Menomonee Valley Naturalization
Once the center of heavy industry in the city, Milwaukee’s Menomonee River Valley is now a national model in economic development and environmental sustainability. By the late 1900s, as manufacturing practices changed, the Valley was left a blighted area with abandoned, contaminated land and vacant industrial buildings.
Now, 300 acres of former brownfields have been converted to mixed use and natural green areas thanks to the untiring efforts of the Menomonee Valley Partners. The valley now features over one million square feet of green buildings, seven miles of the Hank Aaron riverside trail, and 45 acres of native plants leading to improved wildlife habitat and water quality.
Three Bridges Park in Menomonee Valley (Photo Credit: Eddee Daniel)
Kinnickinnic River Naturalization
When salmon and trout leave their Lake Michigan home for a river run to spawn, some migrate through Wisconsin’s most impervious, densely-urbanized watershed. Tightly bound by residential properties, the Kinnickinnic River is lined with miles of concrete, an outdated and inadequate form of flood management that actually makes the waterway dangerous during heavy rain with powerful currents.
To improve flooding conditions and aquatic habitat, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District will remove 12,000 linear feet of crumbling concrete and expand the channel from the current 60 feet to as much as 200 feet wide, naturalizing the Kinnickinnic River. Naturalization will make the river safer, decrease flooding, and improve biological conditions and water quality.
Kinnickinnic River Project at Pulaski Park
North Avenue Dam Removal
The long-lived North Avenue dam effectively divided the Milwaukee River into lower and upper sections. The upper river remained peaceful, while the lower river became heavily industrialized, its banks replaced with retaining walls and its bottom dredged to accommodate large ships.
In 2010, the City of Milwaukee created the Milwaukee River Greenway Master Plan to provide a long-term vision for the Milwaukee Rivers that would attract recreational visitors and protect and restore the unique ecological habitats along it. The City of Milwaukee therefore removed the North Avenue dam and established the Milwaukee River Overlay Zone to establish conservation and improve ecological habitats on the banks of the Milwaukee River.
Milwaukee River Greenway (Photo: Eddee Daniel)
Estabrook Dam Removal
Originally built in 1937 to elevate water levels for recreational purposes, Milwaukee’s Estabrook Dam unintentionally caused environmental consequences such as trapping sedimentation and creating fish migration barriers. After years of neglect, the dam was removed in 2018 by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. The removal of the dam will reverse the environmental consequences, improving water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife.
Estabrook Dam Removal (Photo: Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District)