Apache vows to not drill in or under Balmorhea State Park

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REEVES COUNTY -- Multi-billion dollar company Apache Corporation announced Wednesday major plans to expand its drilling in the southern area of Reeves County, primarily on the outskirts of Balmorhea.

The company is calling their discovery “Alpine High” and is projecting to produce at least three billion barrels of oil.

It's known to many as the gem of West Texas -- the San Solomon Springs.

Many like long time Balmorhea resident Maria Garza are willing to do whatever it takes to preserve this natural resource.

"We're a whole different area, and if you start messing with this you can really start causing some damages and it can be gone," said Garza.

Five months ago Garza started a petition to stop Apache from drilling in Balmorhea and the areas surrounding it. As of Wednesday she's garnered almost 5,000 signatures, but it's not enough to keep the multi-billion dollar company away.

Apache plans on setting up over 3,000 drilling locations in West Texas with its main focus being on the southern portion of Reeves County.

Commissioner Paul Hinojos has been in talks with the company for several months now and wants residents to know he's looking out for what's best for all of Reeves County.

Overall Hinojos sees the discovery of Alpine High as a potential positive investment for Reeves County, however he’s been in close communication with Apache to make sure the area’s natural resources are preserved.

"As long as they take care of the spring everything should be fine,” said Hinojos. “There's actually a lot of pros to them being in that area, the school district would be able to tax the minerals which would generate revenue for them to operate with."

Although Apache has acquired roughly 307,000 acres of land, they want residents to know their developments will not affect the natural beauty of the area.

In a statement Apache writes, “[we have] voluntarily decided to implement an exclusion zone and will not drill in or under Balmorhea State Park (an area where we have mineral leases) or in or under the city limits of Balmorhea.”

They go on to say they are also voluntarily conducting regular testing of the water in the area to ensure their operations meet the highest standards for environmental protection.

“We are also committed to reducing our overall water needs and using non-potable water sources whenever possible,” wrote Castlen Kennedy with Apache Corporation. “We are looking into water recycling programs to address our water needs and minimize local impacts.”

So far Apache has been primarily purchasing water from landowners and have recently come to an agreement with the Reeves County Water District (RCWD).

According to Kennedy, they only withdrew water from one of RCWD’s well, which she says was not directly from the lake.

“Apache does not see withdrawal from RCWD as a long term solution and is instead looking at using brackish water resources to meet future water needs,” wrote Kennedy.

Apache wants residents to know this will be a multi-year ramp up. They are still in the very early stages of this program and have not outlined exactly where each well will be placed.

“The Alpine High discovery represents an opportunity for a long-term partnership between Apache and the residents of Reeves County. As the only major leaseholder in the play, Apache is interested in developing an ongoing dialogue and relationship with residents.”

Next week city leaders and county officials will be meeting with representatives of Apache to discuss the project.

"We want them to be good neighbors, and provide a quality of life, so that their employees are willing to live here and help us with some of the growing pains that we can't keep up with," said Hinojos.

In a news release Apache announced its plans to increase its 2016 capital spending by approximately $200 million for the year. They plan on allocating more than 25 percent of their capital spending on their Alpine High program alone.

To see Garza’s petition click here.