Apr 25, 2016

The Deception About Wehr's Dam

Back in March of 2014, when the South Whitehall Commissioners voted to keep Wehr's Dam, I knew that it wasn't the end of the issue. I told the Wehr family descendants then, that the only real way to keep the dam was having it placed on the township's new historical list. Although, the Wildlands Conservancy President Chris Kocher had said that if the commissioners voted to keep the dam, that his organization would stand down,  I knew that they really wouldn't.  The damage had already been done. It's a complicated story, mired in influence, if not outright corruption.

The township now claims that it will cost $600,000 to repair the dam, and will put it to the voters in a referendum, come November.  The South Whitehall Park and Recreation Director is the son of a Wildlands official, and wants the dam demolished.  The township and commissioners know that for $50,000 they could repair the dam, and meet the current state requirements. They and the Conservancy also know that when voters are given a choice between lower or higher taxes, they always vote their wallet. This disingenuous choice is contrived, just like picking a card from a magician. In 2012, before the Wildlands set their sites on demolishing the dam, the state inspection stated that the dam was essentially in good shape. Understand that the dam, although 18 inches wide at the top, is shaped like a wedge, with the bottom 6 feet wide. If that wasn't enough structural integrity, that massive wedge sits on an enormous concrete platform. It was the most substantial concrete dam of its era, and untouched, will stand there another 200 years.

The Wildlands Conservancy is tied to a grant faucet in the bed of corruption that we call Harrisburg and state government. They used a $259,000 grant on an engineering study, which had the objective of finding the dam deficient. The current study by the Commissioners parrots those findings. Going back to the 2012 state inspection, prior to the politics and influence getting involved, the state classifies it as a low hazard dam. That means that being located at the beginning of a very long public park, the dam poses no danger to people or property, regardless of its condition. Without the politics, the dam would need $50,000 dollars of patching to meet current state standards. However, with the Wildlands engineering firm tied to previous dealing with the DEP and other state agencies,  the new engineers know where their future bread is buttered.

The group hoping to save the dam will have their work cut out for them. They were gullible and allowed the South Whitehall Commissioners to stack the deck against them and the township's history. Once again,  elected officials are willing to allow the Wildlands Conservancy  to steal local history.  The Wildlands Conservancy is allowed to use 15 percent of state dam demolition grants toward their salaries.  Unfortunately, there hasn't been a contested election in South Whitehall for many years. What was once a bucolic place to live, has succumbed to the prevalent culture of influence and deception.


Ray Nemeth Sr said...

$259,000 for an engineering study, for that price I would suggest they could have built a new dam. This is typical corruption, obviously someone made a lot of money on a study. I am sure they will spend a very large sum to take the dam out. Like you stated the dam left as is will outlast all the living residents in South Whitehall. If nothing else just let it alone. When the day comes in the next century that it should give way, it most likely will not provide enough water to overflow the banks down stream. The up stream of the dam is mostly filled in with silt, there's really not that much water now being stored.

Jamie Kelton said...

Why do we need to fix something that doesn't need to be repaired? Just leave the dam alone, it is just fine the way it is in it's rustic state. There are plenty of other things Whitehall Township can spend money on that might actually beinifit the taxpayer. Politicians have endless things they can find to do just that.

I also understand the pressure from outside to remove it, but then we would lose its serenity. There is nothing gained to destroy what has been there for a century? But then, boys do like to destroy and break things. It's part of their nature I suppose.

Would we tear down Bogart's Bridge because it no longer can support vehicle traffic?

Rich Fegley said...

How are they estimating these prices for work?

Who audits these estimates and contracts? The FBI seems interested in this also.

Corruption in the Lehigh Valley.