Saturday, September 17, 2011

Milwaukee River Dam Removals Ahead Of National Trend

The North Avenue dam is gone as part of the growing Milwaukee River Greenway, and the Estabrook Dam removal upstream needs to happen, as rivers, fisheries and economics based on the natural course of the land and water are running freer across the country.


Anonymous said...

So why the yard signs against removal? Is this also a property value issue?

Tall Blue said...

Many decrepit rural dams no longer serve their intended purpose but there are a lot of reasons not to return rivers to the wild within urban environments. Wild rivers change course and cut into other land, sometimes ruining infrastructure like bridges, streets, sanitary and storm sewers and back yards. Upsetting the established environmental balance takes land that was put to good use and leaves mud flats and footholds for invasive species including undesirables like lampreys, undesirable fish, noxious weeds, and numerous urban pest problems. In the case of the Estabrook Dam it redistributes silt and flotsam in ways that increase urban flooding to undo the initial purpose of the dam, which was flood control. Removal efforts seldom address these up-steam remediation issues in ways that portray total costs, and are seldom portrayed honestly by dam removal "experts". (usually self proclaimed experts from non profits who the DNR funds) Like any major change, dam removal projects and cost estimates need to honestly include the entire impact of proposed changes. Wisconsin DNR uses gestapo tactics to remove dams for a number of self serving reasons including flushing toxic sediments out of their own area of responsibility. Grafton Mill Pond and Estabrook stakeholders are putting up valiant fights to preserve the dams that serve their areas. If you want to find out more, read "Saving A Dam and the heart of a community" by Erin Blum and Sue Hass. It was written this year about the Mill Pond Dam in Grafton.

Riverkeeper said...

If folks are interested in learning about issues associated with Estabrook Dam, please check out the Estabrook Dam page on our website at:

In the case of Estabrook, the Dam actually increases the flood stage for upstream residents and removing it would ameliorate flooding. Also, a statewide study (link on our website) have shown that home values actually are either stable or increase after dam removals. Removing the Estabrook Dam is in the best interest of the river and makes most sense economically, as the County is facing a 50M dollar defecit this year and a 300 million dollar gap in infrastructure maintenance.

If folks want to follow the Grafton example, the County Board could allow for a referendum of local residents to decide the question. Unfortunately, they have to approve all referendums as opposed to the ability of citizens being able to trigger their own referendums on the municipal level. Spending millions on fixing Estabrook Dam only benefits a small number of residents. We could use that funding to fix badly degrading park facilities, park lagoons, etc.

Those who would like to see what it looks after removal should go visit the former Chair Factory Dam site in Grafton, the Woolen Mills site in West Bend (now Riverside Park), the recent removal at Lime Kiln in Grafton, or the North Avenue Dam (at the bottom of the new Greenway). We also have before/after pics on our website.

Tall Blue said...

The chairfactory dam has little in common with Estabrook or Millpond dams.

In many parts of the country the riverkeeper organizations are wonderful custodians of our waterways.

Our area is the home of a little different version. The majority of the people at Grafton as well as the vast majority of those living along the Estabrook impoundment strongly feel that the Riverkeeper was the primary source of disinformation and pressure regarding the dams and their associated waterways. Through years of public relations, their views are usually favored by the mainstream media even when their facts are wrong. They have imposed multiple law suits against several of our local government entities and are now involved in suing Milwaukee County in what many believe is a frivalous suit. These bullies habitually portray and repeat exaggerated or completely erroneous statements even after they are proven to be false. Several of their former members have quit for these reasons. Others are hoping to bring change from within. If they continue on this path, some are planning a campaign to reach out to their benefactors to educate them how disruptive this group has become. Contributions to their organization could fuel pressure or lawsuits against our community.