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Lehighton's proposed hydro project given one more chance

Published September 03. 2013 05:00PM

Lehighton Borough Council voted unanimously to end its decades-long efforts to develop a hydroelectric project at the overflow of Beltzville Lake.

While the vote seemed to signal the finale for the project, the council then agreed to let one member "possibly repackage it and move forward with the project."

The motion for ending the project was 5-0. Councilman George Kogut recused himself from voting on the matter and another council member, Bessie Bauchspies, was absent from the meeting.

It was Kogut who then asked for permission to "repackage" the project and solicit offers from companies that might help the borough develop the hydroelectric plant.

Attorney James Nanovic, the borough's solicitor, said such repackaging is legal since it is Lehighton borough which owns the license for the project.

Kogut remarked, "We have that opportunity for 2.7 megawatts."

He said if such a project could materialize, it could have a positive impact for the borough.

Council President Grant Hunsicker expressed skepticism, stating that to benefit the borough, the project would require purchasing land on which power lines would be installed. Such a property purchase would be very expensive, he said.

The main reason the borough was planning to rid itself of the project is because the financial consultant apparently had no guaranteed assets.

The project had its beginning back in the 1970s under then borough manager Mortimer Smedley.

Several times through the approximately 40-year span the borough gave up the hydro license, issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, then regained it.

The most recent FERC license was approved for the borough in September 2008.

It is stated in the license that the licensee must start project construction within two years of the issuance date of this license and complete construction of the project within five years from the issuance date of this license.

A two-year stay order was granted to the borough by FERC in July of 2012.

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