Towering smokestack on St. Paul's river valley came down with a boom

  • Article by: PATRICK LEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 28, 2008 - 9:46 PM

The river valley skyline changed forever today as a 36-year-old smokestack was toppled.

Early this morning, St. Paul's river valley skyline changed forever as the  36-year-old smokestack   at the Xcel Energy High Bridge Power Plant was deliberately toppled.

Hunderds of viewers lined lined Cliff Street, packed up against the guard rail directly overlooking the power plant.

After a resonant boom signaling the detonation of explosives, the 570-foot smokestack began to tip over to one side, and within seconds, hit the ground.

The pavement shook, and a mushroom-like dust cloud immediately rose up over the site. The damp morning conditions will help prevent the dust from spreading downwind of the site.

Tony Guarnero, demolition expert with Brandenburg, the prime contractor for the demolition project, declared the demolition a success.

"We had no damage to any Xcel lines, gas lines, anything," he said. "With it being all concrete, we had to tip it, we couldn't implode it unless we loaded it all up with explosives…[but] the dust was a lot less than anticipated.

For many in St. Paul, the falling of the stack marks the end of an era, not only of coal-powered electricity, but also of childhood memories.

Joe Landsberger, 63, has lived his entire life on either side of the bluff by the power plant. Although he said today's event is a symbolic victory for the environment, he remembers when there were two shorter stacks instead of the single tall one that was destroyed today.

"My mother would always test the wind before hanging out the laundry, because if the wind was right, it would blow all of the smoke from the two smaller smokestacks onto the laundry."

Guarnero said clean-up of the site should take less than an hour.

Jim Zyduck, High Bridge plant director, said site restoration will not begin until 2010. Xcel will retain ownership of the original High Bridge plant site, and will engage the community in developing plans for its potential redevelopment, he said. Possibilities include a long-term lease of the property to the city of St. Paul for the purpose of extending walking trails and creating parks and youth soccer fields.

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