Bethlehem Press

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Authority: Moths out, carbon in

Monday, July 10, 2017 by Nate Jastrzemski njastrzemski@tnonline.com in Local News

Forester Robin Wildermuth was the star of the June 8 Water Authority board meeting, bringing good news about moths and confusing news about carbon emissions before rushing out to greet an expected grandchild as early as the next day.

First, he told the board that after three years he believes the danger of swarms of gypsy moths in the watershed has likely passed. The authority has spent about $20,000 each of those years on organic, non-dangerous insecticide sprays to keep the moth population from completely defoliating sections of forest. It’s been successful, but Wildermuth says the weather is finally cooperating in a way that should limit the insect population next year.

“I think we’re seeing the end of the outbreak,” he said. “[The weather] is variable year-to-year, but I think we’re past it.”

Wildermuth said this year’s weather has been better to cultivate the diseases that typically strike moth larvae and keep populations manageable. He said he’s still monitoring the issue, but it’s likely no spray will be needed next year.

Then came questions about the authority’s carbon credit program, which it began in 2012. Carbon credit is paid to a group to conserve greenhouse gas emissions by another group to offset its own emissions. Wildermuth spoke and answered questions for about 40 minutes, and assured listeners he was simplifying.

The complexity of the process and lack of “a road map” led to some confused early expectations, and thus far the program hasn’t resulted in the consistent level of returns Executive Director Steve Repasch expected, though in aggregate over the years the returns pretty much meet expectations. Wildermuth said initial estimates for the first 10 years of the program were initially based on a sampling model best suited only for the short-term, and thus the actual number of tons of carbon being created by the woodlands may not be accurate for the long term.

The model was changed to a more accurate long-term simulation, but Wildermuth hesitates to cross his fingers and hope for the best at the end of 10 years, and suggests the authority do a measurement in-house at the end of the year to remodel and adjust estimates early, if needed.

While simulations and random land plots use some detailed science, Wildermuth says much of carbon credit sales – the authority contract through 2021 is with Disney – is about striking a balance with land management to produce bigger, healthier trees.

Otherwise, Repasch reported the PennEast Pipeline stalemate continues, and the board agreed on a deal reducing water flowing to Upper Saucon Township over the next 15 years from 6 million to 2 million gallons a year. Water and Sewer Resources Director Ed Boscola said the township has been working on its infrastructure to ween itself from the city.

The next meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. July 13 at city hall.