The University of Notre Dame and South Bend’s Venues Parks & Arts broke ground last week on a 2.5MW hydroelectric generation facility on the dam in the St. Joseph River in downtown South Bend. The facility, which will be primarily underground, is expected to generate about 7% of the University’s electrical needs and offset nearly 9,700 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Per an agreement signed in 2016, Notre Dame will lease the site for 50 years after the city transferred a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission exemption to the University to operate a hydropower facility.

The restoration of Seitz Park also kicked off in conjunction with the hydro facility construction. Notre Dame will pay the city $1 million to assist with the renovation of the park, which is adjacent to the dam. Initial concepts for the park’s redesign include a building with restrooms and a vending kiosk, a new performance area, improvements to the Riverwalk and a new park entrance.

The hydro facility project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2021, while Seitz Park is expected to reopen by fall of 2021.

The hydro facility is one facet in Notre Dame’s wide-ranging sustainability plan, which is designed to eliminate the use of coal in the University’s power plant by the end of 2020 and cut its carbon footprint by half by 2030. The plan targets six key areas: energy and emissions; water; building and construction; waste; procurement, licensing and sourcing; and education, research and community outreach. To date the University has reduced its carbon emissions by 49%.

Implementation efforts have included the introduction of five green roofs, two new combined cycle natural gas fired combustion turbines, 2,650 tons of geothermal energy production, a 2.5 million gallon thermal energy storage system, three operational solar arrays, over $15 million worth of energy conservation measures and funding for several research initiatives by faculty and graduate students on sustainable energy and development.