To the editor,
As a candidate for PA State Representative, I am concerned about the proposal to build a 450,000 square foot warehouse at the intersection of I-84 and Route 6. In addition, the ongoing discussions concerning protection of the Milford aquifer has prompted me to look more closely at the issues—and the history—involved.
The Milford aquifer is an environmentally sensitive area, roughly 44 acres, that sits under the I-84 exchange. It encompasses parts of Dingman and Milford Townships and supplies all the water for the Milford Water Authority reservoirs, which service Milford Borough and parts of Dingman and Milford Townships.
In recent years, hydrologists have demonstrated how a surface contamination—a fuel, or chemical spill, for example, or even certain types of storm water runoff—can bleed into the aquifer and show up in the Milford water supply in as little as 48 hours.
This new warehouse proposal is only the latest in a series of development plans for the I-84 interchange that have been proposed over the years. In the 1980s, a proposed regional shopping mall, dubbed the “Gifford Pinchot Mall” by the developers, posed such a threat to the Sawkill Creek that the state of Pennsylvania upgraded the watershed rating to “Exceptional Value”.
The argument for development of the I-84 interchange is that we need jobs in Pike County, which is certainly true. Additionally, our municipal governments need the tax ratables for commercial development. But we also need smart development. And framing this question solely as one of development vs. environmental protection sets us up for a never-ending, confrontational situation that never resolves.
As land values continue to increase, development pressure on these parcels on top of the aquifer will only intensify, leading to contentious community debates, angry exchanges and, sometimes, litigation.
That pattern isn’t likely to change until we come up with a plan for permanent protection of our aquifer that is equitable to private property rights, supports the long-term economic health of our community and, most important, includes the participation and support of all the stakeholders.
This includes township and borough officials, property owners, residents, Milford Water Authority, environmental organizations and others. We are fortunate to have in our community the example and legacy of Gifford Pinchot, who believed that to protect natural resources, we must also protect the local economies that rely on those resources. He showed the nation, and the world, how this was possible.
Pinchot believed that the only way forward was to integrate both growth and environmental protection. Rather than a series of contentious battles over development proposals and ordinance and zoning changes at meetings of the Township Supervisors, Planning and Zoning Boards, and in the media and courts, our community leaders should convene the stakeholders and explore options that can meet the needs of all.
Those options do exist, but it requires leadership and people of goodwill to come together with minds open to possibilities as yet unexplored.
As a candidate for office, and as a resident of Milford Township, where my husband and I are raising our family, I would like to help put together just such a group of stakeholders, people who will take on the task of devising a permanent and equitable solution to protecting our water supply while growing our local economy.
I firmly believe that if we can get past the adversarial construct that has defined the community conversation about development over the aquifer in the last several years, together we can find such a solution.
Candidate for the Democratic nomination for the PA House of Representatives 139th District