Hundreds visit MWRD Lockport Powerhouse for day of education and exploration

News & Events | June 24th, 2024

An architectural marvel constructed in 1907, the Lockport Powerhouse attracted a new generation of admirers as the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) opened its doors to the public for the first time in a decade to show how this critical infrastructure manages water and delivers clean energy. After completing extensive construction to the landmark powerhouse, the MWRD hosted an open house and tours at the Lockport Powerhouse on June 8, as part of Lockport’s Old Canal Days, welcoming 750 enthusiastic attendees.

The event provided a unique opportunity for the public to explore the facility listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The tours also allowed visitors of all ages to learn about the powerhouse’s vital role managing the flow and elevation of the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) and how the MWRD uses the site to generate energy.

Visitors were treated to guided tours of the Powerhouse, showcasing its historical significance and the technological advancements that have kept it operational for over a century. The powerhouse, which plays a crucial role in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal system, continues to generate renewable hydroelectric power, contributing to the MWRD’s sustainability efforts.

“We are thrilled with the turnout and the community’s interest in our work,” said MWRD President Kari K. Steele. “The Lockport Powerhouse is an important part of history as well as a living example of innovative water management. We are proud to share its story and our mission with the public.”

In addition to the tours, the event featured educational exhibits highlighting the MWRD’s broader efforts in wastewater treatment, stormwater management, and environmental protection. The MWRD built the Powerhouse in conjunction with its construction on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) to divert water downstream away from Lake Michigan. By building the powerhouse and lock at a 37-foot drop in elevation between the CSSC and Des Plaines River, the MWRD was able to harness energy from the water. The reversal of the flow of water through the Powerhouse and the opening of the lock connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico and preserved the public health, the environment and a vibrant economy relying on clean water and transportation. 

“It was wonderful to see so many people interested in the operations of our waterways at the Open House,” said Vice President Patricia Theresa Flynn.  “The Lockport Powerhouse embodies both history and progress, and we look forward to another century of progress.”

Attendees had the chance to engage with MWRD staff, ask questions, and gain a deeper understanding of the agency’s initiatives to protect water resources and promote ecological health. The open house also included family-friendly activities, making it an enjoyable and informative experience for all ages. From interactive displays to hands-on learning stations, the event aimed to inspire future generations to take an active interest in environmental stewardship and engineering.

“The Lockport Powerhouse stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of innovation and the relentless pursuit of harnessing nature’s power, illuminating the path to a future where ingenuity meets sustainability,” said Chairman of Finance Marcelino Garcia.

The success of the Lockport Powerhouse open house underscores the community’s keen interest in sustainable practices and historical preservation. The MWRD remains committed to engaging with the public through such events, fostering a deeper connection between the agency’s work and the 5.19 million residents it serves.

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