JIM THOPRE, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)– Newly elected and returning officials packed the Carbon County Courthouse with friends, relatives and loved ones as they swore an oath Monday to either continue or begin their service to their communities.

“I think today it finally hit home that we’re in a position to help all the people of Carbon County,” said Rocky Ahner, who was elected as the lone Democrat to his first term.”We have a good base here. It’s a good county and we have good people. I, myself, am trying to look forward to improving it.”

Fellow new-elect Chris Lukasevich (R) says taxation and taking care of the elderly are some of his priorities, but quality of life for all in Carbon County is key.

“Carbon County is about tourism. We’re going to continue to reinforce the positive,” he said. “However, we can’t put everything into one basket. We have to diversify our economy.”

Wayne Nothstein (R) is the veteran of the board and says there will be growing pains.

“That’s the one thing about this job, it’s extremely frustrating, trying to get things accomplished,” he added. “I think the newly elected have to get used to that. Things don’t just happen over night.”

Despite what’s going well in Carbon County or the challenges the new board faces, there’s one pressing issue they’re all in agreement on.

“I’m thinking it’s our water and we should keep it,” said Ahner. “That’s basically it.”

A re-evaluation of the Francis E. Walter Dam being spearheaded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Delaware River Basin Commission and New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection has communities up in arms. It could mean the rights to some of the water would alleviate issues in New York City at the cost of potential environmental and economic threats to Pennsylvania.

“I’m extremely concerned, not only for those businesses, but for the future of water usage for Carbon County,” said Nothstein. “Maybe 15% of that water supply doesn’t sound like a lot to you but to us, it could mean a big difference in environmental impact.”

Lukasevich cites the county’s comprehensive plan as imploring the county to protect natural resources for Pennsylvanians.

“It doesn’t mean we have to be stingy, but we do have to think of our residents first,” he said. “I have no doubt, no question that we’ll be standing in the very front taking a leadership role and ensuring that the interests of the residents of Carbon County, to include the businesses and future businesses that could be impacted by any change of the way Francis E. Walter Dam allocates its water–we’ll be in the forefront of that effort to protect our interests.”

A public meeting is scheduled for Thursday January 9th at the Mount Laurel resort in White Haven and there are calls for the public to strongly attend and defend the Leigh River water.