SOUTH BEND - The St. Joseph River in downtown South Bend will once again generate power, just as it did a century ago for riverside factories. The University of Notre Dame and the city of South Bend broke ground Monday on a 2.5-megawatt hydroelectric generation facility on the dam that stretches across the river.

The primarily underground facility is part of the university’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint by offsetting nearly 9,700 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

“We move another step closer to our sustainability goals with construction of this facility,” said Rev. John Jenkins, the university’s president.

The university expects the hydroelectric dam will generate about seven percent of Notre Dame’s electrical needs which is just one aspect of Notre Dame’s sustainability plan. The plan is designed to eliminate the use of coal in the University’s power plant by the end of 2020.

The university signed an agreement with the city in 2016 to lease the site for 50 years in which South Bend will transfer a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission exemption to the University to operate the hydropower facility.

“We are grateful to the city of South Bend and all of our partners who are helping us harness the power of the St. Joseph River to bring clean, renewable energy to Notre Dame.”

As part of the project, the city and the university will restore Seitz Park which is adjacent to the dam. Notre Dame will pay the city $1 million to assist with the renovation of the park, adding restrooms, a new performance area, and a new park entrance.

Underground transmission lines will carry the electricity to campus. The hydro facility project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2021.