The following item was published in the Mill City Times on-line publication on September 17, 2012:
CROWN HYDRO UPDATE: PROPOSED HYDROELECTRIC PLANT DEVELOPERS CONTINUING EFFORTS TO AVOID TERMINATION OF FEDERAL LICENSE
By Doug Verdier
On Sept. 5, Crown Hydro’s legal counsel in Washington, D.C. filed a progress report to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) outlining “further engineering and concept analysis of the development of the project within the current licensed project boundaries, and in a location owned by the federal government under the control of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District Office.” These efforts are intended to determine “if there were any fatal flaws in the project concept in the new location.”
The primary engineering issues address the feasibility of using the existing tailrace and whether a tailrace tunnel could be constructed from a location under the parking lot next to the lock headwall to a shaft to be constructed with a new outlet below the Stone Arch Bridge. According to the filing, Crown Hydro claims that the Stone Arch bridge footings “are spread footings excavated into the sandstone and may be avoided during the construction.” This statement is intended to address concerns that construction could endanger the structural integrity of the Stone Arch Bridge. Crown’s proposed design called for a new tunnel to be drilled underground between two of the bridge arch supports.
The filing states that Crown is obtaining estimates from contractors for tunnel work and masonry and intends to prepare an Environmental Assessment Worksheet for the proposed location. Their intent is to apply for another amendment to the license issued by FERC in 1999, which has been amended several times as the proposed location of the project has shifted.
Crown Hydro’s developers were notified on June 14, 2012 that FERC intended to initiate proceedings to terminate the license for the project “because over 13 years have passed since issuance of the license, the licensee has failed to complete construction of the project as licensed, and its previous filings have failed to show that it can do so in the near future.”
The St. Paul District Corps of Engineers, which controls the lock and dam and area where the new hydro plant powerhouse would be built, noted in March 15, 2012 that “the new alignment [of the project] raises additional concerns” in addition to those previously expressed that need to be addressed.