8 min read

June 18, 2024 | New plans to capture landfill gas

June 18, 2024 | New plans to capture landfill gas

Hey Locals,

We are going green this week with a look at renewable energy, the city's tree canopy and the long-awaited reopening of Fox Island County Park.

First up, you might have seen news last week about the renewable natural gas venture, Lightening Renewables, coming to Fort Wayne's landfill, courtesy of a partnership between the owner of the city's trash and recycling facilities, Republic Services, and bp Oil and Gas’s Archaea Energy company. We explain how it works and how friendly it is to the environment.

We also answer a reader's question about multiple large street tree removals in the Northside Neighborhood near Conjure Coffee, and we provide an update on the city's parks and greenspaces – with an opportunity for public input.

Be sure to get outside this week, and check out Fox Island's reopening. You might also cool off with some ice cream at the new Pufferbelly Junction ice cream train on the riverfront, where we share menu recs you won't want to miss!

And... don't forget: In June, we're partnering with Pikoso Burrito Co. inside Union Street Market at Electric Works to bring all paid subscribers a FREE order of chips and salsa. We give our paid members a freebie every month at a local business to cover the cost of membership. See what a paid membership is all about with this 30-day trial, and you can get that chips and salsa.

Now, let's get started!

*NOTE: Links to Journal Gazette articles are marked with an * and may be behind a paywall.

What is Lightening Renewables?

We break down how the renewable natural gas (RNG) venture works – and just how friendly it is to the environment.

The Archaea Modular Design (AMD) plant at Republic’s National Serv-All Landfill in Fort Wayne, Ind. (Courtesy)

What's happening?

Last week, Fort Wayne became home to a new $50 million venture called Lightening Renewables, which seeks to capture some of the "landfill gas" (like methane) emitted from Republic’s National Serv-All Landfill at 6354 Yohne Rd. and convert it into renewable natural gas (RNG), a lower-emission, lower-carbon fuel.

  • Who's behind it? The project is a joint venture between bp Oil and Gas’s Archaea Energy company and Republic Services, which owns the landfill and recycling facilities in Fort Wayne.
  • How does it work? "Archaea partners with landfills and farms to capture natural emissions from their decomposing organic waste, which naturally releases biogas – a combination of methane and various impurities including carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen sulfide," a press release says. RNG plants are designed to destroy the impurities and compress methane (a potent greenhouse gas) into a fuel interchangeable with traditional natural gas (a fossil fuel) as for uses, like power generation, heating homes and creating renewable hydrogen, just to name a few.
  • For a little background: Oil giant bp quickly became the largest producer of RNG in the U.S. when it acquired Archaea Energy in 2022, as one of its "transition growth engines" to diversify its fuels (alongside other strategies like renewable hydrogen, which its RNG ventures could feed into). Archaea uses modular design to expedite the process of building RNG facilities at dairy farms and landfills in more than 30 states. It's Lightening Renewables plant in Fort Wayne is the first of 40 planned ventures with Republic nationwide, and it will be the largest Archaea Modular Design in Indiana.
  • What impact might it have? Fort Wayne's Lightening Renewables is scheduled to come online this summer, and it will employ eight full-time workers. bp's AMD plants nationwide come in three sizes based on how much gas they can process: 3,200 standard cubic feet of landfill gas per minute (scfm); 6,400 scfm; and 9,600 scfm. The Fort Wayne plant will be a 6,400 scfm project, which the companies claim will convert "enough energy to heat more than 25,000 homes annually." But the benefits of RNG are limited, and some fear it could detract from more environmentally friendly tactics, like composting and the need to create a cleaner local recycling stream.

Why it matters

To learn more about potential benefits and challenges with Lightening Renewables, we spoke with two local sustainability experts: Jodi Leamon, a Program Manager for City Utilities, Energy and Sustainability Services, as well as Brett Bloom, Founding Manager of Dirt Wain Compost. And it's complicated.

Read all about it in our premium newsletter.

  • A new Brave Alliance Health Center in Southeast accepts all patients regardless of ability to pay and fills gaps in LGBTQ+ care. Alliance Health Centers CEO Nikki King tells The JG* the center at 525 Oxford St. functions similar to a federal clinic without “significant federal funding." Instead, it bills insurance, and Parkview Health provides financial and operational support. Parkview also staffs the center and refers patients to its specialty services. The new center is expected to open late-June, and it offers full-service primary care, family medicine and mental health services, including gender affirming care and other resources for the LGBTQ+ community — filling gaps in services social workers say "changes the landscape.” Alliance Health Centers is also partnering with Bridge of Grace Ministries to open a clinic at the new Bridge of Grace Complex at 909 Elmrow Dr. in mid-June. It already operates clinics inside Lafayette Medical Center and the Rescue Mission.
  • Fox Island County Park reopened June 17. The park has been closed since the 2022 derecho, which downed more than 1,000 trees there. Luckily, Fox Island received funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), allowing it to clean up and safely reopen to guests, WANE 15 reports. Rentals are still on hold until August, and trail access is limited until next year. More upgrades are coming, too, including an accessible trail (mid-2025), stretching from the nature center to the top of the glacial sand dune.

Plus: New restaurants, sheriff's dept. funding, home sales and more. Read all about it in our premium newsletter.

Reader question: What's happening to street trees in Northside Neighborhood?

We answer a reader question about tree loss – and what's happening with Fort Wayne's tree canopy, at large.

City subcontractors have recently removed a few street trees along Columbia Avenue in the Northside Neighborhood near Conjure Coffee, and a reader asked us to find out why.

What’s happening?

Recently, a reader in the Northside Neighborhood reached out to us about multiple large street tree removals along Columbia Avenue (near Conjure Coffee). They asked us to look into what was going on and explain to other residents how they might find out if street trees near their own homes are at risk of removal.

We sat down with Parks Deputy Director Alec Johnson and Superintendent of Forestry, Derek Veit to find out – and get an update on Fort Wayne’s tree canopy, in general.

Here are three quick things to know:

  • How does street tree removal work? Fort Wayne has about 50,000 street trees in the right-of-way along nearly 1,300 miles of roadway managed by Parks. The department routinely looks for trees that are dead and/or dangerous for removal, and trees are prioritized based on a windshield perspective of obvious issues or signs of decay, as well as likelihood of failure and likelihood of impacting a target. When Parks finds a tree that needs to be removed, they mark it with paint, and then a subcontractor comes out to remove it at a later date.
  • Why are so many trees coming down in the Northside area? Viet tells us there are a lot of large, over-mature Silver Maples there that are simply a liability at this point. "One story I’ve heard is: After World War II, soldiers didn’t have jobs, and one task was planting trees along city streets," he says. "So people would drive pickup trucks full of seedlings and put them into the ground wherever they saw a spot. So you now have streets lined with these trees that were planted about 75 years ago, and many of them are becoming over-mature, perhaps faster than another species of tree would. Silver Maples can live up to 130-150 years, but most in urban settings, they live between 35-100 years. Unfortunately, they’re reaching their limits, and in areas where they’re plentiful, they’re coming down all at once."
  • How many total trees will need to be removed this year, and how can residents get replacements? Veit expects Parks will remove about 1,000 trees this winter into spring. "A 2014 study concludes that typical street tree annual mortality can expected between 3.5% and 5.1%, and we anticipate staying below this attrition rate," he says. Residents can stay informed about tree and Parks updates in their area via neighborhood association and quadrant meetings, where Parks representatives are on hand to answer questions. They can also take advantage of strategies for replacing lost tree canopy through the city's Citizen Match Tree Planting program for street trees (now open through July 1), as well as the nonprofit Tree Canopy Growth Fund for yard trees, which Veit co-founded.

To learn more, check out our full story, which details a Parks Comprehensive Plan also open for public comment!

Zeb Boetcker, Owner of Pufferbelly Junction, serves a bubble waffle cone with one scoop of puppy chow ice cream.
  • Cool off: with a treat from Pufferbelly Junction, a new ice cream and candy shop in a train car and railroad depot near the Riverfront and Fort Wayne Outfitters at 1022 Cass St. We ordered a bubble waffle cone with one scoop of puppy chow ice cream, and it was just as amazing as it sounds – and enough to share!
  • Get groovy: at a That 70s Summer Market at Pedal City on June 22, noon-6 p.m. The event offers food from La Cabaña and drinks with shopping at small businesses. Plus, the first 20 shoppers get a tote bag full of freebies and coupons.
  • Listen: to A Night of Poetry by Urban Update (21+) on June 21, 8-10 p.m. at 1801 Lake Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. $10.00 admission and $40 reserved tables.

What else? Learn about more events in our premium newsletter.

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Have a great week, Locals!

-Your Editor, Kara Hackett