Monthly Archives: February 2014

Letter to FERC Dec. 20, 2013 from Judge Solum, Walter Mondale, and Robert Bruininks

The following letter from Judge Richard B. Solum, and also former Vice President Walter Mondale and former University  of Minnesota  President  Robert  Bruininks, was sent to FERC on December 20, 2013.  There is also a 16 page attachment at the end of the letter.

Richard  B.  Solum
Minnesota  District  Court  Judge,  Ret.
Dorsey  &  Whitney  Partner,  Ret.
100  3rd  Ave.  S.  #1407  Minneapolis,  MN,  55401

Mr.  Edward  A.  Abrams,  Director
Division  of  Hydropower  Administration  and  Compliance
Federal  Energy  Regulatory  Commission
888  First  Street  NE
Washington,  DC  20426

Re:   Crown  Hydro,  Minneapolis,  Minnesota

Dear  Mr.  Abrams,

I  am  a  retired  Minnesota  district  court  judge  who  was  heavily  involved  with  the  wide  opposition  to  Crown  Hydro’s  placement  of  a  hydropower  facility  in  the  most  historically  sensitive  Mill  Ruins  area  on  the  Downtown  Minneapolis  Riverfront— within   a  National  Historic  District.    In  this  regard,  I  have  worked   with  the  Minneapolis  Park  and  Recreation  Board  (MPRB),  the  National  Trust  for  Historic  Preservation,  members  of  the  Minneapolis  City  Council  and  the  Minnesota  State  Legislature  representing  the  subject  area,  the  National  Park  Service,  and  various  Minnesota   non-­‐profit  agencies  dedicated  to  the  historic  preservation  and  betterment  of  the  Downtown  Riverfront.   I  have  been  joined  in  these  efforts  by  former  Vice  President  Walter  Mondale   and  former  University  of  Minnesota  President  Robert  Bruininks—both  of  whom  join  me  in  this  submission.

I  understand  that  FERC  is  accepting  public  comment  in  respect  to  Crown  Hydro’s  current  effort  to  place  a  hydropower  facility  in  a  slightly  different  location  which  is  still  within  the  Mill  Ruins  area  and  which  would  still  threaten  historical  resources,  ruins,  and  the  flow  over  the  St.  Anthony  Falls—the  power  of  which  gave  rise  to  our  great  city.    As  FERC  is  undoubtedly  aware,  this  effort  has  been  ongoing  for  over  15  years,  and  has  been  marked  by  Crown  breaching  its  agreement  with  the  MPRB,  by  Crown’s     unsuccessful  efforts   to  convince  FERC  to  condemn   public  parkland,  by  Crown’s  litigation  against  FERC  seeking  to  overrule  its  refusal  to  condemn  the  such  parkland,  and  by  unsuccessful  attempts  by  Crown  to  seek  state  legislation  to  take  the  subject  parkland  from  the  public.

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Southwest light rail, decade into planning, keeps hitting resistance

The following item was reported by Laura Yuen on MPR News on February 11, 2014.  To listen to the audio story, go to http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/services/nis/listen/?name=/minnesota/news/features/2014/02/11/swlrt_20140211

Southwest light rail, decade into planning, keeps hitting resistance

Several months of delay and additional study don’t appear to have softened the positions of some Minneapolis residents who oppose the idea of running both light rail and freight trains in their cherished Kenilworth Corridor.

That Southwest light rail proposal got another town hall hearing Monday night in the state’s largest city, this time to learn more about two draft studies commissioned by the Metropolitan Council.

Skeptical residents again took the opportunity to grill planners. And as the Met Council moves closer to a crucial vote on the project, many of those critics continue to make a plea: Change the route designed to run from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.

“At every single meeting, the community input has been, ‘The alignment is wrong.’ We do not feel heard,” said Margaret Telfer.

The sentiment voiced by some of the frustrated Minneapolis residents resurfaced near the end of the three-hour meeting, when Margaret Telfer stood up from her metal folding chair and suggested the whole Southwest project needed to be rethought.

“At every one of these meetings, somebody gets up and says, ‘We want community input,’ and at every single meeting, the community input has been, ‘The alignment is wrong.’ We do not feel heard. You are not listening. So we’re all wasting our time,” she said.

Telfer and others sharing her point of view wanted to know from the Met Council engineers and officials: Was there any hope that they’d consider a different route? One, they said, that could serve denser areas of the city and keep the park-like Kenilworth Corridor untouched?

The answer, again and again, was no.

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WCCO: Heated Debate Continues Over Southwest LRT Line

The following item was reported by Chris Simon on WCCO on February 11, 2014:

WCCO: Heated Debate Continues Over Southwest LRT Line

Nearly 100 people showed up Monday night at Dunwoody College of Technology to react to plans for a 16 mile, $1.5 billion dollar light rail line through Kenilworth, St. Louis Park, Hopkins and ending in Eden Prairie.

Many were in favor of the plan, and put vocal pressure on other communities to “sacrifice” as they are.  There were however those against the plan.

“We should continue to push the pause button on Southwest LRT”, said Minneapolis resident George Puzack, who believes it is an environmental mistake to build shallow tunnels for the trains to pass through the lakes area.  “There are too many gaps in the shallow tunnel proposal. The vegetation to the west of the freight rail line will get bulldozed.  The rail road tracks will be moved to the west 10 to 40 feet, and there will be no re-vegetation because of the 25-foot setback between the center lines.”

Supporters of the light rail, like Dick Adair of the Bryn Mawr neighborhood, favor compromise.  “We cannot afford to be ‘Balkanized’ and divide into separate warring groups,” Adair said.

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Latest Plans for Light Rail Draw Some Skepticism

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the February 11, 2014 issue of the Star Tribune:

LATEST PLANS FOR LIGHT RAIL DRAW SOME SKEPTICISM

Some critics of the Southwest Corridor route suggest planners go back to the drawing board

Transit planners called the community gathering Monday in Minneapolis a chance for people to react to competing plans for putting the Southwest light rail in the Kenilworth recreational corridor. But many who attended favored a different agenda: putting the light rail someplace else.

“Can’t we just cut the light rail off and not have it go through Kenilworth?” asked Nora Whiteman, who lives near Cedar Lake.

That sentiment drew applause from many of the 75 people who attended a meeting designed to review the project’s impact on nearby lakes and the possibility of rerouting freight trains from the corridor to St. Louis Park.

A reroute for the light rail itself wasn’t on the agenda of the Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the roughly $1.5 billion project.

“I don’t favor looking for another route,” Met Council chair Susan Haigh told the group, gathered in the auditorium of Dunwoody College of Technology. “There are hard decisions that need to be made.”

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Southwest LRT Resolution from 2/5/14 Park Board Meeting

At the February 5, 2014 Park Board meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to pass the following resolution regarding the SWLRT.

“Resolution Urging the Southwest Light Rail Transitway Project Office to Conduct a Detailed Engineering Feasibility Study and Cost Comparison of Tunneling Under the Kenilworth Channel as Part of the Shallow Tunnel Option”

Click on this link for the complete resolution: 2014-114

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

 

Two Letters to Crown Hydro from Governmental Agencies

Attached are links to two letters from governmental agencies in response to Crown Hydro’s Proposed Plans for Application to Amend its Existing FERC License.

The first letter to Crown Hydro’s Thomas Griffin, dated December 31, 2013, is from Peter Fasbinder, Field Supervisor of the Minneapolis Office of the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service.

Here are a couple of highlights from this 3-page letter:

Regarding Project Operations, on page 2, Mr. Fasbinder recommends “that any proposed development be operated in run-of-the-river mode with no hydroelectric (hydro) peaking.”

He also expressed concern that “allowing St. Anthony Falls to become dewatered as a result of project operation may have significant ecological and aesthetic consequences and should be fully analyzed as part of your license amendment.”

__________________

The second letter to consultants for Crown Hydro, dated January 3, 2014, is from Charlotte W. Cohn, Hydropower Project Manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Here are a couple of highlights from this 6-page letter:

“Regarding project operations, on page 3, Ms, Cohn states that “the MDNR has maintained and continues to maintain that run-of-river operation (i.e., defined as instantaneous inflow equal to instantaneous, outflow) is the preferred mode of operation for hydroelectric facilities in Minnesota.”

She also says that “The MDNR has previously informed both the project proposers and the FERC that there are a number of requirements in existing license articles tht have not been completed, responded to, or that remain incomplete.  Crown Hydro, as part of proposed processes, needs to complete, respond to, and/or fully resolve these license articles.”

What is apparent in reviewing these two letters is that Crown Hydro has made no progress in providing these agencies with required information and that the development of a hydro power plant is an extraordinarily complex undertaking.   It would seem that it is time for FERC to pull the plug on this problematic project.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

Letters attached:

CrownHydro_FishandWildlifeltr_Dec.2013

CrownHydro_MDNRLetterJan.3,2014

 

The National Treasure in Your Neighborhood

The following article is posted by permission of its author, Jay Walljasper.  It first appeared in Commons Magazine: http://onthecommons.org/magazine

The National Treasure in Your Neighborhood

City parks are part of the fabric of happy lives
by Jay Walljasper

2014_02_10_2_image

A kite festival held every winter on Lake Harriet, a park in the middle of Minneapolis. (Photo by Alan Wilfarht under a Creative Commons license.)

How does owning a vacation house at Yosemite sound? Or a beach cottage near the shores of Acadia National Park? Do you dream of hiking the Grand Canyon right outside your front door, or taking a dip in Crater Lake after getting home from work?

This is not some far-fetched fantasy of zealots who want to privatize our national parks. Actually, it’s a pretty close description of my own modest home—and probably yours too. I live just a few blocks from Lake Harriet, a national treasure where I x-country ski, swim, walk in the woods, picnic and spot bald eagles soaring through the skies. And all of this happens right in the middle of inner city Minneapolis.

Lake Harriet, you see, is a Minneapolis city park—a part of the commons that belongs to all of us. Chances are good you’ve got something similar near your own home. It may be a wading pool and woodpeckers instead of a lake and eagles, but it’s no less of a treasure.

City parks are your Yellowstone—a spot to relax and reflect and revel in nature as well as to enjoy a picnic or shoot hoops. They can also be the neighborhood version of New York’s Times Square or Washington’s National Mall, providing a gathering point where you run into friends and feel a part of the action. The local park is often the place where we celebrate local festivals, play sports, attend community meetings, join classes, and ooh! at fireworks on the fourth of July.

I believe that local city parks—even humble ones with only a playground, flower patch, Little League diamond and benches beneath the trees—are part of our birthright as Americans every bit as much as majestic national parks.

This is not meant in any way to minimize the wonder of our national parks, recreation areas and state parks—especially now that many of them face serious issues of upkeep and diminished funding. I will always remember the childhood thrill of clambering across a snow field during August high up in Rocky Mountain National Park or learning to body surf as a teenager at Cape Cod National Seashore. Even as a seasoned travel writer on assignment for Better Homes & Gardens magazine, I was spellbound by the experience of seeing a buffalo herd up close at Custer State Park in South Dakota. Each year my family and I count the days until our annual trek to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin, which I have come to look upon as a restorative retreat as much as a summer vacation.

Yet these are once-in-lifetime—or, at best, annual—peak experiences. Lake Harriet and Minneapolis’s other fine parks are wonders that I can visit every day. And I often do, walking the dog after breakfast or biking around the lake in the evening.

These parks are where my son’s soccer team played spring, summer and fall; where he learned to ice skate, sled, ski and sail; where he organized capture-the-flag tournaments and where his eighth grade graduation ceremony took place. My wife Julie and I visit Lake Harriet twice a day in the spring when the cherry blossomes and lilacs are in bloom, and we sit out on a blankets to hear jazz, folk, Latin, polka and classical concerts at the bandshell throughout the summer. In the winter, no matter how cold, we turn out with hundreds of others to watch kites flying as part of an annual festival.

Lake Harriet is part of the fabric of my life, woven through my memories and daily rhythms. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, not even a seven-bedroom beach house with the Atlantic ocean lapping at my front door in Acadia National Park.

Heads-Up For The February 12, 2014 MPRB Committee of the Whole Meeting

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

Topics on the agenda are:

–Presentation of Golf Operational Study by Golf Convergence
–River First Funding Strategy Presentation
–Community Outreach Department Framework Presentation and Discussion

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Committee of the Whole meeting on February 12, 2014 is at http://minneapolisparksmn.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx

Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on this web page two business days prior to meetings. Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the same web page two to five business days following each meeting and are available for viewing, along with webcasts for the previous two months.

Also of interest and now available to the commissioners and the public are the monthly reports that Superintendent Miller has initiated for construction permits and for Planning Department projects. The availability of these reports is one of the important changes instituted by Superintendent Miller. They are normally in the agenda packet for the first regular meeting of the month.

View Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast Cable. You may also view live meetings online on the Channel 79 webpage: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/tv/79

Regular meetings are typically re-telecast on Channel 79 on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m. Telecast schedules are subject to change.

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

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

Submitting Comments to FERC re Crown Hydro

The following note from from Doug Verdier provides a link to the Mill City Times which gives instructions on how to write to FERC objecting to Crown Hydro’s proposed project. Every comment helps.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

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There’s still time to stop this threat to St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge.  Please take just a few minutes to submit your comments to FERC – the easy 3 step process, with example comments, is outlined here:

http://MillCityTimes.com/CrownHydro

Doug Verdier