Clinton commissioners look to the future of natural gas, local rail trail

By SARAH PAEZ

spaez@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN — When they’re not approving resolutions, Clinton County commissioners are busy trying to bring natural gas to county agricultural operations and bolster rail-trail tourism.

Commissioner Pete Smeltz said Monday that the SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative is considering adding another county, Northumberland, to its natural gas piping project.

The cooperative, of which Smeltz is president, is a coalition of representatives from the SEDA-Council of Governments and from Clinton, Centre, Mifflin, Juniata, Perry and Snyder counties, trying to pipe natural gas to large agricultural operations in those counties.

Smeltz reported last Thursday that the cooperative is trucking liquefied natural gas to large farms in Perry, Juniata and Snyder counties, partnering with Frontier Natural Resources Inc. in Bellefonte which has wells in Clinton County.

Smeltz has said he thinks the gas piping model will work in Clinton County. He hopes once the cooperative lays the framework in other counties first it will be able to bring the model to Clinton.

Recently, Centre County received received a $1 million grant from Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) through its Pipeline Investment Program to expand the use of natural gas in Centre Hall Borough and Potter Township. The cooperative will help build the pipeline from the Dominion Energy transmission line to service Centre Hall and Hanover Foods Corp.

As for the potential addition of Northumberland County, Smeltz said it could have mixed outcomes.

“I think we’re getting stressed (with all the new counties), that’s one of my concerns,” he said.

Geisinger Health has several facilities in Northumberland County that need gas access, Smeltz said, hence the county’s interest in the cooperative.

Since the cooperative has expanded, Smeltz said it would be beneficial to hire a contractor to equalize the workload. But he said the cooperative has no extra money to do so.

A United States Department of Agriculture grant could fund a contractor, Smeltz said, but they are still in the process of applying.

Commissioners also talked about the progress of the rail trail, specifically the portions from Castanea to Wayne Township and the bridge connecting Pine Creek and Wayne townships.

They have received bids from several engineering firms to repair the Pine Creek-Wayne Township bridge. The county is reviewing engineer John Conrad’s proposal, as he had the least expensive quote. But Smeltz said the county does not yet have the money to repair the bridge.

“We can’t really enter into a contract with (Conrad) until we get some funding,” he said.

Planning Director Katie de Silva is pursuing PennDOT grants to update the bridge, Smeltz said.

Commissioner Paul Conklin said he would like to see the portion of the rail trail from Castanea to Wayne Township completed.

Smeltz said Pine Creek Township would soon give a quote on the cost of repairing the surface of the bridge. He said Act 13 funds should cover most of that cost.

Right now, the bridge is walkable, but not safe for biking.

Conklin and Smeltz tossed around the idea of holding a naming contest for the bridge in order to raise funds, increase community interest and draw tourism to the area. Some ideas they said were, “Widow Smith Trail,” “Chief Logan Trail” and “Shikellamy Trail.” They hoped talking about names would get community members excited about Clinton County’s rich history.

For Thursday, commissioners plan to read and sign the annual Hazardous Materials Response Fund Grant Report and approve Children and Youth Services’ participation in a Penn State University research project for a child health study program.

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