Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

Conservation Committee Meeting

August 24, 2011

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

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 24th day of August 2011, 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 HOLT: Okay. The first order of business is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes from May 25, 2011, meeting, which have already been distributed. Do I have a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So move.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Scott, Commissioner Martin. All in favor say aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any opposed?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Hearing none, motion carries.

I would like to announce to that Committee Item Number 4, which was a request for easement, Aransas County, commercial driveway at Goose Island State Park, and Committee Item Number 9, proposed land sale, Randall and Armstrong Counties, Palo Duro Canyon State Park have been withdrawn at this time.

We will then move on to Committee Item Number 1, update on TPWD process in implementing plan ‑‑ TPWD Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan.

Mr. Smith, do you have anything to present?

MR. SMITH: Well, I don’t have any action items, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MR. SMITH: I’m going to disappoint you there again, and probably will do so one more time before we’re done today.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: That’s quite all right.

MR. SMITH: But just a couple of things if I could report. I want to thank Commission Morian and Commission Martin for coming over to Houston for the dedication of the John Jacob Observation Tower at Sheldon Lake. You know, this was the ‑‑ this is Al Henry’s deal and Commission Henry worked very, very hard to help develop Sheldon Lake. It’s really a premier destination for Houston area kids and their families to come out and have an outdoor experience, and construction of this tower, which is really just phenomenal, is really just helping to grow that process.

I hope all of you will recall that we’ve got this partnership with Texas Audubon to develop a new environmental learning center there. They’re in the throes of starting to raise funds for that very, very worthwhile project. And so we’re excited about that. But we couldn’t have this named after a better individual than John Jacob. Grew up in the Third Ward and made good and just, I mean just an extraordinary individual. So really exciting. A lot going on there at the park.

I know the issues associated with pronghorns out in the Trans-Pecos have been on the minds of a number of you. Our biologists continue to work very, very hard with state veterinarians, biologists, university researchers and landowners to try to get a cause of that decline. You will recall that we trapped and transplanted a couple of hundred antelope from up at Dalhart and moved them to Marfa.

We had put about 80 GPS collars on those pronghorns, and we’ve seen a fair amount of mortality; only about 25 percent of those are still alive. We had a fair amount of capture myopathy after the transplant there, and then we had a pretty significant die-off as a function of those haemophilus worms. That’s that internal endoparasite that we’ve been struggling with that we think their prevalence and been exacerbated by this drought. So in really fawn production in that area is ‑‑ around the Marfa Basin is not giving us a lot of room for optimism.

So they have gotten some rain out there, we have a lot of research underway with Sul Ross and our team is learning a lot, as you might expect they would. And this working group out there is very, very focused on this. So we’ll continue to have more reports from you all this week as we go forward on that.

So two other quick things. Our Wildlife Division and Inland Fisheries worked together to secure a little over an $800,000 grant from USDA to help facilitate additional voluntary public access to go out and lease additional lands for public hunting, but also to identify some lands that we can hope for additional fishing opportunities, and hiking, canoe access, and some habitat restoration.

So we’re excited about that, looking forward to expanding the public hunting opportunities with those funds. It is a one-year grant, and given the state of the federal budget, I’m not sure we should bet the farm on getting those funds in subsequent years. But we’re awfully proud of the work of Linda and Kim did in terms of securing those funds for us.

Last thing, I hope you saw that signage on the zebra mussel education awareness campaign, that Communications and Inland Fisheries have been so involved in, very focused on trying to contain those zebra mussels within Lake Texoma and help educate anglers and boaters about the problems of spreading those mussels to other water bodies. We’ve had great support from river authorities, municipal water districts and other partners to help launch this campaign, modeled after the very successful campaign we had on aquatic invasive plants, the hello-goodbye campaign.

So keep all appendages crossed. We certainly want to try to contain those zebra mussels if we can, and anything we can do to educate our boaters and anglers about cleaning their boats and motors and trailers before moving from an infected water body to one in which they’re not present is very, very important. So big focus of ours in Communication team along with Inland Fisheries, just doing a great job on that.

So, Mr. Chairman, that’s all I’ve got to report, and I’ll turn it back over to you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Committee Item Number 2, Edwards Aquifer Authority recovery implementation plan and designation of state scientific area. Cindy?

MS. LOEFFLER: Yes. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commission. For the record my name is Cindy Loeffler. I’m the Water Resources Branch Chief at Parks and Wildlife. With me today is Colette Barron from the Legal Division, and also Jackie Pool in the audience from Wildlife Division. We’re going to spend a little bit of time this morning talking to you all about the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program, activities that have been going on there for several years now, and a concept for designation of state scientific area for the San Marcos River.

Edwards Aquifer, the southern portion of the Edwards Aquifer stretches 180 miles, Travis County down to Kinney County, very important drinking water source for over 2 million people, important for agriculture industry, recreation, a number of users to the aquifer. Also, the origin of two major springs in the southwestern U.S., San Marcos Springs, Comal Springs.

There are currently eight federally listed threatened and endangered species that depend on the Edwards Aquifer. I’ve got them listed for you here, pictures of some of them. There are additional species that are associated with the aquifer that are very rare, not listed at this time. These springs also form the headwaters for San Marcos River, Comal River, base flows in the Guadalupe River all the way down to San Antonio Bay on the coast. Very important, especially during droughts like we’re in currently.

So the EARIP program is an open voluntary collaborative, consensus-based process. The goal of the RIP is to help recover these federally endangered species that I just told you about. It was initiated by Fish and Wildlife Service back in 2006, but has been codified by Senate Bill 3 by the legislature in 2007. So the 26-member steering committee includes Parks and Wildlife, other state agencies, the Edwards Aquifer Authority, San Antonio Water System, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, San Antonio River Authority, various environmental, agricultural, recreational, industrial interests.

We’re all there at the table. We have been meeting, you know, quite frequently over the years to try to achieve our goal of recovering these species. The final EARIP product, as specified in Senate Bill 3, is a plan to protect these species, while managing use of the Edwards Aquifer, as I mentioned, a very important water source and so use of the aquifer is paramount.

Since 2007 we’ve been working pretty diligently on coming up with a set of strategies intended to protect minimum spring flows, especially during droughts, and I’m happy to report that late last year we did come to consensus, 26 members, on a package of strategies to actually protect minimum spring flows.

So now the focus recently has been on how to fund this. That’s a bit of a challenge in the current climate. We’re still working on some options there. And working on implementation details. Colette has been very instrumental in working with the other attorneys involved in the process to, you know, basically make sure everything is spelled out for how things will be implemented going forward.

The final plan will be in the form of a habitat conservation plan. The deadline in the statute is September 1, 2012. We are on track to do that. We have a draft that’s out in review right now. I’m looking at that, providing comments back. This draft, as ‑‑ or this final HCP as per Senate Bill 3, has to be approved by a number of entities including Parks and Wildlife.

So the bottom up approach is a set of strategies, as I said, designed to protect minimum spring flows, and it is an incremental phased approach with the opportunity for monitoring as we go, and adjustment in the future if needed, if we get seven years down the road and find that the package that we thought would work to protect minimum spring flows and we find out something didn’t work quite as planned, we have the ability to go back and make some changes within reason.

And so the set of strategies ‑‑ I won’t go into a whole lot of detail about this because of the time it would take, but kind of listed out for you here are some of the major things. Of course reducing aqua bumping during droughts like we’re in now, additional water conservation. San Antonio Water System does a great job for conservation within San Antonio, but taking that message and the ability to do that just to the smaller communities.

This concept of aquifer storage and recovery, it’s really the centerpiece in my view of the EARIP package. A picture there for you of the SAR project that’s actually in place now. So a way of using, storing ground water during good times, wet times to use later during drought periods.

Additional suspension of irrigation pumping rights would be voluntary for the irrigators, additional Stage 5 critical period management, that would be mandatory, and then a number of ecosystem restoration projects, including exotic species management and then recreation management, which is what I would like to spend some time with you today on, the state scientific area.

Okay. Two of the eight listed species that this would be particularly beneficial for, a little bit more detail here, are Texas wild rice and fountain darter. So for Texas wild rice, it’s only found in the San Marcos River, only found in the upper two miles, very rare species obviously, and the fountain darter lives in the headwaters of San Marcos River and Comal River in quiet backwater-type areas, but associated with vegetation in those areas.

So the concept of having a state scientific area for the San Marcos River, you know, we understand recreation must go on in the San Marcos River. It’s very important from an economic perspective to the folks there in the community, so the thought, the concept would be to definitely allow recreation. We have had support from San Marcos, city of San Marcos, their City Council has passed a resolution earlier this year in support of this idea. They actually passed a resolution in support of the measures that the RIP has talked about, including state scientific area, and the President’s Council at Texas State has also taken a similar action to approve the bottom up package.

And interestingly enough, the city of New Braunfels is also beginning to show some interest in this concept. We’ve had some conversations with staff there. Colette and I’ll be meeting with New Braunfels city staff next week to talk about if this is something that could work for them as well.

So just a couple of example slides to show you ‑‑ you know, I’m not sure how many folks have been on the San Marcos River, tubes, swimming, kayaking, whatnot. There are some areas of the river that are very well suited for, you know, having plenty of folks there, like Rio Vista Dam. Access is handled well there. It does get crowded, but, you know, it’s not where there’s as big a threat to Texas wild rice as some other areas.

And so Jackie actually got this picture last week, and I think it kind of highlights a little bit of what we’re dealing with here. You’ve got, you know, the sign here saying, Please allow bank to grow, use the entrance, and then the entrance is pointing you right into a stand of Texas wild rice. You know, particularly vulnerable with the flows as low as they are, you know, lots of trampling and just general damage and destruction. And so try to work on the concept that some areas are better than others for recreation.

And so what we have here is a map of the San Marcos River, the staff concept at this point of how we think this could work. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area down along the coast. Very similar conceptually. We would like to see a state scientific area designated where the wild rice is found, so that’s from Spring Lake Dam down to the water treatment plant, so the extent of the map here. Have that designation Step 1, public awareness, really hit that hard with the folks in the community about, you know, what is wild rice, you know, areas where it’s found, please avoid it, you know, so on and so forth, all of those things.

Definitely working with the city and the university to help redirect recreational users to more appropriate places and keep them out of the places that ‑‑ or just away from areas that are more sensitive, then, you know, have restrictions against uprooting, harming, et cetera, the wild rice. That would be something that could be enforceable. And then if necessary, kind of last resort, as the flows are getting really low as they are now, perhaps have some physical barriers in place that would actually keep folks out of the stands of wild rice. Not intended to close off the river, not intended to keep recreations out at all, but just to help kind of guide them away from those areas.

So just for your reference, the part of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Code that authorizes the Department to do this. Highlighted the language below, preservation of flora and fauna; we can publish the rules and regulations necessary to do this. And the proposed schedule that we’ve talked about is do a briefing like we are today, then public scoping in San Marcos during September and October, come back to the Commission in November to request permission to publish a rule, additional scoping on that draft rule, whatever it looks like, and then come back in January to the Commission to ask for approval.

Questions?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What kind of response are you getting? I mean are you getting relative to the, let’s say, the tourist industry?

MS. LOEFFLER: Right. Well, so far ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Tubers and people that are in that business, for example.

MS. LOEFFLER: Sure. Thank you. So far it’s really primarily been what we’re hearing through the city and through the university. I know that ‑‑ well, I expect that based on some of the reaction that the city of New Braunfels got last week ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

MS. LOEFFLER:  ‑‑ on the banning disposable containers, and I guess they took action on that this week, that I think there will be plenty of interest in this. So I’m trying to not underestimate, you know, the need to really go out to the public and talk about this, but ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right. More communication the better.

MS. LOEFFLER: Right.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: So I think they’re going to sue ‑‑ I mean somebody’s going to probably sue on that ‑‑

MS. LOEFFLER: In New Braunfels?

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  ‑‑ container if you go to New Braunfels I mean.

MS. LOEFFLER: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, try it anyway.

MS. LOEFFLER: Could be.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That’ll definitely happen here. I may be in the middle of that one because I’ve got some property on the Comal that I’m not real happy about what they did either. But returning to this issue, I have a lot of friends over in that part of the world, both in politics and not, and in the industry and not, but I would definitely want to be kept posted on that, because I can assure you that you’re going to get a lot of comments, I’m sure.

But that’s something that ‑‑ what you mentioned, I’m glad you’re cognizant, but as bad as the economy is and everything, it is a huge deal on ‑‑ the tourist deal, as bad as it is, it’s still about the only thing they’ve got going, so ‑‑

MS. LOEFFLER: Sure.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  ‑‑ yes, anyway we’re sure going to have to handle this properly.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I think you’re right. Looking at the economic, you know, aspect on the different levels will be important to be respectful of as well.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Very sensitive too.

MR. SMITH: Yes, I think what’s important to note is, you know, a state scientific area does not automatically exclude people from those areas. I mean this is really designed, to set up, elevated as a special area, give us a place where we can conduct research and establish some special rules to protect that unique resource. Still accommodate, you know, appropriate and reasonable public use but just elevate the awareness.

And this is ‑‑ Cindy and Colette have just done an extraordinary job over the last couple of years. These issues with the Edwards Aquifer are hugely contentious, as you all know, with all of the many and varied stakeholders, and so trying to get people to actually some solutions to move forward, this is one actually that came from outside of the Department and presented to us to consider exploring with all of you. And so really at their behest we’re bringing that to you all for you to think about. Certainly a very interesting and novel concept, and we’ll be very, very advertent to these economic issues and particularly what transpired in New Braunfels this week ‑‑

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And I would also comment that I’ve got a lot of friends that are fairly high up in the TSU system, I’m going to have some more in the near future, some kin. But anyway, if handled properly, the university can be an asset to this kind of deal because they have a lot of people that care and everything, and, you know, it’s ‑‑ you know, that might be a good resource to accomplish some of this if we handle it right.

MS. LOEFFLER: Absolutely.

MR. SMITH: Well, said. Yes, a lot of good researchers there too that help. So absolutely.

MS. BARRON BRADSBY: I’d like to add one thing about the outfitters and the tubers.  The real problem is people wading and dogs, things like that actually getting down to the surface and uprooting the plants. It’s really not so much of a problem with a kayakers and tubers. So we’re hoping that we’re not going to have that conflict with a lot of the recreation.

And then, again, we can handle this through making really attractive access areas and making ‑‑ you know, perhaps using some natural things, some, you know, thorny bushes, some obstacles, you know, again on the banks to ‑‑ and signage to discourage access directly on the wild rice. So I think there’s ‑‑ you know, with everybody involved having such a passion for the river and having these big players with the city and the university and Parks and Wildlife, I think we’re going to be able to come up with something that will work for everybody. I mean, you know, maybe we’ll have a few naysayers, but I think we can bring those people along.

MR. SMITH: I think clearly what you’re telling us, we’re going to have a perception issue that we’re going to have to deal with and that education awareness, we’ll try to get in front of immediately.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And the communication issue.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And in that vein, I don’t mind ‑‑ some of the elected officials are pretty good friends, and they are extremely plugged in to that whole area, and it probably wouldn’t be bad if I could at least bring it up and at least, you know, at least get some conversation going before you all just dump it out there, because if there’s no ground work laid, you know what’s going to happen.

MR. SMITH: Yes.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: It’s going to be a flame instead of easing into it, so, you know ‑‑

MR. SMITH: Yes. Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  ‑‑ let’s try to ‑‑

MR. SMITH: Let us work directly with you on that, Commissioner, and maybe get Cindy and Colette to come meet with you and talk about some of those things and brainstorm about next steps from a communication perspective.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That’s fine. Okay.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

MS. LOEFFLER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Thank you all.

So no further action on that one. Committee Item Number 3, land acquisition, Yoakum County, 320 acres at the Yoakum Dunes Conservation area. Corky Kuhlmann. Corky.

MR. KUHLMANN:  Good morning. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann, the Land Conservation Program. This is an acquisition in Yoakum County, Yoakum Dunes Preserve, just west of Lubbock, Texas. This is not ‑‑ the second time you’re seeing this item, so it is an action time. It’s Yoakum Dunes Preserve, it’s a preserve for lesser prairie chicken. The Nature Conservancy has acquired about 7200 acres, we have acquired about a 250-acre tract from the General Land Office, so this is a joint venture between Parks and Wildlife and TNC. We’ve negotiated a contract for another 320-acre site. The landowner will be paid mineral rights, and will be granted two pad sites to be located by Parks and Wildlife with our biologists to least impact the site.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: In other words we’d have the executive ‑‑ we can have control.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. They’d asked for limited pad sites, then I got ‑‑ they came back with five and then we agreed on two, two sites total on the tract.

This is the tract that we ended up with, it is an odd shape. One of the good things about this tract, TNC will be getting additional funds in the future, September, for more acquisition at this site. There’s willing sellers right south of this site that will give us adjoining property, or adjoining property owners that are ‑‑ been identified as willing sellers.

This is the motion that you will see before you tomorrow, and I’ll take any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Let’s go back to that map of the Yoakum Dunes Preserve, the odd ‑‑ so the green is ‑‑

MR. KUHLMANN: Is what we already own including ‑‑ between TNC and Parks and Wildlife the green is what we own.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Already own.

MR. KUHLMANN: Right.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MR. KUHLMANN: There’s some tracts there right to the left to the southwest of Yoakum Dunes, you know, the preserve, that little quarter section, that gentleman is kind of wanting to sell. He didn’t like the price, he didn’t think there was $240 an acre land left in Texas. I’m hoping TNC can get with him. The section right south of that is ConocoPhillips, TNC’s working with them. It looks like we’re going to acquire ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Corky, I’m sorry. Where is that at? Can you point that out?

MR. KUHLMANN: Let’s see, if we could ‑‑ this tract right here ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.

MR. KUHLMANN:  ‑‑ that gentleman lives at Buchanan Dam, he could probably be talked into selling. This tract is ConocoPhillips, Phillips has another one here that TNC’s going to work with. We’re hoping TNC will donate ‑‑ I mean ConocoPhillips would donate those tracts to use as match for a Section 6 grant. But they’ll be getting additional funds from other mitigation. The tract that we’re buying, this section right under here is also a willing seller. They wanted to sell now. We didn’t have the money. We’re using ’09 land sale proceeds for the half section we’re getting, which would just about deplete the land sale proceeds that Wildlife has, and then hope TNC takes up the slack.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Where now ‑‑ okay. The tract we’re talking about, 320 acres, just east of that, I guess that’s east, it’s that little strip, is that ‑‑

MR. KUHLMANN: This one?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, go the other way.

MR. KUHLMANN: Oh, this?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

MR. KUHLMANN: This one is owned by a gentleman in Lubbock. He likes his odds for shooting mule deer with us all around him, so he’s going to keep it. He’s not a willing seller.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Not willing.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Corky, do we have an agreement with TNC, a management agreement that we ‑‑ that Parks and Wildlife will manage this property or TNC or ‑‑

MR. KUHLMANN: We do not have a formal agreement yet, it’s all pretty much verbal and a handshake, and we’re probably going to wait until we’ve completed all the acquisition we can think ‑‑ that we’re going to do at the area before we enter into a long term agreement.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So right now we kind of look after our property and they look after their property?

MR. KUHLMANN: Right now TNC is looking after everything. They’re kind of in charge of the whole tract.

MR. SMITH: Commissioner, I think at some point there’s some thought that this might be an appropriate wildlife management area for the state of Texas. But until it’s kind of built out and acquired and really we have the resources to be able to take that on, I think the Department felt like it was best to let the Nature Conservancy kind of use their staff and resources and expertise. They’re very interested in this area because of the prairie chicken.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Prairie chicken, I was going to say, yes.

MR. SMITH: So it’s been a pretty good partnership there.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: So how many dollars, or do we talk about that now or executive?

MR. SMITH: Well, we certainly can talk about it tomorrow.

What’s the estimated cost on this, Corky?

MR. KUHLMANN: We’ve got it under contract for $240 an acre.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Okay. Any other questions for Corky?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you, Corky.

Committee Item Number 5, donation of land, Orange County, approximately 218 acres at the Tony Houseman Wildlife Management Area, request permission to begin the public notice and input process. Ted Hollingsworth. Ted?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name’s Ted Hollingsworth, I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a donation of land, proposed donation of land at the Tony Houseman Wildlife Management Area, just right on the border with Louisiana.

The area itself was actually acquired about a decade ago to provide mitigation credits for TxDOT highway projects in the area, but we manage and operate the property for fish and wildlife resources. It’s right there in Orange, it’s right on the outskirts of town.

Back in May you authorized staff to proceed with the issuance of an easement to Air Products Pipeline for the installation of an 18-inch hydrogen pipeline across the wildlife management area. We have worked with the company and with the conservation fund to identify tracts of land that might be added to the wildlife management area to offset their impacts both to the wildlife management area and to jurisdictional wetlands.

They have 25 miles of pipeline in Texas impacting about 15 acres of jurisdictional wetlands. These two tracts totaling 218 acres were acquired by the Conservation Fund and are going to be sold to Air Products and donated to Texas Parks and Wildlife to offset their regulatory requirements as mitigation for the impacts of those wetlands. I may add that the Conservation Fund has identified a third tract which they have under contract which you’ll see in November which would come to us as compensation for the impacts to the wildlife management area.

These tracts make a lot of sense, they simplify the boundary, they are very healthy mature swamp habitat that’s primarily cypress, tupelo swamp with some hardwood uplands. As you can see in the picture, this is a first reading. We’ll solicit public comment and would propose to come back to you in November for authorization to proceed to accept those donated tracts. I’d be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: You’ll come back in November and then we’re going to discuss the next piece? You said there was ‑‑ I’m sorry, maybe I misunderstood ‑‑ there’s going to be another piece.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. We would have liked to have brought all three pieces to this meeting and the November meeting. We did not have ‑‑ quite frankly we didn’t have the phase one and the survey done in time, and that tract does butt right up to the neighborhood. We were concerned there might be phase one environmental issues, so we did not include it in this reading. So you’ll see this item again in November, and an additional item for that third tract, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any questions for Ted?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. If there’s no further discussion, I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process. Ted, thank you.

Committee Item Number 6, request for easement, Ward and Winkler Counties water distribution pipeline easement at Monahans Sandhills State Park, request permission to begin the public notice and input process. Ted, you’re up again.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This item results from a request from the Colorado River Municipal Water Authority to add a water line to an existing corridor across the Monahans Sandhills State Park. That’s out in West Texas, it’s a pretty neat property if you’ve never seen it. It is an arid sand dune formation resulting from the unique geology there, located, oh, just southwest of Odessa.

There is currently a 33-inch water pipeline, potable water pipeline, it runs right across the park. It was installed in 1971.  There’s been an increase in  population out there since 1971, and there’s now a desire to add a line parallel to the existing line 48 inches in diameter.

This will give you some idea of the magnitude of the impact we’re talking about. It will be an open trench installation. The easement they’re asking for varies in width from 60 to 150 feet. The property is actually owned by the Sealy and Smith Foundation of Galveston. We’ve worked very closely for decades with the Foundation to minimize impacts to the park. In this case they’ve asked us to work out the terms and conditions under which the pipeline could be installed to establish compensation rates and so forth, and we will split that compensation with them to assist the Foundation and the management of the park as well.

This is a first reading of the item, and with your permission we request that we proceed with a public notice process on this one.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions? Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there any reason to ask for a right to access the water for certain purposes, this new line?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I’m not quite sure how you’d tap into a 48-inch line, and honestly I do not know the source of the water for the state park currently. This water line very specifically provides water to Big Spring, Odessa, and Snyder. There are other competing public water sources in that area with a long, long history. I’m not sure we get potable water from this line. Like I say, it specifically services the urban areas of Big Spring, Odessa and Snyder.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I’m saying is there any reason we couldn’t try to ask for that as a part of this ‑‑

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: There’s every reason we should ask them, and we’ll plan to do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I don’t know what the ‑‑ why we would need the water or what the uses would be. I think it might be good to at least have the ability, under certain circumstances to access the water.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, we will explore that. The compensation that we’re looking at under our current rate schedule is about $150,000 up front and $50,000 a year. I think the park probably uses a minimal amount of water, but, again, we will ‑‑ no sense in walking away from an asset we might be able to add to the equation.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Corky, is this pipeline being laid in the same easement, or parallel to the one that’s already there, or is this a different ‑‑

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It’s parallel but it’s a whole new easement. The existing easement is a 60-foot easement and for engineering and regulatory reasons I’m not real clear about, they need to lay this one in an entirely new easement. Now it’ll be contiguous with except where we identify cultural resources, wetland resources, other rare desert resources that we ask them to go around, otherwise it will be contiguous easements.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Do you see much surface impact from the one that was laid in 19, what 70?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, just account of the sand blows over.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The sand blows over and so forth. The real impacts are to the fact that they not only excavate down through the sand, but they excavate down through the hardpan, which means that they ‑‑ which means they alter that soil and subsoil structure in perpetuity, and the cultural resources that are there, and there are a lot dating all the way back to the pleistocene are disturbed irrevocably, and we just really don’t know how that impacts local soil hydrology, vegetation and so forth. So we assume that these impacts could be long-term impacts.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: How deep are they burying this?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: According to their initial engineering report, the trench varies in depth from six feet to 60 feet.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Is that depending on a dune?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Apparently that depends upon the topography. We don’t have the final engineering report or the final surveys. Their company’s working on those now.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: They have to keep the ‑‑ what it cost to move that water, you know, that’s why they want ‑‑ it’s kind of building a road, you know, going up and down the road. It’s better to kind of use some of your equipment and make them level. Right?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, I understand.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Same concept with the water.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: But it’s sand, that’s why it’d be a difference between six and 60 then.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That’s surprises me that it’s that big a swing.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Those dunes ‑‑ some of those dunes are 70 feet high in the major dune fields, so as you can imagine, digging a 60-foot trench in that is going to be a significant impact.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, we have ‑‑

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I didn’t know there was anything that high out there. I’m going to have to go look.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I didn’t know there was any water out there.

(General laughter.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions for Ted?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: There’s water some years.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, some years. Right.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Maybe not much ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It’s as much as we have any place else in the state at this point.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions for Ted?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Committee Item Number 7, transfer of state historic site, Guadalupe County, Sebastopol House State Historic Site for the city of Seguin. Ted’s up again.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth, I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This item is the second reading. As you well know, during the session we were asked to look at the potential for transferring management of, if not ownership of, several sites to local entities for operation.

The city of Seguin was the one entity that did step up to the plate and indicate an interest and an ability to do so. Staff has worked with the city since that time. Sebastopol is in Seguin, surrounded by the city of Seguin, basically in between San Antonio and Austin. As you can see from this illustration, it’s basically a very small urban park. The value is of course in that architectural asset.

Staff had worked out that agreement, the city would abide by the site preservation plan, which is a very elaborate plan based on the archeology and the architecture, the historic structure of the building and so forth, and would keep the site open to the public in a manner very similar to what we’ve been keeping it open to the public.

Staff is satisfied that it is in the best interest of the Agency and the site to let the city of Seguin take that and operate it, and we do recommend that the Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A. I’d be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any questions for Ted?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. This is an action item. I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Committee Item Number 8, land acquisition, Presidio County, approximately 520 acres at Big Bend Ranch State Park. Ted’s up again.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This is a single-reading item, this is an action item. We’re requesting authority to proceed with an acquisition of an inholding at Big Bend Ranch State Park. The tract is known as the Tapado Canyon Tract.

It’s one that’s been very high on our list of priorities ever since the park was acquired. It is the last riverfront inholding in a 10-plus mile stretch of river. The canyon itself is pretty spectacular, and this particular tract it’s standard Presidio County riverfront tract. It’s about a half mile wide and two miles deep, but it contains ‑‑ basically the canyon runs up this tract. We currently have a recreational access agreement on this tract.

The owner is 87 years old; he’s in failing health; he’s been very pro-state park. In fact, he owned most of the state park at one point in his life and he contacted us recently. His health is failing, he’s trying to sell his estate, and he’s offered us the tract at a bargain sale.

As you can see it is an inholding and it’s ‑‑ not only is it critical from the standpoint that it includes Tapado Canyon, but a very significant hiking, equestrian trail crosses that tract. And so we consider it to be a very important acquisition. This is from the trail up above the canyon looking down into the canyon, and as you can see it is pretty spectacular.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Runs to the river ‑‑

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, it runs to the river.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  ‑‑ I see [audible] ‑‑

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: In fact, we’re looking downstream towards the river here.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Towards the river. Yes. Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So the next slide that’s got the river, that’s the tract going up to the right?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Actually, this is a little downstream. We did not have a photograph of the river at this point. It looks very, very similar. This is also in the park and just a short ways downstream from the actual tract.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And it’s the last piece, what did you say, of a 10-mile ‑‑

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, the last tract ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT:   ‑‑ 10-mile stretch.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  ‑‑ in more than a 10-mile stretch. Then there’s ‑‑ as you can see, there’s one more that’s going to be very high on our list that would complete a 20-plus mile stretch.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: The one farther south?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: East? Yes.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Farther downstream.

Staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion, that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 200 ‑‑ 520 acres in Presidio County for addition to Big Bend Ranch State Park, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, I guess in general just particularly where is the money coming from, how are we going to do this, especially coming out of a legislature like we did? I mean where are the dollars to buy this 520 acres?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: This is the last, or this is much of the last of our appropriation from the current biennium that’s ending next week.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Are you going to try to buy this by September ‑‑ well, August 31?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, we have it under contract now ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  ‑‑ so we’re good, but we would like to close it in September, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Okay. Because you have it under contract now ‑‑

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, that’s correct.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  ‑‑ you can ‑‑ okay, just close in September, it’d be in the new budget year, but you can get ‑‑ am I saying that correctly? Yes.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, the closing would technically occur during the new fiscal year ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  ‑‑ but the money’s encumbered now ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It’s encumbered now.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  ‑‑ the project’s set up, it’s funded now.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And we’ve got those funds in place.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Correct. So we’re operating under our fiscal year.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: That’s what we’re going to talk about later.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Okay. Any questions for Ted?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Okay. We’ve got all kinds of action tomorrow.

Okay. Was that it? Now go into executive?

MR. SMITH: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.  Yes. All right. At this time I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an executive session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and seeking legal advice from General Counsel under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act. We will now recess for executive session.

(Whereupon, at 12:10 p.m., the open meeting was adjourned to reconvene in executive session.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Hello everybody. Welcome, welcome. I’ll bang this gavel. That way I get everybody’s attention. I woke you up.

(General laughter.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: First I have to do some of the official stuff here. At this time ‑‑ this has to do with the meeting we had just a moment ago ‑‑ at this time we will reconvene the regular session of the Conservation Committee. Okay. Regarding Committee Item Number 10, new park acquisition, and Committee Item Number 11, Cameron County land issues, no further action is required at this time.

Mr. Smith, this Committee has completed its business, and I declare us adjourned.

(Whereupon, at 2:21 p.m., the meeting was concluded.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF:
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee

LOCATION: Austin, Texas

DATE: August 24, 2011

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 38, 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.

                     9/02/11
(Transcriber) (Date)

On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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