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