Lehigh Valley

Dam's days could be numbered in South Whitehall Twp.

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - An environmentalist group presented a damning indictment of a South Whitehall Township dam before the board of commissioners during the body's Wednesday night meeting.

And if the folks at Wildlands Conservancy ultimately have their way, the Wehr's Dam in the township's Covered Bridge Park will be history.

"It is more than 100 years old and is starting to deteriorate," according to comments made to commissioners by Abigail Pattishall, vice president of conservation at Wildlands Conservancy.

In addition to being old, Pattishall added the 7-foot-tall dam is "not aesthetically pleasing" visually and ultimately is "not sustainable" without a major financial investment.

"It's not what our streams should look like," Pattishall told commissioners. "...I think we can do better than that."

She added that the township would realize various ecological benefits by removing the dam, including the enhancement of fish movement and migration and improving the water quality in the Jordan Creek.

"Dams create slow moving pools behind them," she said.

Getting rid of the dam would also provide South Whitehall Township with some community benefits, according to Pattishall.

Those benefits would include enhanced recreational opportunities for residents, marginalized flooding and increased public safety.

"The dam and the surrounding area is dangerous," she told commissioners.

In addition to being a hazard, she added the township would also reap economic benefits by eradicating potential owner liability and long-term sustainability costs.

Pattishall told commissioners the agency would be almost certainly able to procure funding for the project and that the township would not be on the hook for the project.

Commissioners agreed to allow Wildlands Conservancy to proceed with a study for Wehr's Dam removal to gather more data and specifics.

"This is a learning experience at this point," said President Christina Morgan as the rationale behind the OK to move forward with the study.

Pattishall added her agency would schedule public hearings on the project. She acknowledged there would be some opposition to the project, but that the majority of people would support the dam's removal if they understood the reason why Wildlands Conservancy wanted to do it.

In other news Wednesday night, Commissioner David Bond and Morgan addressed police and administrative officials about a rash of graffiti around the township, particularly in parks and bridges and vacant private properties in the township.

Morgan asked the administration of Manager Jon Hammer to look into existing property maintenance codes in neighboring townships, boroughs and cities to adopt to address that issue, while Bond sought to have modest lighting installed at parks and other township properties to dissuade potential hooligan activity.

Finally the township's community development department said a historical preservation amendment and updated zoning amendments should be before commissioners next month.

The changes were spurred by the King George Inn controversy dating back to last year. The dates are slated for July 2nd and July 16th.

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