The Big Bend Sentinel reports that the Obama Administration is looking to shut down the Aerostat balloon program nationwide on March 15th.
One of those Aerostat stations is located near Marfa, and the station employs about 20 people from the Marfa area.
The Aerostat balloon -- which sits at an altitude of 12,000 feet and is tethered to the ground -- provides aerial surveillance of the border region in the Big Bend.
That said, the Tethered Aerostat Radar System in the Big Bend has had its share of troubles.
The Aerostat balloon nosedived to the ground during a windstorm on February 14, 2012.
No one was injured in the crash, which happened after an operator misread a high wind warning.
However, the crash caused more than $8.8 million in damages.
Still losing the program altogether would be a monumental blow for the Big Bend economy.
Now, a petition has arisen on the White House website asking for the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (T.A.R.S.) to remain open.
The petition states, "The Tethered Aerostat Radar System (T.A.R.S.) is due to be shut down on 15 March. This shutdown will open one more door to those wishing to bring narcotics into our country or otherwise violate our Southern Border by removing a vital sensor system that is used by the Coast Guard, CBP, and other agencies. Direct the US Air Force and/or the Department of Homeland Security to continue operating this system in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. If we truly are concerned with the War on Drugs and wish to have a cost effective sensor to fight that war, then this sensor must remain active."
The petition needs 100,000 signatures by February 18th for the Obama administration to formally respond.
So far, the petition's received 1,455 signatures, including 23 signatures from Marfa.
To view or sign the petition, click here.