Waterway Restoration Partnership


The Milwaukee Estuary became an Area of Concern in the 1980s because of historical contamination and changes to the rivers, fish consumption, water quality, and wildlife habitat. An Area of Concern is an area on the Great Lakes that has a history of significant environmental harm from human activities, preventing people and wildlife from fully using or enjoying the local waterways.

In order to delist the Area of Concern, we must clean up our rivers and Lake Michigan and restore their natural function by creating habitat, removing invasive plants and animals, planting vegetation, and reducing pollutants. Together, as a community, we have a historic opportunity to remove pollution from our waterways to support healthier fish and wildlife, and improve recreational opportunities, like fishing, swimming, and boating.

  • Dredged Material 
  • Fish Passage
  • Habitat Enhancement
  • The Greenway
  • Floodplains

Dredged Material Management Facility 

Proposed Dredged Material Management FacilityOver time, contaminated sediment has accumulated in the downstream portions of our rivers that must be removed in order to clean up the Milwaukee Area of Concern. The existing Confined Disposal Facility located north of the Lake Express ferry dock is nearly at capacity and does not have available space for the sediment that will be removed from the rivers as part of the Milwaukee Estuary AOC Initiative. The new facility will provide the needed capacity for storage of this sediment.

The Dredged Material Management Facility (DMMF) is a cost-effective approach that manages the contaminated sediment and protects both river and lake health. In addition to reducing the cost to remove and store the sediment, construction of the DMMF at the lakefront bypasses the negative environmental impacts of hauling the material to a new landfill.  If the material was trucked to a landfill instead of to the DMMF, there would be increased truck traffic and the need for landfill expansion. 

The facility is anticipated to be constructed between 2022 and 2023. Once constructed, the DMMF will be owned and operated by the Port of Milwaukee.



Kletzsch Dam Fish Passage

Fish and other aquatic species need to be able to swim up river in order to access food sources, reproduce, and establish healthy, stable populations. When man-made barriers like dams prohibit or delay fish movement in our waterways, fish passage can be designed to help fish move through or around the barrier to get where they need to go.

At Kletzsch, MMSD is planning to design and build a passage channel that goes around the dam on the east side of the river. The Kletzsch Dam Fish Passage project is intended to address required dam repairs and to provide fish passage for native species within the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern. Kletzsch Dam is the largest remaining fish passage barrier on the Milwaukee River between Lake Michigan and Grafton.

Milwaukee River Habitat Enhancement

Milwaukee River Greenway

Restoring unique habitat and enhancing diversity along one of Milwaukee’s most vital ecological and recreational corridors. The landscape that surrounds the Milwaukee River, known as the Greenway, contains communities of plants, animals, and natural features that have become rare throughout the County.

Centering on sites with the greatest restoration potential, this project seeks improve floodplain and upland forest, shrubland, wetland, and aquatic habitat on approximately 240 acres of natural area in Lincoln, Hubbard, Kern, Pleasant Valley, Gordon and Riverside Parks, as well as section 5 of the Milwaukee River Parkway.

Milwaukee River Floodplains 

Recent soil samples from the Milwaukee River floodplains indicate the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and heavy metals such as lead. The sampling area covers approximately four river miles on the east and west sides of the river between Estabrook Dam and the former North Avenue Dam. The floodplain is largely open to the public and contains walking trails as part of the Milwaukee River Greenway. Officials from federal, state, and local units of government are working together to ensure public health and safety and determine next steps for the ongoing river cleanup efforts.

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