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More investigation needed  

I have read Gamesa’s Mr. Michael Peck’s and Mr. Tim Vought’s articles in the Daily American. I would like to comment on a few of Mr. Peck and Mr. Vought’s observations. Mr. Peck stated, “Any claim made that Gamesa did not provide accurate information to the Windber Area Authority to review is false.”

The real truth of the matter is the Windber Area Authority did not receive any useful information concerning this project that anyone could make a qualified decision on given the massive scale of this project until our March 14 meeting, when we got the plans from a private citizen who obtained them from the Somerset Conservation District.

If anyone says anything differently then they are speaking with a forked tongue. After seeing the full scope of the project we then voted 5-1 against the sitting of wind turbines in the Piney Run/Clear Shade Creeks watershed and recharge areas. After the roll call vote was taken our board chairman said that there would be no wind turbines in the WAA watershed and recharge area. The letter of Jan. 18, was based on only six pages of sketchy information. In giving his oral report to the WAA the geologist said a number of things such as he would not want to see any major road excavations such as Route 56 size roads etc.

In giving his presentation the Geologist had no idea what the real scope of the project entailed. It is my own personal opinion now that the scant information that the WAA received beforehand from Gamesa on which the infamous letter of Jan. 18, is based was just a ploy to gain our conditional approval without seeing the full plans.

I should know because I am the one that made the motion (against my gut feeling) to send the letter to Gamesa in the first place to try and get more information. I think we need an investigation into this to see if that was the case. As a matter of fact I think this whole matter from page one with all the studies that were claimed to have been done by Gamesa deserves a look-see since the Game Commission also stated that they have never received any site-specific plans as of June 11.

Somerset Conservation District rejected Gamesa’s permit application for a lack of information. It appears that Gamesa feeds out a little information all the while pushing full speed politically to get everything approved while hoping that the permits are issued before they have to give out any more information. This would have been the case with Shaffer Mountain if the Pa. Fish Commission hadn’t stopped the cutting of the timber for the roads, which Gamesa was doing without a permit.

Mr. Peck implies that our local governing bodies that appointed the board members to the WAA are irrelevant in any decision-making. That is untrue. We are elected to our local governing bodies by the people of whom most are customers of the WAA. Our fiduciary duty is to the people, local government, WAA in that order. We are appointed to the WAA to be the watchdogs of the people. I would not call 10,000 people irrevelant if something happened to the water supply because they would have to pay for it.

The current board of directors of the WAA has perhaps a greater responsibility than that of any previous board or any future board with the construction of a new sewage treatment plant and to protect the water supply.

I have heard the remark numerous times that we must keep Berwind happy. Why? At whose expense? At the expense of the people? We need to get over that 1900s mentality and move in the 21st century. When Berwind owned the water company it was past practice that no industrial development took place aside from some timber cutting in the watershed. I believe past practice is a point of law.

I think the whole Shaffer Mountain issue needs investigated. I put my trust in the Somerset Conservation District and organizations like the Mountain Laurel Chapter of Trout Unlimited who has worked with DEP for decades to improve the quality of water in our streams. They are experts in their fields and know the areas water courses. In the case of Shaffer Mountain they are trying to prevent environmental destruction that they know can happen, but are being ignored by Gamesa and yes, even by DEP.

I received a personal invitation from Ms. Ellen Lutz of Gamesa to attend the Gamesa sponsored meeting at UPJ on June 20. One of the men from MLTU was asking some hard questions and the Gamesa engineer he was speaking to said that he had documents to back up Gamesa’s claims and to see him after the meeting and he would show him the documents. After the meeting the man from MLTU went up to the guy and he blew him off saying he didn’t have the time. During the meeting Ms. Lutz said that Gamesa never used blasting on its projects. Later when it came out that they had, Mr. Vought said that it was used only three times at the Portage site. Knowing the rock strata on Shaffer Mountain it is hard to believe that some of the roads will be cut into the side of the mountain without blasting. I came away from the meeting with more questions than answers.

Mr. Vought and Gamesa call all who voice an opinion an opponent and anti-wind which is not the case. It is the poor placement of the turbines in an EV watershed that is the problem.

Many years ago in the west end of Johnstown there was a trout stream called Grey Run which like Piney Run originated from springs high up in the Mountains. Local sportsman’s clubs and individuals tried to stop strip mining in the mountain above.

Studies were done and words like “if reasonable precaution were taken” were thrown around. Permits were issued by DEP and in the end Grey Run was destroyed. I met the hydro geologist who worked on that project at a WAA meeting and I blurted out, you’re the guy that killed Grey Run and he said that sometimes that happens. My point is that we can’t have a sometimes that happens when dealing with the water supply of the WAA.

Walter A. Drzal

Paint Borough Councilman

Windber Area Authority Board Member

Windber

Daily American

24 August 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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