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Notre Dame dedicates new hydroelectric facility in downtown South Bend

Construction is underway to rebuild Seitz Park following the installation of a Notre Dame hydroelectric plant.
Jakob Lazzaro
/
WVPE
Construction is underway to rebuild Seitz Park following the installation of a Notre Dame hydroelectric plant.

Located under Seitz Park at the dam in the St. Joseph River just across from the Century Center, the 2.5-megawatt, 10 turbine hydroelectric facility has been in operation since May of this year.

It currently provides around 7 percent of The University of Notre Dame’s electricity needs as part of the university’s goal to go carbon neutral by 2050.

President Father John Jenkins said during the Monday dedication ceremony that building it was an extraordinary effort that wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership of the city.

“We haven’t built many hydroelectric plants at Notre Dame,” Jenkins said.

South Bend transferred a federal permit allowing a hydroelectric plant to be built at the dam to the university for the project.

“This is not a money-making enterprise,” Mayor James Mueller said. “This is a passion and a commitment to climate action.”

The plant was originally supposed to open in 2020 but ended up behind schedule due to pandemic-related construction delays and complex federal permits.

“If you are wondering ‘Why is today the coldest, rainiest day of the week?’ It’s of course because we have the hydro ribbon cutting for today — that’s just how this project has gone,” Mueller said.

But all that perseverance paid off. Seitz Park is now being rebuilt, with Notre Dame contributing $1 million towards the effort.

And the park, complete with the fish ladder, river lights plaza, firefighters memorial, a new performance pavilion, restroom and vending kiosk is expected to reopen — along with a new section of the riverwalk — in fall 2023.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.