I am excited for the future of the Oak Creek watershed, and we’re making progress toward what I consider a key part of its long-term health and vibrancy: a watershed restoration plan.
The goal: Develop a plan that will guide future actions and investment across the watershed, giving us the information we need to make a real difference in bringing this environmental, ecological and recreational resource back to life.
As you may recall, leaders and other key stakeholders from each of the communities, governmental bodies and other organizations in the 28-square-fmile watershed met in January to discuss a potential plan. At the meeting, we gave feedback to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission so they could provide a scope of work.
That scope of work is now back, and you can see it here.
It lays out a clear case for why a plan is necessary – including some of the problems that need addressing, and how we can get to workable solutions for the long term. The four focus areas will be around:
- Water quality;
- Recreational access and use;
- Habitat conditions, and
- Targeted stormwater drainage and flooding issues.
In addition, the scope document states, the status of the Mill Pond and the associated dam would be addressed considering their relationship to multiple focus issues.
The most important deliverable for me: “The watershed restoration plan will present implementation strategies, estimate the amount of technical and financial assistance needed for implementation and the associated costs, identify the authorities that will be relied upon to implement the plan, and identify potential sources of technical and financial assistance for plan implementation.”
In other words, this plan will deliver a comprehensive list of projects we should tackle across the watershed to ensure its long-term vitality. And it will provide us a path to address them.
It won’t be cheap. The restoration plan as proposed comes in at more than $500,000. But this is the cost of the holistic approach we’ve been lacking in this debate for decades. (The last similar study was done in the late 1980.)
Leaders representing some of the key potential plan funders — me, Milwaukee County Supervisor Pat Jursik and Parks Director John Dargle and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Executive Director Kevin Shafer — and Mike Hahn from SEWPRC met recently to discuss coordination, a path toward implementation and potential funding strategies.
It was a very positive discussion. We will meet again.
We will also be seeking grant funding for the plan, such as is being done with a related Oak Creek watershed water quality data testing effort being proposed by the Racine Health Department.
I ask for your continued support of this process and pledge to keep you posted as we move ahead. Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns.
The public will remain a key part of the process throughout, and will have plenty of opportunities to weigh in as we look to move ahead with the plan. That commitment to public involvement, outreach and education will also continue during the actual planning effort, as we’d bring on a third-party group focused on just those activities. You can learn more in the scope of work.
Ultimately, any funding strategy will require approval by the boards and councils of all the entities, and we’ll work toward that in coming months.
As I’ve written about, this is important work for South Milwaukee, and the entire watershed. I believe more than ever that this is the right path to take here.