This is Encouraging

I recently called Joe Donnelly’s South Bend office to ask whether there was federal funding available for a hydro electric plant on the East Race as was once envisioned in the 1980’s.  Today I received his response; the entire text of his letter follows:

“Dear Kathleen,

 Thank you for taking the time to contact my office about the recently-passed energy bill and to inquire about federal funding for a hydroelectric power plant in South Bend.

I share your interest in clean, renewable energy sources, and I believe that creative and clean energy generation projects are vital not only for the protection of our environment but also for ensuring the sustainable future of our communities.

As you know, last December the president signed The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008 (PL 110-140).  This important, bi-partisan legislation was an important first step in our efforts to put America on the path to energy independence, respond to global warming, and grow our economy.

A key element of the legislation was a section dedicated to the promotion of marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy technologies.  This particular section authorized funding to be used to research and develop technologies to produce electric power from waves, tides, and free flowing water–including rivers and man-made channels like South Bend’s East Race.

The bill also authorized an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to assist local governments in reducing fossil fuel emissions and total energy use and improving energy efficiency in an environmentally sustainable manner.  Although the grant program has not yet been funded (my emphasis), it would appear that the concept of completing a hydroelectric power plant on South Bend’s East Race would meet the basic qualifications outlined in the legislation.

In addition to this new grant program established in The Energy Independence and Security Act, there are a number of other federal,  state and private grants available to assist communities in the development of clean, renewable energy sources.  My office stands ready to work with the City of South Bend and other communities to find the available resources needed to make these projects possible.  To learn more about alternative energy grant opportunities, please contact my Grants Director, Beth Barrett, in my South Bend office.

Thank you again for your interest in hydroelectric power, and your commitment to making South Bend a healthy and sustainable community.  Creative ideas and emerging technologies hold tremendous potential for the City of South Bend, and I look forward to working in partnership with you and others to turn these ideas into action.


Joe Donnelly

Member of Congress”


What I intend to do:

1) send Mr. Donnelly a follow-up letter to:

(a) thank him for his response

(b) urge him to support funding of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program

(c) urge him to support the hydroelectric power plant and viewing chamber design created by Lawson-Fisher Associates for its potential to draw visitors to South Bend

(d) suggest that in homage to this area’s previous inhabitants, the Potawatomi, who traveled on and were sustained by the river that runs through us, request that the viewing chamber be named The “Sheggwe Viewing Chamber”  after the Potawatomi’s  name for the river

2) call Beth Barrett, at Mr. Donnelly’s South Bend office (574) 288-2780 to learn more about energy grant opportunities

3) bring the information in this letter to the attention of progressive groups and individuals in this area and ask them to also contact Mr. Donnelly’s office and ask for Beth Barrett regarding hydroelectric power on the East Race

What you can do:

1) call Joe Donnelly’s office (574) 288-2780 and urge him to follow-through with his support for hydroelectric power in South Bend and to support funding for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program

2) call Joe Donnelly’s office (574) 288-2780 and find out for yourself what information Beth Barrett, Grants Director has on grants for this project

3) call Mayor Steve Luecke and your representative on the South Bend Common Council and urge them to begin working towards installation of hydroelectric power and a tourist attracting viewing chamber on the East Race