Bridge at Pulaski Park - Kinnickinnic River Flood Management

A new pedestrian bridge is set in place in Milwaukee's Pulaski Park for a flood management project.

More than 660 homes and businesses sit in the floodplain of the Kinnickinnic River Watershed, the most densely populated, heavily urbanized watershed in Wisconsin. There's very little room to store excess rain and keep it from flooding homes that are in harms way.

Flood Management in Pulaski Park


On the interactive map below, see if you can find spaces large enough to store millions of gallons of water.
Some areas are off limits, like the airport and cemeteries.



Building a Safer Urban Wilderness with Flood Management

When salmon and trout leave their Lake Michigan home for a river run to spawn, you can see dozens of lunkers, some just feet from your own feet, migrating through Wisconsin’s most impervious, densely-urbanized watershed. Tightly bound by residential properties, the Kinnickinnic River is lined with miles of concrete, an outdated form of flood management that actually makes the waterway dangerous during heavy rain with powerful currents that have claimed lives.

Salmon in stream

“By removing concrete and completing this dynamic project, we’re reducing the risk of flooding for hundreds of homes, some that have seen multiple years of flood damage,” said Ben Gramling, former Commission Chair of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD). “We’re investing in stronger neighborhoods, economic development and quality of life.”

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The Kinnickinnic River Watershed is the most heavily urbanized, densely populated watershed in the State of Wisconsin. More than 600 homes remain in the floodplain. MMSD is working on numerous solutions to help reduce the risk of flooding.

A conceptual drawing of what the new Kinnickinnic River may look like.

The Kinnickinnic River Stakeholder group came up with an approved alternative plan in 2009 that included purchasing 83 homes near the current banks of the river to make more room for the river. When concrete is removed from the channel, a larger channel will be needed to accommodate a slower, wider river. Concrete ends up whisking water downstream faster in a narrower path compared to naturalized waterways. MMSD started purchasing homes through voluntary sales in 2010.

Part of the project completed

To get a feel for what the Kinnickinnic River Flood Management Project will resemble, visit the stretch of river between the I-94 bridge and 6th Street in Milwaukee. Workers removed 1,000 feet of concrete there in 2011, widened the channel and erected retaining walls in a landlocked area with steep slopes to prevent erosion. A nearby bike trail makes it easy for neighbors to enjoy the views and fish from the banks when the salmon and trout visit in spring and fall.

Kinnickinnic River

The Kinnickinnic River from the I-94 bridge looking west towards 6th Street.