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Faith: We're here on the Kinnickinnic
River, the lower part down by the
harbor. Kinnickinnic River is one of the
three main rivers in the Milwaukee area
and over 80 percent of it is cement-
lined or storm sewers. And there's now a
large project to update the flood
control and also rehabilitate the
stream. Dave, could you tell me a little
bit about the history of the
Dave: I'll be glad to. The river's –
this river has a watershed of about 25
square miles, 90 percent of it's
urbanized. It's experienced flooding in
the 60's, 70's and 80's. There was some
concrete lining put in in the 60's to
alleviate that flooding because at that
time flood management was basically a
conveyance solution where they would
pass the water down to the lake as fast
as possible. In the 80's there was
another additional flooding, at that
time SEWRPC came in and re-did a design
which removed some of the bridges. In
fact, there was an auto bridge behind us
that it was replaced with a pedestrian
bridge and that also helped to alleviate
some of the flooding that we had.
In recent years, SEWRPC has come back
and looked at the modeling that we have
on this river and we now have an
additional 350 homes at flood risk. The
conveyance channel behind us can no
longer handle the flows for the one
percent probability flood or the 100
year flood as some people like to call
it, and the sewage district is coming in
to do a flood management project, and in
addition to that we're going to do some
stream rehabilitation. And you'll notice
I use the term rehabilitation I don't
use the term restoration because it's my
belief, particularly in these urban
settings that we can't do a complete
restoration project, but we can give the
stream back some of its function, which
is more in line with a rehabilitation project.
Faith: Pat, as being the over site
engineer for the projects, what's been
some of the limitations in combining
engineering and stream rehabilitation?
Pat: Well, a lot of it has to do with
the constraints that we have on the
site. So you look up and down this
channel right here and you can see that
the houses are right up against the
channel, but you also have the
infrastructure, the sewer infrastructure
that's also right up against the
channel. So if you wanna expand out you
try and either work around that or you
have to move that infrastructure, which
can become very costly.
Faith: I think with having a cement-
lined channel one of the limitations
have been fish passage and then also
just in terms of structures that they
have to jump over, but then also the
width of the channel that is too shallow
for fish to pass through. So is there
something in the designs that are – can
keep the flood control but still add the
little habitat to help the fish do that?
Pat: Right, in the upcoming designs the
rehabilitated channel designs that we
have will have a low-flow channel
section within there and it'll have a
thalweg within that so even during low
flows the fish should have enough
coverage there to be able to make it
upstream. And also install a pool and
riffle sections throughout that rehabbed
section so that the fish can have a
break in these little pool sections as well.
Dave: If I could just add to that, the
channel currently has a top width of
about 50 to 60 feet, we're gonna expand
that top width to about 200 feet with
the low flow channel being between six
and ten feet. To do that we, of course,
have to acquire a lot of the properties
on either side of the river, that, in
this case, is gonna be 80 to 100 homes
will have to be acquired, knocked down
and then we will expand that channel.
This required a lot of public input,
this is not something easily done in
most municipalities it's a loss of tax
base, relocation of citizens that have
lived here for a long time. So we had a
series of meetings, about two years of
public meetings to get to the point
where we are now where we're just
completing the preliminary engineering.
We'll go to design in about a year and a
half, and then we should begin
construction in two to three years.
Faith: So what are – I was down a couple
of weeks ago, down below the cement
lining ends and there were some fish
waiting to come up that couldn't make it
up over into the cement lined portion.
Dave: That's correct.
Faith: What fish would use this once the cement is taken out?
Dave: When the concrete's removed this
river does connect in with Miwaukee
Harbor and it's connected to Lake
Michigan. We have a large transplanted
Salmonidae population and we also have
some native trout that will use this
stream to come up the river.
Unfortunately, they will not be able to
spawn here because there will be no
spawning habitat for them, but they will
come up the river as they would during
their migrations to spawn. But, again,
they won't be able to spawn. We also
hope that this will become a forage base
for other species such as walleye,
small-mouth bass, northern pike. In
fact, the target species for this river,
I believe, is the northern pike and if
we can get that fish to move freely up
and down the river that would be
something that would make other fish
passage much – very possible.
But, again, they will not use this for
all their life stages, but they will
forage in this area for food and other things.
Faith: I think I saw in the design plans
there was also more room for humans to
use the area around the cannel? Is there
a plan for more paths?
Dave: Correct. We're standing on a path
now that runs along the top bank of the
channel, when we are completed there
will be a path, a maintenance path on
the bottom that will also be available
to pedestrians, bikes, and individuals.
But it will also be used for
maintaining, whatever we put in will
have to be maintained. We'll have a
bioengineered channel, like Pat said,
with a low-flow channel. That'll have to
be maintained, debris that gets into the
channel will have to be removed because
we'll still be connected to that 25-mile
urban watershed, and various materials
do tend to wash into this channel and have to be removed.
Faith: So what's the general feeling
about the work that's planned here with
the residents and the general public?
Dave: I think that's a real important
point to bring up, if you look at the
channel the way it is now, a lot of
these people view this almost like an
open sewer, they don't really see it as
a resource. They see it as a threat from
flooding and they just see it as an open
sewer. What we're trying to do through
the stream rehabilitation projects that
we do is make people think of this as a
resource, to actually add value to their
neighborhood. In addition to the
planning and the preliminary engineering
that were done, we've done a
neighborhood plan that's going to help
revitalize this neighborhood. And using
the channel project as a catalytic
project to redevelop the neighborhood,
get new housing, perhaps, in here, get
new development to come into this area
once we've improved the aesthetics of the area.
[End of Audio]
Title: Removing cement-lined channels in the Kinnickinnic River, Wisconsin
Faith Fitzpatrick (U.S. Geological Survey), Dave Fowler (Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District), and Pat Elliot (Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District) discuss the benefits of removing dangerous cement-lined channels, providing fish passage and new habitat, recreating floodplains, and expanding greenspace in the highly urbanized Kinnickinnic River watershed.
Location: Milwaukee, WI, Kinnickinnic River, USA
Date Taken: 11/16/2010
Video Producer: Douglas A. Harned , National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA), USGS, North Carolina Water Science Center, Raleigh, NC
Note: This video has been released into the public domain by the U.S. Geological Survey for use in its entirety. Some videos may contain pieces of copyrighted material. If you wish to use a portion of the video for any purpose, other than for resharing/reposting the video in its entirety, please contact the Video Producer/Videographer listed with this video. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this video.
Additional Video Credits:
Faith Fitzpatrick: Scriptwriter, Narrator, Scientist Consultant
Gerard McMahon: Producer
Douglas Harned: Producer, Video, Editor
Alan Cressler: Video
Luke McMahon: Video
Dave Fowler (Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District)
Pat Elliot (Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District)
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