Eagle Ford drilling tearing up DeWitt County roads
Natural gas boom boosting economy, straining county infrastructure
The explosion in drilling for oil and natural gas in the Eagle Ford Shale has been a economic boon for the region, but all of that extra activity is coming at a cost.
"Every time you roll a 6 million pound rig assembly into a drilling location, back off the ranch, out the county road, and down to the new location, you ruin whatever road structure is there," said DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler.
In many cases, both shoulders of county roads are being stripped away, leaving a strip of asphalt, sometimes as narrow as eight feet wide for two-way traffic.
"Traffic is meeting head-on in these 50-foot right-of-ways," said Fowler.
According to Fowler, there's over 300 miles of roadway needing upgrades in the county, and bringing these roads up to where they need to be for this kind of traffic isn't going to be cheap.
"What we're faced with is trying to solve a $75 million problem," Fowler said.
That's a huge mountain for a county like DeWitt to climb. The county has annual tax revenues of about $7.2 million.
The energy companies send hundred of millions of dollars in severance taxes to the state from the revenues of their natural gas drilling on the Eagle Ford Shale.
Almost $58 million of that comes from drilling in Dewitt County, but the county only sees a tiny fraction of that back.
"We received about $112,000 as our share of axle fees," Fowler said.
Fowler says he believe the leadership in Austin isn't being stingy. He thinks the growth has been so rapid, the state hasn't been made aware of the problem.
Fowler says he's working to see to it that the counties get a bigger piece of the pie.
"If it came back to the county," Fowler said, "or part of it came back to the county where the production occurred, we could solve our own road problems."
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