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Don't buy the dam

Don’t buy the dam

Brainerd seems to have buying fever. They are considering the purchase of Whittier School and the Brainerd hydroelectric dam. Remember, these are the same people that gave away the hockey arena for a dollar.

When the dam switches from a private entity to a public one, all the rules change. Yes, I have done some reading. The regulations for this dam, as a public power generation station, could end up costing the city millions. With the transfer of ownership there is also the possibility certain grandfathered-in laws, may not apply to the public property. They would be required, by law, to perform certain costly upgrades.

The generators themselves are old. Will they end up being replaced now that it is public? Then there is the river itself. Will EPA and DNR regulations, that as a public entity, force the city to invest tens of thousands of dollars to comply with these laws individually (this could work into several hundred thousand dollars)?

Facts: The power from the dam is currently being sold to Minnesota Power due to a contract BPU has with them, not Brainerd. If Brainerd purchases the dam, (negotiations are currently underway with this power provider), there is the possibility that the power from the dam, may not be ours after all. We could end up selling our power then purchasing it back at a higher price. That has to be negotiated yet in BPU’s contract with Minnesota Power.

Which raises the question, has Minnesota Power been offered the dam? Why aren’t they purchasing it if it’s a viable asset? Why is Wausau unloading the dam instead of just the mill? Could it be because the dam is a costly bad investment? Also, let’s not forget OSHA, their rules for public place are different too. More cost?

Steven Wolff


Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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