A plan is being considered to install windmills on property owned by the Greater Johnstown Water Authority in Upper Yoder Township.
But it is being met with opposition from at least some residents of Laurel Mountain, where the structures would be located.
Last week, the authority received permission from the Cambria County court system – during a publicly advertised hearing – to enter a lease agreement with Competitive Power Ventures to develop the windmill farm. No contract has been signed. CPV, which contacted the authority about the proposed project, still needs to conduct studies and acquire permits.
“Judge (Patrick) Kiniry amended the water authority’s deed of trust to the property because he found that it did not negatively impact the watershed and, if anything, that there was a benefit that would be had to the source water protection plan that was there,” Michael Kerr, GJWA’s resident manager, said.
Then, on Monday, about 30 individuals who oppose the installation gathered at the Eat’n Park in Westwood to discuss their concerns, including possible impact on property values and the environment.
“I started getting emails and calls to my office about the planned windmill farm that’s going up,” State Rep. Frank Burns, D-72nd District, said.
“The people were angry. They had little details. They wanted more information. I didn’t have it. Since we had such a large group of people that are angry about it, I thought it would be important to bring everyone together, find out exactly what their concerns are (and) how we can address them.”
Upper Yoder Township Supervisors Scott Hunt and Paul Pioli, who both oppose putting windmills in the hills, attended the informal event.
“One of the things that is big for me is that it feels like they’re sneaking it through,” Hunt said. “That’s a concern I have. If a couple citizens wouldn’t have informed everyone, would we have this room filled now?”
Burns would like to hold a town hall meeting with representatives from the water authority, so they can answer questions from residents.
“If people that live next to these wind farms don’t want them, they should have a voice,” Burns said. “They should have a say whether these go in their community.”
If a wind farm is eventually developed, the GJWA would receive “anticipated revenues of about $200,000, $210,000 a year, every year” in royalty payments, according to William Gleason Barbin, the authority’s solicitor.
Barbin and Kerr said the money would be used for major capital projects, including upgrading the North Fork Dam and Dalton Run Dam, along with replacing decades-old lines, some with lead.
“The main reason of putting those windmills on there is that the water authority generates revenue in the form of royalties from those windmills,” Kerr said. “We have a number of large capital projects that we have to undertake – at lease two of which are mandated by the state and unfunded by the state.
“We legitimately have tens of millions of dollars of work. And, if we can put these windmills on the water authority’s property, it is done in order to keep the rates as low as possible to the rate-payers of the Greater Johnstown Water Authority.”
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