Hydroelectric plant negotiations hit snag

John Hageman

Plans to build a hydroelectric plant on the historic St. Anthony Falls have hit a snag in the past two weeks, which may force the issue back to the legislature. 

Crown Hydro has been attempting to build a 3.2 megawatt facility on the land next to the falls for 12 years. The plant would power 2,000 homes in Minneapolis, according to the company’s website. 

But the Minneapolis Park Board, which owns the land of the proposed site, has been long opposed to the project because of fears that it would reduce the falls to a trickle. 

A bill that would force the Park Board to allow construction of the plant never made it to a conference committee before the legislative session ended. Meanwhile, negotiations between the two sides hit a snag when the Park Board significantly changed the terms of the deal before voting on it May 18, said Tim Keane, an attorney for the Park Board.  

Among the changes was a stipulation that gave the Park Board control over the falls from June 15 to Sep. 15. 

Those “take it or leave it” changes made the plan undesirable, Keane said.

Last week, Crown Hydro was issued a notice from the federal government, requesting an update on the project. If the project planners can’t show that they’ve made progress in 30 days, their federal license to build on the river will be revoked, according to the Southwest Journal.

Keane said the notice is merely a procedural matter. 

Crown Hydro was issued a 50-year license by the federal government in 1999 to operate on the Mississippi River. It is the longest-delayed hydroelectric project in the nation, Keane said. 

Now that negotiations with the Park Board seem to be at a standstill, Keane is hopeful that the legislation could be resurrected during a special session.