The newly-formed committee, “Smart Power on the Sheggwe” has requested a follow-up to our presentation to the local Building Trades Council to seek their support for the East Race hydro-electric generator.  We have compiled a flier with information about the generator and actions they can take to help facilitate the project.  One of the suggested actions for the Council is a letter to Congressman Joe Donnelly requesting his help in funding the federal Energy Efficiency and Block Grant program.  Below is a proposed sample letter to be presented at our next presentation:


Dear Congressman Donnelly,

We understand the urgency in moving our country towards energy independence and the need to come up with innovative energy solutions that curb global warming, cut pollution and save taxpayer dollars.

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 for the city.

South Bend officials are considering the installation of a 1.5 megawatt hydroelectric power generator on the East Race of the St Joe River. Originally proposed in the 1980’s, the city secured the permit for this project, which it still possesses, and commissioned Lawson-Fisher Associates to design it. The city envisions directing electricity powered by this generator to the municipal water works and the water treatment plant, the two biggest users of electricity in South Bend.

Tapping hydroelectric power will reap immediate environmental benefits by decreasing South Bend’s need to purchase electricity powered by coal, which must be mined, transported and burned. Estimates suggest that the city could begin saving at least $300,000 per year in electricity costs within a decade of the generator’s completion.

 In addition to providing electricity, Lawson-Fisher’s design for the hydroelectric generator also serves as a tourist attraction for South Bend. Visitors on the city’s East Bank will be able to go down a wheelchair accessible concourse between the generator and the fish ladder. The concourse takes visitors below water level to the “Sheggwe 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.

Most importantly for those of us in the union building trades, a project such as this can bring meaningful work to local workers who receive living wages, health and retirement benefits. We envision the pride our workers will take as they bring their families to visit this project that will serve the city for decades.

We understand in December 2007, President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act. Included in this act is the Energy Efficiency and Block Grant program to assist local governments in reducing fossil fuel emissions and improve energy efficiency in an environmentally sustainable way. We also understand Congress has yet to fund this grant program.

We urge you, as a member of Congress, to facilitate full funding of the Energy Efficiency and Block Grant program so South Bend can apply for this funding and we local tradespeople can begin building our way to energy independence.