University of Notre Dame finalizes plans to build 1.83-MW small hydro facility on St. Joseph River

University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame and the South Bend Board of Parks have reached an agreement to construct and operate a 1.83-MW small hydro facility on the St. Joseph River. The board’s commissioners approved the agreement Dec. 12.

The agreement consists of a 50-year lease giving the university rights to build and operate the small hydroelectric plant at an existing city-owned dam. The agreement also transfers a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission exemption that the city of South Bend received in 1984 but has not acted on due to financial constraints.

In conjunction with the lease, the board approved an agreement under which Notre Dame will pay the city $1 million to restore Seitz Park, adjacent to the dam, and perform ongoing maintenance of the dam through the duration of the lease.

“We appreciate the park board working with us as we continue implementing our broader sustainability plan,” said Notre Dame University President Rev. John I. Jenkins. This sustainability plan is designed to eliminate the use of coal in the university’s power plant by 2020 and cut its carbon footprint by more than half by 2030.

The powerhouse will be primarily underground, and construction will begin in October 2017, with full operation expected to begin in early 2019. The facility is expected to provide about 7% of the university’s electricity needs.

Notre Dame says the two agreements mentioned above are the result of a memorandum of understanding between the university and city that was signed last summer.

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