To:Mayor Steve Luecke andMembers of the South Bend Common Council

Across America, mayors are committing to address the threat of global climate change by signing on to the Sierra Club’s Cool Cities agreement. Moving forward with innovative energy solutions that curb global warming and save taxpayer dollars, these local governments are guiding America into a network of healthier, sustainable and livable communities. South Bend can emulate Austin’s “green”  buildings, Charlotte’s hybrid vehicle fleets and Seattle’s homes powered with renewable energy and be part of this network of sustainability.

As Mayor Luecke considers taking up the Cool Cites challenge to reduce South Bend’s carbon footprint, I urge you to reconsider installation of the 1.5 megawatt hydroelectric power generator on the East Race of the St Joe River. Originally proposed in the 1980’s, South Bend secured the permit for this project, which it still possesses, and commissioned Lawson-Fisher Associates to design it.  At that time, South Bend intended to sell the electricity to Indiana & Michigan Electric.  However the rate I&M proposed to pay for electricity from the hydroelectric generator was considered too low to justify the generator’s construction.  As a result, the idea and plans for a hydroelectric generator on the river was shelved for 20 years.

 Meanwhile, the connection between our reliance on burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil for our energy demands and the effects on our health and environment has been well-documentedFurthermore, as supplies for fossil fuels dwindle and their costs go up, our city’s energy bills strain the budget.

Fortunately, South Bend has a ready, renewable source of energy running right through its center, our beautiful river.  This river, whose power was tapped by the mill industries in the 1800’s and by James Oliver for electricity in 1920, can once again be a source of energy and renewal.  

South Bend is not necessarily obligated to sell the hydroelectric generator’s power to I&M.  The the city could direct the electricity to the municipal water works and the water treatment plant, the two biggest users of electricity in South Bend.

In addition to reducing South Bend’s reliance on electricity wrought from burning fossil fuels, Lawson-Fisher’s design for the hydroelectric generator also serves as a tourist attraction.  Visitors on the city’s East Bank will be able to walk down a wheelchair accessible concourse between the generator and the fish ladder.  The concourse takes visitors below water level to a viewing chamber where windows allow children and grown-ups to watch the river turn the generator’s turbines on one side and fish migrating upriver on the other. Modeled after one of the biggest tourist attractions in Seattle, an educational, enlightening and entertaining feature such as this has the potential to bring thousands of visitors to downtown South Bend year-round.

I have contacted the office of Congressman Joe Donnelly regarding hydroelectric power in South Bend and possible federal funding sources for a project such as this. His response, which I have attached, is encouraging.  He informs us that federal grants are available for a project such as this and that his office stands ready to assist us.

As South Bend begins to work with Holladay Corporation to revitalize the East Bank of the St Joe River, inclusion of a hydroelectric generator to harness the river’s free, renewable energy addresses global warming while saving the city money.  Using Lawson-Fisher’s exciting viewing chamber design will draw countless fascinated visitors to our river at the East Bank in downtown South Bend. 

I look forward to hearing from you and offer any assistance I can give in gaining public support for this project.