But what has definitely impacted this region the most is the search for energy — harnessed in both oil and uranium.
Uranium in the south
Only a few days ago, Uranium Energy Corp. announced strong phase one exploration drilling results at the company’s Salvo project located in south Bee County, just north of Tynan.
The company is expected to complete the first phase of its exploration this month and begin the second phase which will drill even more holes to confirm that uranium is indeed present and that it can be removed from the ground.
The entire Salvo project, which consists of 1,513 acres, will take around 10 to 15 years.
This isn’t the first time that Bee County has been the site of uranium mining either.
However, mining across South Texas came to a stop after market prices started collapsing in the late ’80s.
That collapse in prices caused many of the operators to shut down, if not fold completely, which in a nutshell left some reclamation efforts undone.
But, as energy demands continue to grow and prices climb, the demand for uranium is once again present and those in southern Bee County will surely reap the rewards.
And while folks in this area are excited about the drilling, this isn’t true everywhere.
There is a battle going on in Goliad County as to whether mining should be permitted there.
In December, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted approval for a production permit to Uranium Energy Corp. to begin work in that county.
Sidney Braquet, a fourth generation Goliad landowner, said shortly after the announcement, “Today’s ruling is a victory for private property rights. Our county government has wasted enough taxpayer dollars opposing this important project.”
Those on the other side of the debate are vowing that this victory doesn’t win the war.
“It’s not a done deal,” said Reulie Irwin, real estate broker and chairman of the uranium research and advisory committee and director of the groundwater district. “There are still hurdles past TCEQ. The next step [for UEC] is to get an aquifer exemption from the EPA.”
A letter to the editor, signed by the directors of the Goliad County Groundwater District, said, “With Commission Chairman Shaw in the driver’s seat, the rural residents of Texas were victims of a hit-and-run action in favor of power, money and the lobbyists.
“TCEQ could ill afford to protect the groundwater of Texas by denying a uranium mining permit, when this denial would cancel needed revenue to help with reducing the state’s budget deficit.”
Oil in the north
In northern Bee County, the quest for energy, this time in the form of oil and natural gas, is ramping up and this means more money not just in the pockets of landowners but also for businesses.
Global EPC Services President Monte Burton said that Beeville will be ground zero of the Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas operations.
This is becoming more evident as the number of oil field trucks passing through town grows almost daily.
Restaurants and shops are filling up as crews come in from out of town to work.
These people also need a place to sleep which is filling up the motels and apartments.
Even the Bee County Commissioners Court debated opening up a few of the RV hookups at the Expo Center for the onslaught of workers.
County Judge David Silva said during one court meeting, “Just as an example, there are 60 wells in Bee County right now and we are told that by this time next year there will be over 300.”
Those in the know say that this will be a 10- to 15-year boom for the Bee County economy.
The reason the county, and especially Beeville, is seeing so much activity is partly because Beeville is the largest city in the Eagle Ford region, which stretches from north of Laredo to near Cuero and Gonzales.
During the past couple of months, this newspaper has reported several oil-related businesses coming to town.
In October, Integrity Industries, Inc. sent the city a letter of intent announcing that the company seeks to build an oil-based drilling fluid plant in Beeville at the former Modern Products facility at 100 E. Industrial Blvd.
That same month, Renato Ramirez, president and CEO of the International Bank of Commerce, confirmed that his bank was negotiating a lease agreement with ConocoPhillips, the huge, Houston-based international energy company, for the use of the former State Bank & Trust building at the intersection of North Washington and West Hefferman streets.
What was seen this year is just the start of an expansion that will impact people throughout the county.
So while so much of the country is struggling to keep afloat, South Texas, and especially Bee County, is poised to grow, thanks to what is below the soil beneath our feet.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.