Category Archives: Symphony Hydro

Company Takes a Second Shot at St. Anthony Falls Hydro Project

The following article by Peter Callaghan was published on October 1, 2015 in MinnPost.
The subject of this article is Symphony Hydro, a company that is submitting an amended plan after its first plan was rejected by FERC.

Company Takes a Second Shot at St. Anthony Falls Hydro Project

Upper lock at St. Anthony Falls

The now-drained lock is an empty box: 56 feet by 400 feet by 50 feet worth of air that bars upriver migration of invasive carp.


Since it was closed to navigation June 10, the upper lock at St. Anthony Falls has just kinda been sitting there.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the upper gates to hold back the Mississippi River, locking the lower gates in the open position. The now-drained lock is an empty box: 56 feet by 400 feet by 50 feet worth of air that bars upriver migration of invasive carp.

The water that once filled the lock to float traffic up and down the river now joins the flow either over the spillway or through an Xcel Energy hydropower facility on the east bank.

But a North Carolina engineer with Minnesota roots is hoping to reinvigorate a proposal to use the lock to generate electricity. Robert Schulte wants to mount two submersible turbine generators on panels inside the lock. Water passing through the turbines would generate 3.4 megawatts of power, or about 1,600 homes worth.

FERC Denies Symphony Hydro Project Permit

FERC Denies Symphony Hydro Project Permit

Park Watch has just learned from riverfront resident Doug Verdier that the permit application for the Symphony Hydro Project at St. Anthony Falls has been denied by FERC.

Attached is FERC’s Order Denying Preliminary Permit Application re Symphony Hydro LLC’s Symphony Hydro Project under P-14627. Read attached PDF for details.

Although this is a final action, the applicants could request a rehearing.

FERC denial of Symphony Prelim Permit


Symphony Hydro Project – Update

The following e-mail, with attachment regarding Symphony Hydro LLC, is from Doug Verdier who lives in the Mill City District.

Symphony Hydro Project – Update

Attached FYI and action is the Oct. 22, 2014 “Notice of Preliminary Permit Application Accepted for Filing and Soliciting Comments, Motions to Intervene, and Competing Applications” that has been issued by FERC to Symphony Hydro LLC.

You will note in paragraph 2 of the Notice the scope of the proposed project. What it does NOT state is that the concrete bulkheads and turbine generators will be constructed INSIDE the current St. Anthony Falls Lock. This information was included in Symphony Hydro’s original June 25, 2014 application to FERC for the permit that has now been issued. The plan to construct a hydro plant inside the lock is predicated on the future closing of the lock for navigation, required not later than June 10, 2015. The closing was mandated by Public Law 113-121, dated June 10, 2014, and was intended mainly to prevent migration of invasive carp up the Mississippi RIver.

The law provides: “Emergency Operations — Nothing in this section prevents the Secretary from carrying out emergency lock operations necessary to mitigate flood damage.” We’ve seen that use for a couple of weeks this past summer when lock doors at both ends were open.

Construction of concrete bulkheads and turbine generators inside the lock would certainly have some impact on the ability of the Corps of Engineers to regulate flow for flood control. But more importantly, such construction would be a significant obstacle to any future navigation through the locks if it were necessary for an emergency or even for certain maintenance operations up river. The current repair project on the base of the 3rd Avenue bridge requires the use of several barges loaded with equipment, including a large crane, for example. These barges all came through the lock to get to their current position at the bridge. Construction of any kind inside the lock would impede such passage.

Bottom line: The notion of constructing a hydro plant inside the lock, regardless of whether it is to be closed for navigation, is a bad idea. It is inconceivable that the lock would never again be needed for navigation. It is critical that the lock remain functional, controlled by the Corps of Engineers, and unencumbered by any sort of construction so that it is available immediately when needed in the future.

I invite all of you to address your concerns about this project with FERC. Deadline for comments is Dec. 22, 2014. Instructions for filing your comments are contained at the bottom of page 1 and top of page 2 of the Notice.

Anyone wishing to receive a copy of the original June 25 filing by Symphony Hydro may email me, please use “Symphony Hydro” in the subject line.

Doug Verdier

Another Hydropower Proposal Emerges

The following article by Ben Johnson was published in the September 30, 2014 issue of The Journal and updated on October 15.

Another Hydropower Proposal Emerges

Three pending hydropower proposals along central riverfront test balance between renewable energy and maintaining flow over St. Anthony Falls
Photo by Ben Johnson

St. Anthony Falls at about 11,000 cubic feet per second (cfs)

Another hydropower proposal has joined the crowded field of existing and proposed
hydropower facilities vying to divert water away from St. Anthony Falls to create renewable energy.

The controversial proposals highlight the increasingly complicated battle between numerous stakeholders over water use along the central riverfront.

The newest plan is called Symphony Hydro, led by former Northern States Power (NSP) executive Bob Schulte and several anonymous partners. Its plan, submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 26, would place a hydropower plant entirely within the soon-to-be-shuttered Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam.