burnham canal aerial view in Milwaukee

Burnham Canal Wetland Restoration Project

Project Overview

For thousands of years, the 1200-acre Menomonee River Valley was a wild rice marsh, home to Native Americans. By the mid-1800s, the settlement of Milwaukee pushed toward the Valley, and Milwaukeeans filled the marsh with soil, gravel, and waste to create dry land for additional development.

As the city grew, a series of canals including the Burnham Canal was created to allow ships sailing the Great Lakes access to Milwaukee industry. Industries dumped their waste into many of these canals. Although this no longer occurs, they left behind soil and sediment contamination requiring clean-up. Now the southernmost of those canals, Burnham Canal, located between N. 16th St. and S. 8th St. on the Menomonee River, will be revitalized and restored to a natural wetland.

The Burnham Canal is undergoing a multi-step process that includes creating a wetland base with clean gravel and sand, and later adding soil and wetland plants on top. Ultimately, MMSD will turn Burnham Canal into 6.7 acres of wetland.

This project is part of a larger initiative to restore the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern (AOC). Learn more about the AOC by watching this John Gurda video or visiting the Waterway Restoration Partnership website.

Sign Up for Milwaukee Estuary AOC Email Updates

Project Map

Project Benefits

  • Improve water quality
  • Improve fish and wildlife habitat
  • Improve access for recreation and education

Project Timeline

  • 2012 – 2021 Design
  • 2021-2026 Construction
    • Sediment cover and wetland base construction west of 11th St - 2021
    • Sediment cover and wetland base construction east of 11th St - 2022
    • Wetland Construction 2025 – 2026 (approx.)
  • 2026 – 2031 Post-Construction Monitoring
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    Burnham AR Phase I – Renderings don’t reflect a final design. We will be looking for more input on the design in the future.

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    Burnham AR Phase II – Renderings don’t reflect a final design. We will be looking for more input on the design in the future.

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    1872 Burnham Canal Circled

Additional Resources

Partners

Get Involved:

  • Sign up to receive Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern (AOC) MMSD project updates in your inbox.
  • Participate in upcoming events. MMSD will conduct several stakeholders and public outreach activities throughout the entirety of the project to obtain project input and feedback.
  • Follow MMSD on social media (Twitter, InstagramFacebook) for updates on MMSD projects.

 


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