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‘My home was my sanctuary’

The opposition to the wind turbines in Penn Forest Township received another opportunity to put on witnesses before the zoning hearing board in the special exception hearing into the application of Iberdrola Renewables.

Iberdrola is requesting a special exception to construct and operate 37 wind turbines in the township. The turbines would be located on property belonging to the Bethlehem Water Authority.

Dan Anders, attorney for the residents, put two witnesses on the stand Thursday night. Tammy McKenzie drove four hours from her home in Somerset County to testify before the board.

“I am here because I have lost the comfort of my home,” said McKenzie. “We are in a lose-lose situation.”

McKenzie’s home is located within 1640 feet of a 525-foot wind turbine from the Twin Ridges Wind Project. The project went into operation on Christmas Eve 2012.

McKenzie testified that since that time she and her husband do not sleep well and that both have experienced either ringing or pressure in their ears. She added that the problems resolve themselves when they are away from their home.

Six turbines are visible from the McKenzies’ home in the winter months. Flickering lights flash off the blades and through their home for eight months out of the year. The noise level in their home has been measured as high as 80 decibels.

McKenzie said the noise levels increase when ice builds up on the blades, causing a sound similar to an airplane.

“No person sitting here tonight should lose the comfort of their home,” McKenzie said about driving 221 miles from her home to testify.

“My home was my sanctuary. My home should be comfortable to live in.”

Anders also called Dr. Pamela Dobbs, a hydrogeologist, to testify as an expert witness.

Dobbs said her main concern is that the turbines are proposed to be constructed on ridges.

“Construction of the proposed Atlantic Wind facility will decrease groundwater recharge, decreased groundwater flow and direction to seeps and springs and wetlands, and destruction of ecological functions in headwater areas that will negatively impact the entire related river continuum,” Dobbs said.

She said construction of the proposed facility will increase stormwater discharge, resulting in stream bank erosion downstream and, therefore release of sediment to the stream water.

“There are limits on the amount of sediment allowed in stream water: sediment degrades the quality of the water. The increase stormwater discharge will thereby result in a lower water quality in the Penn Forest and Wild Creek Reservoirs,” Dobbs said in a power point presentation.

Dobbs testified that the Penn Forest zoning ordinance’s objectives are: to make sure the development carefully relates to natural features, and to avoid overly intense development of environmentally sensitive lands, to avoid overextending groundwater supplies, and to encourage groundwater recharge and to protect the quality of groundwater and surface water.”

Therefore, the project would violate the standards set forth in the ordinance, Dobbs said. She testified that she based her opinion on a number of resources as well as a site visit.

Dobbs talked at length about the natural resources found in the area and of a number of endangered species of sedge and grass. What was of the highest importance to Dobbs was that the creeks and streams in the area are designated as waters of exceptional quality.

Dobbs said the importance of protecting each area of the streams from the headwaters at the height of the ridges to the Penn Forest Reservoir, Wild Creek and Beltzville Lake.

Any disturbance on the ridges and sloops will affect the ground water recharge area. Damage to that area will cause stormwater runoff further down the streams and creeks, which cause bank erosion which causes sediment, a pollutant.

“Forested ridges are our greatest defense against drought. the trees on the mountain ridges intercept rainfall so that it gently penetrates the ground as groundwater rather than flowing overland as runoff,” Dobbs said.

Dobbs was asked by counsel for Iberdrola about the other environmental agencies that would be looking at this project, she said those agencies, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, did not have standards as strict as the Penn Forest ordinance which was why she believed it was of the utmost importance to provide the information to the zoning hearing board members.

Dobbs also testified that she was not being paid to testify and that the matter was so important to her that she offered to testify at no charge.

The hearing will continue July 21.