Monthly Archives: April 2011


The following article by Tom Meersman was published in the April 26, 2011 issue of the Star Tribune:


A plan to create green, reliable and affordable energy at an underground hydroelectric plant at St. Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis is back.

The Crown Hydro project, which has ebbed and flowed for the past dozen years, generated a three-hour discussion at last week’s meeting of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

It’s set for more on Tuesday at the Capitol, where a panel of legislators is expected to discuss a bill that would override the Park Board’s authority over the project and would essentially require its approval by the end of May.

Those with objections and concerns are back, too: neighborhood residents, environmentalists, the Minneapolis City Council, the National Park Service, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Historical Society, the state archaeologist, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Park Board, which owns the land and has rejected the idea repeatedly.

That has not dissuaded Crown Hydro’s owner, Bill Hawks, who is now on his second try at the Legislature to force the Minneapolis Park Board to approve the project. The company received a federal license to build the plant in 1999, and signed an agreement to sell its electricity to Xcel Energy, said project attorney Tim Keane.

“The Park Board has always been the hangup,” Keane said.

But Park Board President John Erwin said the project could jeopardize the central riverfront area, which has attracted investments, 7,000 new residents, additional taxbase and more than a million annual visitors.

He told legislators recently that taking more water from the river could dry up the falls during hot summers. “Not many folks would be interested in seeing a wet concrete spillway,” Erwin said.

The project would be located on the downtown side of the river, just upstream of the Stone Arch Bridge and the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock and dam. Two turbines would be installed 40 feet underground, and channel the discharged water through flour mill tunnels used a century ago — which also are owned by the park system. It would produce enough electricity to power about 2,200 homes.

The underground project would be nearly invisible to neighbors and tourists, with no vibration or noise, Keane said. It would operate about 60 percent of the year, he said, and sensors would automatically stop the turbines if river levels became low.

Residents aren’t convinced that the company will keep those promises or has the money. It received $1.5 million of a $5.1 million renewable energy grant in 2003, but cannot receive more money until it signs a lease with the park board.

According to public records, Hawks’ home and other property on Lake Minnetonka are in foreclosure. The mansion came to public attention in 2006 when Hawks and his wife, Karen, hosted a fundraiser featuring then-Vice President Dick Cheney to benefit Michele Bachmann, then a state senator making her first bid for Congress.

“The financial wherewithal of the proposer is a huge concern,” said Minneapolis park commissioner Anita Tabb, who represents the falls area.

Keane said money will not be a problem. “Regional and national financiers are highly interested in financing the final construction and development of the project, once site control is obtained,” he said.

Neighbors say the project will provide minimal electricity at too great a price, considering the site’s historical importance. “It’s like they’re stealing the falls, and they’re trying to get it for free, and it doesn’t have to be done,” said Edna Brazaitis, who lives near the river.

Lisa Hondros, another concerned citizen, said, “It’s not just about the view of the falls. There’s environmental concerns, financial concerns, engineering concerns and historic concerns, and public officials at all levels of government have spent a lot of time on this.”
The nine-member Park Board discussed the project last week for more than three hours, and is slated to put it to another vote in May.

Previous boards have rejected the proposal on divided votes, but three new members were elected in 2009.

The measure at the Legislature would override the Park Board’s authority for the project, and require it to provide “not later than May 31, 2011, all permits, entitlements, authorizations or consents of any kind necessary” for the project to proceed.

House author Rep. Michael Beard, R-Shakopee, said that Crown Hydro is a “no-brainer, common-sense deal that should have been done a long time ago.”

The Park Board has been acting like a “schoolyard bully,” he said, and needs “to get off their collective duff” and work out a deal.

That approach has rankled Park Board and city officials. City Council member Lisa Goodman recently called the bill an “outrageous concept” that usurps local authority and control.

Rick Solum, an attorney and retired judge who also lives along the river, said the proposed bill is not good public policy. “This is all about taking care of Hawks with regard to this investment that he’s kind of upside down on,” he said.

Beard said if that’s true, it may also be true that “the whole reason the wheels fell off this thing and it got stuck in the mud in the first place” was because of Democratic unhappiness with Hawks’ Republican fundraisers.


The following article by Nick Halter was published in the April 25, 2011 issue of the Downtown Journal:


This spring’s snow melt has water gushing over St. Anthony Falls, sending up a mist that nearly reaches the Stone Arch Bridge where visitors snap photos of the historic feature that made Minneapolis the flour milling capitol of the world.

The future of St. Anthony Falls — which is really a concrete spillway — is in the midst of a 12-year battle that has now reached the state Legislature and sparked a debate about authority of local land.

Crown Hydro has been trying since the late 1990s to build a hydroelectric facility on the west bank of the river, just above the falls. By installing turbines 40 feet below Mill Ruins Park, the company says it can produce 3.2 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity to power 2,200 homes.

But the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board owns that land, and, knowing it is the last defense against construction, has refused to lease the property to Crown Hydro. Park Board officials say they’re worried that the turbines will divert water from the falls, drying up the spillway and turning a historic icon into a wet slab of concrete.

Crown Hydro obtained a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license in 1999 to build the facility. It does not expire until 2049.

The company has been relatively quiet since it last made an offer to the Park Board in 2007, but in April it made a big push. It made another offer to the Park Board and backed it up with a bill in the state Legislature that could force the Park Board to hand over the land for construction.

Many Park Board commissioners remain vehemently opposed to the project, raising concerns over dry falls, noise from the turbines and the health of surrounding public infrastructure.

“Make no mistake Minnesota and Minneapolis, this project has a huge impact on the river,” said Commissioner Anita Tabb, whose Fourth District includes St. Anthony Falls.

Crown Hydro’s attorney, Tim Keane said the turbines will be inaudible to people and said the facility will only divert a small fraction of water from the falls. Further, it will be built completely underground, so as not to take away park space.

Commissioner Jon Olson (District 2 in North Minneapolis) voiced his continued support of the project. He made an unsuccessful motion on April 6 to direct the Park Board to negotiate a contract with Crown Hydro.

Olson said that since the last proposal the world has endured the BP oil spill and the nuclear incident in Japan.

“This is clean energy, it’s a good project and it’s environmentally friendly,” he said.

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, whose House District 59B overlooks the falls from the east, downplayed the overall benefit of 3.2 megawatts in the big picture of renewable energy.

The 3.2 megawatts, which would be sold to Xcel Energy, would power 2,200 homes. For perspective on power generation, the Hennepin County Recovery Center near Target Field can power 25,000 homes.

“It’s not going to solve the energy problem,” Kahn said.

To be sure, the spillway at St. Anthony already suffers from low flows. It’s not uncommon in the dead of summer for little more than a trickle of water to run down the concrete.

Northern States Power operates turbines on the east side of the river that generate 10 megawatts and draw river water. St. Paul and Minneapolis draw drinking water above the falls. The Park Board during the summer diverts water from the river to recharge city lakes, according to Crown Hydro’s FERC license.

But Kahn, who supported the project in its infancy because it originally was slated to allow visitors to go below ground and witness a hydroelectric facility in action, said Crown Hydro’s drawdown will either elongate periods of dry falls or make them worse when they do happen.

Park Board President John Erwin told a Minnesota House committee at an April 13 hearing that the Park Board and the State of Minnesota have invested $33 million into the area surrounding the falls, leading to $1.1 billion in development.

According to the city of Minneapolis, in 1980 there were seven housing units in the Mill District, which surrounds the proposed Crown Hydro site. In 2010, that number grew to 1,250, with hundreds more in various stages of planning. The estimated market value of Mill District property has increased from $25 million in 1994 to $440 million in 2009.

“When you watch Monday Night Football, you see the Stone Arch Bridge lit up,” Erwin testified to the committee. “Instead of having a falls, we would have 150 cubic feet per second, which is essentially a wet piece of concrete.”

The bill he was testifying to, House File 1440, would require the Park Board to allow Crown Hydro to build the facility, or else a district court could force the Park Board to do so.

The bill has 25 state representatives behind it, four of whom are DFLers. None of them are from Minneapolis. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate on April 14.

The legislation drew the ire of the Park Board and other Minneapolis officials, who say the state is not only stealing the Park Board’s local control of its own property, but is also a breach of a 1998 agreement the Park Board and Crown Hydro reached.

“It is simply outrageous that the Legislature would even attempt to override the decisions of local government, in this case the Park Board, and compel both the sale of public land and the planning approvals required for a private developer for their private development,” said City Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward).

She added: “What’s next, the Legislature passing a bill ordering the city to sell the Minneapolis Farmers Market land for a Vikings Stadium or sell Gold Medal Park for a new high-rise?”

Park Board Attorney Brian Rice brought out a 1998 agreement between the Park Board and Crown Hydro that says Crown Hydro “will not undertake any steps that will endanger (Park Board) facilities without complete agreement with (the Park Board).”

That prompted the only Minneapolis legislator on the committee, state Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-62B), to ask that the bill be thrown out because it meant the state was participating in a breach of contract.

“I think this is an inappropriate bill for us to be considering,” she said.

The bill was eventually referred to another committee, the Government Operations and Election Committee, for further discussion.

Bill Grant, the deputy commissioner of the state’s Office of Energy Security and a Gov. Mark Dayton appointee, offered no opinion of the bill after the committee hearing and said the governor has not yet reviewed it.

Crown Hydro’s latest offer is $500,000 and a minimum annual royalty of $50,000. In 2007 Crown Royal offered $1 million and $75,000 annually for rent.

The Park Board plans to vote on whether or not it will pursue a contract with Crown Hydro at its May 4 meeting.



The ripples of Japan’s tsunami have reached Minnesota. The news of their impact was
outlined in MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller’s recent letter to the Commissioners which was
included with the April 20, 2011 meeting materials.

Here’s the story leading up to the letter:

The MPRB’s three year contract with Toyota expired on March 31, 2011. The original agreement provided the Park Board with $100,000 in cash and ten vehicles annually in return for the presenting sponsor role for the Minneapolis Bike Tour and several vehicle display opportunities. The agreement was a joint venture with the City of St. Paul Park and Recreation department. Intemark, a marketing firm, negotiated the original contract.

In November of last year, Enterprise staff brought the subject of the Toyota contract to the Board. The Board authorized Enterprise staff to enter into an agreement with Intemark to negotiate the renewal contract. Nothing more came to the Board from Enterprise about the status of the negotiations until the April 20 meeting when Superintendent Miller provided an update. She reported that the initial offer from Toyota had been ten vehicles and no cash.

She went on to explain that before negotiations were concluded, the earthquake hit Japan and Toyota made a decision to suspend all agreements that were in process. As a result, the Toyota agreement has ended and the Park Board was directed to turn in all vehicles on Friday, April 22.

The MPRB fleet management staff is reviewing options to replace some of the vehicles and will go back to mileage reimbursements in some cases.

Arlene Fried


The following article by Amy Finch was published on April 18, 2001 on the Southwest Minneapolis Patch website:


Photo Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

It doesn’t take long to realize that Jayne Miller loves her work. To hear her talk about Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, you quickly realize how lucky we are to have our extensive park system, and how unique it is in the country.

“The credit goes to the visionaries back in the early to mid-1800s: Horace Cleveland, Loring, Falwell. They had the vision to create this park system and bring it to fruition,” Miller said. “I’ve been in the parks profession for 30 years, and I’ve been all over the country. I’ve never seen a park system like this before. This city is built around its park system, and the community really cares passionately about it.”
Growing up in upstate New York, Miller spent her childhood downhill skiing at a nearby resort, skating in the front yard ice rink her father constructed each year, and generally just being outside.

“Ours was the backyard everyone came to play in,” Miller said. “When summer came we spent our days camping, swimming, boating and skiing on Lake George. So I really came to realize that’s what I loved, and I grew up in a wonderful part of the country, so it made sense that I would go into parks and recreation,” Miller said.

Before moving to Minneapolis last fall, Miller was the director and chief executive officer for the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, Michigan. Prior to that she spent fifteen years working for the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan in parks and recreation and as a deputy city administrator. Miller said what attracted her to Minneapolis was its similarities to Ann Arbor both in terms of politics and public commitment to parks.

So what exactly does the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent do?

“Well, I meet with a lot of staff. There are five assistant superintendents who handle the day to day operations, so I provide them with direction and guidance on projects and community engagement,” Miller said. “I also make sure that the entire organization, which has 485 full time employees, is moving in the same direction. Where do we want to go and how do we we want to approach it?”

Miller also spends time meeting with the city council, park and county commissioners, state legislators and neighborhood groups. She said she wants people to know what the park board is doing and what plans are taking shape for the future. She also wants residents to get to know her. Sixth district park commissioner Brad Bourn said Miller’s focus on the community has been a plus.

“Jayne is an excellent addition to the park board and I’m grateful we found her. She’s doing a wonderful job of responding to the needs of the community and commissioners. She’s very customer-focused and she’s helping us become a better organization every day,” Bourn said.

Southwest neighborhood activist Betty Tisel agreed. She said she’s had a chance to get to know Miller at recent community meetings.

“I was delighted when she moved in to the Wirth House. I’m happy that she welcomed people to the house when Minnesota Senate District 60 had its town hall meeting there. Having someone from ‘outside’ of the Twin Cities lead the park system is a breath of fresh air. I think the timing is good and I feel very optimistic about Jayne’s leadership,” Tisel said.

Miller’s decision to live in the Theodore Wirth House at Lyndale Farmstead Park was her own. She said the historic home was designed to house the superintendent, so it only made sense for her to live there. She said it’s been great so far, and she has enjoyed having a park right outside her door, right in the middle of a neighborhood.

“I had heard there was a superintendent’s house but I really didn’t know anything about it. I found out that all but three park superintendents had lived in the house, so I approached the board,” Miller said. “The park commissioners really supported the idea, so I thought I’d try it on a six month trial basis. The contract goes through the end of June, but I’ve requested to extend that. It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Miller said.

With spring here, many park board projects are picking up speed, including the Riverfront Design Competition, which just awarded a winner with a contract to begin a public engagement process for new riverfront improvements from the Stone Arch Bridge northward by five miles. Miller said by early September the board will be ready to approve recommendations for the project so implementation can begin. Also, a new assistant superintendent of planning services, Bruce Chamberlain, from Linden Hills was just hired. Miller also just presented the park board with a revised community engagement ordinance, which will give the community better access to information on park board projects and initiatives.

Oh, and there’s good news for kids: Miller has been working with staff on plans to expand hours of operation at neighborhood park buildings and rec centers. She’s implementing the Community Services Area Model, in which staff at groupings of neighborhood parks work with the community to better their programming and building access. As part of the plan, at least one park building in each community services area will be open seven days a week, including summers and holidays.


The following article by Sheila Regan was published on April 17, 2011 by the Twin Cities Daily Planet:


There’s been an overhaul of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation planning department, where six staff members have been let go. The decision was made by the new MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller, who started with the park system in November.

The restructuring of the planning department includes the hiring of a new Assistant Superintendent for Planning Services, landscape architect Bruce Chamberlain, who will assume his duties in June, according to Minneapolis Park Watch. Judd Rietkerk, the previous Assistant Superintendent, who has worked for MPRB since 1997, said he was first reassigned to special projects and then had his contract terminated in March. Nicholas Eoloff, Andrew Lesch, Eric Rehm, Alexander Zachary, and Lonnie Nichols have also been let go, according to Dawn Summers, Public Information Manager at MPRB.

On March 31, Miller wrote a letter to the Park Board Commissioners and staff members explaining her decision. “Having assessed the current structure, services and positions within the Planning Department, and weighing that against the community needs and our organizational vision for our Planning function, I have determined we need to change the framework of how our Planning Department operates,” Miller wrote. “We need a strong research-based planning function that provides leadership in shaping the future of the park system to meet the changing demographics of our City. It is also vital that the project management function provide forward thinking park design and development that is integrated with our vision and strategic plan. Both planning functions must also proactively and effectively incorporate community engagement and provide excellent service to successfully engage and meet the needs of those we serve.”

In Miller’s letter, she said the restructuring will continue in the next several months “until we have a full complement of staff on board to deliver essential visionary and strategic services.”

John Erwin, Chair of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, said that while the restructuring decisions were under the purview of Miller, the Park Board had indicated to the Superintendent some changes that they felt needed to be made. For example, Erwin said that the commissioners desire the planning department to increase the amount of external funding that they apply for. “Since this board has come into office we’ve been asking for that. Another change that the commissioners asked for of the superintendent is a change in the way that staff engages with the community. “We expect the public to be treated with respect,” he said. “We’ve asked that their opinions be valued,” he said. Erwin said that though it was ultimately Miller’s decision to make staff changes, it was the commissioners that said to her “We’re not happy with the way things are going—fix it.”

Arlene Fried, from Minneapolis Park Watch, said she wasn’t surprised by the decision, especially in regard to a couple of the planning staff. She said she saw one of the staff members lose their temper at a community meeting. The main problem, though, she said, was a lack of communication with the public about projects. For example, the planning department was planning to reconfigure a parking lot on Lake Calhoun that was used by Wind Surfers. The department called it a maintenance project, as opposed to a planning project, and didn’t initially make public the plans for the reconfiguration, which would have made it much more difficult for surfers to unload their gear into the lake. “That’s not the way things are supposed to be done,” Fried said. “There was never a public meeting, or a CAC (Community Advisory Council)… That was a terrible example of leadership.”

Fried said she feels hopeful that the new staffing changes will ultimately benefit the park board, which her website has criticized. She said many past critics of the park board are particularly pleased with the hiring of Bruce Chamberlain, a well-regarded landscape architect respected by many for his past work. As for Jayne Miller, Fried said, “I respect her very much. I really like her. She’s doing what she has to do.”

Even if the changes will ultimately improve the planning department, there are still six people who have just lost their jobs. Rietkerk said he won’t re-apply with the Park Board, but hopes to find employment elsewhere.

April 20, 2011 Park Board Meeting


5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Speakers need to sign up before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting.

It looks like a long meeting. Here are some of the highlights:

Plank Road Reconstruction
Five year Coca-Cola agreement
New policy on community involvement
Denial of the exclusive use Pride permit for Loring Park
Awarding of contract for design and reconstruction management services for Parade Road and Parking Lots
Lake Harriet playgrounds
Developing a Draft Policy on Sponsorship and Promotions
Crown Hydro

The link to the complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 is at

MPRB meetings are telecast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at

The regular meetings are retelecast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at

The Park Board’s website is The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch



5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Speakers need to sign up before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting.

It looks like a long meeting. Here are some of the highlights:

• Plank Road Reconstruction
• Five year Coca-Cola agreement
• New policy on community involvement
• Denial of the exclusive use Pride permit for Loring Park
• Awarding of contract for design and reconstruction management services for Parade Road and Parking Lots
• Lake Harriet playgrounds
• Developing a Draft Policy on Sponsorship and Promotions
• Crown Hydro

The link to the complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 is at

MPRB meetings are telecast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at

The regular meetings are retelecast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at

The Park Board’s website is The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch

Park Board president on dog park issues

The following letter by MPRB President John Erwin was printed in the April 4, 2011 issue of the Southwest Journal:

Park Board president on dog park issues

I want to take a moment to clarify some key points related to concerns about the establishment of a 6th District Dog Park. Those key points are:

1. Many dog owners in the 6th Park District expressed a desire to have a local dog park. I note that dog parks are now self-sustaining through use permit fees. In 2000, a Citizens Advisory Committee evaluated over 40 possible dog park sites in the area with much controversy and, ultimately, none was selected. Yet, the need for a dog park in this area has grown. The Park Board would like to fulfill that need.

2. The three sites being considered were thoughtfully identified. It has become obvious over the past 10 years that all neighborhood parks in this area are highly used and adding a dog park would displace a valued activity. Therefore, we identified new sites not in neighborhood parks that were not evaluated by the previous Citizens Advisory Committee. Two of the three sites are currently non-public underutilized Park Board parking lots; establishment of a dog park on parking lots would likely ‘green’ those sites to some degree. Those sites are:

A site over 50 feet outside the Robert’s Bird Sanctuary that is an existing non-public Park Board Operations parking lot for cars, trucks, and tractors across from the rose garden.

A wooded site outside the Bird Sanctuary that is in an area with problems related to misconduct that would benefit from more use.

A site in an underutilized non-public Park Board parking lot at the 38th Street Operations Center.

3. The Park Board would like to hear the views of local residents about each site. Because of this, we established a Citizens Advisory Committee to help with that process and get as much input as possible to select the best site.

4. This Park Board is actively, and dramatically, increasing wildlife and bird habitat citywide. We are planting 5,500 street trees this year (as last year), we are planting more than 4,000 shrubs/perennials for the first time to reduce mowing and increase habitat, we are conducting a vegetative management plan for Robert’s Bird Sanctuary to increase bird habitat, and we are looking into planting native plantings in groupings in edge areas by Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet and the Minnehaha Creek to increase wildlife habitat.

In closing, I look forward to hearing the thoughts of residents who live near the proposed dog park sites. I am confident that we will identify an acceptable site with minimal or no adverse environmental impacts and fulfill a long-standing desire of many local dog owners to have a dog park in the 6th Park District.

— John Erwin, dog owner, bird lover, biologist and Sierra Club endorsed, Citywide Commissioner and Park Board President

Testimony in Opposition to H F 1440

Testimony in Opposition to HF1440

On behalf of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mister / Madam Chair and members of the Committee, as a member of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, I have been asked to read a statement on the organization’s behalf in opposition to HF1440. The Alliance is Minnesota’s statewide nonprofit organization preserving historic places, a nonrenewable resource. We have significant concerns about the impact of the Crown Hydro project on the nationally significant archaeological and historic resources in the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District. Additionally, we believe that this legislation subverts the local regulatory process that was put in place to protect these resources and the people’s right to a fair and thoughtful public decision-making process.

On three occasions, the Alliance has listed National Register listed prehistoric and historic resources on the riverfront as the most endangered properties in our state through our annual 10 Most Endangered Historic Places program. The proposed Crown Hydro project prompted one of these listings, as we have yet to see an expert evaluation of the impact that Crown Hydro’s operations will have on the Mill Ruins area. This project requires significant environmental review before it can move forward so as not to destroy one nonrenewable resource for the benefit of renewable energy generation, which could feasibly be located elsewhere.

Secondly, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has continually denied permits for this project based on a transparent regulatory process allowing public input. This legislation denies local control and sets a negative precedent that sets an arbitrary ruling where the state government becomes the authority on local development projects. We ask that you lay this bill on the table and allow the local government to retain its decision-making authority.

To deny the MPRB of funding until this project is approved is setting an impossible benchmark. The FERC permit named in the legislation is no longer valid; it was applied for many years ago, and made when the project was sited in an alternate location. Moving the site to the Mill Ruins Park location now mandates new review by FERC; this is out of the control of the MPRB and inappropriately denies them funding based on a standard not in their control.

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota urges you to lay this bill aside. Thank you.



Crown Hydro is doing another end-run around the Park Board and going to the legislature again to use legislation to acquire the parkland on which it wants to build its controversial hydro-power plant–parkland that the Park Board has been unwilling to lease to Crown Hydro because of its many reservations about the safety and economic viability of the project.

HF 1440, which forces the MPRB to lease parkland to Crown Hydro, was heard by the House
Environment and Energy Committee on April 13, 2011.

Testifying against the bill were Brian Rice, Legal Counsel for the MPRB; John Erwin, MPRB President; Harvey Ettinger who was speaking on behalf of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota; and myself, Arlene Fried.

Ignoring the testimony of those who were opposing the bill, the committee voted to send the bill on to the Government Operations and Elections Committee where it will be heard this Monday, April 18 at 10:15 a.m.


The following comments were made to the committee by MPRB President John Erwin:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to address the
Minneapolis Board Boards concerns about HF 1440.

My name is John Erwin and I am a citywide Commissioner and President of
the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. I want to express the Board’s
thanks to those of you who have been so supportive of the Minneapolis Park
Board – it is greatly appreciated. Together we have collaborated to
create 7 of the 10 most visited attractions in Minnesota.

I am here before you today to ask that you consider not supporting HF 1440.

Before I mention why this Board (and the previous 3 Boards) have concerns
about this project, I would like to note a few important points that may
impact your decision.

– First, the Park Board has been very supportive of hydroelectric power
generation in this area. There is currently 10 megawatts produced at the
Upper St. Anthony Falls area and another 9 megawatts at the lower locks
area. The Park Board has supported that development. The Park Board is
only concerned with taking water resources that would generate an
additional 3 megawatts (or 14% of the total) that could impact the flow
over the Spillway – or what is generically called ‘St. Anthony Falls’.

– Second, the State of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Park Board have
invested in this area and the return has been terrific! The State and
MPRB invested $33 million dollars in the Central Riverfront area. That
investment resulted in $1.3 billion in new development. We believe the
presence of the falls helped promote that development and the resulting
additional property tax revenue. This is supported by many of the greater
than 7,000 residents who now live in the area. This site is now the 11th
most visited attraction in the state with over 1.1 million visitors;
clearly a success story!

– Third, there is significant future development being considered in this
area and this project may negatively impact that development. For
instance, Father Hennepin Bluffs Park, the trolley through downtown to the
river, the Downtown Council’s new Downtown 2025 plan, the new and the
Minneapolis Riverfront Initiative all identify the falls as important to
future development. When you watch a Monday night football game now you
see the lighted Stone Arch Bridge. We are looking into lighting the falls
as well . . . .not many folks would be interested in seeing a wet concrete

Our specific concerns with this project and the bill before you are as follows:

1) We believe this is a local issue that should be decided by the locally
elected officials. This is supported by state and federal law.

2) Past Boards have identified 2,000 cfs as a minimum acceptable flow rate
to insure a visible, active falls. We have no assurances that that
minimum would be honored in the current proposal.

3) We are concerned the owners of Crown Hydro do not have experience in
operating a hydro plant. We would need assurances that some experienced
operator was contracted, as well as, what would happen should Crown Hydro
become insolvent.

4) We are concerned the current plan has not been evaluated by the current
Board, SHIPO, and we do not know whether the tail-races and tunnels
identified can support the water flow.

5) We are concerned the financial return to the Park Board does not
reflect the economic risk or economic impact on future development; there
is not enough financial benefit to the public.

6) We are concerned that future development and other revenue generating
amenities may be limited or eliminated by the impact of the crown hydro

Our Board will formally receive the full proposal at the meeting next
Wednesday. We received limited information on the proposal March 22. We
will make a decision about how to move forward at our first meeting in

In closing, I cannot stress strongly enough the Minneapolis Park and
Recreation Board’s commitment to renewable energy generation for ourselves
and the public, using our lands.

However, we believe that we have the responsibility to protect critical
natural resources . . . . . especially when they provide a significant
economic benefit to the state by adding jobs, residents, increasing
out-state visitor-ship and increasing the tax base.

We also have the responsibility to enter into equitable long term
agreements that protect the public’s interest against financial losses,
provide a proportional return, and do not preclude future development.

I ask that you consider not supporting the bill before you for these
reasons. Thank you for your consideration and time.

John Erwin