May 12, 2016

Will Lehigh County Save Wehr's Dam?

On Wednesday evening I asked Lehigh County to value our history, and save Wehr's Dam.  The South Whitehall commissioners, in a disingenuous maneuver, decided to put the issue to referendum.  The dam is in overall good condition.  That's exactly how it was described in the inspection report by the state in 2012.  In 2014, the Wildlands Conservancy set their sights on it's destruction.  They used $259,000 of state tax money on a study designed to find the dam deficient.  Their engineer for hire, reported that it would cost $1.5 million to repair the dam.  Previously, before the Wildlands desired it's destruction,  township workers themselves would repair any issues noted on state inspections.   Myself, and several other people including descendants of the Wehr family,  managed enough public outcry in 2014 to halt it's destruction at that time.

Although, the South Whitehall Commissioners were supposed to hire a masonry contractor to estimate the true work, they instead bowed to the Wildlands connections,  and instituted another engineering study,  this time coming up with a $600,000 cost.  This figure was high enough that they could justify a referendum,  asking the taxpayers if they mind paying more taxes to repair the dam.  Referendums which cost the taxpayer money are almost always rejected. In the last referendum,  township taxpayers declined a new library for that very reason.  In 2014,  6,700 signatures of support were gathered at the dam itself.  The dam has been a destination for over 100 years.

One South Whitehall commissioner, David Bond, incredibly stated that he now favors a referendum, because he doesn't know how many of those signatures were from residents of South Whitehall.  I don't know either, but do know that most were residents of Lehigh County.  I have asked the County to intervene, because  of conflicts at the township level.  The Wildlands is the major park consultant for the township, and the township's park director is the son of a Wildlands director.  Beyond being a county destination for over a century, the former mill and remaining dam were part of our agricultural history. We seek to preserve thousands of acres of farmland, for which there are no farmers or agricultural demand. Let us resolve to save one more third of an acre.  Nowhere else can county residents see water flow over a dam and under a covered bridge.  I'm sick of history being destroyed by greed and cronyism,  and call upon County Executive Muller and the commissioners to save this beautiful part of our history called Wehr's Dam.

photocredit:Michael Kubel / The Morning Call


Ray Nemeth Sr said...

Why don't they also put on the referendum to just let the dam alone, spend no money to repair or destroy the dam, I think I know how that would go. Or agree to accept donations to repair the dam with an outside contractor. Maybe start a Wehrs dam preservation group.

michael molovinsky said...

ray @10:16, the truth cost to meet the state requirements is probably in the 30K range. HOWEVER, they WANT to tear the dam down to accommodate the Wildlands Conservancy. the public has no idea how much that organization now dictate park policy in the lehigh valley.

ninoshinkicker said...

Let's call is Wehr's warehouse and watch how quickly the township jumps to its defense.

dirtyape said...

Good luck. Muller, his right hand man Rick Molchany, Bob Stiffler who is in charge of County Parks and Marty Nothstein all tow the line at the County for The Wildlands.

michael molovinsky said...

dirtyape@4:05, the wildlands has certainly developed into an insidious sacred cow, legitimizing nestlé and other entities not in the publics best interest. my coalition of activist in the fight with south whitehall is dealing with age related health concerns. south whitehall simply reneged on their previous vote, and went back inside the Wildlands pocket. although, i realize that the county commissioners are pre-occupied with partisanship and other issues, they understand individually how popular the dam is with their constituents. it is my hope that the dam provides an opportunity for cooperation within the commissioners, and with the administration, for the benefit of the public. it's a very important acre.