A Community Effort Cleans Up the Kinnickinnic River

Project Summary: Restoring Milwaukee’s Kinnickinnic River is helping to reduce flooding risks, improve public safety, provide a home for fish and wildlife, and bring families back to their neighborhood river.

Project Name: Kinnickinnic River Naturalization

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Description: The south side neighborhoods that border the Kinnickinnic River in Milwaukee are in the middle of a

BEFORE: This picture of the Kinnickinnic River is representative of what the river looked like before the naturalization effort expanded the banks of the river, allowing it to meander. Photo courtesy of the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center.

BEFORE: This picture of the Kinnickinnic River is representative of what the river looked like before the naturalization effort expanded the banks of the river, allowing it to meander. Photo courtesy of the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center.

transformation that is improving the health of the River and the neighborhood. The Kinnickinnic River was placed into a concrete channel in the 1960s, and had a long history of overflowing these artificial banks. The River was also seen more as a dangerous and polluted liability and less as a resource that would draw people to enjoy it. To address these problems, organizations serving Milwaukee’s south side in conjunction with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, came up with a plan. First and foremost, the river would need to be returned to a more natural, meandering state, allowing for flood events on the banks of the river, and providing habitat for aquatic life. To accomplish this, 56 houses immediately adjacent to the stream channel have been purchased and demolished to make room for the expanded riverbanks, and another 27 are planned for acquisition. Secondly, nearby residents needed to better understand their role in improving and protecting their neighborhood river. They have begun by leading neighborhood cleanups, installing rain gardens and rain barrels to capture stormwater—keeping it from

AFTER: This portion of the Kinnickinnic River is fully naturalized. It can now manage flood- waters while being a beautiful amenity to the neighborhood. Photo courtesy of the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center.

AFTER: This portion of the Kinnickinnic River is fully naturalized. It can now manage flood- waters while being a beautiful amenity to the neighborhood. Photo courtesy of the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center.

directly running into the Kinnickinnic. Currently, 40 residents have installed rain gardens and swales in their yards to slow rainwater, and the Sewerage District has donated 100 rain barrels to collect rain for later use.

Approximate Cost of the Project: $93,000,000, with some funding coming from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Resource Challenges Addressed: Flooding, natural river flow with pools and riffles, access to nearby outdoor recreation, understanding of how people impact the health of the watershed

Key Partners (Public and Private): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Fund for Lake Michigan, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, Sweetwater, Southeast Wisconsin Watershed Trust, Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Groundwork Milwaukee, and Southside Organizing Committee

Types of Jobs Created: Construction workers, general laborers, landscapers, lawn construction, landscape architects, and rain garden instillation experts

Results and Accomplishments: More work is yet to be done, but so far an aging bridge that restricted the flow of the Kinnickinnic was restructured, the downstream channel has been widened and concrete has been removed. Neighborhood residents have implemented active stormwater management practices such as using rain barrels and planting rain gardens, and designed and built a pocket park next to the river. Because of these changes, more aquatic life has returned to the river, flood risks have been reduced, residents will have new green space near the channel to enjoy the Kinnickinnic, and a neighborhood has a better understanding of how they impact their watershed.

Website: http://sschc.org/kinnickinnic-river-rehabilitation-and-neighborhood-plan-overview/

Originally Published: August 30, 2013

One Response to A Community Effort Cleans Up the Kinnickinnic River

  1. Paul Flansburg says:

    Congratulations Milwaukee! Again, this is a timely posting of how GLRI money has been spent! I admit that the US is in a debt crisis but I’ve also heard terrible stories related to the public’s personal investment in China–ongoing environmentally damaging grey construction coupled with the false promise of financial reward. People who have money will wish they invested in something like this! Cooperating with the environment in a way that makes people want to live near there–what a concept! I’d like to see the numbers about how this investment will pay for itself. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the quality of living that our efforts provide.

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