensive boating pressure and subsequently the seagrasses were being uprooted and scarred by outboard motor propellers.  Initial efforts for five years (2000-2005) of establishing voluntary no-prop zones proved ineffective and unenforceable.  Prior to renewing the state scientific area designation, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission directed staff to hold public hearings to discuss the concepts of mandatory no-prop zones and a prohibition on uprooting of seagrasses within the state scientific area.  In 2006, the Commission reauthorized the RBSSA, effective until June 30, 2010 and prohibited the uprooting of seagrasses within the area.  Scientific research, following extensive efforts by staff to educate boaters, indicates that seagrasses are being protected by the current regulation.  Therefore the department believes that continuation of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area without a term limit is warranted.

         The proposed amendment also replaces taxonomic references in subsection (d) in order to be consistent with the scientific nomenclature.

2. Fiscal Note.

         Jeremy Leitz, Program Specialist for the Coastal Fisheries Division, has determined that for each of the first five years that the rule as proposed will be in effect, there will be no fiscal implications to state or local governments as a result of administering or enforcing the rule.

3. Public Benefit/Cost Note.

         Mr. Leitz also has determined that for each of the first five years that the rule as proposed is in effect:

         (A) The public benefit anticipated as a result of enforcing or administering the proposed rule will be the continued protection of an important ecosystem enjoyed by the public.

         Under the provisions of Government Code, Chapter 2006, a state agency must prepare an economic impact statement and a regulatory flexibility analysis for a rule that may have an adverse economic affect on small businesses and micro-businesses. As required by Government Code, §2006.002(g), the Office of the Attorney General has prepared guidelines to assist state agencies in determining a proposed rule’s potential adverse economic impact on small businesses. Those guidelines state that an agency need only consider a proposed rule’s “direct adverse economic impacts” to small businesses and micro-businesses to determine if any further analysis is required. For that purpose, the department considers “direct economic impact” to mean a requirement that would directly impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements; impose taxes or fees; result in lost sales or profits; adversely affect market competition; or require the purchase or modification of equipment or services.

         (B) The department has determined that the proposed rule will not directly affect small businesses and/or micro-businesses.  Therefore, the department has not prepared the economic impact statement or regulatory flexibility analysis described in Government Code, Chapter 2006.

         (C) The department has not drafted a local employment impact statement under the Administrative Procedures Act, §2001.022, as the agency has determined that the rule as proposed will not impact local economies.

         (D) The department has determined that Government Code, §2001.0225 (Regulatory Analysis of Major Environmental Rules), does not apply to the proposed rule.

         (E) The department has determined that there will not be a taking of private real property, as defined by Government Code, Chapter 2007, as a result of the proposed rule.

         (F) The department has determined that the proposed rule is in compliance with Government Code, §505.11 (Actions and Rules Subject to the Coastal Management Program) and §505.22 (Consistency Required for New Rules and Rule Amendments Subject to the Coastal Management Program).

4. Request for Public Comment.

         Comments on the proposal may be submitted to Jeremy Leitz, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas 78744; (512) 389-4333; email: jeremy.leitz@tpwd.state.tx.us.

5. Statutory Authority.

         The amendment is proposed under Parks and Wildlife Code, §81.501, which authorizes the commission to create state scientific areas for the purposes of education, scientific research, and preservation of flora and fauna of scientific or educational value, and §81.502(c), which  authorizes the commission to adopt rules necessary for the management and protection of scientific areas.

         The amendment affects Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 81.

         §57.921. Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.

                 (a) Purpose: The Redfish Bay State Scientific Area is established for the purpose of education, scientific research, and preservation of flora and fauna of scientific or educational value.

                 [(b) Term: July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2010.]

                 (b) [(c)] Boundaries:

                         (1) – (14) (No change.)

                 (c) [(d)]  No person may move, remove, deface, alter, or destroy any sign, depth marker or other informational signage placed by the department to delineate boundaries of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area or to designate specific zones within the area .

                 (d) [(e)] This subsection is effective May 1, 2006:

                         (1)  In this section, "seagrass plant" means individuals from the following marine flowering plant species: Star Grass [Clover Grass] (Halophila engelmannii), Manatee Grass (Cymodocea [Syringodium] filiformis), Shoalgrass (Halodule beaudettei), Turtle Grass (Thalassia testudinum), and Widgeon Grass (Ruppia maritima).

                         (2) – (3) (No change.)

                 (e) [(f)] The penalty for violation of this section is prescribed by Parks and Wildlife Code, §13.112..

         This agency hereby certifies that the proposal has been reviewed by legal counsel and found to be within the agency’s authority to adopt.

         Issued in Austin, Texas, on

 


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