‘Living Breakwater’ Would Protect Harbor
Harbor District, partnering with city, wins grant to design wetland habitat structure.
The industrial-style breakwater that protects Milwaukee’s harbor from waves and storm surges could soon look much more appealing. It would also become an environmentally-friendly habitat for wildlife and better protect the city’s waterfront.
The nonprofit Milwaukee Harbor District, in partnership with the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, received a $455,800 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to design a “living breakwater system.” The new system, to be constructed behind the existing masonry breakwater, would be a 50-to-150-foot-wide coastal wetland zone and could include a wave buffer pool, cobbled beaches, stone fish habitats, sand ridges, low wetlands and other environmental features. It would be designed to be self-sustaining.
“This opportunity presents a generational opportunity to protect the economic assets of our community but also be a safe harbor for the plants, birds, fish and animals of our Inner Harbor,” said Harbor District CEO Tia Torhorst in a press release announcing the grant.
The initial funding will be used to develop preliminary designs and assess the current condition of the breakwater. Additional funding would need to be secured to construct the planned, half-mile-long development.
The announcement comes as the city and other partners continue to ramp up a large effort to clean up the city’s waterways and see the 1987 federal “Area of Concern” designation removed. The effort is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, with much of the funding coming from the federal government.
“The City of Milwaukee strongly supports nature-based coastal resiliency solutions, and is working with partners to realize this vision,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson in a statement. “Collaborative efforts like this are helping Milwaukee remain the freshwater capital of the world.”
“This planning grant is the first step toward building a more resilient Lake Michigan shoreline that will pay dividends for the ecological and economic health of Southeastern Wisconsin for years to come,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin.
The idea stems from a 2015 design charette convened by the city and Harbor District. The resulting infrastructure would provide a new natural habitat to support plants, birds, fish and animals as well as protect a wide array of vulnerable waterfront properties and infrastructure, including the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District‘s Jones Island treatment plant and a planned, 42-acre Dredged Material Management Facility. A January 2020 storm flooded more than half of the 467-acre port and caused more than $1.25 million in damage.
The Army Corps of Engineers sees the effort as a demonstration structure for how other Great Lakes communities could be protected. “The project, a perfect marriage of habitat and resilience goals, will build on the successful breakwater enhancement project completed in Milwaukee Harbor in 2014 and will be an excellent demonstration project,” said the group’s deputy national lead and program manager Jeff King.
The grant comes from the fish and wildlife foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund, a public-private partnership between the foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, Shell, reinsurance organization Transre, Oxy (Occidental Petroleum) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In addition to the breakwater improvements, the city and Harbor District are jointly pursuing a 4,300-foot riverwalk extension with a host of environmental features along the Komatsu Mining South Harbor Campus property. Construction is expected to begin this year.
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- Milwaukee Wins $275 Million Grant To Fund Massive Waterway Cleanup - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 12th, 2023
- MKE County: Parks Restoring Wildlife Habitat in Little Menomonee River Parkway - Graham Kilmer - Sep 13th, 2023
- What’s That Orange Barrier in the Milwaukee River? - Jeramey Jannene - May 9th, 2023
- ‘Living Breakwater’ Would Protect Harbor - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 8th, 2023
- MKE County: County Planning Habitat Restoration in Milwaukee River Greenway - Graham Kilmer - Jan 13th, 2023
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Harbor Commission Approves Massive Cleanup Facility - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 18th, 2022
- Eyes on Milwaukee: State Approves $96 Million Harbor Cleanup Facility - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 4th, 2022
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Planned Riverwalk Lets You Touch the Water - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 22nd, 2021
Read more about Area of Concern Abatement Effort here