With planning well underway around the Oak Creek Watershed, it’s easy to forget that much of the southeast portion of South Milwaukee doesn’t even sit in that watershed at all. It is in the Wind Point Watershed.
That watershed has been the subject of its own restoration plan in recent years, and there is some good news on that front: The federal EPA has endorsed the work, and implementation has already begun. The South Milwaukee Common Council adopted the plan at its meeting this week, with other communities to come.
You can see the plan here. Please take a look — and, as you do, recognize that this is the kind of plan that is being built for the Oak Creek Watershed.
This is what we are working towards.
Like the eventual end result of the Oak Creek plan, it is more than words on a page, and it won’t sit on a shelf. This is a broad roadmap for priority projects that is already guiding revitalization in the Wind Point Watershed — and serving as the foundational documentation necessary to obtain funding for those projects.
From the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network …
Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) is pleased to announce that the Wind Point Watershed Restoration Plan has been deemed “consistent with” (or approved according to) the Environmental Protection Agency’s Nine Key Element standards for watershed restoration. Nine Key Element plans provide research, results and recommendations that drive the reduction of flooding and runoff pollution, improve and expand habitats and create places where people want to be.
Having a plan that is consistent with Nine Key Element standards allows watershed stakeholders with specific recommendations in the Plan to be eligible for grants using federal section 319 funds. Projects in the Plan may also qualify for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding as determined by EPA and GLRI staff. Root-Pike WIN is working with the Department of Natural Resources, landowners, municipalities and other stakeholders to get the Plan implemented.
Nine Key Element Watershed Restoration Plans are based on comprehensive EPA guidelines for watershed planning that include exhaustive research, significant water quality testing, numerous public stakeholder meetings, municipal and landowner input, and alignment with DNR means and methods.
Planning for the Wind Point watershed began in 2013 as a strategic directive from Root-Pike WIN and was completed with significant technical assistance from Applied Ecological Services. Julie Kinzelman, Laboratory Director and Research Scientist at the City of Racine’s Health Department, provided extensive water quality monitoring data and insight. The Wind Point planning effort was made possible by grants from the Fund for Lake Michigan, SC Johnson Fund, and WE Energies Foundation.
Mike Luba, Root-Pike WIN’s Board President, commented, “This is a great step for the watershed as it allows for more funding of projects that will have a positive effect on water quality and reduce the impacts of flooding events. Root-Pike WIN has already been meeting and partnering with local communities to implement projects identified in the plan over the last 18 months.”
Key municipal stakeholders involved in the creation of the plan include Racine County, the Village of Wind Point, the Village of Caledonia, the City of Racine, Milwaukee County, the City of South Milwaukee, and the City of Oak Creek. The first year of the two-year development of the plan focused on engaging people from all reaches of the watershed through a series of meetings and online surveys culminating in a visioning session, where participants selected the priority areas for the plan. In the second year, an advisory group of interested citizens and public officials met regularly with Root-Pike WIN and Applied Ecological Services to advise and direct the development of the plan.
The Wind Point watershed is threatened by phosphorus and nitrogen from farming practices and storm water runoff, E. coli and other pathogens from agriculture and storm water runoff, suspended solids from storm water runoff and streambank erosion, loss and fragmentation of open space/natural habitat, reduced water infiltration and increased water use, invasive/non-native plant species, chlorides (salinity) from road salt, and low dissolved oxygen in waterways that lead to Lake Michigan.
“We’ve written a dozen or more of these Nine Element plans in the Midwest,” said plan author Steve Zimmerman, Senior Ecologist with Applied Ecological Services, “and they are always a catalyst for future grant funding of on-the-ground implementation projects. So these plans are really the first step to actual habitat improvements in the watershed.”
As of this month, 26 projects are already in preliminary discussions with stakeholders, eight projects are in planning, one project is in construction, and two have already been completed. With the plan now being consistent with EPA standards and DNR guidelines, projects will have more opportunities for federal funding.