Tag Archives: MMSD

Approved: Oak Creek Watershed Restoration Plan To Begin In Early 2016

Oak Creek Parkway fall

What a watershed week for the future of the Oak Creek watershed.

In the past week, the South Milwaukee Common Council, Milwaukee County Board and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Board all approved intergovernmental cooperation agreements for the creation of an Oak Creek watershed restoration plan.

Next: The beginning of the planning process itself in the first couple of months of 2016.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission will do the work, as it develops recommendations to improve water quality, recreational access and use, habitat conditions and targeted stormwater drainage and flooding issues. The status and future of the Mill Pond and dam will also receive special focus as part of the study.

It’s much-needed work that is too long in coming — about 30 years, to be exact. That’s how long it’s been since the watershed has received this kind of holistic planning focus. And I’m proud to help drive it.

Of course, patience is encouraged, as we take a long-term view in fixing the watershed.

The study will take more than two years to complete. My ask: Be heard, throughout.

There will be plenty of opportunities for public input, comment and reaction. In addition to regular meetings of a technical committee comprised of representatives from each watershed jurisdiction, there will be a number of stakeholder meetings for area residents, an open house and other chances to weigh in. More details to come on that early next year.

The study will cost $542,900, with MMSD contributing $280,000 of that — equal to the amount of watershed land mass in the sewerage district boundaries. SEWRPC is contributing $225,000 in-kind, while the remaining $18,950 shares will be paid by the City of South Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.

I have every confidence this will be money well spent, as it yields the information, science, context and road map we need to make decisions big and small in bringing the watershed back to life.

In other words, the work toward a cleaner and more vibrant Oak Creek watershed begins now. Dive in with all the partners who have come together to make this restoration plan a reality.

Let’s go.


Filed under City Council, Milwaukee County, Oak Creek watershed, South Milwaukee

Progress Toward Long-Term Solutions For The Oak Creek Watershed

Oak Creek parkway

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.


Filed under Oak Creek watershed, South Milwaukee

Maintaining the Creek: Finding Common Ground on a Local Waterway

I’ve written a lot about how I love Oak Creek. It’s such a special part of the 4th District as it meanders on its way to Grant Park and Lake Michigan.

It’s also far from perfect. It’s overgrown with vegetation in places, and it can get dammed from time to time with fallen trees and other debris. It’s also far from desirable as a recreational option.

What can or should be done to address these concerns and make the creek an even more valuable resource for South Milwaukee and other area communities?

That was the subject of a meeting held earlier this week at City Hall, where about 20 people gathered to discuss the creek and its future. Among those in attendance were city leaders (including Mayor Tom Zepecki, Alderman David Bartoshevich, City Engineer Kyle Vandercar and me) and representatives from the Milwaukee County Department of Public Works, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

The discussion centered around what can and should be done to ensure Oak Creek is effectively controlling flooding (and not contributing to it).

Among the questions raised: Who “owns” certain parts of the creek? Who is responsible for keeping it clear? What about dredging the Mill Pond? And, perhaps more importantly, would improving the flow of the creek and/or dredging potentially help lessen the severity of flooding for area homeowners? Also, what role could these efforts play in enhancing the recreational options the creek allows?

There honestly weren’t many answers coming out of the meeting, but at least we’re talking about these issues. That’s why Milwaukee County Supervisor Pat Jursik should get a lot of credit for organizing the gathering and taking the lead on this issue.

This discussion is long overdue, and valuable, and it ended, for now, on Monday with SEWRPC pledging to look into what it will take to do a deeper dive study on the creek and come up with some options. We’ll see where that leads.

Like the creek, this will move slowly. But at least it’s moving. I hope it leads to a day where all key stakeholders realize that maintaining and enhancing the Oak Creek watershed is a partnership, a shared responsibility by all of those who enjoy and benefit from a well-maintained waterway.

It’s not the county’s creek. It’s not one city’s creek. It’s the region’s creek. We need to act like it.

I’ll keep you posted, and please post your comments below.

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Filed under Community

One Way MMSD Plans to Address Flooding Problems and Other Headlines of Local Interest

As you probably know, South Milwaukee has its own wastewater utility — one independent of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

I think this is a positive for our city, giving us local control over this important public works responsibility.

That said, I think it’s important to keep an eye on what MMSD is doing in response to basement backups and other flooding problems arising from last July’s storms. The district’s latest proposal: potentially charge homeowners an average of $3,000 to repair sewer laterals and disconnect foundation drains.

Learn more in this Journal Sentinel story.

I’ll tell you that there are no plans for a similar response in South Milwaukee, where we are planning to focus on some bigger picture solutions, rather than going home by home and putting the cost of some of these fixes directly on the backs of property owners. Learn more in my previous post on this … and stay tuned for more details on some of the projects we’ll be undertaking in 2011 and beyond in coming weeks.

And check out these other headlines of local interest:

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Filed under Headlines