Feds give Crown Hydro backers more time to pursue Mill Ruins power project

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September 27, 2004 // UPDATED 4:10 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Crown Hydro LLC has received another Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) extension to pursue a hydroelectric plant in Mill Ruins Park.

Crown Hydro had sought to lease Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board land on the river's west bank for a 3-megawatt plant. It met organized neighborhood opposition, and the Park Board rejected a proposed 100-year lease on a 4-5 vote May 19. The lease required a six-vote Park Board supermajority.

FERC gave Crown Hydro a 45-day extension until Oct. 26. Crown Hydro's last federal extension expired Sept. 11.

"We don't know exactly how much time we'll need," said Crown Hydro attorney Richard Savelkoul in an interview.

Crown Hydro appears to be taking a two-pronged approach -- friendly overtures and force -- to overcome Park Board objections.

Wrote Savelkoul, "Crown remains optimistic that the [Park Board] may revisit the issue and come to agree with Crown's view of the project as an asset to the community and the Minneapolis Park system."

However, Crown Hydro letters to FERC also said it is investigating use of the Federal Power Act to obtain the land through eminent domain, which would overrule Park Board objections.

Judd Rietkerk, head of the Park Board's planning division and a point person on negotiations, said he has not had any recent contact with Crown Hydro regarding the lease.

Rietkerk said not only does federal law prohibit Crown from using eminent domain, but Crown Hydro also agreed not to try to use eminent domain when it first applied for its hydroelectric license.

Savelkoul hedged. "There is an agreement out there. I don't know exactly what it says," he said. "There may or may not be issues of enforceability around that," adding the agreement applied to a different site.

According to the Star Tribune, FERC told Crown Hydro representatives that the extension to Oct. 26 would be the last unless backers could use eminent domain, or if there is evidence of active negotiations with the Park Board.