SWEETWATER, Texas - Towns across West Texas are bracing for what is projected to be the biggest oil boom since the 1980s. Sweetwater is already feeling the impact.
The owner of Big Boys Barbeque, Gaylan Marth, has seen more customers through the door as oil company executives flock to the area to look at land.
"It's kind of a scary exciting time. Exciting in the possibilities of the business, scary in that the boom can cause you a lot of problems," Marth said.
He's concerned Sweetwater might not be able to support the extreme population increase.
"Look at Midland Odessa. I think they're having a tough time handling what they've got going on and look how big they are," said Marth.
Economic Developer Ken Becker agrees.
"I think we're all trying to figure out how big this will be. Will there be issues? Of course there will," said Becker.
He said fracking will likely affect the whole area.
"It's a regional opportunity. It's not one town that's trying to hoard up everything because one town can't handle it all," he said.
Becker said the oil boom will add hundreds of jobs in Sweetwater alone, boosting the entire West Texas economy.
"We may not have the labor force here in Sweetwater to handle it all, but there will be lots of surrounding areas willing to drive 60 miles for a very good paycheck," said Becker.
For now, Sweetwater is hoping the boom will bring positive change to their town.
"Guarded optimism. I think with any oil issues you have a boom and then you have a bust. And you just hope the bust doesn't come too close to the boom," said Becker.
Many Sweetwater residents are concerned about the water supply, and whether there will be enough to support both the residents and the oil business.
The Cline Shale area of oil interest runs 140 miles north to south and is about 70 miles wide.
Becker said testing has shown there may be an estimated 30 billion barrels of untapped oil in the area, or about 3.5 million per square mile.
People are paying anywhere from $850 to $1,500 an acre for land in Cline Shale. A year ago, that land was going for $100 to $250 dollars an acre.
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