Doug Verdier’s Letter to FERC, December 23, 2013

The following letter was sent to FERC on December 23, 2013:

Douglas L. Verdier
401 S. 1st St., #222
Minneapolis, MN 55401
December 23, 2013

Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE
Washington, D.C. 20426

SUBJECT: Crown Mill Hydroelectric Project, Project No. 11175-024-Minnesota

Dear Ms. Bose:

I attended a public “information meeting” on November 26, 2013 scheduled by Crown Hydro LLC at the Hennepin County Central Library in Minneapolis. The alleged purpose of the meeting, according to the published meeting announcement, was to “provide an opportunity for individuals to learn more about the proposed changes to the planned Upper Saint Anthony Falls Hydroelectric Project,” and to answer questions by and address concerns of area residents, business owners and other interested members of the public.

The result of this meeting was anything but an effort to provide information, answer questions or address concerns.

On the contrary, the real purpose of the meeting (scheduled, by the way, for 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving) appeared to be a shameful effort by Crown Hydro to give the appearance of engaging the public and to check off one of the requirements of FERC to fully consult with all resource agencies, tribes and the public, and to address concerns that have repeatedly been voiced by the public, the Corps of Engineers, and numerous interested stakeholders.

To begin with, no individuals from Crown Hydro were present. One would have expected that, at a minimum, Mr. Thomas Griffin, Crown Hydro president, and Mr. William Hawks, chief manager of the project, would have participated. They were absent. Only a lawyer from St. Paul, two engineers and a young woman from Wenck Engineering were there to speak for Crown Hydro. These individuals generally seemed unprepared to engage the audience and address questions that both FERC and the public have been asking for years about the project. They also appeared to be quite uninformed as to the details of the license that FERC granted in 1999. In fact, some members of the audience seemed more knowledgeable about the license and the numerous moves of the project’s location than did the presenters. These individuals openly admitted that they did not know the answers to the questions raised by members of the audience. On several occasions, they flagrantly refused to answer basic questions about the people behind Crown Hydro and the stability of the financing of the project, even going so far as to state that they did not know the people who hired Wenck Engineering. Audience questions were met with so many “I/we don’t know” replies that I lost count.

The whole meeting was, in my view, a sham. The secrecy and obfuscation surrounding this project continue to be disturbing.

This meeting was a prime example of the kind of disingenuous actions that have been a hallmark of Crown Hydro throughout the 15 years since the original license was granted

Crown Hydro has repeatedly ignored and failed to address multiple concerns raised about the proposed project for years. In addition to the issues raised by Mr. Edward A. Abrams, Director, Division of Hydropower Administration and Compliance, FERC, in his April 15, 2013 letter, Crown Hydro also has ignored concerns voiced by the St. Paul (MN) Corps of Engineers in a letter dated March 15, 2012 from Nanette M. Bischoff, P.E., Project Manager/FERC Coordinator, to Richard M. Greenlee, Engineering Partners, Int’l, LLC, representing Crown Hydro.

I am both troubled and puzzled that FERC has not terminated the existing license by now. Despite numerous notices of intent to terminate the license, Crown continues to operate as if they are immune to sanctions and continues to pursue yet another “amendment” to the license that FERC has stated “is not the appropriate vehicle for Crown Hydro’s current proposal.” It is time for FERC to take definitive action. No more extensions or delays should be granted.

I urge FERC to recognize that Crown Hydro has deliberately avoided responding to the concerns of FERC, the Corps of Engineers, and numerous local entities with interests in the status of this project for years. The location of this project has been moved several times since 1999 and the surrounding neighborhood has changed considerably. This underscores the fact that Crown is now attempting to secure an “amendment” for a completely new project in a completely new location that will require a new headrace, an extensive new tunnel that may endanger the historic Stone Arch Bridge, and a new tailrace. Please terminate their license immediately.

Best Regards,

Douglas L. Verdier

Encl: Ben Johnson, “Crown Hydro faces tough crowd at public meeting,” The Journal (Minneapolis), Dec. 12 – 25, 2013, p. 6. (This reporter attended the meeting on Nov. 26. I believe the article accurately captures the atmosphere of the meeting.)