Glendale — In response to flooding concerns from riverfront residents, the Glendale Common Council is requesting that a 2014 hydraulic analysis be re-evaluated to account for residents' concerns about blockages in the Milwaukee River that they have discovered since the Estabrook Dam gates were opened eight years ago.
The city's action was motivated by concerns from the Milwaukee River Preservation Association, which claims that the opening of the dam gates eight years ago has led to the formation of a land mass in the main channel of the river. The land mass, they say, traps flowing debris and prevents water from flowing downstream, putting upstream residents at a greater risk of flooding.
"Since the dam gates were opened eight years ago, drastically reducing Milwaukee River water levels, never-before-seen river bottom land masses have emerged," said MRPA President Tammy Blaeske. "One of them has grown to an alarming size and is blocking 71 percent of the main river channel into Lincoln Park and restricting the waterflow capacity."
Blaeske said MRPA requested a re-evaluation of the hydraulic analysis from April 2014, but the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission informed the group that it would not re-evaluate the study without an order from a governmental agency, such as the city of Glendale.
In addition to requesting a re-evaluation of the hydraulic study, Glendale's resolution also calls on Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to investigate flood potential dangers and remediate those dangers by contacting authorities such as the Department of Natural Resources or the Army Corps of Engineers. The resolution passed unanimously.
Blaeske said riverfront residents are concerned that the blockage in the river will cause flooding once the river thaws in the spring.
"If (the removal of the blockage) is not done before the spring thaw, when river waters are high, rushing water backup caused by this blockage could result in devastating effects to upstream residents on and along the river all the way up to Bender (Road) and in and around the surrounding floodplain, which numbers 340 homes and includes Parkway School," Blaeske said.
County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb, a Glendale resident who favors the repair of the dam, spoke in support of the city's request to re-evaluate the study.
"We know how it performed with the dam in place, but we don't know — or we are starting to see — what happens without it," he said.
After a decade of debate at the county level, the Estabrook Dam seems destined for demolition. Abele, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and MMSD Director Kevin Shafer have found a way to circumvent the county board's authority over the dam by asking Milwaukee officials to rezone the area around the dam to a non-park use.
Due to a state law change made last year, Abele is allowed to sell county-owned non-park land without the consent of the county board. In this case, Abele plans to sell the land for $1 to MMSD, which wants to demolish the dam.