Park Board delays Crown Hydro vote again, but details gain clarity

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April 25, 2011 // UPDATED 2:45 pm - May 5, 2011
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
Crown Hydro will have to wait until May 18 to find out if the Park Board will allow the company to install hydroelectric turbines above St. Anthony Falls.

The Board voted 6-3 to postpone a decision on a letter of intent that would have set the framework for a contract with Crown Hydro.

At-large Commissioner Annie Young and others said that because they didn’t receive the letter until the afternoon of the May 4 board meeting, they wanted more time to review the document’s details.

New Park Superintendent Jayne Miller drafted the letter of intent after meeting with Crown Hydro.

Provisions of the letter include:

—    Crown Hydro paying the Park Board $500,000 up front and at least $100,000 a year.

—    Crown Hydro would have to close off the turbines if the flow over the St. Anthony spillway ever dipped below 2,000 cubic feet per second during “prime viewing periods.”

—    The facility would have to operate at a not-yet determined noise and vibration level.

— Crown Hydro would have to install one or more electric car charging stations above the facility — a request made by the Park Board.

The meeting brought out a couple dozen neighbors of the falls, who wore “Save the Falls” stickers and testified that the benefit of the 3.2-megawatt facility did not outweigh the risk of ruining a cultural landmark in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, two bills that would force the Park Board to give Crown Hydro authorization for the project are moving through the Minnesota Legislature (H.F. 1440 and S.F. 1191).

A few house and senate committees have given the bills public hearings and they could go to full vote before the Legislature adjourns on May 23.

Those bills originally had eight DFL sponsors, but six of those legislators have removed their support and about two-dozen Republicans remain as authors.