Crown Hydro makes another offer to Park Board

Share this:
March 28, 2011 // UPDATED 12:23 pm - April 7, 2011
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board commissioners were greeted at their meeting Wednesday with a surprise: An offer from Crown Hydro to develop a hydroelectric facility on park land next to St. Anthony Falls.

The offer was not the first from Crown Hydro, but it was substantially less than its previous offer in 2007, which the Park Board voted against pursuing.

But Crown Hydro may have some added bargaining power this time around. The company’s attorney, Tim Keane, told the Park Board that he is working with state legislators and the governor’s office on a bill that would sidestep the Park Board and allow Crown Hydro to build the dam.

“It basically directs the Park Board to issue the authorization,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

Many Park Board commissioners are vehemently opposed to the 3.2 megawatt facility, saying it will reduce Upper St. Anthony Falls to a trickle.

“Make no mistake Minnesota and Minneapolis, this project has a huge impact on the river,” said Commissioner Anita Tabb, whose Fourth District includes St. Anthony Falls.

But Commissioner Jon Olson (District 2 in North Minneapolis) voiced his continued support of the project. He made an unsuccessful motion to direct the Park Board to negotiate a contract with Crown Hydro at Wednesday’s meeting.

Olson said that since the last proposal, BP oil has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and nuclear waste has leaked in Japan.

“This is clean energy, it’s a good project and it’s environmentally friendly,” he said.

Crown Hydro already has a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license to build the facility. Keane said Park Board land and an engineering permit is all that stands in the way of constructing the underground facility on the west bank of the river.

Keane said Crown Hydro owner Bill Hawks is in discussions with several investors for the project, but he did not name those investors.  

Crown Hydro’s latest offer is $500,000 and a minimum annual royalty of $50,000. In 2007 Crown Royal offered $1 million and $75,000 annually for rent.

The offer gives the Park Board the first right of refusal to buy the facility once it is constructed.

Crown Hydro attempted to pass a similar bill in 2009, but it got nowhere in the DFL-controlled Legislature.

The offer was referred to the Park Board’s planning committee for further review with the intent for it to come back to the full Park Board.