June 21, 2012 by Sarah M
By Nick Halter
A project that would have harnessed St. Anthony Falls power for hydroelectricity near Downtown is on life support after a 13-year political battle, as a federal commission has initiated proceedings to terminate the project’s license.
The Crown Hydro project would have installed turbines below the St. Anthony Falls on the west side of the river and generated 3.2 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 2,200 homes.
Documents filed on June 14 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission say the project isn’t making any progress and therefore should lose its license. The only thing that can stop the proceedings is a motion to intervene, which is due July 19.
On June 22, Crown Hydro Attorney left a voicemail with The Journal saying the project would intervene in the proceedings.
“Crown Hydro does intend to intervene in the notice to terminate on the basis of the substantial progress we have made developing a facility on the (U.S. Army) Corps (of Engineers) federal campus,” Keane said.
Crown Hydro got a federal license for the project in 1999 and the owner, Bill Hawks, purchased turbines that have sat unused since.
“After more than 13 years since the issuance of the license, there is still no expectation that the licensee will complete construction of the project in the foreseeable future,” FERC wrote in its documents initiating the license termination.
Crown Hydro has made several attempts to complete the project since 1999, but the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has denied it a lease needed to dig below park property.
Last May, Crown Hydro made one last effort to sway Park Board commissioners to approve the project. Crown Hydro even got as far as drafting a letter of intent in conjunction with Park Board staff, but at the 11th hour the deal fell apart. Crown Hydro says the Park Board made late changes to the letter that made the project unworkable.
The Park Board didn’t like a few things about the project. Commissioners and neighbors complained that by diverting water to the turbines, St. Anthony Falls would dry up. They also expressed concerns about what affects construction would have on the integrity of the surrounding land in the burgeoning Mill District of Downtown.
Crown Hydro made an attempt during the 2011 Minnesota Legislative session to get the state to force the Park Board to approve a lease agreement. The bill got a few hearings but never made it to the floor of the House or Senate.
The license, when granted in 1999, was supposed to be valid for 50 years.