Oak Creek Watershed Update: Key Stakeholder Meeting Set for December 12

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s work on the Oak Creek Watershed plan is ramping up.

Their focus now is on the critical Chapter 4 of the plan: a deep dive into water quality, quantity, and other “inventory findings,” including a review of the status of the Mill Pond and dam.

That “state of the watershed” information will be reviewed at a meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12, at Oak Creek’s Drexel Town Square, 8040 South 6th St., in the Multipurpose Room.


The intent of this meeting is to briefly review and receive comments on Plan draft Chapter 4, “Inventory Findings”, which includes discussion on stream flows, the history and current conditions for the Mill Pond and dam, and water quality conditions in the watershed. 

Beverages and a light supper will be available.

You can review the plan, and the partially complete Chapter 4, here.

It is sobering information, culled from volumes and volumes of available data from a variety of sources, and the results of years of physically walking the creek by SEWRPC staff.

From the report …

The entire mainstem of Oak Creek is currently listed as impaired with three impairments. The Creek is listed as impaired due to chronic aquatic toxicity related to an unknown pollutant. It is also listed as impaired due to the presence of a degraded biological community related to high concentrations of total phosphorus. Finally, the Creek is listed as impaired due to chronic and acute aquatic toxicity related to high concentrations of chloride. Each of these impairments apply to the entire length of the mainstem of Oak Creek. One tributary stream is proposed for listing as impaired on the 2018 list. The WDNR has proposed adding a 5.7-mile section of the North Branch of Oak Creek to the impaired waters list due to the presence of chronic and acute aquatic toxicity related to high concentrations of chloride.

There is a lot of information — A LOT. The incomplete draft version of Chapter 4 being reviewed in December is already nearly 200 pages long, and counting. However, I’m glad to see SEWRPC taking this deep of a dive. The watershed will be better off for it.

We need science to drive our decision making, as we look to breathe new life into the Oak Creek Watershed. This report — and all the data behind — will be the roadmap we need to do it.


Filed under South Milwaukee

13 responses to “Oak Creek Watershed Update: Key Stakeholder Meeting Set for December 12

  1. Bryce Ruddock

    Thanks for sharing this as I am extremely interested in the future of how the watershed is managed.

  2. Michael

    Another case of politicians ignoring the obvious and tying up a project in costly red tape.

  3. Bryce Ruddock

    Regulatory agencies are not the same as politicians as they are not elected but either hired or appointed. In this instance some of the projects were kicked down the road by past state senates and assemblies so regulatory agencies had to sit on it. The egg has hatched and its time to raise that chicken.

  4. Frank Gratke

    The “nearly 200 pages long” should not stop anybody from reading it. If you read it and have any background on the Watershed the statement “SEWRPC taking this deep of a dive” becomes “SEWRPC avoids naming possible sources of pollution and SEWRPC does not call for core testing of Mill Pond”.Thus. not setting off the real red flags that should be set off. This does remind me of 2002 Arcadis report done to purchase the land for the football field, No one read it, We bought the land and made it into the football field. The report, if anybody would read it would basically said “wait a minute”.

  5. Mary C. Nelson

    A few years ago, the outlet drain pipes into the Creek from BE and Appleton (I think) and possibly others were checked for toxic discharges and the Public was told that there were no toxic substances coming into the Creek then. Is it going into Lake Michigan ? Where is this toxicity coming from ? Will the sources be investigated ? Will the sources be fined ? Is this affecting the fish that swim up the Creek ? There are many questions to be answered ! Especially, is it going into Lake Michigan ? We need answers !

    • Frank Gratke

      In the report there is a 2021 date the DNR has set for fixing the drain. The cost estimate in the report was $200,000 for fixing the drain alone. The estimated sludge in the report to remove in mill pond was 47,000 cubic yards
      .I belief the three possible sources are the DNR low level toxic waste site formerly known as the Falk landfill site south of the football field ,the Caterpillar superfund site all the Caterpillar land north of Rawson Avenue more common referred to as “little korea”. Problems found at the mouth of the Oak Creek at Lake Michigan has a possible source of the Marina Cliffs superfund site.
      Note: DNR is in the process of bringing in 10,000 yards of dregings from the KK river with low levels of arsenic into the DNR site.

  6. Nels Monson

    I too am concerned what this watershed report portends for the future of the mill pond and dam. Yes, all this scary talk of toxin level cleanup and the long overdue dredging sounds and is indeed not going to be cheap.
    However, I’m not sure if there is any talk of fixing the sluice gate at the bottom of the dam. For over sixty years this gate played an all important role in reducing sludge accumulation in the mill pond by it’s annual opening to “flush out” any buildup. When it broke, I doubt that any of the powers to be realized the long term effects of not fixing it promptly – so here we are. If the gate problem is not addressed I fear we may be trying to curie a symptom instead of a major cause.
    I hope that in all this bureaucratic and government agency involvement “we” don’t lose sight of just how important it is to SM’s very identity to make sure the lagoon and dam remain for future generations of South Milwaukeeans to enjoy. As a quality of life statement and a site of great local historical importance, losing it could very well “cost” our community much, much more.

    • Frank Gratke

      I can not emphasis more the report must be read. Yes,a $200,000 estimate to fix sluice gate aka drain valve is in the report. Core testing that has been stated as requirement before demolishing the Dam or dredge the sludge is not. The history of Roger Sherman Hoar involvement in getting the dam built or any other historical part of the Dam is not in the report. The cost of losing the dam and the history of Roger Sherman Hoar would be earth shattering to mankind.

      • Daisy Hope

        “The cost of losing the dam and the history of Roger Sherman Hoar would be earth shattering to mankind.” Seriously?

      • Bryce Ruddock

        Struggling at my end to think of why losing the dam or the history of Roger Sherman Hoar might be earth shattering at all to anyone. Every day there are dams being decommissioned and removed that are no longer serving the intended purpose. Think Estabrook Dam on the Milwaukee River. What is the current intended purpose of the Mill Dam in the tomes of rising winter temperatures where the pond surface does not freeze to an adequate depth to ensure safe winter recreation. Keep in mind that fish stocking before a fishing clinic has been the only way that the pond has been able to provide any sort of recreational fishing. Fish stocks in the pond have never reached self reproduction regarding recreation fish. Perhaps crayfish and minnows but not much else. I am all for a restoration of natural drainage patterns that existed pre European settlement in regards to the Oak Creek system. I am aware that my opinion will be to say at the least, controversial, to strict historical preservationists. Bas4ed upon my studies regarding water flow patterns both locally and in a global context its better to restore water flows to the patterns that existed before we meddled with them rather than lament the passing of a lifestyle that no longer either exists (milling of sawn logs or grain) or seasonal ice skating. I cannot recall the last time that rowboats or canoe rentals were a feature of the mill pond. While we have only been residents here for the past thirty-five years our residence in the area goes back to 1954 so we are not unacquainted with the general area even back then.

      • Frank Gratke

        Another document to read is Roger Sherman Hoar’s obituary. Explaining he was the architect of the social security act. Then cross reference his try to bring an explanation of Wilder Penfield’s work forward. You might end of using the words “earth shattering”.Both individuals are in Wikipedia.But both articles do need serious upgrades.The Penfield center for disability children is on 26th and State in Milwaukee is named after Wilder. I do not know of any thing with Roger’s name on it.

  7. Nels Monson

    Thanks for the clarification about the drain valve repair quote, Frank.

  8. Frank Gratke

    Thanks for finding Roger Sherman Hoar’s obituary at the Library about 15 years ago when I happen to be behind you on another matter, Nels. I have been researching it ever sense.

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