3:46 PM | Posted in ,
While I have been away from the blogs for past week and a half an email came to me from some people living in Minneapolis who are concerned about the Crown Hydro Project. At this point I don't have enough free time to address all these issues but intend to do so soon and hope that others who support this project will address them as well.

An email from Eva Young:

The following was prepared by citizens who are concerned and opposed to the Crown Hydro project. I'd challenge you: Muse and Taxpaying Liberal to address these issues on a point by point basis.

The Crown Hydro Project and Its Impact on St. Anthony Falls and Mill Ruins Park

This information was prepared on February 20, 2009 by a group of concerned citizens and residents of Minneapolis including Edna Brazaitis, Lisa Hondros and Cynthia Kriha.

Crown Hydro and its supporters argue that opposition to the Crown Hydro project is opposition to renewable energy. This is simply not true. We are strong supporters of renewable energy but in a smart way that is beneficial for all. Crown Hydro seeks endorsement of its project because it is green, independent of any analysis of other alternatives or risk. We encourage all stewards of our rivers, parks and heritage to take a broader view of the implications of this project. There are other alternatives, and the greenest option is the one that already exists -- updating the existing historic hydroelectric power plant at St. Anthony Falls.

1) There are better alternatives. Xcel Energy currently operates a 12-megawatt hydroelectric power plant on the east side of the river at St. Anthony Falls. Crown Hydro proposes construction of a 3.2-megawatt hydroelectric power plant across the river on public land owned by the Minneapolis Park Board that would divert water from the flow over the Falls. Updating the existing Xcel plant with current technology could produce even more than 3.2megawatts of additional power at a cheaper cost and without changing the water flow over the Falls.

2) Non-renewable energy resources will be needed to create this plant. It is not prudent to waste those resources when there is an existing hydro plant directly across the River. If the need for the power generated by this plant is urgent, certainly a smarter use of existing limited resources is to update the plant across the River.

3) Without a significant public subsidy, this project is not economically viable. Experts have concluded that Crown Hydroʼs energy generation projections are overly optimistic and ignore the financial risks of a potential drought. This project may fail even with a $5.1M grant subsidy through Xcelʼs Renewable Development Fund of which $1.5M has already been spent. Xcelʼs ratepayers finance this fund. Given advancements in renewable energy technology, there are better ways to invest the publicʼs money. And any real financial benefits to the Park Board remain unsubstantiated.

4) The proposed location will forever destroy the archeological effects in Mill Ruins Park. There is a unique historic fabric including the old head race and power canal. The water power canal was a significant engineering achievement for its time, advancing the efficiency of water power, and the canal area has the potential to be designated a National Historic Landmark. In November 2007, Scott Anfinson, State Archeologist, advised the Park Board, that “… [T]he exit tunnel for this facility will adversely impact a significant historic structure, namely the historic tailrace tunnel system. The construction of the turbines could also prevent the restoration of the historic waterpower canal entrance should that be proposed in the future.” Also of concern would be the detrimental impacts from the much larger construction staging area; typical projects like this require a significant footprint for the construction itself. The risks are significant. Preserving and protecting the historic fabric of Mill Ruins Park is essential.

5) Stewardship of Mill Ruins Park and local control of this important part of the riverfront will no longer rest in the hands of the Minneapolis Park Board. Access to the Park for purposes of creating and operating the hydroelectric plant is considered a land sale and the decision of this Park Board will be one that will impact many generations. Selling public parkland to private industry is not the legacy we want for our city. No lease with a private entity can protect this key part of the Park and the opportunity for future generations to learn about the history of Minneapolis.

6) Man, not nature, will be in control of the aesthetics of St. Anthony Falls. The flow of water will be diverted away from the Falls by this project and at times the Falls themselves will look almost dry to the naked eye according to a University of Minnesota civil engineering professor who works at the St. Anthony Falls Lab. The Metropolitan Council reported that over 1.2 million visitors per year come to the Minneapolis riverfront park that runs from Plymouth Avenue to the 35W bridge on both sides of the Mississippi River. The key feature of this park is St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall in the entire 2340 miles of the Mississippi River.

7) The Minneapolis Park Board has consistently rejected siting the Crown Hydro project on its property despite over five years of various requests.“…the Park Board holds that granting the requested amendment of license has the potential to do irreparable damage to the goals of the Park Board and the City of Minneapolis in the ongoing development or recreational facilities and historic preservation activities in the project area.”-From a March 2003 Park Board filing to the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission stating opposition to the Crown Hydro project

8) This is an extremely complex situation given the various government agencies involved and technical details. Thousands of taxpayer dollars and hundreds of staff hours have already been spent on this project over the past five years. The expertise of the Park Board is in the ownership and maintenance of our Cityʼs parks, not in entering into complex 100-year lease arrangements with a sophisticated energy producer.

9) There are other significant obstacles to this project including: a) Current zoning for Mill Ruins Park makes this an impermissible use; b) No environmental assessment has been completed; c) Under existing law, any payments from Crown Hydro to the Park Board would be passed on to the State of Minnesota since public funds were used to procure the land now designated as Mill Ruins Park; this minimizes any financial benefit to the Park Board; d) Soil contamination on the site has been identified and will have an impact on any excavation of the area; e) Concerns about the impacts on the Lock and Dam and river traffic as expressed by the Corps of Engineers in their letter dated 1-14-2003 have not yet been addressed.

10) What is the value of St. Anthony Falls and the parkland surrounding it? It is impossible to put a price on so precious an asset.

11) This project lacks the support of the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Land Use Committee of the Sierra Club,the State Historic Preservation Office as well as the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.

“The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, on behalf of all current and future citizens of the City of Minneapolis, shall strive to permanently preserve, protect, maintain, improve and enhance the Cityʼsparkland and recreational opportunities.”- Mission of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

A note to readers: some people have been expressing difficulty in commenting. While I have not had problems, I have tweaked a couple things that will hopefully fix the issues...

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2 responses to "On Crown Hydro..."

  1. taxpaying liberal On February 27, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    I’ll be happy to respond to Eva questions.

    The way this letter starts is based on a falsehood and spirals downhill from there. Crown Hydro has not accused the opposition of being against renewable energy.

    I would invite the readers of this to visit Crown Hydro’s website at http://www.crownhydro.net/

    This letter makes broad assumptions lacking in fact or any type of sourcing.

    There are 3 main objections to the Crown Hydro project and they are:

    1- Expand the Excel plant on the other side of the river.

    The 1st two points are perfect examples of this.

    The writers of this should have known that the very reason Crown Hydro is building on this side of the river is because the city and others turned down Excels request to expand at their current site.

    The compromise was to find and encourage an independent producer who could build on the downtown side of the river. Now many of the same people who opposed Excels request back in the 80’s are now asking to start the process all over again and that way we can continue this conversation for another 20 years.

    I agree that if Excel can squeeze another 3.2 megawatts out of its existing plant they should if the economics of the project is worth doing but that is a decision that Excel should make.

    At the same time Crown should also be built so we end up with 6.4 megawatts of CLEAN power and reduce the carbon footprint even more.

    Wouldn’t you agree that 6.4 megawatts of Clean renewable power is better than 3.2 megawatts?

    From the Summary of the FERC:

    “Overall, these measures would protect or enhance water quality, fish and wildlife resources, recreational resources, and cultural resources in the Crown Mill project area. In addition, the electricity generated from the project would be beneficial because it would reduce the use of fossil fuel, electric generating plants, conserve nonrenewable energy resources, and reduce atmospheric pollution.
    No reasonable action alternatives to the project have been identified for assessment. The no action alternative has been considered and is addressed in the Comprehensive Development and Recommended Alternative section (section VI).”

    2- The proposed location will Damage the Mills park ruins.

    The FERC license addresses all these issues and many more;

    “The park board proposes to develop the Mills Ruins Park in the project area to display and interpret the archaeological ruins of the historic mill district. As noted above, in section II.A, those plans call for excavating and re-opening of the proposed projects canal. Crown Hydro proposes to complete and pay for this portion of the work as part of a development agreement.

    While Crown Hydro proposed project would further the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPO)and the Park Boards efforts to display and interpret the archaeological ruins of the historic mill district, we are developing a Programmatic Agreement (PA) …. To ensure adequate protection and maintenance of the historic resources at this site.“

    The preservation of the Mills park area was very much on the minds of everyone when the permit was issued. Many conditions were placed on Crown to ensure the preservation of the area including specific commissions and local units who were given oversight and authority.

    Stewardship very much remains in the hands of local units of government. Once again I encourage those interested to read the FERC and the Lease.

    And now for the water flow issue.

    This issue is also covered and the main point is that the water level above the falls will be at a minimum height of 797.5’ to a max of 799.2’ Below 797.5 crown cannot operate. This level was set by the Park board and others. Basically the plant runs from March through June when the river is high.

    Almost every other point in Eva’s letter is not pertinent, wrong or misleading and I will not waste time disputing it.

    Once again I have to ask the opponents, What your plan for creating jobs, clean energy and reducing co2?

    The FERC permit is public and can be obtained. I have a copy and a copy of the proposed lease should anyone be interested. Feel free to e-mail me at tbeckfeld@yahoo.com.

    Also the Crown Hydro people will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

  2. Anonymous On March 27, 2009 at 9:09 AM

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.