Today I spoke with John Fisher of Lawson-Fisher Associates, the engineering consulting firm that designed the plans for the 1.5 megawatt hydroelectric generator and viewing concourse. Originally included in the 1980’s era East Race renovation project, the plans for the generator and concourse were shelved at that time.  Interest in this project has been revived and is part of the conversation between city officials and the Sierra Club, the Progressive Town Hall and others. The hydroelectric generator and viewing concourse was also brought up during Holladay Corporation’s presentation for the East Bank Village project.

Mr. Fisher reported he is currently working to update the information for the study for presentation to Gary Gilot, South Bend’s Director of Public Works.  The project’s visual impact was an issue raised by Mr. Gilot, who was concerned about the view from the Century Center.  According to Mr. Fisher, the generator would not be visible from the Century Center.

I asked Mr. Fisher if the updated study still included the below-water level concourse and viewing chamber, which allows visitors to observe the generator’s turbines on one side and migrating fish on the other. I could hear the smile in his voice when he affirmed that it was but that there was also a design plan that omitted this feature. I relayed the popular response the viewing chamber idea has generated within my circles and asked Mr. Fisher if there was anything he could add to the study that would highlight the pages dealing with the viewing chamber. In my work as a therapist for preschoolers with special needs, I have access to “happy face” stickers, and asked Mr. Fisher if putting a couple of those on the study might help. He laughed and said he didn’t think that would be necessary but if he changed his mind, he knew how to contact me.

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