Workers from Koontz-Wagner guide “Little Gennie”, the 62.9 kilowatt generator, into her penstock

She languished in a warehouse at the South Bend Airport, gathering dust while her precision-tooled bearings flattened, her seals became damaged, and her internal parts corroded from disuse.

Twenty nine years is a long time for a girl to wait for a date, but for South Bend’s lovely hydro generator, Thursday, August 23, 2012 was a day to celebrate.  “Little Gennie”, as the small generator came to be known by the South Bend Municipal Energy Office, arrived for her date newly re-furbished and gleaming cobalt blue against a clear sky.  As the St Joe River roared over the dam, workers from Koontz-Wagner carefully lowered Little Gennie into her penstock (silo) on the East Race where she will soon begin tapping 62.9 kilowatts of energy from the river’s flow. 

Jon Burke, director of the South Bend Municipal Energy Office, deserves great praise for working tirelessly with Indiana Michigan Power and other entities to get this project done.  In addition to securing sources and resources to bring Little Gennie back to her original working condition, Mr. Burke also engineered an agreement with Indiana Michigan Power to allow the City to use the electricity she produces.

Testing on equipment, including a special vacuum pump, will occur over the next couple of weeks.  Please plan on attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, September 26th at 11:00 a.m. at the East Race where Mayor Pete Buttigieg will oversee the start-up of Little Gennie; the pretty girl in blue  who was almost forgotten.


Great news on the hydro front and for everyone who has been longing to support green energy in South Bend!  At long last, after many months of difficult negotiations between I & M and the  City of South Bend, a plan is emerging for not just the installation of the 63 kW turbine (formerly thought to have only a capacity of 45 kW) but for the construction of a utility-scale hydro-electric facility as well!  This means, for my regular blog readers, that the bigger hydro project (now estimated to be able to produce 1.78 Mega Watts) will finally become a reality on the East Race of our fair River.  City officials will soon be meeting with high-level representatives from I&M to craft a final arrangement to fund and integrate this project into the grid.

What can citizens and business of South Bend do to expedite this process?  In the near future, you will have the opportunity to sign up for a “green energy tariff”.  This tariff, which would amount to a few extra cents per kwh on your utility bill, will help to fund the construction of the large hydro generator.  With enough forward-thinking businesses and home-owners saying “yes!” to renewable, clean, sustainable energy generated in our River, construction on this project could begin by as early as 2013. In addition to the construction jobs this project will create, the facility will generate between $1.2 and 1.4 million dollars of electricity per year and place South Bend on the map for renewable energy.

Twenty artists and artist groups, including school groups from Washington High School, Edison Intermediate Center, Stanley Clark School, Countryside Montessori Preschool, Discovery Middle School and St Joe High School decorated 55-gallon barrels that have been converted into Rain Barrels.  The Rain Barrels will be on display at local businesses who have underwritten this project.

Beginning the week of April 23, 15 of the Rain Barrels will go on display at the South Bend Museum of Art in an indoor garden to be donated and installed by Foegley Landscape.

Five of the Rain Barrels, underwritten by area Credit Unions, will also be on display at the Credit Unions.  These will be used as bistro tables the night of the auction and then donated to local community or Unity gardens or any school or not-for-profit who has a community garden.  If you belong to a garden such as this and would like one of these Rain Barrels, contact IU South Bend Center for a Sustainable Future.  These Rain Barrels will be randomly distributed on a first-come first-served basis to qualifying gardens.

The other fifteen Rain Barrels will be sold at auction on Friday, May 4, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the SB Museum of Art, Century Center.  (Evening wear and garden gloves recommended, but not required!)

Thanks to the following underwriters:

IUSB Center for a Sustainable Future

South Bend Museum of Art

Foegley Landscaping

PNC Bank

Fiddler’s Hearth

Lawson-Fisher Associates

St Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District

Roseland Garden Center

Martin’s Supermarkets

Kil Architecture/Planning

South Bend Waste Water Treatment Facility

Purple Porch Co-op

Hill’s True Value

Beehive Salon

Just Goods

Barnaby’s South Bend

Coca Cola Bottling Company of Indiana


Carl Kaser Auction

Louie’s Tux Shop

Lochmandy Collision Center

IU Federal Credit Union

AAA Federal Credit Union

Teachers Credit Union

Community Wide Credit Union

Notre Dame Federal Credit UnionImage

Do a Google “Images” search for “most walkable cities”.  Note smooth sidewalks broad enough to accommodate sidewalk cafés and wide, zebra-striped pedestrian crossings.  See how city leaders embrace the use of greenery planters and green space.   Observe how the emphasis by planners is on keeping space scaled to humans on foot with people-sized lampposts and dark-sky lighting.  Notice the thought these planners have put into public transportation.  Check out how engineers put pedestrian convenience and safety first when sidewalk foot traffic is diverted for construction projects.  Catch glimpses of police officers on foot, rather than in squad cars or on Segways, who are engaging with citizens or directing traffic to keep people safe.  Walkable cites are designed to be people- rather than car-centric.  Then, marvel at the number of people in these images of walkable cities. 

Throwing up more sign pollution on roadways, as recommended by a local self-described leadership team and reported by the South Bend Tribune’s Heidi Prescott, might inform some folks about independently-owned dining options in downtown South Bend.  Yet, even if sign-weary drivers notice, why drive to South Bend for another park, eat and drive-away experience?  The real solution to encouraging visitors to seek and explore our city’s treasures is to incorporate smart, walkable city design that looks and feels safe and welcoming.

On August 17th 2011, fifty Indiana farmers from 35 Indiana counties were honored for their outstanding conservation best management practices at the 2011 River Friendly Farmer Awards Ceremony. The recognition took place on Farmers Day at the Indiana State fair.  Happily, two farmers from our own St Joseph county and Kankakee River Watershed were among the honorees.  They are Mike Burkholder and John Dooms.

Mike Burkholder is a corn and soybean farmer in the Kankakee River Watershed. The Aldridge Ditch runs through the property. Filter strips are in place along the ditch to prevent run-off from reaching the open water and filter excess sediment and nutrients as well. Burkholder has no-tilled farmed for over 10 years now. The results are stronger soil structure and health, as well as kept residue on the soil surface, all of which help prevent erosion and filter water maintaining a high water quality on his fields.

John Dooms has a grain and dairy operation with a corn and soybean rotation, as well as alfalfa and hay. The farm has been no-tilled since the 70’s and uses low-pressure conservative irrigation on 400 of the approximately 800 acres of crops. It is located in the Kankakee River Watershed. Grass filter strips are along side the ditch on the farm to prevent runoff entering the watershed. Where filter strips are not in place, the field has a buffer zone of non-worked ground between the crop and ditch allowing room for sprayers and other equipment to keep from polluting the water directly. Practicing no-till farming also promotes higher water quality as residue matter and improved soil structures help prevent erosion and filters water of pollutants. John also uses a nutrient management system that helps him manage the quantity of potential pollutants that could reach the watershed.

Thank you to both of these farmers for working to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

A complete list of all 50 honorees can be found with the St Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Moving South Bend Towards a Sustainable Future

In response to the City’s Green Ribbon Commission as well as South Bend’s commitment to reduce energy consumption and to look for alternative sources of energy, the City of South Bend hired Jonathan Burke to the newly created position of Municipal Energy Director.  A native of Michigan, Mr. Burke worked for 28 years building sustainable buildings and managing property in Maryland. There he advanced many initiatives to promote sustainable building management in the areas of energy use and equipment optimization.  Mr. Burke, whose position is funded by a portion of a federal sustainability grant awarded to the City, began work in September of 2010.  In an effort to determine how the City can save money by way of reducing its energy use, he has been tirelessly “kicking the tires and looking under the hood” of municipal buildings.  He is also keenly interested in alternative energy sources, including the hydroelectric capacity of the dam at Century Center.  A strong supporter of all things sustainable, Mr. Burke is also working with IUSB Center for a Sustainable Future, the Unity Gardens, the South Bend Community Garden movements and other organizations to help make South Bend the greenest city in Indiana.

A preschooler gets a little help to add his handprint to the SNAP Rain Barrel.

In an effort to raise awareness of water as a natural resource and to connect the schools, business, arts and sustainability communities, 2010-2011 Fellow with IUSB’s Center for a Sustainable Future, Kathleen Petitjean, enlisted area artists and artist groups to paint twelve, 55-gallon plastic containers, donated by Coca Cola and converted for use as rain barrels.  All the barrels were underwritten by local businesses and organizations. The teachers and therapists from the South Bend Community School Corporation’s Special Needs and Abilities Preschool (SNAP) pooled resources to underwrite a “SNAP” barrel.  Over 70 special needs preschool students and their classroom buddies at Hamilton, Madison and Darden Primary Centers participated in painting the SNAP barrel!

All the barrels were coated with a clear automotive finish donated by Lochmandy Collision Center, Mishawaka and are currently on display at underwriting businesses.  The SNAP barrel will take turns being displayed at Darden, Madison and Hamilton Primary Centers.  Beginning April 25th, all the barrels will be displayed for two weeks in an indoor garden setting donated by Foegley Landscape at the South Bend Museum of Art.  On May 6th, starting at 7:00 p.m. the twelve barrels will be sold at a public auction with the proceeds to be split between IUSB Center for a Sustainable Future and the artists or artist groups. The SNAP program will be the recipient of the SNAP barrel proceeds.  Upon learning that the barrel he was painting would be sold, little Joe asked his teacher, Tracy Greulich, if she would use the money to buy grapes for he and his friends to share at snack-time!

Mark your calendars and plan to attend the Rain Barrel auction on May 6th at 7:00 p.m.; the auction event is free and open to the public.  Groups will be on hand to share information about Rain Barrels and water conservation.  At least two unpainted barrels will also be given away in a free drawing.

Evening wear and garden gloves recommended but not required!

To see all the Original Art Rain Barrels, please go to:

For more information about IUSB’s Center for a Sustainable Future go to:

To become an underwriter for this event, please contact:

For more information about rain barrels and water conservation, please go to:

This project is being underwritten by:

IUSB Center for a Sustainable Future

St Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District

South Bend Museum of Art

Barnaby’s South Bend

Beehive Salon

Coca Cola Bottling Company of Indiana

Foegley Landscape

Goodrich Auction Company

Martin’s Supermarket

Lawson-Fisher Associates

Lochmandy Collision Center

Purple Porch Co-op

Red Hen Turf Farm

Teachers and Therapists of the South Bend Community School Corporation’s Special Needs and Abilities Preschool

Troyer Group

Gary Mester, Master Photographer

Acousticom Corporation

Cathy Romano

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