SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Sen. Kari Dziedzic, (DFL-Minneapolis) and Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) have called for the termination of the license for the unconstructed Crown Hydro project proposed near the Mississippi Riverfront in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District. In a formal letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and its Office of Energy Projects, the legislators requested FERC terminate the proposed amendment proceeding and order Crown Hydro to show cause why the license and the proposed amendment should not be terminated consistent with the Motion of the Friends of the Lock and Dam for an Order to Show Cause filed on January 10, 2019.
“It has been more than 20 years since Crown Hydro was granted their initial license, and despite being given ample time, they have failed to meet deadlines and fulfill their obligations under the original license,” said Sen. Dziedzic said. “We do not believe it is fair to taxpayers and consumers for this amendment process and license to continue.”
More than $300 million of taxpayer money has been invested in the riverfront area in the last 20 to 25 years, and that has leveraged billions of dollars of private cultural and residential reinvestment. Mill Ruins Park opened in 2001, the Mill City Museum opened in 2003, and the Guthrie Theater opened in 2006. Additional parks are planned and are under construction in the area. Several housing developments were built in the area, with more currently under construction. More than two million people – area residents and visitors – cross the James J. Hill Stone Arch Bridge every year. Those visitors enjoy the view of the Minneapolis Skyline and the St. Anthony Falls, the only major waterfall on the Mississippi River.
“The original 1999 FERC license concluded that the Crown Mill project did not conflict with any planned or authorized development and is best adapted to comprehensive development of the Mississippi River for beneficial public use. However, 20 years later that is no longer true,” Sen. Champion said. “The proposed Crown Hydro site at the USACE Lock facility could cause irreversible damage to historic features of the area including the Stone Arch Bridge, cut off access to the waterfront, hinder authorized development, and squander the millions of dollars of improvements already paid for by taxpayers.”
Crown Hydro has acknowledged in filings that an extraordinarily long time period has ensued since the issuance of the 1999 license. After all this time, Crown Hydro still does not have site control to construct and operate the project as licensed. As legislators, Dziedzic and Champion understand the need to balance goals for renewable energy with the needs of their communities, but they argue extending Crown Hydro’s license just doesn’t make good economic sense. The Minneapolis legislators stated that they appreciate all the work the FERC has done to give Crown Hydro leeway to get the project operational but said, “Crown Hydro needs to be held accountable for their responsibilities and obligations in the license. We believe they’ve had more than enough time to move forward, and their continued non-compliance should result in a termination of the amendment proceedings and the license. We do not want taxpayers to be on the hook for damaged historical assets or an abandoned construction project.”