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Lehigh Valley

Rebels with a cause rally to save Wehr's Dam

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - As causes go, the "Saving Wehr's Dam" movement in South Whitehall Township isn't doing half bad.

Granted no celebrities have gushed about memories of playing near the dam as wide-eyed youth and no reality TV shows for basic cable are in the works, but Wednesday night's board of commissioners meeting did feature the verbal pleas of a groundhog and the issuing of refrigerator magnets adorned with the phrase "SAVE WEHR'S DAM" to help you remember the dam's historical value when you sneak to the icebox for that late night snack.

"We are waging a campaign to save Wehr's Dam as a historic structure," resident William Wehr told commissioners during a presentation.

As an added inducement to have commissioners see things his way, Wehr and his partners noted they had accumulated more than 800 signatures of folks who concur. 

"And unlike the groundhog previously before you, those signatures are from people who vote," Michael Molovinsky, another township resident, informed commissioners.

The "groundhog" Molovinsky alluded to was a theatrical stunt pulled by another dam preservationalist named Robert Schantz, who Wednesday night utilized a puppet routine during the public meeting to indicate how even wildlife in the township appreciate the structure that was first erected in South Whitehall Township in 1904.

Other township residents who spoke in favor of the dam's preservation added its potential demolition by the Wildlands Conservancy would be a "distressing" event in their lives and that the township would lose a valuable and even rare historical marker that would one day make commissioners lament the dam's passing akin to Simon and Garfunkel's iconic and haunting  "Where you have gone Joe DiMaggio?" lyric concerning the Yankee Clipper.

Molovinsky acknowledged to commissioners that "at first blush" the Willdlands' offer to tear down the dam, which he termed as a "depreciating asset" at no cost to the township did indeed "sound attractive."

However, he urged commissioners not to become spellbound at the prospects of sacrificing a significant piece of township history for a handful of dimes.

"I don't think we should throw away our history over a couple of bucks," Molovinsky cautioned.

One commissioner who concurred was Dale Daubert, who in a rare display of emotion noted in a speech that during his lengthy 24-year career as a commissioner that no issue had galvanized so much passion from township residents.

"I think we owe it to the citizens to direct our administration to evaluate the costs to keep and repair the dam," he said."...get that damn dam fixed."

President Christina Morgan concurred that she was cognizant of the passion displayed by those seeking to save the dam and added their views would be taken under consideration, but added that it wouldn't be prudent, at this juncture, not to view the full gamut of options.

"We need to be fiscally responsible," she said of their responsibilities as commissioners.

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