Bethlehem Authority

Bethlehem Authority

Chair: Thomas F. Donchez
Vice Chair: John J. Tallarico
Secretary: Sharon J. Zondag
Treasurer: Dennis A. Domchek
Assistant Secretary/Treasurer: Vaughn C. Gower

Connect with Bethlehem Authority

Authority Executive Director
Stephen Repasch
Office: (610)-865-7090
Cell: (610) 972-0476

Authority Police Officer-in-charge
Daniel Meixell
Cell: (610) 972-3365

Authority Administrative Assistant
Sandra Zapf
Office: (610)-865-2009

Authoriy Solicitor
Broughal & Devito, L.L.P.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Authority Controller
John V. Filipos, CPA
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Authority Engineer
Maser Consulting
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Authority Bond Counsel
Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Authority Financial Advisor
Public Resources Advisory Group
Media, Pennsylvania

The Authority is a body corporate and politic, incorporated in 1938 pursuant to an ordinance enacted by the City Council of the City, and now exists pursuant to the Act. The Authority was the first municipal authority incorporated in Pennsylvania following the enactment of the PA Municipal Authority’s Act of 1935.

The governing body of the Authority is a Board consisting of five members appointed by the City Council.  The terms of the members of the Board are staggered so that the term of one member expires each year, and the City Council, in accordance with the Act, appoints successors each year.  Members of the Board may be reappointed.   None of the members of the Board is a member of City Council of the City. 

The Authority owns the Water System and leases it to the City in accordance with the terms of the Lease. The City provides for water treatment, rate setting, payment collection, metering, pipeline repairs and all other operation and maintenance of the system. Please click here to be taken to the City’s Water and Sewer Resources Department Web Page for more information. The Authority employs a full time Executive Director to manage its operations and administrative functions, and maintains an office in City Hall and a staff for such purposes. It also employs one full time and one part time Security Patrolman for its watershed properties and maintains an office in Carbon County for this purpose.

The Authority is considered the financial arm of the City’s water system, and as such maintains the debt of the water system and provides the funding for the system’s capital improvements. The Authority also acts as the property manager for the 22,000 plus acre watersheds in Carbon and Monroe Counties.

Regular monthly meetings are held in room B-504 at 3:30 pm on the second Thursday of each month. Special meetings are advertised accordingly.

Meeting Agendas and Minutes

Current Events & Activities

Pennsylvania Right to Know Law - Contact Information for Bethlehem Authority Open Records Officer

In 1917, when Bethlehem officially became a City, the chief source of water supply was the Lehigh River and the wells at Illick's Mill. In view of the fact that Bethlehem was expanding and growing at a rapid pace, it was evident that a more reliable and better supply of water, especially in quality and quantity, was the ultimate goal. As a result, our Council had the foresight in 1918 to instruct the City Engineer to make a comprehensive survey of the possible new sources of water supply so that the needs of the community could be fulfilled for future generations. The desire for the best possible source for a supply of water led to the selection of an area in the Pocono Mountains in Carbon County for the construction of the Wild Creek Reservoir.

On July 26, 1938, City Council created the Bethlehem Municipal Water Authority, the first one to be established in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. After reviewing the report of the City Engineer on the Wild Creek waters, the evidence was presented to the State Water and Power Resources Board to obtain permission for the utilization of these waters by the Authority. Fortunately, the pattern for an expanding water supply system for the City of Bethlehem was approved by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Construction of the Wild Creek Reservoir, the chemical treatment building, two one-mile rock tunnels, and twenty-one miles of 30" water transmission mains was initiated on December 29, 1938. Work progressed at a rapid pace and in January, 1941, the total project was completed at a total cost of 4.1 million dollars.

In 1938, the daily consumption of water in the City was 4 M.G.D. (million gallons per day). In 1944 the consumption rose to 17 M.G.D., in 1955 to 20 M.G.D. and in 1980 to 26 M.G.D. The rapid increase of water consumption, plus the demand for extending our water service, was a definite warning to us that our present supply was inadequate to cope with this situation. As a result, City Council and the Bethlehem Authority met on several occasions to institute proceedings to acquire an additional supply. After a comprehensive report and study was made of the Wild Creek drainage area, it was decided by both bodies to construct the Penn Forest Reservoir a short distance upstream from the Wild Creek Reservoir.

In September of 1958 the total project was completed. The Penn Forest Reservoir retains the water that was normally lost over the Wild Creek spillway. The total capacity of both reservoirs when filled is ten billion, three hundred million gallons of water or about a year's supply at the then present consumption rate.

Over the years the water system continued to expand and improve with the addition of a 5 million gallon Southeast Lower service reservoir in 1965 and a 42" parallel Wild Creek transmission main in 1968.

A backup water supply project was next in 1967 which added 12 million gallons of capacity from the Tunkhannock Creek in Monroe County near Long Pond. The Tunkhannock project was completed in 1968. However, because of the water quality, water is only taken from the Tunkhannock Creek during the winter months and spring runoff.

As the system continued to grow, significant improvements continued to be made. Most notable of these were in the early 1990's with the construction of a federally mandated 42 M.G.D. water filtration plant, construction of 19,500 feet of a 48" water transmission main from the water filtration plant to the Howertown Control Station, construction of a 5.0 M.G. Southwest Low Service Reservoir to replace the 2.7 M.G. open reservoir behind St. Luke's Hospital, construction of 23,800 feet of a 42" raw water transmission main from Wire Ridge to the Blue Mountain and the purchase of additional lands in the Wild Creek watershed.

After it was discovered that the original Penn Forest Dam had been leaking for a number of years, a new replacement dam needed to be built. Construction on the new Penn Forest Dam commenced in June, 1996, and was substantially completed on November 17, 1998, began refilling in January 1999 and dedicated on June 21, 1999. This roller compacted concrete dam is the third largest dam by volume in the United States and the largest RCC dam by volume east of the Mississippi River. This new dam is buttressed on the downstream face by earth and rockfill excavated from the embankment of the original Penn Forest Dam. Savings of approximately $20 million was realized by choosing this design which utilized the existing spillway, diversion and intake structures from the old Penn Forest Dam.

The distribution system in the 45 square mile service area has also grown to where it serves over 115,000 people and has over 500 miles of main line pipe. There is a network of small size pipes and about 36,000 service connections. In addition to servicing the City of Bethlehem, it serves two boroughs and all or parts of eight townships.

Prior to January, 1998 engineering projects were handled by the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Water Supply & Treatment. Subsequent to January, 1998 engineering projects were handled by the Department of Water & Sewer Resources, Bureau of Water Supply & Treatment. Currently, the City's Department of Water & Sewer Resources is responsible for the maintaining of the water system while the Department of Public Work's Bureau of Engineering is responsible for managing and/or executing engineering projects for the system.

Following the closing of the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1996, and the resultant major decline in water consumption, the water system again is faced with new challenges both financial and operational. The City and the staff are meeting these challenges and looking to grow the system into developing suburban areas outside of the city as well as meeting the new demand within the city.

Wild Creek Reservoir

Maximum Depth 135 ft.
Area of Watershed22 sq. mi.
Capacity3.9 billion gal.
Top Length of Dam1,076 ft.
Length of Shoreline6 mi.
Top Width of Dam30 ft.
Area of Water Surface304 acres.
Maximum Bottom Width1000 ft.
Diameters of pipe lines36" and 30"
Height above creek level155 ft.
Earth Fill in Dam1,300,000 Cubic Yards
Spillway elevation820 ft.

Penn Forest Reservoir

Height of Dam180 ft.
Area of Watershed16.5 sq. mi.
Maximum Water Depth125 ft.
Top Length of Dam2,050 ft.
Capacity6.0 billion gal.
Length of Shoreline7 mi.
Area of Water Surface480 acres @ El. 1,000.6 ft.
Earth Fill volume1,900,000 Cubic Yards
RCC Volume370,000 Cubic Yards


Penn Forest Dam Spillway1000.6 ft
Wild Creek Dam Spillway820 ft.
Bethlehem Water Treatment Plant at Pennsville675 ft
Broad and New Streets340 ft.

Brooks Forestry & Resources Management conducted a forest inventory in 2001. One of the results of the Brooks inventory was the finding of several abusive activities occurring on the watershed such as timber theft, illegal ATV use, and dumping of trash among others.

In 2003, the City Administration, led by Mayor James Delgrosso, recognized the need for a more formalized law enforcement presence. The Bethlehem Authority Board created the position of "Special Police Officer" (the Officer) and hired Daniel Meixell,, who has full police powers under the PA Municipal Authorities Act of 1935 and reports to the Authority's Executive Director and Board.

The Officer initiated prosecutions on those found to be in violation of State laws in acts occurring on the watershed lands owned by the Bethlehem Authority. Professional working relationships were developed with the various state and local agencies, such as the PA Game Commission (PGC),, ,which also patrols the watershed lands since the property is enrolled in the PGC's Public Access Program. The Officer has developed many citizen contacts that provide ongoing information to the officer on activities occurring in and around the watershed properties.

In 2012 a part time Patrol Officer was hired to assist in patrolling the 22,000 + acre property. Currently Special Officer Meixell is the Authority’s Part Time Officer-In-Charge and along with four other Part Time Police Officers continues patrolling the vast and remote areas of the watershed to protect this highly valuable asset for the Authority, the City and its 117,000 water customers.

Citizens are strongly advised to report any suspicious activity.

For emergencies please call 911.
To contact the Authority Officer by phone call (610) 972-3365.

The Bethlehem Authority is enrolled in the PA Game Commission’s (PGC) Hunter Access Program which permits hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching, etc. on most of its properties in Carbon and Monroe Counties. Basically the program allows all activity that is allowed on Game Commission lands to be allowed on Authority property. The program also allows for patrol and enforcement by PGC Officers in addition to the Authority’s Patrol Officers. The only areas that are excluded from public access include the areas that are fenced around both the Wild Creek and Penn Forest Reservoirs and in certain areas that are leased to private hunting and fishing clubs, which represent less than 5% of the Authority’s property holdings in the two counties. For more information on the PA Game Commission and the Hunter’s Access program please click here.

DMAP coupons from the PA Game Commission (PGC) for the Bethlehem Authority's (BA) land in Tunkhannock and Tobyhanna Townships, Monroe County, are now available electronically through any issuing license agent or through the PGC website. The BA's DMAP Unit Identification Number is 978. Provide this number to the issuing license agent or when prompted on the PGC website. Please note that BA property in Carbon County is NOT enrolled in the DMAP program.

If you should have any questions, please feel free to contact this office or the Northeast Regional Game Commission office at 570-675-1143 or PGC Bureau of Wildlife Management at 717-787-5529.

Links for purchasing licenses and coupons on-line:
DMAP Program Information
PGC Outdoor Shop On-Line License Sales, etc.

Dating back to the purchase of the watershed properties, the Bethlehem Authority (Authority) and the City of Bethlehem have a long history of superior forest stewardship that is distinguished from most private land owners in the region. Through the efforts of long time City Forester, John Anspach, the watershed forests have been a model for proper forest management activities. Plantations of various indigenous species were developed and nurtured under Mr. Anspach's guiding forestry principles.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, comprehensive forest management plans were developed by a consulting forestry firm, American Forestry Consultants, for both watershed areas. Since then, and up until the early to mid 2000's, forestry initiatives took a back seat to other critical water supply issues, such as the construction of a water filtration plant and the re-construction of Penn Forest Dam.

Following several reports in early 2000 which focused on the potential timber value on the properties, particularly in the Tunkhannock Watershed, a report was commissioned by the Authority which resulted in Silvicultural Recommendations for Selected Stands in The Tunkhannock Creek Watershed by Brooks Forestry and Resource Management in January, 2005. The recommendations from this report are being used to this day under the guidance of the Authority’s Consulting Forester, Woodland Management Services.

In 2011, following over a year of negotiations, the Authority entered into a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that was part of TNC's Working Woodland's Program. TNC is an international private nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The outcome of this arrangement was the development of a comprehensive Forest Management Plan (FMP) that became Forest Stewardship Council or FSC® certified in 2012. FSC ® is the preeminent sustainable forest certification entity in the world today. The FMP has the following overarching goals that will drive the management activities on the Authority properties:

  • Preserve the high drinking water quality and quantity of the sources by maintaining or improving the capacity of the watershed to produce these values and maintaining or improving watershed security to insure the safety of the supply.
  • Improve the capacity of the watershed and its properties to produce financial return that will better enable BA to protect and enhance the long term value of the asset. This includes sustainable timbering, potential renewable energy and monetizing ecosystem services (carbon, NRCS cost share, easements, leases etc.).
  • Promote ecosystem health, diversity, and sustainable management of all resources through compliance with all federal, state, and municipal requirements, FSC standards of operation and other best management practices.
  • Within constraints of other objectives, maintain or improve opportunities to allow the public active and passive recreational access to BA lands.

The FMP was developed to guide the management activities of the Authority properties in the Wild Creek and Tunkhannock Creek Watersheds. These properties are part of the Working Woodlands program of TNC, and, as a result, will be managed in accordance with the FSC® US 2010 National Standard as part of TNC's group certificate. In addition, as part of Working Woodlands, these properties will be verified to the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and provides carbon credits that are sold on the voluntary market to offset the carbon footprint of large companies. By sequestering carbon dioxide, through 2018 the Authority has received credits for revenue totaling over $946,000 from Chevy Corp. and Disney Corp. and has a commitment from Disney to buy carbon credits though 2021.

The vision for all properties within TNC's Working Woodlands, is to restore and sustain high quality ecological values within economically productive forests. The Authority properties serve as the primary and secondary drinking water supply for over 116,000 customers, and as such have considerably high conservation value. In addition, the mesic till barrens community type of the Pocono Plateau, which dominates several thousand acres of Authority property, is home to rare and endangered species of plants, birds and insects and is considered to be the only natural community of its kind in the world.

The conservation easement provides that: the properties will be retained predominantly in their natural, scenic, and forested condition, free of additional forest fragmentation or additional development; any rare plants, animals, or plant communities will be protected; and any use that will significantly impair or interfere with the conservation values or interests of the Authority will be prevented. The easement will assure long-term, professional, independent third-party certified forest management of the property for the production, management and harvesting of economically valuable timber and related forest products while ensuring the conservation values are protected or enhanced. The easement also ensures the protection of forest and other natural resources and allows for the potential of economic return from the protection, management, maintenance, and improvement of ecosystem services provided by the property, including but not limited to the protection of water quality and quantity, carbon sequestration, and the protection of wetlands, rare species and natural communities.

The FMP will be periodically reviewed and updated to ensure that strategies to be undertaken are in compliance with TNC's Compatible Human and Economic Use Activity Standard Operating Procedures (CHU SOP) and are in accordance with the Conservancy's Group Certification program and the FSC® US National Standard.

“The Bethlehem Authority Board members and staff posing in front of the aerator during a visit in June 2019”
Back row: Vaughn Gower, John Tallarico, Tom Donchez, Steve Repasch, Dennis Domchek, Dan Meixell
Front row: Steve Mertz, Sharon Zondag, Sandy Zapf

“One very peaceful rattlesnake.”