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Tyrone Borough Council opts to have its watershed property evaluated

Tyrone Borough Council held its September regular meeting last evening at the municipal building. On the agenda was a proposal from Casselberry and Associates of State College to evaluate the borough’s 3,800 acre watershed property.
The evaluation will cost the borough $6,300 for the first phase of the project. There is an additional fee of $1,360 for a phase two of the project that would evaluate the watershed in terms of natural gas drilling. Borough officials say that phase two will only be done if there is an offer for gas drilling on the watershed.
Council’s decision to seek more knowledge of the borough’s watershed property is mainly due to Gamesa Energy USA’s 10 to 15 turbine wind farm proposal, but the high interest in natural gas drilling in the area also attributed to the study. The borough wants to have information and a contact available to make a conscientious decision on water protection for gas drilling.
The evaluation aims to document and map the watershed and the base flow discharge of the aquifer that supplies the reservoir. Jim Casselberry, a hydrogeologist representing the firm, attended the council meeting to further explain the process.
He said that the evaluation will trace the root of the water to its origin, beginning at the bottom of the drainage and then walk up the stream valley taking length and depth measurements of the water sources. All of the measurements will have GPS coordinates, and the key product will be map based.
“We’ll take that information and be able to craft plans to protect the water,” said Casselberry. “We’re trying to increase protection.”
Ultimately, the complete two-phase evaluation would map out the watershed and show where natural gas drilling and wind turbine construction could be done, or it will show that one or the other, or both, can’t be done.
Casselberry stated that the project could be completed by Thanksgiving, noting that dry weather and having the leaves off of the trees is important for a proper evaluation.
Mayor Jim Kilmartin and Councilperson Mark Kosoglow asked if the evaluation would be able to tell council whether or not gas drilling and windmills would be appropriate, and Casselberry said “yes.”
Gamesa was represented at last night’s meeting by Project Developer Josh Framel, who asked council prior to its approval of the watershed evaluation, to hold a motion to approve the company’s wind farm proposal that would generate $3 to $5 million to the borough over the 30-year life-span of the project.
Framel didn’t get a vote from council prior to its watershed evaluation approval, but he said that Gamesa would be willing to pay for the evaluation if council would approve the wind farm lease agreement.
“The lease agreement can be approved and signed, but the wind farm won’t go up unless the site plan is approved,” stated Framel to council. “You can approve the lease agreement, do the evaluation, and still turn down the wind farm siting and road construction.”
He added, “We can work with that evaluation for siting of windmills.”
Framel said that he thinks the watershed evaluation could definitely alleviate a lot of concerns pertaining to wind farm construction and water protection.
Council’s consensus was to see what the watershed evaluation produced before a lease agreement would be signed with Gamesa.
“We want to see what they (Casselberry & Associates) have to say and what they come back with,” said Kilmartin. “I think it’s going to be a great resource for us to be able to make a qualified decision.”
He continued, “In regard to Gamesa, it would of been good for us to do the evaluation a year ago, but once the gas companies came around, that triggered it more – now there’s more options.”
Tyrone Borough conducted an informal survey for registered voters this past April 22, where 55 percent of those voters opted for the construction of a Gamesa wind farm on the watershed property. Although the survey was non-binding to council, five months have passed without a decision on the project.
“We could really come to a decision before the new year,” stated Kilmartin. “I would like to have a decision by then.”