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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin tours the Kinnickinnic River with MMSD's Patrick Elliott
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 Tightly bound by residential properties, the Kinnickinnic River is lined with miles of concrete, an outdated form of flood management that actually makes the waterway dangerous during heavy rain with powerful currents that have claimed lives.
“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, Commission Chair of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD). “We’re investing in stronger neighborhoods, economic development and quality of life.”
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.
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.
The Kinnickinnic River from the I-94 bridge looking west towards 6th Street.