I read Bill Oldham’s letter to the editor published June 8. Bill makes many good points but a couple areas need some clarification.
I am the property owner who presented the Windber Area Authority Board of Directors with Gamesa’s complete project plans at the WAA March 14, 2007 meeting.
Prior to that day, the only information they had on the project was five pages of schematic diagrams and one poor quality topographical map that generally showed where the turbines would be built.
Gamesa’s complete project plans contain 673 pages of detailed information along with 43 blueprints showing the 18 miles of new industrial roads, transmission corridors, diversion channels, storm runoff ponds, etc. that they want to build in the middle of the WAA watershed. When the WAA Board saw the complete plans on March 14, they were shocked. One board member protested that the board had been “blindsided” by Gamesa, which previously obtained “preliminary approval” of the project from the WAA Board based on six pages of documents that downplayed the true magnitude of this gigantic project. After the shock wore off, the WAA Board voted 5-1 against Gamesa’s project on March 14.
Since that day, the WAA Board members have received much political pressure to “reverse” their vote. After all, you don’t go against Berwind if you live in Windber, do you? But so far, these six brave men have stood on their principles and refuse to change their vote. Why? Because they apparently recognize that they have a great fiduciary duty to their 10,000 water customers to protect the water supply from contamination and degredation no matter what Berwind says or thinks. Their duty is to the 10,000 customers of the WAA only, not to Berwind. With 18 miles of 60-foot wide roads, numerous clearcuts and industrial construction activity in the middle of their watershed, it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that the water will suffer if the project proceeds.
Mr. Oldham mentions the report of hydrologist, James Casselberry, who, based on six pages of information Gamesa originally supplied, said the development would not hurt anything because the construction would be on the surface and WAA gets its water from deep wells. This conclusion is absurd. Last time I checked, water falls from the sky on the surface of the land – right where Gamesa wants to develop this project.
The WAA can stop this project dead in its tracks. It has the absolute legal right to do so under the land use agreement it signed with Berwind in 1989. In order to insure that the water supply for their 10,000 customers is not degraded, WAA must maintain their vote against this development.
They must deal with the political pressure and vote their conscience. They must do what is right in order to fulfill their fiduciary duty to their 10,000 customers. After all, each WAA Director was appointed by their home municipality and pledged to protect the water for the people. And each of the municipalities, Windber Borough, Paint Township, Paint Borough and Scalp Level Borough, have voted against the wind plant. Will they turn their backs on those who sent them to protect their water?
Gamesa and Berwind are counting on the WAA Board reversing its vote, since Gamesa is frantically moving forward to obtain its permit from DEP. In doing so, they show total disrespect for the people of the Windber area.
Mr. Oldham also states that opponents of the wind plant have offered no professional opinion to contradict the Casselberry conclusions that he based on six pages of incomplete information. The opponents of the wind plant have no duty to offer any such opinion. The WAA has the absolute fiduciary duty to obtain an independent, unbiased, unconflicted opinion from a professional hydrogeologist based upon extensive on site studies and complete information on the project.
It is the duty of the Windber Area Authority, not the opponents of the project, to protect the water supply for its 10,000 customers. We will see shortly if they will do so.
Property owner, Shaffer Mountain
12 June 2007
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