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