Several counties in the area are facing deteriorating roads, commonly blamed on Eagle Ford truck traffic, and each is dealing with it in its own way.
Bee County’s Commissioners Court had an item on its agenda Monday morning that called to “negotiate and initiate road use agreements with oil and gas companies drilling in the Eagle Ford or similar oil/gas formations requiring extensive road use.”
The road use agreement was passed unanimously for a $9,500 fee per Eagle Ford well permit issued. The money paid by the oil and gas companies will go directly into the county’s road and bridge fund to repair damaged roads. The fee will be examined annually to see if it needs to be raised or stay the same.
Bee County Commissioner Dennis DeWitt asked that the item be placed on the agenda after DeWitt County passed a similar resolution last fall that required the companies to pay $8,000 per well drilled.
The item was placed on the Karnes County agenda in the fall by County Judge Barbara Shaw, but at the time the item was not passed.
Shaw, who attended the Beeville meeting, along with one of her commissioners, hopes to have the item on the Karnes County agenda soon. She expressed that it was important for the county to start collecting some kind of money for road repairs before the repairs become too many.
“I want to go ahead and accept something,” she said in a phone call. “I think something is better than nothing.”
Live Oak County does not have a road use agreement in place but does collect fees for certain things.
“Live Oak County has an application and permit process in place for temporary water lines and permanent pipeline easements, crossings county roads,” said Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff. “This money goes directly back into the precinct in which the activity occurred for county road upkeep.”
Huff said they have visited DeWitt County as well, but thus far, the commissioners have maintained a good working relationship with many of the companies.
“In most areas, our commissioners have been successful in obtaining funding to help offset road damage,” Huff said. “Further permitting depends upon the continued relationship between the commissioners and oil and gas interests. Balancing the needs of the community and exploration continues to be given much attention by the commissioners court.”
The issues of road damage have traveled as far as McMullen County, which has no actual paved county roads but has still seen a huge increase in large truck traffic.
The item was addressed in a recent commissioners court meeting that was attended by representatives of several companies that work in the county, including EOG Resources, Pioneer, Chesapeake Energy, Swift Energy and more.
“We decided what we are going to do is open up the lines of communication with the companies,” McMullen County Judge James Teal said in a phone call following the meeting.
Teal explained that in recent months, when there was damage to a county road, the companies were required to supply the materials to fix the road, and the county supplied the labor. In most cases, the material that the oil and gas company had to supply was a rock or caliche of some sort.
“It has worked out so far,” Teal said. “We will know real fast if it’s going to work or not.”
Part of the recent meeting was to make sure everyone was still onboard with that agreement, to which the room agreed. He said he is aware what some of the other counties are doing but thinks the way McMullen is doing it now is working for them.
What works for some may not work for others. Each of the area counties is faced with making the decisions on what works best for it. Some of the things that are taken into consideration are the amount of damage to the roads and the amount it will cost to fix them. For Bee County, which has more than 400 miles of roads, that cost is much higher.
Christina Rowland is the regional editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 119, or at regional@mySouTex.com.