Park Board postpones Crown Hydro vote

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May 10, 2004 // UPDATED 1:32 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Four Commissioners declare opposition, enough to kill power plant

The hydroelectric plant proposed for Mill Ruins parkland appears to lack the needed Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board support -- but project backers have two weeks to try to sway votes.

The Park Board voted 7-1 May 5 to delay until May 19 a vote on Crown Hydro's request for a 50-year lease plus a 50-year extension.

The long-term lease, similar to a land sale, requires two-thirds support, or six of nine votes. Commissioners John Erwin, Vivian Mason, Annie Young and Rochelle Berry Graves said they would vote no. Several said the risks were too high for the return.

Commissioners Carol Kummer and Bob Fine said they would support the lease. Fine, previously undecided, said he supported renewable energy and noted the Park Board would get $100,000 upon signing the lease.

Commissioner Marie Hauser was absent. President Jon Olson said he wanted to have all Commissioners present for the vote -- even though Erwin's, Mason's, Young's and Berry Graves' opposition is enough to kill the project. Commissioner Walt Dziedzic said delay would give the public one more opportunity to comment.

"If it gets voted down for two weeks, it gets voted down," Olson said. "It has been going on for 15 years. What is another two weeks?"

Commissioners took public comment and 19 people spoke; riverfront residents generally opposed Crown Hydro because it would divert water from St. Anthony Falls; renewable energy advocates supported it.

Crown Hydro has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to license a 3-megawatt plant on Park Board land west of Portland Avenue near the Stone Arch Bridge, in the footprint of an historic mill.

Crown Hydro needs the Park Board land lease to proceed with its FERC application. The State Historic Preservation Office would have the opportunity to raise preservation concerns during licensing.

Even if FERC approved the license, Crown Hydro would have to clear other hurdles. The city would have to change the land's zoning to industrial.