Removing dam opens 25 miles of river to fish

Project Summary: The removal of a 165-year-old dam in Campbellsport, Wis., opened fish passage in the uppermost 25 miles of the Milwaukee River and restored 22 acres of wetlands.

Project name: Campbellsport Millpond Dam Removal.

Location:Village of Campbellsport, Wis.

A postcard shows the dam in 1908.

Description:The Mill Pond Dam in Campbellsport, Wis., was a community icon for more than 150 years. But when the aging wooden structure that created the pond began to falter, the community had a choice: Spend up to $500,000 to repair the dam or allow state and federal agencies to remove it. Village residents voted in 2009 to remove the dam instead of repairing it. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided a $684,519 grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative study fish populations in the river before and after dam was removed. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provided another $50,000 for the project. Removing the dam gave fish and other aquatic life access to the uppermost 25 miles of the Milwaukee River. The project also restored wetlands that were submerged under the millpond since 1846. The project is expected to increase fish and wildlife populations in that stretch of the river.

The river after the dam was removed.

Approximate cost of project: $684,000, much of which was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Resource challenges addressed: Lack of fish passage, loss of wetlands, fragmentation of a river ecosystem, sedimentation and abnormal warming of water temperatures.

Key partners (public and private): Village of Campbellsport, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative program.

Types of jobs created: Excavators, general laborers, biologists, landscape architects and landscapers.

Results and accomplishments: The project opened fish passage throughout the uppermost 25 miles of the Milwaukee River. It also restored about 22 acres of wetlands and 3,000 feet of free flowing river, which restored the river’s natural flow and provided more habitat for fish and wildlife.

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Originally Published: October 11, 2012