Crown Hydro is once again seeking approval to build a hydroelectrical project on downtown’s central riverfront.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is taking public comments on the license amendment application for Crown Hydro’s Crown Mill Hydroelectrical Project — a proposed 3.4 megawatt hydropower facility located on the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam campus. The site is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
An earlier proposal had the facility located in the basement of the Crown Roller Mill building on West River Parkway.
Crown Hydro has been pushing for a hydropower plant on the riverfront since 1991, but has run into opposition from the Park Board and other community leaders who have raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on the aesthetics of the St. Anthony Falls, among other things.
The proposed project would generate enough electricity to provide power to about 2,300 homes, according to a city staff report presented Thursday to the City Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee.
Crown Hydro would sell the electricity to Xcel Energy.
The Park Board reiterated its criticism of the project when it passed a resolution Aug. 19 to send a complaint to FERC and other parties in the city.
“There may have been some violations of FERC’s rules of procedure that would merit a complaint,” said Brian Rice, the board’s legal counsel.
Commissioner Anita Tabb said the Crown Hydro project could affect the board’s future Water Works park, which is currently in the planning and fundraising phase. The new park, which would feature bike and pedestrian trails and a new kayak rental facility and cafe, is expected to bring more park users to the Mississippi River in an area adjacent to the lock and dam campus.
“This has a potential to have a significant impact on the Water Works project and I sure would like to see that project be able to do what it is envisioned to do,” she said.
A draft of comments prepared by the staff from the city’s Community, Planning and Economic Development Department (CPED) on Crown Hydro’s latest plan raises several concerns about the project, including that it fails to address potential impacts to historic resources in the area and the flow of water over the falls.
“Generally speaking, there needs to be more clarity regarding the full range of impacts to this historic area, including noise, vibration, visual, structural, and accessibility, among others,” city staff wrote in the draft recommendations. “This is a vital natural and historic resource, area, and this project is potentially disruptive to it — both during construction and operation.”
Eric Best contributed to this report.