Milwaukee Riverkeeper
Press Release

Milwaukee County Supervisors Avoid Opportunity to Remove Estabrook Dam

Finance and Audit Committee ignores Parks Department’s expert opinion to remove blighted structure

By - Sep 15th, 2016 06:44 pm
Estabrook Dam

Estabrook Dam

MILWAUKEE – In the face of a massive cost overrun, the Milwaukee County Finance and Audit Committee yesterday ignored expert opinion and the voices of more than 1,500 Milwaukee County residents and refused to take action to remove the Estabrook Dam. The Dam is a blighted structure that would require millions of taxpayer dollars to overhaul and environmental analysis has shown the dam has a negative effect on the river and surrounding land and increases flood risk.

“We’re disappointed with supervisors’ unwillingness to act not only in the best interest of their constituents, but also for the health of the Milwaukee River,” said Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, who testified at the Committee meeting. “The Committee had the opportunity to rightfully change the direction of this decision after being presented with this summer’s increased cost estimates.”

Recent reports have indicated the County is facing a shortfall of $600,000 in the budget to repair the dam, before work has even begun. Bringing the dam down would save more than $2 million immediately and more than $6 million over the next 20 years, and be a better environmental choice, said advocates.

The Finance and Audit Committee’s decision to “hold the vote over” postpones the decision perhaps indefinitely and will effectively bury a resolution proposed by Parks Director John Dargle the Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Culture requesting the Committee change the policy from repairing the Estabrook Dam to removing the Estabrook Dam.

Recent construction bids for repairing the Dam were higher than expected, meaning the $4.1 million budget for repair is already $600,000 short. The Parks Department testified during the meeting that their recommendation stems in part from years of experience in recognizing how concerning it is to be this far over budget so early on in the process, before construction has even started. The Department suggested the price tag for repairing the dam is likely to climb even higher if the project moves forward.

“Unfortunately, there is still no commitment from the Milwaukee County Board to hold a clean “up and down” vote on this policy,” said Nenn. “When an issue like this has dragged on for so many years, when a court order is involved, and thousands of County residents have made their voices heard, we feel strongly the public deserves to have every single one of their elected County officials go on the record letting their constituents know where they stand.”

The Parks Department resolution comes after numerous other resolutions and statements calling for dam removal have been issued by the City of Milwaukee, the Village of Shorewood, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, and the Milwaukee County Executive.

Of the Milwaukee County Supervisors on the Finance and Audit Committee, Supervisors Peggy Romo West, Michael Mayo Sr., Willie Johnson Jr., Supreme Moore Omokunde and Sequanna Taylor voted to hold the vote over. Supervisors Sheldon Wasserman and Jason Haas were the only ones to vote against the postponement.

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10 thoughts on “Milwaukee County Supervisors Avoid Opportunity to Remove Estabrook Dam”

  1. Chris says:

    Lipscomb should privately arrange for a scapegoat to kill the dam. The political capital he’s accumulated to see this project through can only hold up to so much of a cost.

  2. mbradleyc says:

    Why would these committee members vote in support of rich landowners against the will of the people and the health of the environment? Smells fishy.

  3. Pete Mingle says:

    Setting aside opinions, let’s stick to facts. The landowners near the Estabrook Dam are middle class–not rich. That area is not Wahl Avenue.

  4. Brian says:

    Yeah why do people comment when they have no idea what they are talking about? Ever look at some of those dumpy shacks along the river above the dam? Who on earth would call them rich?!? I guess someone who is against the dam and doesn’t care about actual facts.

  5. AG says:

    If Riverkeepers hadn’t fought tooth and nail… would this project already be complete by now? If so, would we have seen significantly lower bids to repair the dam?

    If that is the case, I wonder if we could be talking now about how to fund a fish passage, rather than still fighting the same battles. Thank you Riverkeepers for costing tax payers so much money.

  6. Gary says:

    The dam has come to mean so much to Milwaukeeans. It’s a special place and could easily be beautified by a team of talented, legitimate grafitti artists. Is there anything in the budget for damnable beautification?

  7. Vincent Hanna says:

    Is the Riverkeepers sort of a fringe environmentalist group? Don’t know much about them.

  8. AG says:

    Riverkeepers is largely a very well run organization that has done a lot of positive things. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Estabrook dam they have taken their position to the extreme. It reminds me of the preserve our parks action against the Couture. Both organizations have done a lot of good and I otherwise applaud their actions… but they can be blinded by their dogma and pursue some policies that infringe on other’s rights.

    There’s another solution here, just as there was with the Couture (using the courts to set a defined boundary), but no one seems to want to compromise.

  9. Vincent Hanna says:

    That’s a shame. Sort of reinforces stereotypes many have regarding environmental advocacy groups.

  10. max says:

    @AG
    I don’t understand your point of view. The Milwaukee Riverkeeper’s stated mission/goal is “is to protect, improve and advocate for water quality, riparian wildlife habitat, and sound land management in the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic River Watersheds.”

    Dams on rivers flies completely in the face of water quality and habitat. I would expect the Riverkeepers to be all over this issue (and I for one, are glad they are).

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