Texas monitoring effects drilling on springs that feed Balmorhea State Park

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITION OCT. 21 -23 ** Lane Norton of Carlsbad, N.M., dives into the spring-fed swimming pool at Balmorhea State Park in Toyahvale, Texas, Saturday, July 15, 2006. It's certainly not the first place you think of when you want to go diving. In fact, it may be the last. Way out in arid West Texas, surrounded by the tumbleweeds and cactus you expect in this part of the country, Balmorhea State Park offers the chance for the rare opportunity to do a little scuba diving in the Chihuahuan Desert. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has embarked on an environmental study to monitor the effects of oil and gas drilling on the springs that feed a famous pool at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas.

Brent Leisure, the state parks director, tells the Houston Chronicle that he could not remember ever launching a similar effort in another of the state’s 95 parks, historic sites or natural areas. They’ll monitor plants, fish, insects and water.

Calling the San Solomon Springs “a rare and endangered resource,” Leisure says “we just want to make sure it’s protected.”

The springs also provide drinking water and support one of the most sensitive ecologies in Texas.

Less than a year ago, Apache Corp. of Houston announced a major discovery across 350,000 acres surrounding the park.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com