Authority approves land sale agreement

Purchase of Cooney tract above Horseshoe Curve conditional on grants

The Altoona Water Authority recently approved a purchase agreement for a 2,459-acre tract above the Horseshoe Curve, conditional on obtaining two grants that together would pay the $1.8 million cost.

If the authority is unsuccessful in obtaining those $960,000 grants — from the “C2P2” program of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and from the Abandoned Mine Drainage Abate­­ment and Treatment Program of the state Department of Com­munity and Economic Devel­opment — the authority would still have the option of paying for the ground out of its own funds.

Whether it should do so would need to be a subject of discussion at that time, said authority Chairman Bill Neugebauer.

The authority expects to hear by around October whether the agencies will approve the grants, according to General Manager Mark Perry.

The agreement gives the auth­ority until the end of January to execute the purchase, authority solicitor Dave Consiglio said.

“The grants would make a good deal a heck of a lot better,” Consiglio said.

Representatives of DCNR recently visited the area, once owned by Cooney Bros. Coal Co. and now controlled by the Angel Coal Trust, and looked at the tract with authority officials, Perry said.

Their focus was on recreation, and they were interested to learn that the authority has an arrangement with the Game Commission to allow hunting, hiking and biking on other watershed property, he said.

The representatives also discussed the potential for ATV riding on the Cooney tract if the authority ends up buying it, although that is very preliminary and would require provisions to guard against erosion, Perry said.

Among legal work to be done is a “carve out” of ground on which eight wind turbines stand, Consiglio said.

The authority wants the formerly strip-mined land so that it can install passive treatment systems to neutralize acid mine drainage that originates there and flows into Burgoon Run, forcing the authority to bypass that stream around the three Horseshoe Curve reservoirs.

Such treatment systems could help make more water available to the system, a potential benefit in times of drought.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.