Hydropower, FERC Licensing

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published Feb. 26, 2015
Updated: March 22, 2022
Purpose

Licensing of a privately-owned hydropower project on federal property.

Location

The project was proposed to be located at Upper St. Anthony Falls lock and dam, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Description

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued license 11175 to Crown Hydro, LLC in 1999 granting it the rights to develop a hydropower facility in the Mill Ruins Park area on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The project was originally proposed to be located in the Crown Roller Building and then on Minneapolis park land. Crown Hydro was unable to secure the needed real estate agreements. Crown Hydro submitted a draft license amendment to FERC in April 30, 2015, which proposed locating the project on federal property at Upper St. Anthony Falls. The proposed project was to consist of an operations building housing two 1.7-megawatt turbines installed below ground level, discharging into the Mississippi River via twin 16-foot diameter conduits. The intake structure for the proposed hydropower plant was to be located behind the upper guide wall of Upper St. Anthony Falls lock. The proposed project would draw up to 1,000 cubic feet per second of flow from the river when in full operation. River conditions would have allowed the project to operate approximately 60% of the time.

Status

On April 17, 2020, the FERC issued a rejection of Crown Hydropower’s project financing plan and dismissal of Crown Hydropower’s application for an amendment to their license. Crown Hydropower requested a rehearing on May 18, 2020. On August 20, 2020, the FERC denied the rehearing and issued an order addressing the rehearing arguments and sustaining the dismissal of the license application. On October 21, 2020, Crown Hydro filed an appeal to the District of Columbia circuit court. Friends of the Falls filed a motion for termination with FERC on January 27, 2021. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, City of Minneapolis, Friends of the Riverfront and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources subsequently filed comments in support of the motion for termination.

Pertinent correspondence, filings and meeting transcripts are posted on the FERC eLibrary under docket number P-11175.

Authority

Licensing by FERC of hydropower facilities is governed by Part I of the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 791(a)–825(r). Coordination between the FERC and the Corps regarding FERC licensing of hydropower at Corps facilities is also governed by a July 20, 2016 memorandum of agreement between the agencies.

Funding

A fixed amount, generally $7,000 per year, is funded under the “Investigations” account for FERC-related administrative activities and permit review. More in-depth activities such as pre-licensing, coordination during construction and relicensing are funded under the “Operation and Maintenance” program. These costs are reimbursed by the licensee to the U.S. Treasury Department through annual charges by FERC.