State Sen. John Yudichak (D-14) and state Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-122) have announced a $5.5 million grant for the Borough of Lehighton for the construction of a hydroelectric plant at the Beltzville Dam.

The funding was approved Tuesday by the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA).

The CFA, through its Alternative and Clean Energy Program granted Lehighton and Summit Water Nexus a $5.5 million grant that will fund the construction of the plant as a sale/lease back agreement. Lehighton will construct the plant and sell it upon completion to Summit Water Nexus.

Lehighton will get annual lease payments of $650,000 (escalating $25,000 every 10 years).

Electricity cost savings to the borough are estimated at $2.3 million over 50 years.

"The leaders of Lehighton Borough, as owner/operator of a municipal utility, continue to be at the forefront of innovative energy policies that will create jobs and develop Pennsylvania's alternative energy portfolio," said Yudichak. "As the minority chairman of the Environmental and Energy Committee, I continue to advocate for state investment in energy infrastructure as the foundation of sustainable policies that promote reliable and affordable energy."

"As our state and nation deal with our growing need for reliable sources of domestic energy, I was happy to advocate on behalf of this project and support this all-of-an-above approach to help solve our domestic energy needs," said Heffley.

"Creating jobs in Carbon County has been at the forefront of my concerns since I was elected to the House. The Beltzville Hydroelectric project will create approximately 50 local construction jobs and inject much needed revenue into the Carbon County economy. Beyond the economical perks of the plant, the environmental impact of the project includes offsetting conventional energy sources by generating nearly 9,470 megawatt hours of clean electricity every year," added Heffley.

The total project cost is $15.7 million.

Summit Water Nexus, in a private/public partnership, will provide $10.2 million in matching funds for the project.

Lehighton has an exclusive 50-year operating license in place from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the project.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection determined the project is viable and offered its support of the grant.

Lehighton has owned and operated a light and power municipal utility since 1943.

With a $10 million budget, the utility sells more than 40 million kilowatt hours each year.

In 2003, Lehighton initiated and funded the early design and licensing process for the Beltzville Hydroelectric Project.

In 2007, the PA Energy Development Authority granted Lehighton $750,000 toward the development of the project.

Hydro projects require significant amounts of time and resources for permitting and study.

Summit Water Nexus and its development consultant Gravity Renewable have successfully developed more than two-dozen clean energy projects in the United States.