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Sparta Council to accept bids for $5.5M lease of quarry property for future hydroelectric facility
 

By SETH AUGENSTEIN

saugenstein@njherald.com

SPARTA -- The council has plans to convert its part of the Limecrest Quarry into a high-powered money maker.

The township has taken out a legal notice announcing its intentions to accept bids for a 50-year, $5.5-million annual lease of the property for a hydroelectric-generating facility around the spring-fed water source.

If an eventual source of hydroelectric power comes to the quarry, the $5.5-million rent Sparta could collect as a landlord would amount to more than 25 percent of the township's last municipal budget.

The notice is a preliminary step for the multi-year, meticulous process of researching the power possibility at Limecrest. The bids will be accepted beginning Jan. 21.

The winning bidder will pay for its own evaluation of the site, including a minimum $150,000 for drill testing, as well as the necessary permits from various government agencies.

The lease also would have guaranteed consumer price index increases during the lease period, which has two, 25-year extension options.

The Limecrest Quarry pit has a natural spring that brings 6 million gallons of water daily from the Germany Flats aquifer.

The water was the primary asset officials touted during their purchase of the property last year, when the township acquired 172 acres of the quarry property from C.C. Cox, LLC for $2.45 million. Since then, legal wranglings have swirled between Sparta and the owner of the rest of the 572-acre quarry, Limecrest Quarry Developers -- a company run by prominent Sussex County real estate developer Eugene Mulvihill.

Most recently, the lawsuit and negotiations between Sparta and Limecrest have culminated in an extended lease agreement with guarantees for doubling the tonnage of material quarried at the site through 2037.

Mayor Brian Brady said the possibility of the hydroelectric facility was the product of many months of work, and the terms, in conjunction with Limecrest Quarry Developers, still were being worked out leading to the Jan. 21 bidding process.

"It could be real positive for the town," Brady said.

Township Manager Henry Underhill said the plans for the hydroelectric facility would be a joint project with Mulvihill's company because the project would involve both properties. However, the terms of the agreement between the two entities have yet to be determined.

Underhill also said there are no specific numbers involved in the power output of the quarry project -- although he said the wattage could be significant. The power would feed into a grid that provides power to parts of 13 states in the region through PJM Interconnection, an electricity wholesaler.

Created: 12/29/2008 | Updated: 12/29/2008

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