By Mike Faher
The check’s in the mail – or, at least, it soon will be.
That’s the word from state officials regarding hundreds of thousands of dollars for a whitewater project in northern Somerset County.
With the pending arrival of a massive valve with a six-figure price tag, Cambria Somerset Authority officials are worried that the state has not yet released $450,000 in grant money.
But state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spokeswoman Christina Novak said Thursday that the cash should be forthcoming.
“We needed some additional paperwork from (the authority),” Novak said. “That has been worked out, and the payment is now moving its way through the process of being cut and issued.”
The state grant is the final funding needed out of a total $1.2 million raised by a consortium of boating interests called Stonycreek Quemahoning Initiative.
Advocates have long maintained that regular, controlled water releases from Quemahoning Reservoir during warm-weather months could transform the Stonycreek River into a premier whitewater-rafting destination.
Such releases will require extensive modifications at Quemahoning Reservoir.
Cambria Somerset Authority owns the reservoir and has supervised the project, which began last year.
The key component – a specially fabricated valve measuring 4 feet in diameter – is due for delivery in April.
But at an authority meeting Thursday, officials said they requested release of 90 percent of the $500,000 DCNR grant months ago and had not yet received a dime.
“We’re not paying for (the valve),” said Jim Greco, the authority’s vice chairman. “We don’t have that kind of excess funding laying around to cover that.”
If the money arrives as soon as Novak suggested, the project will remain on schedule for completion in May. But even at that point, officials must conduct weeks of carefully monitored testing – and receive clearance from state regulators – before whitewater releases become a reality.
That’s because releases of 500 cubic feet of water per second – the target amount for whitewater – are unprecedented at the Que.
Even in the heyday of Bethlehem Steel Corp., which used the reservoir as an industrial water supply, officials have calculated that water discharges likely did not top 150 cubic feet per second.
Officials want to ensure that the discharges don’t negatively impact public-water supplies.
They also will examine the effect of vibrations on a century-old intake tower at the reservoir.
“Really, we don’t think that’s going to be an issue,” said Earl Waddell, authority operations manager. “But obviously, it’s a concern.”
$450,000 grant will go toward Quemahoning project
By Mike Faher
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