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Hydro plans in limbo

Published April 06. 2013 09:03AM

A deadline given to Lehighton Borough Council by a consulting engineer regarding a hydroelectric plant commitment has some members of the council upset enough that they might opt to have the borough withdraw from the project.

Gravity Renewables Group of Boulder, Colo., which is working with the borough to potentially develop a hydroelectric plant at the base of Beltzville Lake where it flows into Pohopoco Creek, told council it needs action by the borough by its April meeting.

Councilman Darryl Arner said he feels the deadline is "pressure" which the borough doesn't need.

Another councilman, George Kogut, remarked, "Even from our last meeting (with GRG officials) there are still a lot of questions. One of the issues is we must analyze it; we must understand it," referring to the overall project.

"There are so many issues out there that are unsolved," said Kogut.

Arner said that at the previous meeting, which was held March 8, the council was expecting a presentation from the engineering company. "I think the whole meeting was a disaster," he said.

Scott Rehrig, a member of council, said the only reason the borough considered partnering with Gravity Renewables is because it was presented to the borough as a no-cost project.

"We're getting the shells, they're getting the peanuts," Rehrig said.

He added, "I'm not really interested anymore unless they give us a pot of gold."

Under the proposal, Gravity Renewables Group would construct the plant using Lehighton borough's hydroelectric license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The borough would receive an annual fee from the operator of the hydro plant.

At the March 8 meeting, officials of Gravity Renewables said the borough would form a Hydroelectric Municipal Authority.

The authority would have no hands-on role. That role would be designated to Gravity Renewables.

Among the funds that would be utilized for the project if it does become a reality is $5.5 million approved from the state.

A spokesman said at the March meeting that Energy Renewables would put up another $8 million and "there would be no out-of-pocket dollars from the borough."

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