Below is a final draft of the letter sent to South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke on April 9, 2008.  A similar letter was also sent to each member of the South Bend Common Council: Timothy Rouse, Karen White, Al “Buddy” Kirsits, Henry Davis, Jr, Derek Dieter, Tom LaFountain, Ann Puzzello, Dr David Varner, and Oliver Davis.  This letter requests support for a hydroelectric generator in South Bend. 

8 April 2008

Dear Mayor Luecke,

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 moving America towards becoming a network of healthier, sustainable and livable communities. South Bend can be part of this network of sustainability by emulating Austin’s “green” government buildings, Charlotte’s hybrid vehicle fleets and Seattle’s homes powered with renewable energy.

As you consider taking up the Cool Cities 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 its effects on our health and environment has been well-documented. Furthermore, 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 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 obligated to sell the hydroelectric generator’s power to I&M. 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 by 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 with windows allowing 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 Seattle’s biggest tourist attractions, 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 Congressman Joe Donnelly regarding possible federal funding sources for hydroelectric power in South Bend. His response, which I have attached, is encouraging, and suggests he is willing to work with South Bend on a project such as this.

As South Bend begins to work with Holladay Corporation to revitalize the East Bank of the St Joe River, it makes sense to include a hydroelectric generator that harnesses the river’s free, renewable energy. 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.



additional information and links to the viewing chamber at the Ballard locks in Seattle can be found at: