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Black Dog Power PlantBlack Dog Power Plant, 1952.
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Black Dog Power Plant 1953Open house marks the completion of the third unit of this most modern and efficient plant...
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Black Dog Power PlantA rendering shows the design of the rebuilt Black Dog Power Plant in Burnsville, 2011.
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Black Dog Power Plant2016 - entry to the Black Dog Power Plant.
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Black Dog Power PlantA view of the Minnesota River Valley and the Black Dog Power Plant.
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Tour the new Black Dog Power PlantOctober 17. 1952 Minneapolis Star Tribune:
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NSP erects third plant 1954Black Dog Plant expands - Girders are beginning to rise on the third unit of the Northern States Power Company's Black Dog steam generating plant in Burnsville Township, ner Savage...The first unit was built two years ago...
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Black Dog Power PlantAfter more than 60 years, the last shipment of coal arrived by train at Xcel Engery's Black Dog Power Plant April 2015.
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Black Dog Power Plant, October 2019Here is what was left of the BlackDog Power Plant October 18, 2019 photo compliments of Mitch McLaughlin.

I also went under the Cedar Ave. bridge and found that the river was overflowing Nicols Rd yet you could drive through it. They were resurfacing the parking area under the bridge and also had dumped down some dirt to prevent people from driving off to that little parking lot that was in front of the Meadow Inn
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Mayday at Black Dog: Fire fighters recount power plant explosion 2012April 17, 2012 Burnsville Patch.

By Clare Kennedy, Patch Staff

Sept. 21, 2010 will be remembered as a close call for the Burnsville Fire Department. That day four firefighters were literally baptized in flame — and lived to tell the tale.

"I sometimes wonder why we're alive, to this day," said Capt. Bill Schaetzel, who has spent 23 years with the BFD.

He can still remember the exact time the call came in — 7:29 a.m. A coal fire at Xcel's Black Dog Power Plant.

Calls from the power plant are unusual.

"They usually handle their own situations," said Steve Boardman, a fire motor operator and paramedic who has been with the BFD for 11 years. "If we get a call it heightens our concern. They don't do that very often."

Capt. Joel Clasen's team arrived on the scene and sent in Firefighter Shawn Hill, who was one of the first inside the plant. The team found lethal levels of carbon monoxide in the air inside the plant and immediately evacuated the employees. With an infrared camera, they found a growing heat spot in the middle of a coal bunker — a huge internal silo 70 feet high and 40 feet wide.

Schaetzel, Boardman and Firefighters Tom Hale and Matt Ostendorf followed Hill in. Burdened with air packs, hoses and monitoring equipment, the four of them hurried through . Their objective was to do reconnaissance and report back. They ended up on a sixth floor catwalk adjacent to the bunker. The fire was burning in the center, which meant that a cavity was developing inside the pile of coal. If it collapsed it would send up a cloud of super-combustible dust that could envelop all nearby. The dust could explode or ignite at any moment with just a single spark from an incoming rail car.

Within minutes, Boardman and Ostendorf noticed a frightening change. The smoke from below was pouring out faster, with more pressure behind it.

"That was about all the warning we had," Boardman said.

There was a terrible sound — like the roar of a jet engine — and then the explosion was upon them. Schaetzel only had time to turn his head before the firefighters were blown right off their feet, flying two to four feet in the air, and crushed against the catwalk railings. Hale was tossed down a steel stairway.

Andy Hamlin, part of the rapid intervention team tasked with rescues, was outside when the deafening blast sounded.

"We looked up and saw smoke flying out of the north side, the windows blasted out. The Xcel employees all ran to the far end of the parking lot," Hamlin recalled. "That's not good at all when you see that. Those guys know that place inside and out."

Hamlin began preparing for the worst. He didn't know if he would find his colleagues alive or dead. Then a call came through from the plant's ravaged, smoking interior — "Mayday."

The call came from Hill, who was working several levels below Schaetzel's crew. He saw the fireball raging up toward his colleagues. Hill scaled the catwalk, and found the four enveloped in blanket of haze and soot, but conscious and mostly unscathed, though Hale sustained an injury to his knee that later required surgery. The five of them made a hasty exit.

It took the BFD and partner agencies 10 grueling hours to put out the fire, which had spread from the bunker to the roof. Once the smoke cleared, the BFD assessed the wreckage. The explosion tore apart Black Dog's west wall and caused extensive damage inside. A coal conveyor belt that weighed well over a ton was lifted off the ground, completely stripping the bolts that held it fast in a bed of solid concrete.

In retrospect, Hill, Schaetzel and Boardman find their survival almost miraculous. They could have easily been blown off the catwalk to their deaths. If they'd been any closer to the source of the explosion — which was behind a nearby wall — they most likely would not have made it.

"I'm surprised that we were right there and we all walked away from it," Hill said. "No one got critically injured. That's got to be rare."

However, all involved tend to be reticent about their experience.

"It's hard for us to talk about how dangerous our jobs are," Boardman said. "It was pretty scary. We're very lucky."

"The bottom line is that the five of us walked out together," Schaetzel added.

Though many in the department find it hard to talk about, Boardman said he felt it was important for the people of Burnsville to hear. The city council agreed. On April 3, the BFD honored those who put their lives on the line to contain the Black Dog fire.

"This situation easily could have been lethal. The actions performed by the crew recognized tonight undoubtedly saved lives from being lost and further injuries from occurring," said Fire Chief BJ Jungmann. "It takes a long time for them to physically and mentally recover from something like that. As much as fire fighters might not want to believe they are human, these situations remind us how important our commitment is to the community."

Jungmann presented the Bar of Meritorious Action to Capt. Paul Young, Jeff Gutzwiller, Scott Hanlon, Kully Hauser, Capt. Terry Ritchie, Mike Andrews, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Carlson, Kyle Engen, Tim Finley, Jamie Gerard, Dan Hale, Andy Hamlin, Mike Klarich, Chris Knettel, Jayson Knutson, Andy Leach, Ryan Paradowski, and Inspector Jan Trom.

Capt. Joel Clasen was awarded the department's Award of Merit.

The four caught in the explosion were given the Medal of Valor and Hill received the highest recognition, Medal of Honor, for helping his colleagues navigate out of a perilous situation.

"Without him there could have been injury and death. He showed composure and great courage under adverse conditions that saved many lives and prevented further injury that day," Jungmann said.

When asked about the award, Hill replied that what he did is a part of the job and that his colleagues would have done the same for him.

"We were pretty close before and that hasn't changed," Hill said. "It begins as a brotherhood and it ends as a brotherhood."
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Black Dog Power PlantA view of the Black Dog Power Plant circa 2015.
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Black Dog Road to close to public in July 2014May 1, 2014 Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

Burnsville's Black Dog Road to close to the public in July
The old country lane will be given to Xcel Energy as part of its plant. A new riverside trail will open.
By LAURIE BLAKE Star Tribune


Black Dog Road, a weathered strip of blacktop used for scenic drives along the Minnesota River since 1968, will close permanently to the public in July to become a gated private driveway to the Xcel Energy Black Dog plant in Burnsville.

The two-lane, 3½-mile road, between Interstate 35W and Cedar Avenue, is one of only a few places in the metro area where you can drive close beside the Minnesota River, said Jeanne Holler, deputy manager of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which runs along the river.

But maintaining the road, which is often damaged by spring flooding, became too much of a hassle and expense for the city.

For years Black Dog has been an unofficial tour route through the refuge’s river bottom sanctuary, Holler said. “It’s been kind of a quiet road where people can go leisurely along.”

The road may be closing to the public, but a scenic new trail along the river will open in 2016, offering the same views for bikers and walkers that the road has given drivers.

The city is giving the road to Xcel in exchange for the easements for the trail and for utilities.

“It’s a difficult road for us to maintain to public standards, and it adds the ability for them to enhance their security,” Burnsville Parks Director Terry Schultz said.

The new Black Dog trail will take people to the old Cedar Avenue bridge, which Bloomington is restoring as a bike and pedestrian crossing over the Minnesota River at Long Meadow Lake.

The trail on the Burnsville side of the river might at some point be joined in a loop with a trail on the Bloomington side of the river, Schultz said. “That would be a great Sunday afternoon ride.”

The Black Dog trail will be a leg of a larger, still developing regional trail that “someday will get folks to Fort Snelling and all the way down to the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers,” Schultz said. He expects people to use the new trail for recreation and commuting.

Just like the road, the trail is likely to flood. Silt will have to be plowed off the trail just as it was plowed off the road, Holler said. “You have to work with the river. The river is the driver of our ecosystems here.”

Near the I-35W exit to Black Dog, Dakota County plans to build a trailhead for the new trail with parking, picnic tables, portable restrooms and paths to the water, senior planner John Mertens said. Trees will be planted and underbrush cleared to make the area attractive, he said.

After the road closes, people will still be able to take the exit off 35W to Black Dog Road and reach a small public park, and residents will still be able to fish in the river in the area.
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Xcel Energy to make over Black Dog power plant 2011By Leslie Brooks Suzukamo | lsuzukamo@pioneerpress.com |
PUBLISHED: March 15, 2011 St. Paul Pioneer Press


Xcel Energy formally asked Minnesota regulators Tuesday for permission to retire the last two coal-burning units at its 59-year-old Black Dog power plant in Burnsville and replace them with modern natural gas turbines.

The plan would more than double the electrical output of the plant from 253 megawatts to 700 megawatts and cost about $600 million, Xcel officials said.

The utility first signaled its intent in August to convert the aging plant, a move cheered by environmentalists and public health advocates.

“People won’t see quite as much coming out of the stack. The reports we get downwind from Black Dog were that people would get ash settling on their vehicles,” said Robert Moffitt, spokesman for the American Lung Association in Minnesota.

The plant, built in 1952 with a single coal-burning unit, evolved over the decades. By 1960, it had four coal units, but in 2002, two of those units were decommissioned, plant director Tom Fallgren said.

Xcel installed the first of its natural gas-burning turbines then and it used the steam exhaust from that turbine to power another turbine kept from one of the decommissioned coal units, Fallgren said.

If approved, Minneapolis-based Xcel next year would tear down the last two coal units and begin construction on a natural gas facility in 2013.

The facility would have two combustion cycle turbines to produce power. A third turbine will be fed by the steam produced by the gas-burning units, Fallgren said.

The facility would employ 300 construction workers over the project period and come online in 2016, Xcel officials said.

The Black Dog plant work is similar to the utility’s recent makeover of its High Bridge and Riverside plants in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Both were aging coal-burning plants that were torn down and replaced with cleaner burning natural gas.

Leslie Brooks Suzukamo can be reached at 651-228-5475.
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Black Dog Power PlantBlack Dog Power plant 1989.
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Black Dog Power PlantBlack Dog Power Plant compliments of Vince Workman.
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Black Dog Power PlantBlack Dog Power Plant ad appears in the 1961 Dan Patch Days booklet.
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Black Dog Power Plant stack coming down 2019The last remaining stack at Xcel Energy Minnesota's Black Dog Power Plant will start coming down in early July 2019. The demolition of this landmark is one of the final pieces of the plant’s transition from coal to natural gas, which was completed in 2018. City staff members were recently given a tour of the plant and got an inside look at the changes made with the transition to natural gas. Xcel Energy staff say the change is part of the company’s long-term commitment to reducing carbon emissions, while maintaining reliable electric service for customers. Photo compliment of the City of Burnsville.
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Black Dog Power PlantAnother 1980's view of the Black Dog Power Plant.
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Black Dog Power PlantOctober 16, 2019 photo of Black Dog Power Plant compliments of Michael Hazen.
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Black Dog Power PlantBlack Dog Power Plant, Dakota County Tribune June 16, 1960.
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Black Dog Power PlantBlack Dog Power Plant 1989.
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Black Dog Power Plant stack coming down 2019Another view of the Black Dog Power plant before the removal of stacks in 2019.
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Black Dog Power Plant and RoadBlack Dog Road and Power Plant 1970s.
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Black Dog Power Plant 1952Dakota County Tribune lead story, January 11, 1952 First Black Dog Unit scheduled for completion in October 52.
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Black Dog VillageIt is believed Black Dog Village was located at or near the Black Dog Power Plant site.
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Black Dog - an NSP coal-fixed plant that is making historyA booklet published by Northern States Power tells the history of the Black Dog plant.
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NSP in BurnsvilleNSP new in Burnsville, 1957.
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Black Dog Power PlantA portion of the Black Dog Power Plant is visible in the distance photo, which includes Minneapolis.
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Coal loading at Black Dog Power PlantCoal loading near the Black Dog Power Plant.
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Northern States PowerNSP east of Savage, photo 1957.
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