Monday, March 2, 2009

Save the Estabrook Dam!

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I am the River Otter. I live by the Milwaukee River. I love the river, I love nature; I try to conserve gas by riding my bike; I reduce and reuse. I also love to kayak (if by myself) and canoe (with my dear husband) on the Milwaukee River and Lincoln Creek. That is by far the most influential reason we moved here (and it's close to where we both work).
Let me explain: the Estabrook Dam was built as a WPA project in the 1930's, as part of the economic stimulus package during the Great Depression. Bedrock had been removed from the riverbed and the water level was low as a result. The dam, an innovative design that won an award and influenced later dams, raised the water level to essentially its original level. As part of this project, wetlands were drained and islands were formed in what is now county park land in Lincoln Park. It is beautiful...peaceful...an urban oasis.
Now, I am not a big proponent of draining wetlands, and if such a project were proposed now, I would be opposed.
However, we live in a built environment, an urban environment that has been altered. John Gurda's fantastic documentary series _The Making of Milwaukee_ illustrates how humans have altered the land, from the time people noted that the confluence of rivers and the natural port on Lake Michigan were a great place to settle, all the way to now, when we have a population of nearly two million people in the metro area. Removing the Estabrook Dam won't return the area to a pristine natural setting such as existed three hundred years ago; leaving it in place allows the park to exist as it does now, an urban paddler's paradise.
See also my posts about the recreational benefits of the impoundment, the original state of the confluence, and some more of its history.

10 comments:

Jennifer said...

Fine- save the Dam but why should county tax payers have to pay 8-12 million to replace the dam so that a select few people can use the river for recreation? At this time there is no true public access to the river north of the dam. You want the dam you should pay for it through a special assessment on your property tax bill.

The River Otter said...

Thanks for your insight, Jennifer. One should not have to pay taxes that go toward anything that person doesn't use- I'll be sure to tell Uncle Sam that tomorrow.

Jason Schroeder said...

I agree with Jennifer on this one. River Otter, the argument that we have become accustomed to wasteful spending is not a valid excuse to fund this dam with taxpayer money to serve the few who will benefit from the impoundment.

The River Otter said...

People are still reading and commenting on my first post...I still disagree with you, too.
It isn't going to cost $12 million, by the way. The actual repairs- latest figure I have heard- for this year's repairs- is $5000. (Yes, that is thousand.) Maintaining parks does cost money- spending that enhances people's quality of life, like other "unnecessary" spending.

Jason Schroeder said...

RO, the $5,000 that the County is spending is not approved as an adequate fix by the DNR. People have made the analogy that this is like putting a band-aid fix on the dam. According to the records that the DNR have over the years documenting the negligence on the part of the County the metaphorical band-aid isn't enough to stop the bleeding (i.e. years of neglect).

In essence the $5,000 will be taken from other park projects that might actually need the money. Sue Black made that point at the PE&E meeting.

How do you know that adequately fixing the dam is not going to cost $12 million? Are you privy to some information that the rest of us are not? I didn't know that they actually took bids on how much it would cost to replace or repair this dam....

Yes, maintaining parks does cost money, but the dam is not necessary to maintain Lincoln Park or Estabrook Park. Both parks will still be there without the dam.

The River Otter said...

Hi again Jason-
I'm not privy to any special information, beyond having carefully read The Matrix.
http://www.urbanecologycenter.org/Green%20resources/Estabrook%20Dam%20Matrix%20-%20Attachment%20B.PDF

tim Stück said...

i have lived on this river for 30 years and have fished every one of those years. i go as far south as the train tracks on the north end of Lincoln park. the reason for that is the so-called wetlands only house carp. there is no good water environment for fish to live in from the train tracks all the way down to the dam. the pollutants need to be filtered through grasses and weeds along the riverbank when the water is low. i look forward to catching smallmouth bass in the spring time. they spawn in may and june. if the weather is cold, like this year, they wait until june to do so. i have witnessed numerous times when they are in the middle of their spawning, the dam is closed and the river raised. this shuts down oxygen flow for their eggs which means less fry survive if they even hatch.

Wendy said...

This is a rare beautiful resource that serves many boaters and canoe paddlers alike along with the many kids that catch and release fish along the banks near lincoln park. I can't believe that dam repair would be any where near the cost being hyped by some. Wait until the real costs of removing the dam would be explained ( opps too late once they start ! ). The DNR would fine a farmer thousands for spilling human waste into water... yet Milwaukee does this on a regular basis. You can't swim in many places along lake michigan ( warning signs abound ) and these are the people you trust on yet another valuable resource they want to eliminate ??? NOT ME... I want the dam repaired. I vote, I pay taxes and this project is very important to me.

The River Otter said...

Wendy, see my post for today
http://theriverotter.blogspot.com/2009/07/write-to-your-reps.html
and click the link to write to our reps- easy! ;)

You are right about the costs.

I have to say, I find "catch and release" barbaric, but...different topic...

Old Dirty Bass Fisherman said...

I think it would be a pity if they do not fix the dam. I used to waterski along the river and i know many people enjoy canoeing or kayaking in the river.

8-12 million? unless they are planning on completly rebuilding the dam there is no way it could cost that much. instead of throwing any numbers around the county should let some companies take a look at it and get some quotes. Then we will have a good idea what it will actually cost.