PENN FOREST TOWNSHIP – The Lehighton Water Authority has rejected a company’s proposal to build three turbines, a small piece of a larger wind energy project proposed in the nearby land surrounding Bethlehem’s drinking water in Penn Forest Township.
In a meeting last week in Lehighton, four authority members voted against moving forward with a proposal to put three turbines on its property.
Nicole Nothstein, administrative secretary for the authority, said members were against the location on a watershed, not the alternative energy source. She said the vote reflected board members’ intention to protect the watershed.
Craig Poff, director of business development at Iberdrola Renewables, said this week he had not yet received any communication from Lehighton about the decision, but the rejection would not affect the company’s plans to put 37 turbines on the land surrounding Bethlehem’s water supply.
The company is scheduled June 23 to continue its hearing before the Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board for a special exception to construct the 37 turbines on the property of the Bethlehem Authority, the financial arm of the city’s water business.
Three years ago, Iberdrola Renewables, an Oregon company that bills itself as the second-largest wind energy provider, signed a lease with the Bethlehem water agency for the land. The company has done testing to determine if there’s enough wind to warrant a wind farm on as many as 292 acres north and south of Hatchery Road.
Bethlehem Authority has championed the proposal because it is an investment in green energy, providing $100,000 each year for the authority.
Bethlehem Authority officials say turbines would not affect the quality of the spring-fed water piped from its reservoirs in the Poconos to customers of the city and surrounding municipalities.
Penn Forest residents, several who live within a half-mile of the project, packed a zoning meeting last month to voice health, welfare and safety concerns over the project. Others were concerned that the project will fragment the forest, displacing wildlife.
Their protests have caught the attention of Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, who said this week he opposes the project – especially if federal tax credits are used – in the type of wooded area that makes the Poconos a place tourists want to visit.
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