Crown Hydro’s one-hour presentation at the April 15, 2009, Park Board meeting was underwhelming. There was nothing new presented. What is new is that we are hearing that Crown Hydro has hired another lobbyist to influence the commissioners who have been opposed to the Crown Hydro project. Those commissioners would be Board President Tom Nordyke and Commissioners Annie Young, Walt Dziedzic, Mary Merrill Anderson and Scott Vreeland, who all voted against Crown Hydro in 2007.

Commissioners Bob Fine and Jon Olson are supporters of Crown Hydro. Both voted for Crown Hydro twice–when it came before the Board in 2004 and again in 2007. Carol Kummer, who also voted for Crown Hydro twice, is its most outspoken and fervent supporter. In fact, she is so enthusiastic about Crown Hydro, it would be easy to mistake her for a Crown Hydro lobbyist.

To sum up, Crown Hydro has been before the MPRB twice and turned down twice. After two rejections by the MPRB, Crown Hydro’s unsuccessful lobbyists were replaced by a new set of lobbyists who spearheaded an attempt to circumvent the Park Board by going to the Legislature and lobbying for a bill which would have forced the Park Board to turn parkland over to Crown Hydro for its controversial project. This effort also failed when, after a March 3 legislative meeting with the Park Board and stakeholders, the Crown Hydro senate bill was withdrawn.

Organizations speaking against the Crown Hydro bill were the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Minnesota Historical Society, the National Park Service, Friends of the Mississippi, League of Cities, the City of Minneapolis, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota and the Friends of the Riverfront.

If this project were a project with unquestionable merit, it would have been approved the first time it came before the Board. But the problem is that it is not a project with unquestionable merit. It is a risky project which would harm natural, cultural and historic resources. According to Superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area Paul Labovitz who spoke at the March 3 legislative hearing, hydropower is not green energy when it harms natural and cultural resources.

The historic and iconic St. Anthony Falls belong to all of us and it is important to protect and preserve them for future generations. That means retaining full ownership and control of both the priceless riverfront park and and also the riparian rights associated with that parkland.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch