Removing Culverts, Dams, and Obstacles Restores Passage to River

Project Summary: Removing dams, culverts, and other obstructions along the upper Milwaukee River has reconnected more than 100 miles of streams, allowing native fish like northern pike to return to parts of the river they had been cut off from.

Project Name: Ozaukee County Fish Passage Program

Location: Ozaukee County, Wisconsin

Description: The stretch of the Milwaukee River near the villages of Thiensville and Grafton had tributaries clogged with invasive plants and low culverts preventing aquatic species from easily traveling upstream. A dam across the river outside of Grafton

The Ozaukee County Highway Department removes a dam, blocking aquatic life from moving throughout the watershed. Photo courtesy of the Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department.

The Ozaukee County Highway Department removes a dam, blocking aquatic life from moving throughout the watershed. Photo courtesy of the Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department.

was also impeding the natural flow of the water and aquatic life. The historically connected riparian zone had been fragmented until Ozaukee Planning and Parks department developed a plan of action. While lower portions of the Milwaukee River have been significantly altered through urban development, the portion in Ozaukee County had more intact spawning habitat and other high quality habitat relatively preserved. The parks department removed over 180 impediments to fish and wildlife passage—including two dams—which helped reconnect more than 100 stream miles. Fish returned to places where, for years, they have been blocked from swimming.

Approximate Cost of the Project: $8,000,000 with some

The Ozaukee County Highway Department installs a fish passage culvert near Daly Lake on the Riveredge Creek. Shady Lane Road crosses this creek, causing the need for the culvert. Photo courtesy of the Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department.

The Ozaukee County Highway Department installs a fish passage culvert near Daly Lake on the Riveredge Creek. Shady Lane Road crosses this creek, causing the need for the culvert. Photo courtesy of the Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department.

funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Resource Challenges Addressed: Invasive plant species, blocked natural river flow from culverts and dams

Key Partners (Public and Private): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ozaukee County Land and Water Management, Milwaukee Audubon Society, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Fund for Lake Michigan, and Great Lakes Fisheries Trust

Types of Jobs Created: Construction workers, conservation corps workers, office workers, general laborers, educators, and biologists; all total, 62,000 paid labor hours created under this program

Results and Accomplishments: Fish and other aquatic life have been able to move throughout the river, thanks to the removal of two large dams and over 180 smaller impediments. Other dams remaining in the area now have natural fish passageways to connect the upper and lower parts of the river. Other portions of the river and its tributaries are being returned to an increasingly “wild,” or meandering, state that is better for the health of aquatic life. This state will help northern pike and other native fish as meandering rivers are a more suitable habitat for them. Floodplains were constructed or identified, to help prevent floodwaters from reaching communities along the river.

Website: http://www.co.ozaukee.wi.us/planningparks/ PlanningParks_Fish_Passage.htm

Originally Published: August 30, 2013

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