Comment on Crown Hydro, LLC’s “Consultation Meeting” with the Public

The following item by MPRB Commissioner Scott Vreeland was posted on mpls@forums.e-democracy.org on November 29, 2013.   Unfortunately, it did not get posted on Park Watch back in December.  However, it is still very timely.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

CROWN HYDRO LLC’s “CONSULTATION MEETING” WITH THE PUBLIC…

I was not expecting a production of Waiting for Godot in lieu of a public meeting about the details of a new Crown Hydro project. It was certainly one of the oddest public meetings I have ever attended.

My expectation was that after FERC provided a letter on April 15th 2013 containing eight pages of reasons that a license amendment “is not theappropriate vehicle for Crown Hydro’s current proposal”,  that Crown Hydro would use this public meeting to provide answers to the concerns and requirements contained in that letter and be prepared to provide details about the project to garner public support.

They presented no new information and appeared unprepared or unwilling to actually answer questions about the project and their project engineer left the meeting early to go to a party.

With a project of this magnitude the devil is in the details. The issue isn’t an issue about whether hydro power is good or bad.

Some of the issues:

Protecting the falls and assuring minimal flow of water in low flow times:  There is additional capacity approved for the existing Xcel hydro plant which means less water available in low flow and no assurances that Crown will agree to a minimum flow.

Potential damage to infrastructure, historical resources, or future central riverfront improvements: The potential damage to the stone arch bridge,navigation and lock operation, and Mill Ruins Park are significantly greater than any of the previous proposed locations with less known about existing tunnels at this new location.

Who is Crown Hydro? Are they reliable? Are they able finance this project?  Have they ever done a successful project? What is their past history and how do they conduct business?

There is already a hydro plant at the falls and a plan to use the tunnelson the East side of the river for hydro thermal and potentially a turbinefor electric generation.

This is not about hydro power, it is about the details of a project in a very important economic, ecologic, and historical location.

Thanks,
Scott Vreeland