Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

BETHLEHEM Wind project drifting toward approval

Monday, March 19, 2018 by Nate Jastrzemski in Local News

Executive Director Stephen Repasch announced at the March 8 board meeting progress continues in the ongoing legal drama of the authority’s wind energy program. The planned construction of maybe dozens of giant turbine towers and the studies to determine their effectiveness or environmental disruption in rural Carbon County have been opposed by some local residents for the past year.

The case is not going their way.

Repasch said energy company Atlantic Wind has submitted its second application to the local zoning board in Penn Forest Township and supplied an expert to testify, but opponents have offered no witnesses. “Right now it seems like they’re grasping at straws,” he said, and that they are returning to an older argument. The issue is continued to April 4, where the meeting may be held in the local fire hall to allow a larger audience.

The board later discussed changes proposed by phone companies who want to update the leases or physical arrangement of cellular arrays they have atop authority water towers.

Repasch also said he’d recently participated in a very informative meeting with other authorities as part of an emergency water study.

Curious how Bethlehem would or could react to some hypothetical watershed emergency, which would cut off the city’s supply of fresh water, the board has been investigating issues and options. Repasch met with other authority directors, including those from Easton and Northampton, and said each was surprised by how much they learned about each other’s systems. “We learned a lot about interconnections and capabilities nobody was aware of. It’s been very positive so far.”

Some challenges include each authority using different water sources and disinfectants, but they are developing a testing plan.

They also found a robust connection to Allentown – a 16-inch pipe connecting the two systems – but added, “These things haven’t been used in 35 years, so who knows if they work.”

Those in the room agreed having a backup plan is important, but that actually using it would first require substantial infrastructure repair.

The next meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. April 12 at city hall.