Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Open letter from Glendale Alderman Richard W. Wiese

This is part of a letter that Glendale's 4th District Alderman Richard Wiese wrote to County Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb. Alderman Wiese is graciously allowing me to quote from it.
"I am a life long resident of Milwaukee’s North Shore. In my early years, I fondly remember renting a row boat and rowing around the Lincoln Park lagoon and Milwaukee River with my Grandfather and Father, plus fishing in the river along numerous points in Lincoln Park, catching many large fish.
You will also note a photo that I have included with this letter that was taken by an ancestor of mine(F. Bischoff) in 1893. He took photos throughout Milwaukee County, particularly in the emerging parks. One of the photos he took clearly shows Estabrook Park and the Milwaukee River, and is identified as Estabrook Park in his own hand note at the top of the page, which based on the date precedes the establishment of the Milwaukee County Park system, and is therefore potentially a City of Milwaukee park, with the Board of Park Commissioners established in 1889. This photo shows 5 men in a row boat and several fishermen clearly in the background. Further in the background is the railroad trestle, the supports of which still stand, and was the line going into what is now the Glendale Technology Park.
A close inspection of the photo shows the top edge of the natural dam beneath the trestle, which created the wide still water lake (now referred to as the impoundment) that the people in the photo are clearly enjoying. As this photo was taken before any governmental intervention in the river, this was clearly the natural flow of the river. Oddly enough, it seems that fish were making it into this section of the river without any assistance from special interest groups. Taking a walk along the river today, accessed by the stairs that are to the south of Picnic Area 5, you can still see the original banks of the river along the western side of the river, which are a substantial distance from the current river pathway.

The natural condition of the river in 1893 resulted in an area of natural beauty and wide quiet waters. From other photos in this collection, I believe that the boat in the photo is a rental item, which indicates that this section of the river was an active recreational area. Many of the people speaking at last night's meeting [March 24th] continued to emphasize the need to “return the river to its natural condition”. I believe that this photo shows that the levels of the river today when the dam is closed closely match those of the original river. It does not appear that the river was the narrow fast moving channel that many of the presenters alluded to...
The waters above the Estabrook Dam have provided beauty and recreational opportunities for generations of Milwaukee County residents. If the dam were to be removed, it would be a tragic loss to the citizens of Milwaukee County, the City of Milwaukee, and the citizens of Glendale."

Richard W. Wiese
4th District Alderman
City of Glendale


Maps and Legends said...

The evidence that this dam maintains the
natural water level is undeniable. Yet dam removal advocates continually claim that removing the dam will restore the river to its natural state. I can only wonder why these folks continue to lie. Have they been so brainwashed to believe that all dams are bad that they cannot accept the truth of this particular dam?

The designers of the dam and the entire flood control project in Lincoln Park were true visionaries. They managed to provide flood control that allowed the development of large areas of the current metro Milwaukee area for residential habitation while still preserving the natural flow and elevation of the Milwaukee River to the greatest extent possible.

Removal of the Estabrook Dam will cause the river to be in an unnatural state and most likely eventually cause widespread flooding and sewer backups.

If the dam is removed, the entire region will be paying for the consequences for years to come.

This dam is different from most dams. It must stay.

Anonymous said...

You are not making any sense. You suggest that the dam allowed development of large areas of metro Milwaukee and that its removal will lead to widespread flooding and sewer backups - these comments are completely baseless and expose your delusional logic. They make as much sense as turning the Estabrook dam into a hydroelectric dam...its time to face reality and get some facts straight.

As to the natural water level of the river, we will never return to the state of the river as it was 100 year ago...operation of the current dam certainly does not do so. Life and rivers are not static creatures. They change and morph throughout time. Given that the current state of the MKE river along that stretch is completely artificial in its present state, we have to ask ourselves, what we would like the future to look like? And this is the point about which we disagree.

The River Otter said...

The City of Milwaukee and the surrounding metro area is completely artificial in its present state.

Frank said...

I'm wonderfully surprised as to how disingenuous you and Mr. Maps are. You’ve done a good job of only providing part of the story and half of the truth.

I would love for the river to be restored AND the TRUE historical water level to be retained. The problem is that would include the dams removal, restoration of the original waterfall, gradient and shoreline. Including removal of the oxbows and re-creation of the original river width, and S-curve in Lincoln Park.

I would like your comments on how you can continue to rationalize a "fake lake" while at the same time arguing for retention of the natural historical water level?

1908 and 1927 Maps
The details of these maps from 1908 and 1927 show small islands in Estabrook Park, a small backwater in Lincoln Park, but no dam, no significant navigation obstruction, and no impoundment.

How much do you think a restoration like that would cost? 50 million? And who is going to pay for it?
"Not I," said The Riverrotter.

The River Otter said...

Thanks for your comment, Frank. What is the $50 million for, again? A time machine?

Anonymous said...

"Oddly enough, it seems that fish were making it into this section of the river without any assistance from special interest groups."

Fish made it into that section of river because the dam wasn't there! Maybe we should recreate the rock outcropping and get rid of the dam. That is the ONLY way to return the river to historic flows.... and isn't that what Glendale residents want? There is NOTHING historic about controlling a river with dam gates.

The River Otter said...

I didn't see replacement of the mile-long rock ledge in the matrix- did I miss it? The dam replaces the effect of the rock ledge, with the added benefit of being able to open to release water, to reduce flooding.

Anonymous said...

The dam is of no benefit in preventing flooding. Our ancestors should have left the rock outcropping so that the river could regulate itself. But then I remembered how stupid we humans can be. The marshes and floodplains around Lincoln Park did more for flood reduction than anything else. Good thing they removed all that and straightened the river. Idiots! Repairing the dam is just another example of man thinking he can out-engineer mother nature. Building houses on floodplains and straightening rivers is just another example of man thinking he can out-engineer mother nature. I can't wait to see what happens when we have another flood like last spring.

The River Otter said...

Wow, you sounded rational there until that last sentence where you express a wish for bad things to happen to other people. Maybe you should start your own unhappy blog.

Erik Helm said...

I love the photo, but it is too small for me to make out. It seems like we might be looking upstream from the area known as the 'blue-hole' now the UWM parking lot through the railroad trestle and at the Estabrook park falls. Interesting...

The River Otter said...

Erik, Ald. Wiese said it is looking at the railroad trestle, but it looks more like the photo was taken looking downstream toward the Port Washington Road bridge to me; do you know if it existed at that time?. I cut and pasted from a PDF scan- so it lost some clarity.

Erik Helm said...

Hmmm. I don't know.
If it is the trestle I am thinking of which is located about 400 yards downstream from Estabrook falls, then the photographer was either in the Blue Hole area, or was just downstream of the falls. It might be a different trestle. The reason I thought it was the one downstream of the falls is that it matches the description in that its support pillars are still in existence. The rail lines ran across Hampton ave. through the park, and into the industrial park on the other side of the river south of the old Deluxe Data or E-funds building.

The River Otter said...

I was told tonight that there was- a long time ago- a railroad line that crossed the river where River Forest is now, which would explain why that street is so wide, I guess. Could that be the one in the picture? It couldn't be the one you are talking about, that's the one I referenced here: http://theriverotter.blogspot.com/2009/04/public-art-part-iii.html

Erik Helm said...

Looking at the old maps, I saw the same thing that you did. The rails ran in two places other than Bender road, the crossing I mentioned and the one you referenced.

Anonymous said...

Back during the summer of 1951, at age eight, I attended the summer day camps that Estabrook Park ran several (daily) days weekly throughout most of the summer. We would do all kinds of supervised (but mostly unsupervised...) games and such, among other things. One common game was "Capture the Flag", where the opposing teams' camps were about 1000 feet apart east of the river.

Instead of going through the "grassy" parts of the wooded area there, a few kids and I would wade in the shallow river near and upstream of Channel 4's tower and then sneak up on the opposing camp from behind and then steal its flag and run off again along the river, after we went the required distance along the river to bypass the middle of the "battlesite".

At other times, on our own we would also walk across (and back) the wooden railroad trestle by the waterfalls and the dam. Occasionally, The day-camp supervisors advised us to bring our own hammers the next day so that we could chip some of our own trilobite fossils and such out of the dolomitic limestone there by the falls.

We young kids had fun back then at no cost other than the fare for a bus ride and back from Sherman and Capitol. Our parents would escort us to Estabrook Park the first day, and from then on, we were on out own from morning to mid afternoon, as our parents rarely bothered to check after us. I suppose that most of our parents from 1950 would be arrested for some trumped-up child abuse "crimes" today.