At its December 19th meeting, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board once again rejected a proposal for hydroelectric generation from Crown Hydro.
The proposed development would have used historic underground milling tunnels surrounding the downtown end of the Stone Arch Bridge. The project and its generation equipment were said to be entirely underground. But in order to connect to the tunnels, Crown Hydro required a lease and construction rights under land owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
Meanwhile, the project risked clear negative impact on the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District. Developers envisioned connecting river flow to historic underground milling tunnels, and those connections may have negatively impacted historic resources. Further, the project proposed reducing the water that would flow over Saint Anthony Falls, and many believed that would perceptibly diminish the visual power of the historic falls.
Based on those concerns, area stakeholders encouraged commissioners to end consideration of the project. Those same concerns also motivated former Vice President Walter Mondale to deliver hand-signed letters to commissioners and other stakeholders on the day of the decision. Mondale noted the significance of what he saw at stake:
While the precise location of this natural force has changed somewhat since the mid-1800s when it began to be seen as a force for our historic development, there is no question that it is this same force of water going over a natural 50 foot drop which is the reason Minneapolis is here today — it is the force which Park visitors come to see, and it is this force which the developer will materially impair.
Consideration of the project was ultimately ended when the Park Board rejected a 1-1/2-year timeline to review and consider the project. This rejection marked yet another failure for a project that has been rebuffed repeatedly over the last decade; the Park Board last rejected the project in 2004. Read more…