Jeramey Jannene

Kinnickinnic River Could Get a Trash Wheel

Harbor District wins $492,300 federal grant to remove 75 tons of trash per year from river.

By - Jun 17th, 2020 10:47 am

Mr. Trash Wheel. Photo by Matthew Bellemare (Mr. Trash Wheel) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Mr. Trash Wheel. Photo by Matthew Bellemare (Mr. Trash Wheel) (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

Harbor District Inc., the non-profit organization that is stewarding the redevelopment of the area surrounding Milwaukee’s inner harbor won a first of its kind Trash Free Waters grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The $492,300 grant will support the purchase of trash removal equipment that will be installed in the Kinnickinnic River and is intended to remove 75 tons of trash annually.

“After years of neglect and decline, the Kinnickinnic River is experiencing a rebirth as local and federal partners remove concrete channel, restore its banks and clean its waters. Our community is anxious to get to work on one of its most visible problems – trash,” said Harbor District Executive Director Lilith Fowler.

The equipment will be installed along land owned by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District (MMSD) just south of W. Becher St. on the river’s west bank. On the north side of the bridge is the River One development from Michels Corp. that will include a new riverwalk section among a mix of uses including housing and an eight-story office building. The project site is located where the Harbor District meets the Bay View and Baran Park neighborhoods.

“I think part of what made our proposal competitive for the grant was that we have great partners: We have preliminary funding commitments from the Fund for Lake Michigan and from MMSD to make site improvements, from [the Department of Public Works] for trash pick-up, and from BID 51 for maintenance,” said Fowler via email. The final project is expected to cost approximately $750,000, excluding improvements MMSD will make to its property.

The project, which will be configured to allow canoes and kayaks to pass, will help clean up objects in the water, improving the safety, aesthetic quality and environmental health of the waterway. Equipment will be capable of picking up everything from the barrel Urban Milwaukee saw floating when we visited the project site Tuesday evening to the plastic bottles and other debris that get swept into the river when it rains.

What shape the final project takes is subject to a competitive bidding process. Fowler said the Harbor District is having discussions with Clearwater Mills, the maker of the trash wheel in Baltimore, and Aquarius Systems, which made MMSD’s 50-foot-long Lynyrd Skymmr vessel that cruises Milwaukee’s waterways, scooping up trash with a conveyer belt.

Urban Milwaukee first reported on the potential that a trash wheel could be installed in the Kinnickinnic River in 2017. The Baltimore trash wheels provide points of interest as the public can see their wheels and conveyer belt in action near where estuaries flow into the Charm City’s harbor.

The river cleaning equipment would build on a number of other projects the Harbor District has underway or recently completed, including Harbor View Plaza park at the east of E. Greenfield Ave., Walker’s Point Water Trail and a new riverwalk section through the area.

Further upstream on the Kinnickinnic River near S. 16th St., MMSD released a 360-degree aerial view that shows the stark visual contrast that has emerged on sections of the river where the concrete channel has been removed.

The trash cleanup project builds on the January announcement of a $29.2 million project to clean up Milwaukee’s federally-designated “Area of Concern” which includes the harbor on the edge of Lake Michigan and portions of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers. There are 43 designated Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes, including 17 in Canada and seven shared by the US and Canada.


Mr. Trash Wheel in Action

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Categories: Environment

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