TOWER CITY, Pa. (WHTM) – Currently in the first of several phases of the project, Capital Region Water has already received more than $4.5 million dollars from the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation and expects to collect the remainder of roughly $9 million over the next two years.
Last fall, CRW signed off on an agreement in which it will receive the large payment in exchange for placing a perpetual conservation easement on its 8,200-acre property, including the five-mile-long DeHart Dam and reservoir.
The facility, about 20 miles north of Harrisburg, is a pristine source of drinking water for more than 60,000 customers in the City of Harrisburg and several surrounding municipalities.
By allowing The Nature Conservancy to hold the easement, CRW also signs onto the group’s Working Woodlands program. The initiative provides landowners support and expertise for maintaining a sustainable environmentally-friendly blueprint, in this case, protecting the source of Harrisburg’s drinking water.
Additionally, CRW will earn income on the property through responsible timbering and marketing carbon credits. CRW says the millions it will earn through the initial deal along with annual revenue will go toward its current $30 million capital improvement efforts designed to update its aging infrastructure of underground sewer and water pipes.
A third partner in the transaction, Fort Indiantown Gap, will also benefit from the conservation of the property. The National Guard already uses the vast, undeveloped, forested land for nighttime helicopter training missions because it remains so dark. By partnering with Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, the Army secured funds to make the agreement financially viable to CRW, is able to expand its buffer zone around the base and continue training.
For several years, CRW surveyed its customers and residents living near the DeHart property, seeking input on possible future uses for the land. While the sale of parcels of property to private developers and the Pennsylvania Game Commission were discussed, CRW board members preferred the conservation easement concept.
According to both CRW and The Nature Conservancy, most of the property around DeHart reservoir is already open to public recreation use, such as hunting and hiking, and the conservation easement will not affect that access.