Estabrook Dam Removal May Cost County Over $13 Million Dollars
The property value claim alone is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $12 million.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, his administration, the County Parks Department and the Riverkeeper continue to promote the notion that removal of the Estabrook Dam will cost a mere $1.7 million. This figure does not include remediation of considerable County owned riverfront acreage in Estabrook, Lincoln and Kletsch Parks. Nor does it include compensation to upstream riverfront property owners – 160 private homeowners and some commercial property owners – for loss in property values and remediation of riverfront structures and lands. Many of these property owners have indicated they will file suit if the dam is not repaired. The property value claim alone is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $12 million.
The basis for a claim was provided in the July 18, 2016 court filing by Attorney Josh Brady intervening for Milwaukee River Preservation Association in the 2011 case Milwaukee Riverkeeper v Milwaukee County. The filing, citing Wisconsin Supreme Court case Smith v. Youmans, states “when a dam has maintained a water level for 40 years, riparian owners are entitled to the water level that was maintained by that dam. The dam owner has no right to lower the water below the level of the lowest point at which it has been during said period without being responsible to the riparian property owners for their monetary loss”.
Additionally, Attorney Tom Gehl, on behalf of Milwaukee River Preservation Association, provided direct testimony on this point to the County Parks Committee concluding “Milwaukee County… is obligated by law to preserve the dam and the water level of the lake it creates. The Abele administration is derelict in their duty for not implementing the clear policy set by the County Board in 2009 to repair the dam.”
The legislative record of votes filed by the County Board of Supervisors to repair the dam is extensive. Action on these votes has been repeatedly blocked by maneuvering on the part of Abele and the Riverkeeper, who have misrepresented the facts about the cost and the results of removing the dam. The monetary cost of dam removal is substantially higher than claimed by them and the cost of lost recreational opportunities for our community is inestimable.