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Concerns Loom Over Francis E. Walter Dam Re-evaluation

BEAR CREEK TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Recreation businesses in Carbon County are concerned over a reevaluation study of the Francis E. Walter Dam in Luzerne County. ...

BEAR CREEK TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Recreation businesses in Carbon County are concerned over a reevaluation study of the Francis E. Walter Dam in Luzerne County.

The dam near White Haven is a flood controller but also helps with recreation on the Lehigh River. New York City is eyeing up the dam for drinking water, but businesses fear the city's gain will be a big loss for Pennsylvania.

Recreation business owners fear if New York City gains control of the water, it will hurt the tourism industry in our area.

"For the area and the area's future, it has a lot of potential to change the way things go in Pennsylvania for 100 years," said Jerry McAward, Lehighton Outdoor Center.

The dam is owned by the federal government, which is behind the new study to reevaluate the dam's future. It's being done in partnership with the Delaware River Basin Commission and New York City's Department of Environmental Protection.

The city wants to see if water from the dam can help supplement its drinking water supply.

But New York's gain could be a big loss for Pennsylvania.

"There is a huge downstream recreation economy to the tune of, a figure was $37 million a year, that comes into this year, derived completely from the downstream recreation that the Army Corps has allowed to grow with careful management of their resource," McAward said.

Business owners have been voicing their concerns to officials in Carbon County. Some lawmakers Newswatch 16 spoke to agree that the possibilities raise concerns.

"I think we have a good hand to play here. However, this can drastically affect water discharges, and that can tamper our recreational activities here along the Lehigh River. White water rafting that is the second-most rafted river in the world, so it's big for tourism promotion," said Rep. Doyle Heffley, (R) Carbon County.

More information about the study is expected to be made available at a public meeting scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at Mountain Laurel Resort in White Haven.