In 1970, the Windber Area Authority (WAA) purchased the water system from Berwind Corp. and the Richland Township Water Company.
In 1989, WAA purchase an additional 486 acres from Berwind and entered into a memorandum of agreement with Berwind pertaining to land usage in the watershed. According to that agreement Berwind was to notify the WAA 90 days in advance of any proposed development in the watershed provided that such development does not degrade the WAA water supply.
In 2000 after going to deep wells to supply water, WAA and Berwind entered into a well head protection agreement that was researched by a Hydrologist and he laid out and deferred a watershed and recharge area for the wells.
In 2005, Berwind signed a lease agreement with Gamesa Energy USA to lease 8,500 plus acres in the Piney Run/Clearshade watershed. WAA was not notified.
In late 2006, WAA learned that Gamesa leased the land to erect wind turbines in the Piney Run/Clear shade watershed and recharge areas. Gamesa did not contact the WAA. Windber Area Authority contacted Gamesa to notify them that this was a public water supply area that supplies nearly 10,000 customers and there was a land use agreement with Berwind who owns the majority of the land in the watershed. WAA requested complete plans for the entire project.
WAA received a letter dated Dec. 21, 2006, with a map and (5) 8×11 inch sketches not the complete information that was requested. WAA sent a letter to Gamesa dated Jan. 18, 2007 in which was stated conditions in order to get to the next step in negotiations.
This letter is being construed as an outright approval of the project by some. It is past practice for the Board of the WAA not to approve anything until all the plans have been seen and studied. One of the conditions of the letter was again to ask for complete plans of the entire project. Our February meeting came and went without hearing from Gamesa.
On March 5, Gamesa filed its plans with Somerset Soil Conservation District. On March 14, before our meeting, a private citizen gave WAA the complete plans he got from Somerset Soil Conservation. We were shocked and dismayed when we saw the plans which consist of 400 or more pages and 36 large drawings and blueprints they wanted the Board of Directors and our Hydrologist to give approval on the project with only the first five pages that were submitted.
The destruction would change the face of the whole area of the Piney Run/Clear Shade watershed and recharge area forever.
A Gamesa representative then came in with a copy of the plans that we should have had months before. We the Board members of the WAA then went on public record and voted to oppose the placement of wind turbines in the Piney Run/Shade Creek watershed and recharge area by a 5 to 1 vote.
We have a fiduciary duty to our customers and our local governing bodies who also went on record as opposing Wind turbine development in the watershed. We cannot take any chance what so ever that would endanger the future water supply, which has always been of exceptional quality.
Walter A Drzal
Board of Directors of the Windber Area Authority
4 May 2007