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Editorial: Is the growth in the Eagle Ford area good or bad?
About politics and other thingsJuly 2, 2014 | 3,988 views | Post a comment
Our Class of 1964 in Karnes City consisted of 62 graduates. This was 50 years ago, long before Karnes City or anyone else had heard of the Eagle Ford shale. Here are some observations from this weekend’s visit.
Karnes City has always been known as a small town that never changes, but that was then and this is now.
The changes brought on by oil and gas exploration and production in the area are tremendous. In fact, a recent headline reads: “Texas rules the oil and gas world with one quarter of all drilling rigs on Earth.” A big part of the Texas oil and gas comes from fracking in the Eagle Ford shale, and Karnes City just happens to sit smack dab in the middle of it all.
Texas reports 889 rigs out of a total of 1,873 in the United States, and Karnes County itself currently has 31. That’s quite a number. To accommodate the growing activity, motels have sprung up all over the area, as drilling rigs dot the landscape. The heavy traffic on once-desolate roadways makes driving anywhere around Karnes County a challenge.
One could say that the changes have been nothing short of phenomenal.
But not everything has changed. It’s true that a lot of people are suddenly richer than they had ever, in their wildest imaginations, dreamed of being. But others are not beneficiaries of oil and gas royalties.
To one extent or another, many resent the traffic, the noise, and the “strangers” in their no-longer-quiet little town. Those with riches struggle to figure out how to handle high finances.
Merchants, meanwhile, salivate at the prospect of new customers. City planners rise to meet the challenge of accommodating the unprecedented growth, as new accommodations and restaurants can’t be built fast enough.
Schools, as well, are struggling to find the right balance as their enrollment increases and new demands are placed on the schools’ services.
It is somewhat of a dichotomy, however, as you still see pockets of rural squalor remaining as if nothing around them has changed. There are areas with run-down mobile homes, yards grown up with weeds, unpaved roads, dilapidated shanties, and junk cars just left where they stopped running. Somehow when you see all the activity, you kinda expect that everyone would benefit.
Of course, the tax base has increased, but the growth outpaces the ability to plan for a smooth transition. It’s a bit incongruous to see the growth on the one hand, and persistent stagnation on the other.
But that, too, is changing.
It’s just that the Eagle Ford has happened so fast; no one was prepared for the explosive growth. Even planners in San Antonio were caught off guard, but they have more resources from which to gather solutions. It also is far enough removed that it can easily enter the market smoothly. The towns caught right in the middle -- Falls City, Karnes City, Kenedy, and Runge -- are having a rough time with the rapid changes.
There were no long-term plans in place to accommodate the unprecedented growth brought on by Eagle Ford. City and county leaders are scrambling, as best they can, to get ahead of the curve in planning for the future. No one faults them for a lack of planning, because the Eagle Ford has truly been a historic development.
From the look of things in Karnes County, they are doing a fine job. They are, in fact, the envy of many. Keep it up, Karnes County. It’s not easy, but progress never is.
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