Mpls Park Board takes surprise vote on Crown Hydro project

On Nov. 7, 2007 the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board planning committee considered what was billed as a “study/report item” on an “updated Crown Hydro proposal.” But instead of the usual report from their own staff, park commissioners heard only from the developer of the proposed hydropower plant at St. Anthony Falls. The committee’s ability to study the proposal was hindered by the fact that they had no information about it until the meeting was underway. Even so, Commissioner Carol Kummer, with support from President Jon Olson, moved to advance the project with an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) and a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC or “cack”). Other commissioners cried foul, since such actions don’t usually take place on agenda items that are supposed to be for study and discussion, and because the public wasn’t allowed to speak on the action. The commissioners finally did stray beyond “study/report” and took a vote to authorize a staff review of the new proposal that the developer, Crown Hydro, had only just handed them — without taking any comment from the public. Indeed, when President Olson stated that “This project has had public input for quite a while,” he should have said this project has NOT had public input for quite a while: the last time the park board allowed public comment on a Crown Hydro proposal was 2004.