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RiversReport

Photo: Milwaukee Riverkeeper

WINTER 2015 | volume 6 no. 1

Learning for life

Changing Habits,
Improving the Waterways
Melissa Ugland, Southeastern WI Watersheds Trust

H

ave you made your New Year’s
resolutions yet? Many of us make
resolutions about healthy eating and
exercise. We know that these changes will give
us lasting benefits. To change long-held habits,
though, we have to think carefully about how
we will plan for, act upon, and ultimately
sustain these new habits. Over time, the new,
healthier way of doing things becomes the
norm, and the old behavior goes away.

Inside
this Issue
For the Fish!.........................2
Taking Back Our Rivers!.........3
Neighborhood Green
Infrastructure.......................4
KK River Community.............5
RRF Streambank
Restoration..........................6
Mini-Grant Awards.................7
Events................................... 8

The process for keeping our resolutions is the
same process that can help us adopt behaviors
to improve our environment, from the air
we breathe to the water we drink, or water in
which we fish or swim. The largest impacts
in some communities can be made through
individual behavior change. Scientists who
study behavior change tell us that information
and education efforts like the Respect Our
Waters campaign are important parts of the
process. A multi-step process is involved
when we think about, make, and ultimately
maintain the desired behavior changes.
Changing set behaviors is hard. The
Transtheoretical Model (or Stages of Change
Model) began in the 1970s as a way to
understand and compare how some smokers
quit on their own while others quit only to
need further treatment. The scientists who
pioneered this model, Prochaska and
DiClemente, found that “readiness” to
change varies.
Sweet Water and partners recently aired
TV spots in which Sparkles the water spaniel
points out that dumping paint down storm

sewers pollutes local waterways. Viewers
might be found at the following “readiness
levels” on changing that behavior:
Pre-contemplation: People are not aware
that dumping paint into the storm sewer can
pollute local waterways, or are aware and are
unwilling to change.
Contemplation: People become aware that
dumping paint down a storm sewer grate is a
problem and begin to think about changing
their behavior.
Preparation: People begin making plans to
change their usual practice of dumping old
paint into storm sewers.
Action: Old paint is taken to the proper
disposal facilities, preventing pollution of
local waterways.
Maintenance: People save old paint and take it
to household hazardous waste locations, never
again dumping it down storm sewers.

More than 1,050,000 adults saw ads like the one
mentioned above. In the coming year, Sweet
Water hopes to track how many people have
moved from just contemplating changing their
behaviors related to water to acting on them.
While we know that these spots in isolation
may not convince people to make behavior
changes, coupled with local health and
environmental events and some great work
happening throughout the Milwaukee River
Basin, working together to improve our
waterways is a resolution we’ll surely keep in
the long term. •

Photos: Eddee Daniel

Restoration underway on Menomonee River; view from Bluemound Road

One of five low-flow barriers in Hoyt Park to be removed by MMSD in 2015

For the Fish! Advancing Fish Passage
in the Menomonee River Watershed!
by Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper

T

he Menomonee River Watershed covers 136 square miles,
originating in wetlands in southeastern Washington County
and flowing 28 miles south and east where it joins the Milwaukee
River just upstream from its confluence with Lake Michigan.
The lower 12 miles of the Menomonee River downstream from
the Little Menomonee River confluence (and an additional mile
of the Little Menomonee) are considered part of the Milwaukee
River Estuary Area of Concern (AOC). The AOC contains 11 of
14 beneficial use impairments including degradation of fish and
wildlife populations, degradation of benthos, degradation of
aesthetics, and loss of fish and wildlife habitat.
Historic changes in land use and increased imperviousness in
the watershed has caused habitat degradation and stagnated fish
diversity. In addition, development has created many impassable
culverts, filled in/altered habitat, and created other artificial
barriers that impede fish and other aquatic life from accessing
existing higher quality habitats for spawning. In addition, stream
impediments also affect recreation, decreasing fishing opportunities
and creating hazards for paddlers.

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The Menomonee River fishery is currently characterized as a
poor fishery, but there is reason for hope. Fish species diversity
has increased in recent years due largely to removal of barriers
such as the Falk Dam in 2001, and due to increased numbers of
non-native fish species moving up river from the Lake (e.g. salmon,
steelhead). The number of native fish species have decreased in
recent years, but the macroinvertebrate community and food
base in the river system is improving.
Most importantly, the Menomonee River is now undergoing a
type of renaissance with removal of some of the biggest barriers
to fish movement and stream connectivity, which is exciting to
witness. Several major efforts have recently been completed, or
are underway downstream to eliminate barriers to passage
and improve habitat.
Great progress is being made on the lower Menomonee River
concrete removal project after a few months of delay due to a wet
spring and early summer.
Story continued on page 8

WINTER 2015

Photo: UW-Extension
Photo: UW-Extension

Taking Back
our Rivers!
Gail Epping Overholt, University of Wisconsin - Extension

L

ast spring’s edition of the RiversReport highlighted the toxic
sediment cleanup of Lincoln Creek and the Milwaukee River
Channels in Lincoln Park on Milwaukee’s northeast side. All agencies
involved in the cleanup realized that if in-stream and bank habitat
improvements were going to be sustained for the long-term, local
stewards would have to take on this responsibility.
To that end, last spring UW-Extension and the University of IllinoisIndiana Sea Grant hosted two focus groups of local Lincoln Park
neighborhood stakeholders to gauge interest in establishing a Friends
of Lincoln Park stewardship group. Of the 19 stakeholders who attended
89% of them noted they were either “interested” or “very interested”
in having a “Friends” group established.
Despite lack of interest to volunteer for leadership positions, an initial
“Friends” meeting and Ice Cream Social was pulled together with
additional support from Milwaukee County Parks, the Park People
and UW Sea Grant to pitch the idea to more community members and
once again gauge interest from a larger group and solicit volunteers to
lead the group, if warranted.
By the end of the September meeting, an October meeting was scheduled.
A Steering committee was identified as well as a list of potential areas of
focus for the Group. By the time of this publication release, two more
meetings will have been held and several spring activities planned!
Watch for these upcoming opportunities to learn about this great
Milwaukee Park and the very passionate people who call it home. •
Top: Contractors set up cleanup site staging area
Left: 1st Annual Lincoln Creek Park Bird Walk with Carl Schwartz

WINTER 2015

Page 3

Photos: Clean Wisconsin

Painting rain barrels at National Night Out event

Local artist, Quan Caston, unveils stormwater themed public art

Neighborhoods
Embrace Green
Infrastructure in
the 30th Street
Industrial Corridor
Pamela Ritger, Clean Wisconsin

T

hroughout 2014, thanks to funding support from Milwaukee
Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and the Wisconsin
Coastal Management Program, Clean Wisconsin worked with
MMSD Interns, Northwest Side Community Development Corp.,
Marek Landscaping and local artist Quan Caston to educate
Corridor residents about the benefits of managing water where it
falls and to install rain barrels and rain gardens (green infrastructure)
on homes and vacant neighborhood lots.
These simple tools and methods accomplish a simple goal: catching
water where it falls and reducing strain on sanitary and storm
sewer infrastructure, which helps to reduce the risk and severity
of basement backups and system overloads that have plagued
homeowners in the community.
The project area stretches from Hampton Avenue on the north,
to 46th Street on the west, to the Menomonee Valley in the south
and to about 20th Street on the east. This area generally has
lower levels of income and home ownership and higher levels of
crime than other parts of the City. Despite these challenges,

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the project team connected with over 100 residents who were
enthusiastic to help improve water quality and manage stormwater
in a sustainable way through green infrastructure.
Outreach and educational activities included presentations at
neighborhood association meetings, rain barrel painting at
community events like National Night Out, and installation of
community rain gardens.
Ninety rain barrels, eight rain gardens and three storm water
public art pieces were installed throughout ten neighborhoods
in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor, including Century City
Triangle, Sherman Park, Washington Park and Cold Spring Park.
Based on feedback received from project participants, rain barrel
water was used to water residents’ grass, trees, flowers, and
vegetables, often eliminating the need to use water from the hose.
Thanks to these installations, residents are diverting approximately
126,000 gallons of storm water from the combined sewer system
and keeping 104 pounds of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) out of
Milwaukee area waterways every year.
Participants were motivated to participate in the project to conserve
water, help reduce the risk of basement back-ups and combined
sewer overflow events, and to take part in a community effort.
Due to the popularity of the program and high demand for rain
barrels, Clean Wisconsin will continue these green infrastructure
outreach efforts into the spring and summer of 2015 through a
grant from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.
It’s a proud moment for everyone involved. As one of the residents
put it: “From the beginning, I didn’t know a rain garden from a
vegetable garden, but MMSD put us in good hands. We created
beauty in our community and made an impact on our environment.” •

WINTER 2015

Photos: 16th St. Community Health Center

Community rain garden planting

Building interest in potential programs at community open house

Cleaner Water, Healthier Spaces,
and the Kinnickinnic River Community
Nadia Bogue, Sixteenth St. Community Health Center

T

he Kinnickinnic River
neighborhood on
Milwaukee’s south side
has already started to see
how river restoration can
shape how the community
looks and functions. With
the Milwaukee Metropolitan
Sewerage Districts’ (MMSD) Kinnickinnic River Flood
Management Project moving into the final design and
engineering stages, residents are better poised than ever
to make decisions about changes and opportunities
in the community.
To help meet water quality and quantity reduction goals,
partners have been working to develop a comprehensive
Pulaski Park Neighborhood Plan that identifies the most cost
effective locations and combinations of green infrastructure in
and around Pulaski Park. Project partners include Sixteenth
Street Community Health Centers, Milwaukee County
Parks, City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works,
MMSD, Urban Ecology Center, Graef and residents.
What makes this project unique is the collaboration of partners
(community, public and private sector), joint implementation
of projects that support various stormwater management
plans, and identification of opportunities to leverage green
infrastructure to improve the neighborhood and revitalize
Pulaski Park. By creating a vision that meets multiple needs
(flood management, neighborhood and park revitalization), it
ensures that the benefits that are a result of this project truly
will help support a more sustainable community.
Community input throughout the development of the plan
has been a driver and has been sought in multiple formats

WINTER 2015

throughout the process. 125 bilingual surveys were administered
that will help partners better understand the needs of the
community as they relate to the park and larger strategic
planning efforts being undertaken by Milwaukee County Parks.
In July, 30 diverse stakeholders participated in a focus group
to provide input on green infrastructure and needs related
to the park. In October, the neighborhood fall clean up was
held where residents took tours of the park with naturalists,
cleaned up litter in the surrounding neighborhood, and
planted a large rain garden next to the pavilion which
demonstrates how multiple best management practices
(cisterns, permeable pavement, native plantings, and soil
amendments) can be combined to manage stormwater in an
aesthetically pleasing way. Bi-lingual signage was installed
which outlines how the installation improves water quality
which will positively impact the watershed and Lake Michigan.
In November, a large community open house took place where
residents voted and provided input on green infrastructure
installation on public and private property, youth programming
and park revitalization. Residents 100% supported the
installation of green infrastructure on public and private
property and the majority indicated that they would be willing
to help maintain the installations.
The investments that residents and partners have made, and
will continue to make, will change this neighborhood for
generations. What that looks like, how it functions, and
who plays a role are conversations that need to happen now
to ensure that projects meet the needs of everyone involved.
A big thank you to the KK River Neighbors In Action
neighborhood association for their thoughtful input and time! •
Inset: Maritza Martin and resident discuss the Neighborhood Plan
at open house

Page 5

Shoreline view of fish habitat construction from Humbolt Bridge

Close-up of fish habitat created in stream at shoreline

Design/Build Project for RRF Streambank
Restoration on Riverboat Road
Kimberly Gleffe, River Revitalization Foundation

R

iver Revitalization
Foundation
received nearly
$250,000 in funding
from the Sustain Our
Great Lakes program
through the National
Fish & Wildlife
Foundation to design
and implement
streambank
restoration and stabilization on 150 feet of shoreline located
within the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern about 1 mile
upstream from downtown and Lake Michigan. Activities include
removal of shoreline structures, streambank stabilization, invasive
species removal, and restoration of native riparian habitat.
The project will repair and naturalize riparian habitat, improve
water quality through sound land use, enhance public access along
the river corridor, improve fish habitat, and educate the public
about the benefits of healthy riparian buffers. The overarching
goal of this project is to establish a riparian buffer and reduce
pollutant loading to the Milwaukee River to improve water quality
of the Milwaukee River Estuary and Lake Michigan.
Transforming the site

The Riverboat Road site is a .5 acre parcel that connects the
downtown Milwaukee Riverwalk to 800 acres of upstream river
corridor, the Milwaukee River Greenway. The site had a defunct
boat ramp and old dock structures which provided poor terrestrial
wildlife habitat and contributed polluted runoff to the adjacent
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Milwaukee River. Remnants of the former property owner’s boat
club and bait shop still existed, leaving a large amount of artificial
structures and impervious surface in the slope and shoreline.
Combined with the existing boat ramp, these areas provided
challenges to habitat and water quality. The riparian buffer was
of very poor quality and was nearly completely composed of invasive
species. Sediment and other pollutants from this site threatened
to undermine the integrity of a recently constructed and newly
enhanced fish spawning shoal on the river bed immediately adjacent
to the property. This project provides strategic river access points
and eliminates a historic source of erosion. The primary issues
addressed through this project include: severe erosion and polluted
runoff, invasive species, removal of all artificial structures,
unsustainable trail system, and degraded habitat.
A vibrant riverfront destination!

This nearly completed project naturalizes and stabilizes the
streambank with bioengineering and native vegetation reduces
nonpoint source loading of total suspended solids, nutrients,
and bacteria. Re-grading of the steep and eroding slope adds
storage capacity, further improving water quality and stormwater
management. Wildlife habitat including migratory birds, waterfowl,
amphibians, reptiles, and fish and biodiversity has been greatly
improved. Additionally, the outcomes of this project will contribute
to the delisting of BUIs in the Milwaukee Estuary AOC related to
fish and wildlife habitat.
Come on down for a tour - We hope to see you at the river! •
Inset: Americorp crew assisted with restoration

WINTER 2015

Sweet Water Announces Winners of
2014 Mini-grant Awards
Joan Herriges, Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust

S

weet Water received the most grant requests yet for its
2014 Water Quality Mini-Grant Program – 38 in all!
That’s more than the 31 that were received in 2013 and the
24 in 2012. We believe our program is getting more widely
known as an reliable, annual funding source for grassroots
organizations, churches, non-profits and community groups
that share the same water resources in southeastern Wisconsin.
We hope to continue the program many years into the future
receiving more and more applicants. The program allows
residents to get involved in many different ways, or, to see
and learn first-hand how improving water quality is done.
Funding of $47,250 was available for distribution and Sweet
Water had 13 grant winners. The winners’ organization,
project name, and the affected watershed follows:

Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps:

Sustainable Water Quality Monitoring and Invasive Species
Treatment Initiative in the Upper Root River Watershed –
Root River

Milwaukee Audubon Society: Fish Passage Restoration on
Tributaries to Mole Creek – Milwaukee River
Milwaukee Environmental Sciences Charter School:

Milwaukee Environmental Sciences Native Landscape Hub
Project – Milwaukee River
Milwaukee Riverkeeper: Phosphorus Monitoring – The

Milwaukee River Basin
Milwaukee Riverkeeper: Rain Barrel Workshop –

Potentially All Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds
The Prairie School: The Prairie Stream Project – Root River
River Revitalization Foundation: Cambridge Woods

Restoration – Milwaukee River
Riveredge Nature Center: Milwaukee Riverbank

Restoration Project – Milwaukee River
TransCenter for Youth, Inc. / Escuela Verde: Escuela

Verde’s Rain Garden Initiative – Menomonee River

Groundwork Milwaukee: Redeployment of Fish Habitat
Islands in the Milwaukee River Estuary – Milwaukee River

Urban Ecology Center: Washington Park Woodland

Lincoln Center of the Arts: School Rain Garden –

Awards will be presented at Sweet Water’s Clean Rivers,
Clean Lake Conference at the Harley-Davidson Museum® in
Milwaukee on April 30, 2015. Registration and more information about the conference will be available in late January
at swwtwater.org. •

Milwaukee River
Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy: Carity Prairie Water

Quality and Habitat Improvement – Root River

Garden Project – Menomonee River

You Can Sponsor the
2015 Sweet Water Conference!
Joan Herriges, Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust

S

weet Water invites your business or organization
to sponsor the 11th annual Clean Rivers, Clean
Lake Conference which will be held on Thursday,
April 30th at the Harley-Davidson Museum in
Milwaukee. The conference will have programs
ranging from writing your own Nine Key Elements
plan to storm water quality and quantity plans for
the Hoan Bridge construction and much, much more.
In order to keep this important event affordable to
all participants, we are seeking sponsorships in the
amounts of $750, $1,500, and $2,500 or higher.
In addition to promoting water quality improvements
and strengthening the partnerships in our region,

WINTER 2015

sponsors will receive recognition for their 2015
conference support. You may find additional
information regarding sponsorship recognition on
the Sweet Water web site by January 31, 2015 at
swwtwater.org.
We hope you find that this opportunity has a strong
appeal to your organization. Sponsorship checks
should be made payable to Sweet Water and sent to
Sweet Water’s office at 600 East Greenfield
Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53204-2944. If you have
any questions, please contact Joan Herriges at
(414) 382-1766 or via herriges@swwtwater.org.
Thank you for your consideration. •

Page 7

For the Fish!
Story continued from page 2
The first phase of this MMSD-led
project includes removing concrete
along a 1,100-foot-long corridor
upstream of the Blue Mound Road
bridge to the Canadian Pacific Railway
crossing near Miller Brewer. This
involves transforming the concrete
channel to a natural streambed that
has rock riffles and pools, and allows
for safe passage of fish. This first
phase is largely complete, and the
second phase downstream—being
led by the US Army Corps of
Engineers—is continuing this work
along a 2,600 foot long stretch
downstream of Blue Mound Road to
I-94 using the same local contractors,
Purpero. It is likely that this work
will be complete by the end of 2015,
but we are already seeing more
salmon and steelhead (which are
strong swimmers) moving well up
into the watershed--with spawning
fish detected all the way up into
Menomonee Falls this year.
MMSD is also still working on
removal of the five “low flow” barriers
in Hoyt Park in Wauwatosa upstream
of the concrete removal. The
project will remove/retrofit five
existing low gradient structures
on the Menomonee River along the
Menomonee River Parkway with the
expected result of improving fish
passage and restoring habitat.
One old ford, one grade control
structure (that includes a path and

stairs), and two pipe crossings will
be removed completely. One pipe
crossing will be replaced with a
deeper “siphon” sewer, which serves
Hoyt Park Pool. This project should
hopefully start construction next
year, and be complete by end of 2015.
Milwaukee Riverkeeper finished
our assessment of fish passage
barriers throughout the mainstem and natural tributaries of
the Menomonee River Watershed
in 2013, thanks to support from
Wisconsin Coastal Management
Program and WDNR and hard
work by a dozen volunteers. Thanks
to additional funds from Wisconsin
Coastal Management Program,
we’ve been able to contract with
Interfluve to help provide conceptual
designs and cost-estimates for
several priority fish passage
barriers upstream.
We are also identifying and
fundraising for projects to improve
fish habitat and connection between
the Menomonee and several major
tributaries with adjacent wetland/
floodplain habitats that can be used
for spawning by fish such as
Northern pike. We also received
funding from the Fund for Lake
Michigan to help remove some
man-made barriers--trash, stone
fill, fallen bridges, etc—using
volunteers and paid work crews,
and we hope to start that work
in spring 2015. •

RiversReport
Sweet Water

University of Wisconsin Extension

600 East Greenfield Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53204

9501 W. Watertown Plank Road
Wauwatosa, WI 53226

PHONE (414)

PHONE (414)

WEB

WEB

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Now through March 24

MMSD’s Rain Garden Plant Sale
Application period closes March 24
Plant order pickup May 30
http://www.freshcoast740.com/fundingprograms/rain-gardens-project
Email: raingardens@mmsd.com

February 24 – 26

Wisconsin Wetlands Association 20th Annual
Wetland Science Conference: Telling Our Stories
Monona Terrace Convention Center
Madison, WI
http://www.uwlax.edu/conted/wwa/
Email: conted@uwlax.edu

February 27

Soil and Water Conservation Society Conference:
Targeting Conservation and Monitoring
UW-Green Bay | Green Bay, WI
http://wi-swcs.org
Email: info@wisconsinlandwater.org

April 18: 9 AM – NOON

Milwaukee Riverkeeper 20th Annual Spring
River Clean Up
http://www.milwaukeeriverkeeper.org/events.htm
Email: Christina@milwaukeeriverkeeper.org

April 30

Southeastern WI Watershed Trust 11th Annual
Clean Rivers, Clean Lake Conference
Harley-Davidson Museum® | Milwaukee, WI
www.swwtwater.org
Email: herriges@swwtwater.org

PARTNERS

Learning for life

382-1766
swwtwater.org
EMAIL info@swwtwater.org
morgan@swwtwater.org

Events

MANAGING EDITOR
Kate Morgan, Sweet Water

This publication made possible in part through
the generous support of

256-4632
naturalresources.uwex.edu
EMAIL gail.overholt@ ces.uwex.edu

WINTER 2015