WEALTHY EMINENT DOMAIN ADVOCATE HOSTS DICK CHENEY FUND-RAISER FOR MICHELE BACHMANN
by Karl Bremer (Originally published in the 6/29/2006 Stillwater Gazette)
Why was Michele Bachmann, an outspoken opponent of the use of eminent domain, honored June 26 with a fund-raiser by the owner of a company that is threatening to use eminent domain to take Minneapolis Park Board land for a private hydroelectric venture?
William Hawks, wealthy Minnetrista owner of a company called Crown Hydro, hosted the affair for Bachmann, featuring Vice President Dick Cheney, at his Lake Minnetonka home. Crown Hydro has been trying for years to secure a location and permits for a small hydroelectric plant on the Mississippi River near St. Anthony Falls. Thus far, they have been unsuccessful.
Crown Hydro received a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license for the proposed 3.4-megawatt plant in 1999, when the powerhouse was to be located in the basement of the old Crown Roller Mill on the river. When they failed to reach a lease agreement for the property, Crown Hydro proposed locating its powerhouse on the remains of the Holly and Cataract Mill foundation in Minneapolis’ Mill Ruins Park on the east side of West River Parkway and sought an amended license from FERC in 2002.
The Minneapolis Park Board intervened in the FERC license hearing and opposed the move, saying that “the relocated powerhouse and water conveyance components of the project would cause irreparable damage to Mill Ruins Park and to the goals of the Park Board and the City of Minneapolis in their development of recreational facilities and historic preservation activities in the project area.” The Board further charged that Crown Hydro had failed to negotiate for use of the Park Board’s land, despite the Board’s attempts to initiate talks.
Even the nearby neighborhoods the power plant was supposed to serve opposed the project.
Crown Hydro requested-and was granted-repeated extensions on its FERC permit application. In its final request October 26, 2004, Crown informed FERC:
“Crown would still prefer to work out a lease with the Park Board, but has not dismissed the possibility of exercising eminent domain in accordance with applicable law in the event there is no ability to enter into an agreed-upon lease.”
FERC was unimpressed with Crown’s threat to take public park land, and finally dismissed Crown’s application for an amended license in February 2005. Crown requested a rehearing on the matter and it was denied again in June 2005. Now, Crown has appealed FERC’s decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
William Hawks evidently is a guy who won’t take no for an answer-even to the point of picking up the cudgel of eminent domain to get his hydroelectric plant. But what’s even more offensive is that he’s willing to use eminent domain to take public park land-an historical site, no less-to achieve his goal.
The Bachmann fund-raiser at William Hawk’s Lake Minnetonka palace, which is nowhere near the 6th congressional district Bachmann seeks to represent, raises several questions that people should be asking of the candidate:
How does this square with Bachmann’s oft-repeated opposition to eminent domain? Or is eminent domain okay when it involves a private entity taking public land?
When Bachmann authored legislation last year to rein in the use of eminent domain, she wrote: “I have long been concerned about the abuse of eminent domain powers in Minnesota … That is why I am drafting legislation in the Minnesota Senate to reform our state eminent domain laws.”
What do William Hawks and Crown Hydro want from Michele Bachmann in return for hosting a gold-plated fund-raiser for her with the vice president of the United States? Is Bachmann already working behind the scenes to aid and abet the forced taking of Minneapolis park land by eminent domain?
Michele Bachmann talks a good game when she’s in front of her pro-property-rights crowds railing against the abuses of eminent domain. It will be interesting to see how she explains to her supporters this upcoming fund-raiser hosted by a wealthy proponent of using eminent domain to take public land.
Because if Michele Bachmann can’t be trusted on one of her marquee issues, what can she be trusted on?
Karl Bremer is a Stillwater writer and constituent of Michele Bachmann’s.