By Peter Becker

Managing Editor

PALMYRA TWP. (PIKE) - Some called it extortion, but all agreed it was a good deal to further protect the water quality of Lake Wallenpaupack.

In order to approve a waiver of a state regulation regarding setback from the Lake Wallenpaupack shoreline, a condominium developer must make a financial donation to an organization that will use it to enhance protection of riparian buffer land.

Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District (LWWMD), a non-profit coalition of local governments and other stake-holders sharing the cause of protecting the lake's water quality, is being offered $3,500. The money must be used for planting trees or shrubs to help stabilize the shoreline or stream banks, which aid in keeping back erosion and excess nutrients from reaching the lake.

The donation would be made by the developer of Pocono Lakefront, a new private community of condominiums to be built on the site of the former White Beauty View Resort in Palmyra Township-Pike, fronting the lake and on both sides of Route 507.

What convinced the LWWMD board of directors is that the project, once it receives the setback waiver and all necessary permits, will replace and relocate an antiquated and inadequate sewer treatment plant. It is currently under-utilized, with not enough sewer flow for efficient treatment.

One of the sources of excess nutrients in the lake is sewer plant discharge.

Justin Hoffmann, engineer with Kiley Associates, told the board about the donation at the LWWMD meeting, March 20.

The plant had serviced White Beauty View and is still used for White Beauty View Estates and the White Pines development. Located close to the lake, the Pocono Lakefront developer would build a modern plant, further back from the lake, beyond the buffer, on the south side of 507. The developer has an option to buy the old sewer plant.

Kiley Associates is preparing the Erosion & Sedimentation plan necessary to apply for the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The state DEP requires a 150 foot setback from the high water mark of the lake because the lake and the watershed is rated as High Quality (HQ) and Exceptional Value (EV). Pocono Lakefront proposes development within 150 feet.

An exception can be made, Hoffmann said, if no other reasonable alternative can be found. The developer is seeking relief from the setback rule, reducing it to an average of 93 feet.

DEP asked for an entity to receive a donation in return for the setback waiver. The $3,500 figure was derived from a formula based on the amount of acreage in the protected shoreline buffer, within 150 feet of the lake.

The plantings could be on PPL land or on private land. Nick Spenelli, LWWMD Administrator, advised that the plantings could be used as part of different projects.

Richard Caridi, Pike County Commissioner who represents the county on the board, said that upgrading the sewer plant was the principal advantage to accepting the donation, more so than the plantings.

He and Eric Erharhdt, Palmyra Township Supervisor and also on the board, likened the offer from DEP to "extortion." Hoffmann said it was like a "horse trade" where the applicant agrees to one thing in exchange for having the waiver approved.

Hoffmann stated this has been a long process. Kiley Associates started the application for a waiver in November.

Although some expressed they wished more funds could have been offered, Ehrhardt said the main thing is that the developer is replacing the old sewer plant.

The donation was accepted, pending review by the Watershed District's solicitor.

Peter Helms, board member, commented that it was lucky that the applicant planned to replace an old sewer plant, or they would never otherwise be able to get a setback waiver.

Pocono Lakefront's developer is planning 308 condo units, the land being bisected by 507. Sixty will be on the north side of 507 towards the lake, with 26 along the lakefront.

The LWWMD board meets on the third Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the PPL Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center. The District office may be contacted at (570)226-3865.