Graham Kilmer

MMSD Gets $42 Million Loan For Stormwater Projects

Low-interest federal loan will help fund sewerage district's green infrastructure projects.

By - Jan 22nd, 2022 02:35 pm
MMSD West Basin project site. Photo by Curtis Waltz for the City of Milwaukee.

MMSD West Basin project site. Photo by Curtis Waltz for the City of Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) has secured a $42 million low-interest federal loan for three flood management projects.

The funding comes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is the legacy of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, which created a federal loan program to make investments in water infrastructure throughout the country.

The effects of a changing global climate are visible in Milwaukee, and Wisconsin, as the region becomes warmer and wetter. The risk of flooding is growing as the number and frequency of intense rain increases, which also increase the potential for combined sewer overflows into Lake Michigan.

In a statement announcing the loan, the EPA said the funding would expand stormwater management capacity and reduce flood risk in Milwaukee.

For MMSD, this entails the design and construction of a 31-million gallon stormwater management facility at Century City, a 210-acre flood storage basin and the reconstruction of 2,800 feet of a stream channel that is currently lined with concrete.

“On behalf of our ratepayers, I want to thank the EPA for this low-interest loan that will help make homes and businesses in Milwaukee more resilient to flooding and kick off the cleanup of more than 100 years of polluted sediment in our rivers,” said MMSD executive director Kevin Shafer.

The largest of the three projects is in the city’s 30th Street industrial corridor. MMSD plans to construct a 20-foot deep stormwater basin — called the West Basin — on 10 acres of abandoned industrial property near the intersection of N. 35th St. and W. Hopkins Ave. The basin will be the size of 10 football fields, according to MMSD. It will be designed to reduce flooding during 100-year rain storms and will be able to hold 31 million gallons of stormwater.

This area of the city suffered flooding during large rain events, and this basin, along with two others in the 30th corridor, will reduce the risk of flooding for those living in the area.

“The project provides great opportunities for additional community amenities,” according to the MMSD. “The community has expressed interest in walking trails, a neighborhood gathering space, and modifications to improve the safety along 35th Street.”

Wilson Park Creek is the target of the 2,800 feet of stream channel reconstruction. MMSD and the City of Milwaukee are planning to tear out the concrete currently lining the creekbed and restore the channel to a more natural state and reduce the risk of flooding in the area.

“The creek fills quickly during rain events, and occasionally, these flood flows spill over the banks,” the MMSD statement said. “New information now indicates that approximately 60 structures within the project area are at a high risk of flooding.”

For the last project, MMSD will partner with the city, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, We Energies and Port Milwaukee to create a storage facility in the Milwaukee Harbor for material and sediment dredged from the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers. The facility will be able to store 1.9 million cubic yards of sediment, according to the MMSD.

The loan will help pay for about half of the $85 million MMSD projects. The total cost is being reduced by $5.5 million through the low-interest financing provided by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), according to the EPA.

The projects will create approximately 130 jobs and construction will take until 2027 to finish, the EPA said. Across the nation, the EPA has provided 29 WIFIA loans totaling $5.9 billion since President Joe Biden took office. This funding has created 36,000 jobs nationally, according to the EPA.

Debra Shore, EPA administrator for most of the Midwest, said “water infrastructure strengthens communities,” adding that these projects will address stormwater problems caused by “aging infrastructure” in Milwaukee.

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Categories: Environment, Weekly

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